I can be rather infuriating to travel with, because I have a deep distrust of planning things. (Something always goes awry anyway, and you WILL have to deal with stress and quick decisions, so why not dispense with the unnecessary mental exercise of pretending you have any control over the universe, or for that matter have any idea what you’re doing?)
To that end, though this trip has been on the books for lo! these past two months, I JUST decided when I would leave yesterday. I had a rough idea that I would leave yesterday, actually, but then went, meh. Instead I walked down to the waterfront, to the end of the main road by the minibus stop, and bought a ticket to Izmir on a bus departing at 8:15 the next morning. At that end of the road there are nine or so bus companies. On the advice of a friend from work, I chose Ulusöy, and I was happy with them. They warned me sternly to be there at 7:10 for my 8:15 bus, and I sighed inwardly, knowing both that this was a ridiculously padded time buffer to compensate for Turkish Time, and that I would be neurotically incapable of showing up any later.
That’s why I always bring a book.
Out for a few drinks with a new friend, and then home to bed. Up at four in the morning to finish packing and cleaning- (to the guest that’s arriving to stay in my room while I’m gone- forgive the fact that I didnt get around to mopping the kitchen floor. But the sheets are clean, I swear.) and then down the hill. The service bus to take me to the main bus appeared at 8 on the dot on the dot and by 8:20, miraculously, we were on our way. A nice man who had “My Dear Mother” in Turkish jail house tattoed on the back of his hand checked my ticket, and then I promptly passed out. Cold. And spent the next nine hours, minus restroom breaks- (note ladies, not a good idea to be doing anything inconvenient like menstruating heavily or having a UTI on a Turkish tour bus, ’cause there are no bathrooms and the stops can be sporadic. When I travelled to Capadoccia we stopped every two hours on the dot. On this nine hour trip we had one official stop.) or when the bus attendant wandered down to aisle with his drinks cart and insisted on shaking me awake EVERY TIME to ask me if I wanted water even though I was clutching a bottle of water in my sleep-warm hand, did that awkward bus sleep thing where you jerk yourself out of sleep out of misplaced embarrassment over realizing your mouth is wiiiiiide open, or nod off frontwards instead of backwards and jerk up, or wake up to realize you’ve drooled on the curtain, or snore yourself awake, look up blearily, and then go right back down. I did not even notice when we were on a ferry until the ferry had almost docked, which I kick myself for cause I fucking LOVE ferries, and I was only having a dumb dream about having gay American Marmaris exchange student seatmates anyway. Waste.
And then I was in Izmir! In a huge ugly bus terminal! And that’s when it hit me that I actually know nothing about Izmir other than that it used to be Smyrna. I did not know where I was. I did not know how far anything was from where I was. I knew nothing about the layout or geography. I admit I felt overwhelmed. Why had I not done a rudimentary google search and figured out what the neighborhoods were called? Jesus- Hannah lived there for a million years, and my manager at work is there every other week, it seems like. Not like I don’t have resources. But there it was, and everything suddenly seemed hard, so I sat and had a tost. Then I bought my ticket for Fetiye. Then I wandered out and thought, cab? Shrugged, and got in a cab.
The cabdriver fleeced me, but it wasn’t as high as it could have been so I didn’t mind so much. He took me to the Hilton, where my friend Sara is staying for a conference. I got out and paid him and then had to deal with the embarrassment of wrestling my bag away from the helpful porter because no, I explained in my best Turklish, I’m not staying here, my friend is. She is having her travel expenses reimbursed, I am not. The rough plan was to wander around the surrounding streets and find a hotel that cost under a hundred a night.
I had a lot of things I wanted to do and see on this trip, and a lot of those plans have been squashed by the walking pneumonia thing. Walking pneumonia is kind of a bitch cause you feel okay most of the time. Your chest (or side or back) hurts, but you can breathe okay and you don’t have a fever. The only time it really hits me is in the late afternoons, when I am suddenly so godawfully tired I want to cry, to scream and throw myself on the ground and kick my legs until someone picks me up and pats my back and puts me to bed. Walking around, especially in the heat, is incredibly wearying. I’ve realized that I’m going to have to manage my expectations about what I can see and do on this trip. But hey- I’m not at work so all good.
So there I was, in the late afternoon, unspeakably weary even after having slept pretty much all day, trudging around in circles trying to find a hotel that had all the trademarks of being inexpensive- small and shabby- and not finding anything and walking past the same cafes several times and getting odd looks from people and having no idea where I was and feeling generally unhappy. Finally ducked into a hotel I’d passed twice, even though it didn’t look inexpensive. The Kordon Otel, though, two blocks from the waterfront, right around the corner from the Hilton and the Swiss Hotel, was discounted and only 40 over my budget so I gave the man my passport and accepted the key and went upstairs and collapsed.
And Sara called! Hooray! This is a woman I haven’t seen in nearly 25 years, who contacted me via facebook. She had a conference in Izmir, did I have any advice about Turkey? Hell, I said. You were pretty cool when you were ten, and you are a GREAT excuse for a vacation. So here we are. After a shower and a cold coke I felt immeasurably better, and traipsed off to find her, feeling rather like I was on a first date.
We wandered along the seaside, taking pictures and catching up on everything from Turkish politics to where the hell we went to high school, and then chose, mostly at random, a seaside cafe with the most annoying, overbearing waiter in the world. I ordered us Meze and we looked at the sea and I, at least, was happy.
Trotted her back to the Hilton when jet lag overcame her, and went back to the hotel. There are two outdoor tables on the quiet street in front of the modest hotel bar. I sat at one with my book and ordered a fifty of effes. The waiter seemed confused that I wanted to drink something at the bar. He came back with a 33 and a glass and didn’t twist the cap for me. I drank it and asked for another. They were out of beer. Oh well.
This hotel also has a notable feature I haven’t seen since primary school days- in my elementary school (I think seeing Sara has brought a bunch of memories bubbling up) we had these ancient elevators that it would most definitely be criminal to allow children into unsupervised these days. You had to open the door, and then there was a folding metal gate to open and close. We used to ride them when we were bored and sometimes someone would badly pinch a finger and then their parents would yell at them. Old fart moment- how the world has changed. Anyway, this hotel actually has elevators that have manually operated doors. Which confused the hell out of me. But I figured it out.
I have NO IDEA what I’m doing tomorrow, or even where I’m sleeping. Wish me luck!