Yesterday was a travel day. Goal: get out of İstanbul. This proved much more trying than we had expected. It started great with a ferry ride across the Bosphorus to the Middle East–a new area for both of us. From the boat we were surrounded by İstanbul and could really get a sense of how big it really is. Water runs through and in and out of the city, much like Hampton Roads (the similarities end there).
The ferry dropped us off in Harem, the name for the Middle Eastern side of the city. No prostitutes in sight despite the suggestive name. We exited the boat into a crowd of touts each trying to get us to ride his bus. It was unbearable. I had to exert the greatest self restraint to keep from bopping them on the head with the waterbottle I was holding. That said, we did in fact need a bus, so we eventually followed one such tout into a smoky office and got a ticket to Safranbolu.
An hour later a van pulled up and we were told to get in. Within minutes we were packed in like sardines with people, bags, luggage, and a wooden chair that an old woman was very protective of. My heart sank as I imagined a 6 hour drive in this. I though longingly of the deluxe busses those other touts might have brought us to, not that we had any idea what anyone was offering.
20 minutes later the dolmus van dropped us on the side of the highway, leaving me with a funny feeling equally relieved and nervous. But there was no reason to be concerned because 30 minutes later we climbed aboard a plush travel bus complete with a very friendly steward.
The bus ride was easy, though a good 3 hours longer than the tout had promised. And the steward seemed to find us very amusing. We were the only tourists aboard and certainly the only non-Turks. He enjoyed giving us backgammon tips and found it absolutely hilarious every time Steve blew his nose–Turks must have some other method of nasal relief.
In any case, after two more uncertain dolmus rides we made it to the beautiful Ottoman town of Safranbolu–a paradise after smoggy crowded İstanbul.
The highlight so far (separate from the plethora of pita!!) was our invitation to tea (çay) at the police station. This is a tiny town with zero crime, so the police apparently enjoy spending their time entertaining tourists. The station was unlike any you’ve ever imagined. Turkish carpets line the floors, framed pictures of former police chiefs and a few old fashioned criminals (each with enormous moustaches) adorn the walls, and there is a little prison cell that is nothing if not comfortable.
Today we plan to hire a driver to take us to an even more remote town and then take our turn at a Turkish bath house. And get our laundry done (this is very exciting!)