Somehow I managed to get away for two weeks, I am still not sure how I pulled that one off! Anyway, the planing of this trip began months and months ago and resulted in the following which I would like to present you as “Plan A”:
- Fly to Istanbul
- Take the train to Damascus
- Spent a few days there and maybe in Aleppo
- Return to Turkey and stay with my mom in Aydincik
- Return (somehow) to Istanbul, spent a few days there
- Fly home
Now, our plans had to be adjusted and modified a bit as the trip came closer. For one thing, we had decided to travel during the last days of Ramadan, so some of our transfers fell right into the holidays. That made getting flights or train tickets a bit difficult. Then, when the time had come to leave (I had just returned from a week of collaboration meeting in Utrecht), I didn’t have a passport to go to Syria.
What had happened? Well, I had sent my stuff to the Syrian embassy, but unfortunately forgotten to include a return envelope marked as registered mail. Now, probably everybody here will say “Sure, that’s how you handle sending around passports”. To my defense, the US embassy had not required this the two times I applied for my J1! Anyhow, they kept my passport, but did not notify me! Even though they had all the phone numbers they needed to let me know that I had to send them a new return envelope. So when I came back from Utrecht (Friday night), there was nothing I could do about the whole thing. and the Syria trip got cancelled…
Otherwise, the vacation was great. Sure, we did not have so much luck with the weather, which, btw, seems to be a recurring theme, but that didn’t bother me that much. The week at my mum’s place was very relaxing and quite, we spent the whole time at the beach sleeping and reading. The train journey’s back and forth to her place were kinda exciting. It also made me reconsider the term “delay”… see, in Switzerland a train is “late” when it has more than 2-3minutes (!) “delay”. None of the five trains we took in Turkey arrived within two hours of their schedule. At first it made a bit nervous, especially when missing a connecting train was at stake, but once you gotten over that occidental schedule fanatism, a certain calmness start spreading through your body. It is the feeling that everything will be all right, regardless what. Therefore, I am looking forward to that train trip to Syria, hopefully next year!
The fin de voyage was in Istanbul, whre we spent three days sight seeing. Thanks to my aunt, we had a lovely little hotel right in the center of the old city. Everything was just a five minute walk away: the Blue mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, the Basilica cystern, the Topkapi palace… It was brilliant! The evenings we went to Istiklal caddesi, a big shopping street with lots of restaurants and cafes, where we had very nice food. All in all, visiting Istanbul was great fun. I don’t know, though, if I would want to live there, too…
So, that was my vacation for this year. Was fun, entertaining, relaxing, and also a bit educational. If you wanna have a look at the pix I made, click here.