Saturday, December 16, 2017

A look at the past, Greece and Istanbul 1982, part II

On July 30th there was a post here about Kathy and me traveling to Greece and Istanbul.  It continues here.

Our next stop in Crete was Matala Beach.  It was a tourist area by that time but the little town itself was worth the visit.  Kathy on the cliffs created often looked at photos.  After that we drove back to the Athens area airport, turned in our car, and got a flight to Istanbul.  The Turkish airlines plane was first class even for our bargain seats.  The airport that we arrived in was new and architecturally stunning, a huge surprise.  Out taxi drove us in on empty new highways.

We stayed at a Hilton, reserved after concerns about where we should stay at that time.  For a first class hotel, it was inexpensive, cheap by dollar standards.  The view of the Bosporous from the room allowed looks up and down the famed passing between the Black Sea connecting to Mediterranean seas.  The top floor restaurant was elaborate, with haut service and exceptional food at less than what would have been paid at my diner at 50th street and 2nd avenue.  We were stunned by this.  Someone said to us that Turkish food is Greek food done right.

In the hotel lobby looking for directions, we met a Washington Post marketing executive who was in the country to sell advertising space, new type of job to me at that time.  She invited us to go out with her and her Turkish contact.  We agreed and later Kathy, Margaret, Tarkans, and I went to a superb local restaurant and then to some kind of tourist focused belly dancing joint.  We were way ahead of our diversity conscious times --- Caucasian, Asian, Turk, and African American hanging out together.

Kathy and I did our touring and photo taking of each other.  At one point we were in the main labyrinth of the ancient souk wandering around partially lost, a favorite state of mine at the time, when Kathy needed a bathroom. Turkey at that time was ruled by a right wing dictatorship and military police with major weapons were everywhere(like Penn Station on red alert these days).  With a language barrier and no one else to ask, we approached one of the soldiers and asked for directions to a bathroom.  He seemed to understand but did not respond, but moments later two other stern armed soldiers came and escorted K to a bathroom, presumably.  I waited for a few tense minutes, K returned with them, and all was well.

Other shopping was for carpets.  The shops and stalls were intriguing.  Unclear what was reputable we eventually went to a shop recommended by the hotel.  We both bought small carpets.  K chose one that had a twin and she wanted to buy it.  How we could get it home was unclear as she had a family tradition of not paying duty on purchases.  That had never been an issue for me, and realizing how difficult it would be to take a second one it was not purchased.  In hindsight, a mistake, should have paid duty and she would have had a pair.  At that time we were not thinking about our future at all, and whether it would be together.

We did see the required sights.  Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkepi Palace, and Dolmabahce Palace were a history lesson that has become more valuable over time.  We took the ferry across the Bosporous to the Asian side of Istanbul but there was nothing there.  A few nice photos were taken looking out over the water.  We talked to other tourists on the boat who, like us to some extent, felt like pioneers for being there.  In fact, both my parents and one of my aunts and her bridge friends had been there a few years before.

We flew back to Athens to stay a few more days and connect to our round trip there.  We stayed at an aging large hotel near the main square, saw the sights, had dinners in the Plaka's winding steep streets, and took a day time tourist bus trip to see the Peloponnesian sights.  On the way back the claustrophobia of a tourist bus got to me and we got off on the outskirts of the city, then found our way back.  Kathy did not understand my reaction.  Tours never were my thing.

We returned on a fine Olympic airlines, playing spades and travel scrabble.  All was well.


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