East Meets West. The Cross into Asia. finally...

East Meets West. The Cross into Asia. finally...

Istanbul to Cappadocia

Josiah (finally) writing…

(side note as I gush a little about this captivating place)

Byzantine…Constantinople… Istanbul seeped with beauty, vibrance, and history. The causality that ancient and historic buildings intermingled with daily life were reminiscent of Rome… the staggering amount of significant religious structures had parallels with Jerusalem… However the most striking similarity was that much like NYC, Istanbul was a cultural melting pot. Ladies wearing full Burkas bumped elbows with Ausi tourists wearing very little. Streets that held the overflow worshippers from midday prayer during the day, were crawling with a vibrant nightlife after dark. All of this is facilitated by a well connected metro, tram, bus, taxi and funicular network.

The Grand Bazaar Spice Market… sorry aunt debi.. no room for spices.

The Grand Bazaar Spice Market… sorry aunt debi.. no room for spices.

There was so much history and culture to experience in Istanbul (especially with a mosque on every corner) but 2 moments stand out to me:

  1. I wandered off alone for a few hours until I got to a section of town that was finally void of tourists. I arrived just before afternoon prayer as the city finally began to cool and the street exploded into a social extravaganza.I eventually wandered over to a small mosque for afternoon prayer. I observed quietly from the back of the room and very much enjoyed being there. One think I noticed throughout all of Turkey is that all of the mosques provided fountains or faucets outside (often ornately constructed) where people could wash there feat. face and hands and get drinking water. For many it seemed the prime location to do so.
  2. The other memorable experience was visiting the Old Wall. During our drive in I was astounded at the width and accessibility of the wall. I always try to identify overlooked cultural landmarks that I can visit without the constraints of popular tourist sites and this was definitely the Old Wall. I spent an hour climbing around the different ramparts, often standing 30 meters up overlooking the main roads. I got to run up the tiny stairs of a parapet where the stones steps were worn into a ramp by countless soldiers, archers, and Janissaries scrambling to defend the wall. My only company in the poorly kept (and valued) walls were a handful of sketchy older men dressed rather nicely and often caring plastic bags, very mafiosa. They never said a word to me but I was often followed and I would scramble down crumbling sections of the wall to lose them. I (clearly) made it out it one piece with only cuts and bruises and an imagination running as wild as Micah Mangiameli’s.

Istanbul had plenty of other experiences to offer. Patricks friend Berkin took us around for a traditional Turkish meal and then to the most stupendous Baklava place in Istanbul (Pro Tip: The best always comes from Antep). He gave us tons of insight into Turkish culture and what life in Istanbul is like. He also took us to to meet his family, imparted the turkish love for fruit on us and let us go for a (much needed) swim in his apartments pool.

Our hostel was full of hopeless wanderers such as ourselves…{JON EXPAND ON THIS} {Yessire El Capitan, Josiah}

…so this included another rally team — a few Scots, Caitlyn Jenner, a span-yard (spanish dude), a turkish rug salesgirl, a girl from Montreal… and a very dangerous man….

The first night was mildly exciting with an innocent game of Cards Against Humanity with some French travelers because our block in Istanbul was out of power due to some road construction… (note 90% of the white cards were unknown to these Frenchies… there was much explaining to do here.. )….cards…a drunken turk named Abed who was in the “import/export” business.. and sleep..

then the second night happen… up to the roof top with the Scots and the rest of the crew and more Cards Against Humanity

There isn’t much I’m allowed to say about Istanbul as what happens in Istanbul stays in Istanbul… (thats a thing, right?)

but there was a boaby. Australian tranny. Josh’s sister. Dave being a donkey boy. a human selfie. a car selfie. apple baseball. multiple taxis. karaoke. dancing. and a bunch of other super mild PG-rated shennanigans..Also if anyone is wondering… Marshal is excellent at drums and guitar.

{back to el gringo blanco…Josiah}

directions in broken english. google translate. hand motions. squiggles

As we stumbled our way out of Istanbul, we soon realized we had picked up a hitch-hiker, a Spanstrualian Carlos, who was trying to get to Cappadocia. After one of our typical, very late starts, we struggled to find the right roads at night using only signs as Turkey was the one place we didn’t have a map for. Carlos (with gps/maps on his phone) admirably said nothing through all of the wrong turns and held us to our no-gps commitment.

Cappadocia was incredible. The rock formations themselves were amazing but so many had been turned into homes, many of which were still occupied.

From there we sped up the coast and camped by the black sea. As dark and treacherous as we had been told.

{Jon here}

We arrived at 3 am and pulled over to a dirt lot in front of a restaurant and attempted to pitch hammocks on weak trees only to be presented with our butts scrapping the rocky ground… After about an hour of searching for trees and a moonlight walk down the beach we settled for a grassy patch. No tent set up out of exhaustion. just sleeping bags and body warmth.. Josiah being a stubborn mule he is.. went off in the distance and found some twigs to pitch his hammock… Patrick had claimed the car prior to all this with an animalistic rage..but really just a lack of sleep. :P

{Jon out}

Our campsite on the Black Sea

The next morning we drove along the black sea coast, a rather beautiful but uneventful drive until we had a chance encounter. I had pulled over to the should to change drivers when a car pulled up behind honking and flashing it’s lights at us. It scared the bejesus out of because a few minutes earlier police had been franticly trying to wave us over but I had ignored them not wanting to have to bribe my way out of an imaginary infraction.

However, it turned out to just be an awesome Turkish guy named Burak: a Mongol Rally enthusiast whom had hosted countless ralliers when he lived in Kazakstan. We had passed him earlier and he had been trying to chase us down to find out how this years rally was going. We chatted with him and his 2 friends for awhile and it turned out we were all headed to Georgia. So we piled back into the cars and headed to the border in a caravan. Burak helped liven up a 3 hour border crossing wait as we got a crash course in western asian culture, Georgian driving, past rallies and much more. He was pivotal in getting us across the border and talked the border agents out of a big fine (we may not have gotten the correct device to pay tolls in Turkey).

also made an epic snorkel for the car

also made an epic snorkel for the car

The caravan stopped and spent the night together in Batumi (the Georgian Las Vegas) and then we headed separate ways.

Over the Georgian Mountains and through the woods...To Armenia! We go.

Over the Georgian Mountains and through the woods...To Armenia! We go.

Bulgarian Police Incident

Bulgarian Police Incident