Budapest was beautiful. Zach, Eliza, and I spent two and a half days strolling the streets, breathing the atmosphere, and tasting the culture and history. The city was clean, surprisingly clean. And the buildings were incredibly well-maintained. The locals and tourists were sparsely scattered throughout the city, even in the downtown area. The closest that we came to a crowd was trying to get some food in the narrow isles of the downtown market. People were nice and welcoming to foreigners. The views from the Chain Bridge and Castle Hill were spectacular. The parks were long, green, and quiet. All of it combined made our walks melancholy and gentle. Therein was the charm of the city and the gratification of the trip.
If you've read about Budapest, then you know of their baths. At first, we had them on our itinerary. But after some further research into reviews, we decided to pass on the baths. My daughter wrote to me, "Wow! Sounds kinda cool, but ew..." The "ew" said enough; I was convinced not to go. We did visit an interesting underground hospital. Built for WWII within a secluded natural cave structure under Castle Hill, the hospital was used extensively during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was a cool historical tour.
There was so much more of the city that we didn't see. But we weren't quite sure if we actually missed anything because we saw everything that is printed about visiting Budapest. So, I'm guessing that the rest of the city is just residential and mainly for locals.
This past summer (2011) I took a trip up to Moab, UT with my friend Jeff to visit our mutual friend, Kevin. He was working as a boat and jeep tour guide on the Colorado River and in Canyonlands National Park. Kevin badgered me for the longest time to go visit him in Moab, all-the-while knowing that I am not an outdoorsman (I have some camping disaster stories). I am certain that he was highly anticipating shaking me up on an outdoors adventure. So, I enlisted Jeff who is an avid outdoorsman and an expert Arizona anthropologist, and we went to Moab in July. I am glad to say that it was one of the best trips that I've ever taken!
When Jeff and I arrived in Moab at the Navtec dock we happily found Kevin in full Grizzly Adams character loading the jeep and ready to head out to the Colorado River. We didn't waste any time with a long greeting, and as soon as two other friends joined us we quickly hit the river. It was awesome! The canyon was beautiful and the clouds drizzled just enough rain on us to keep us on edge. Kevin was the best guide and captain; mixing it up between giving us a history lesson and yelling paddle commands, "ALL FORWARD HARD!!" through the rapids.
The second day Kevin took us on a jeep tour through Canyonlands National Park. It was a spectacular place! I was overwhelmed by the scenery and what seemed to be 60º rock climbs that Kevin was making in his lifted Lexus 4 Runner Jeep. We had a beautiful picnic in a natural rock atrium in Devil's Kitchen, and hiked nearly 2 miles to the plateau of Chesler Park. The park is so well preserved that, at times, it felt like we were the first ones to have set foot there.
Jeff and I spent the second night in Coconino National Forest by a fire, a case of Bud Lights, and laughs over a portable DVD player with season 1 of The Office.
All-in-all, it was one of the best trips ever. Thanks to my friends Jeff, Ray, and Erin for sharing the experience. And special thanks to Kevin for putting it all together. Cheers to you, brotha!
Click the slideshow for the complete web album full view.
Here it is! My long-awaited first post. I've been in Istanbul for four months now, and I'm pretty settled in. The Turkish that I've learned so far allows me to shop at local stores, order dinner at a restaurant, and catch a cab without feeling like I'm being ripped off. Most Turks are really nice, and they usually respond kindly to an effort to speak Turkish. I stand out like a sore thumb, so I usually get asked, "Where are you from? Why are you here? What to you think of Turkey?"- wherever I go. I've got those answers memorized.
My job is great. I work at SEV Uskudar Elementary School. The students are cool and very bright. They love anything that's American. I've decided that Jr. High is the same anywhere... Turkish kids are just as crazy and silly as American kids. Soccer (futbol) dominates sports. The runner up is basketball. Some of the students are really talented. I've been dazzled on several occasion watching them play at recess. Turks love their sports. The professional system here is comprised of club organizations that own teams across genres. Here, you chose one club to cheer for, and you cheer for all the sports teams that the club owns (soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc.). Turks are serious about what club they cheer for, so you have to be careful about who you say that you "support".
When I first got here the school took us (new teachers) through an awesome orientation. We visited several of the old city major tourist attractions: Haghia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Basilica Cistern, Galata Tower, Princess Islands, and a Bosphorus boat tour. The richness of Turkish culture and Istanbul's history are second-to-none. There is something interesting and beautiful around every corner. It's wonderful just to walk the streets and take in the sights. Public transit is convenient, but traffic can get ridiculous sometimes. The food is great. Nightlife is hip. There are lots of cool neighborhoods throughout the city and they each have their own flavor. I live on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, in Balarbaşı - a conservative neighborhood.
Some things that I've discovered...
Turks love ice cream, and sweets in general. There are tons of great desserts here like baklava and anything chocolate. Dining has been fantastic. Fruits, vegetables, and spices are super fresh! So, all of the food has wonderful flavor. My favorites so far are patlıcan (patlajan), döner, and lahmacun (lammajune).
Tea is a required part of social discourse. Surprisingly, it is usually just Lipton! Turkish coffee is the best. I've still got to learn how to make it.
The driving here is CRAZY! There aren't any street lines. Pedestrians don't have the right of way. Drivers will lay on there horns for minutes at a time. There's so much cutting and swerving that I'm shocked to have not seen one hundred collisions by now.
Turks party all night long! Once, I went out to meet some friends for karaoke, and didn't leave my apartment until 11pm. When I arrived at 11:45pm the place was empty. Then, when we left (to go another club!) at 3am, it was packed! Istanbul's Taksim, Isiklal Caddesi is the real city that never sleeps.
Lost In Translation...
English to Turkish
say "Peach" = "Bastard"
say "Sick" = "F**k"
*Don't ask for "peach" juice. *Don't say that you are "sick".
Obscene hand gestures...
Think carefully before playing ''got your nose'' with little kids. If you make a fist and put your thumb between your index finger and middle finger, you're essentially saying ''f*** you''. This gesture is known as the fig.
The gesture created when a circle is formed by touching the forefinger to the thumb doesnot mean ''OK'' or ''Great'', instead it is directed at someone you want to accuse of homosexuality. The ring represents the anus.
I'll be moving to Istanbul, Turkey in August to teach at a Turkish school for 2 years. Follow my journey and experiences here and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mscottworld. I'll be posting writings, pictures, and videos. Stay connected - Cheers!