Trip Report: Greece and Turkey
December, 1989

A month in Greece (Athens, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes) and Turkey (Cappadocia, Ankara, Istanbul)

I'm back! Laura and I have returned from a month's travel through Greece and Turkey. Being self-employed, I haven't really taken much vacation in recent years; Laura provided momentum for this trip — she had just earned an extra 2 weeks vacation plus a bonus of a month's pay upon the 10th anniversary of her employment at the law firm where she works. (I guess 9 to 5 jobs have their silver lining.)

Much to my surprise, I came back to find that my apartment in San Francisco was still standing. The Loma Prieta earthquake, five days earlier, had left it untouched, not a hair out of place. By contrast, the building housing my downtown mailbox — 160 California — was condemned and subsequently demolished! My neighborhood had almost no damage in the 10/17/89 quake or in 1906. What the news media did not communicate was that damage was highly localized; the quake had little lasting effect except for the Bay Bridge (which was repaired in time for Thanksgiving), the 880 double-decker freeway (which won't be replaced for 2+ years!), and areas built on landfill.

We had a few adventures on our trip. We crossed the Bosphorus by ferry, rode a camel, lay on gorgeous beaches, and plumbed the depths of the earth in a deep cavern called "Heaven and Hell", for the 6th century church deep within. By jet, rental car, train, bus, ferry, and foot we made our way through the cradle of civilization, looking for discarded baby toys. We saw many: Greek ruins, medieval castles, palaces, churches, mosques, Greek temples, underground cities, bazaars, real Turkish baths ... I think the sleeping compartment we had on the night train to Istanbul was the most fun.

Tidbits:

  • Public transit is excellent throughout Turkey and Greece. I hear the wheel was discovered hereabouts. Taxi, bus, and dolmush (shared vans) are everywhere, in keeping with the relative scarcity of private autos. In the country, we saw many tractors, donkeys, and horse carts. Except in cities, where driving is chaotic (6 lanes of cars on a 5 lane bridge!), traffic density is only 1/4 what it is in San Francisco ...
  • Women don't drive in Turkey. The cities are modern, but in the villages the women still wear traditional veils and `harem' pants. In rural Turkey, we saw few women in public — they work at home or in the fields, but not in shops ...
  • Everywhere there is evidence of Turkey's rapid growth. Piles of construction materials dot the landscape; bricks, logs, sand, rock. Buildings sprout from the dirt, fruit of an economic boom ...
  • Clothing is unexpectedly formal for such a poor country. A suit, or jacket and tie, is common for men, even the manual laborers, though torn or dirty ...
  • Hot water was a luxury. Most modern buildings use solar energy to heat water; unfortunately, this means no hot shower in the morning. Yow! This took some adjusting ...
  • I vote for American Express traveler's checks: In Turkey we found that we could cash American Express traveler's checks commission-free at the post office, but had to go to a bank (and pay commission) to cash Visa traveler's checks ...
  • Three travel tips we learned: 1) Flashlight, pen & pad, and compass (to orient maps) were handy equipment. 2) To avoid being hurried, stay at least 2 nights at each location. 3) If you can, have a map before you get there ...
  • Visit Turkey! Though Greece oozes history, Turkey offers a beautiful coast, great prices, friendly folk, crusader castles, fewer tourists and better Greek ruins than in Greece.
Happy travels,
Kendall

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