Istanbul to Selcuk:
Riding the Steambath Express

Two men chatting in the Relics Room,
Topkapi Sarayi
Sunday, August 29.

We started our day, oddly enough, back over at the Orient Hostel. As miserable of an experience we'd had there during our first night in Istanbul, we still possessed the breakfast coupons from our unused second night. Susanne and I ate at the hostel's rooftop cafe, surrounded by backpackers gnawing on baguettes and hard-boiled eggs. They didn't serve jam with the baguettes, and when Susanne asked the woman behind the counter for a packet of jam, she snidely complained, "You're not supposed to have it for free -- we gave you honey for your bread." Susanne managed to get a packet of jam out of the woman, but the experienced reinforced our opinion that the Orient Hostel was an inhospitable dump.

Reza, the young Iranian man who ran the Ottoman Guesthouse, offered to watch our belongings until our 3pm flight to Izmir. We stored our backpacks in the reception room and proceeded to walk towards Topkapi Palace, the legendary home of the Ottoman sultans. We took a similar path to the one we had used before our visit to the Archeological Museum, walking north past the Four Seasons and uphill to a high stone gate. Two teenaged Turkish soldiers were guarding the entrance to the palace but they were having too much fun joking around with each other to notice us passing through it.

Anatolian Trivia

Topkapi Sarayi, when translated into English, literally means "Cannongate Palace." First built by Mehmet the Conqueror soon after capturing Constantinople in 1453, Topkapi Sarayi (or the Seraglio, as it was called in the West) remained the home of the Ottoman sultans until the reign of Mahmud II in the early 1800s. The last sultans lived in luxurious, European-like palaces elsewhere along the Bosphorus.
We walked through the outer palace gardens, lush with green trees and thick grass. Susanne and I both hoped that the palace itself would be a magnificent testimony to the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire, but after paying our six million lira entrance fee and entering the main palace complex, we were sorely disappointed. Topkapi was in the midst of a complex structural overhaul, with the majority of the palace ensconced within a shell of scaffolding, drop cloths and spattered paint. I hadn't minded the repair work at Aya Sofya the day before; as massive as it was, Aya Sofya's scaffolding only disturbed one particular section of the church. Here at Topkapi Sarayi it felt like the entire palace was a hard-hat zone. Having experienced the sublime beauty of palaces in India, Thailand, Cambodia and elsewhere, Susanne and I had expected Topkapi to be just as magnificent. We were both rather disappointed.

To top it all off, the one thing we really wanted to see at Topkapi was closed: the royal kitchen. You might wonder why on earth we would care about such a place, but Topkapi's kitchens were marvels in their own right. The kitchens employed giant cauldrons, enormous oven pits and other industrial-scale implements necessary to cook for an entire royal household -- sultan, harem, slaves and sundry. All we could do was peer through its locked windows and imagine its collection of unique culinary paraphernalia.

topkapi courtyard
Entrance to the Prophet's Relics Room, Topkapi Sarayi

On the other hand, Topkapi Sarayi did have its moments. The Prophet's Relics Room -- the palace's sacred reliquary -- contained an astonishing array of holy Islamic artifacts, including a piece of the Qa'aba from Mecca, Muhammad's sword, and a letter the prophet wrote to Muqavgas, the leader of a Coptic Christian tribe:

There is safety and security for those believers who follow the correct path. Therefore, I invite you to accept Islam. If you accept it, you shall find security, save your throne, and gain twice as much reward for having introduced Islam to your followers. If you refuse this invitation, let the sin of calamity which awaits your followers be upon you. You too are People of the Book; Therefore, let us come to a Word Common between us, that we worship none but Allah and shall not equalize anything with Him. Let us not abandon Allah and take others for lords other than him. If you do not consent to this invitation, bear witness that we are Muslims....

topkapi courtyard
Muhammad's battle sword and other relics, Topkapi Sarayi

The Topkapi Treasury was equally stunning, with its fine collection of jewel-encrusted thrones, royal medals, and the famous Topkapi dagger, made out of one of the largest carved emeralds in the world.

From Topkapi we returned to the square between Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, relaxing at a garden cafe just below the giant church. I briefly ran around the corner to a kontürlü telefon kiosk, outdoor public pay phones where you could make a telephone call and then pay an attendant. Susanne and I needed to get ahold of Aydin in order to find out if he could get us a room at the Kalehan hotel in Selçuk. I called Aydin's cellphone but was given a recording in Turkish and English that said his phone was out of calling range -- he was probably on the road with a tour group. The attendant told me the call was free because I wasn't able to connect. As I walked away from the kiosk I heard him say, "Sizin kitab, effendim" -- "Your book, sir." I turned around and noticed I had left our Lonely Planet book on the counter. I can only imagine what trouble I would have been in with Susanne if I had lost the book that contained all of our notes and plans.

Back at the cafe I rejoined Susanne to finish my Turkish coffee and talk about our plans for the next few days. The two of us were getting hungry so we decided to pay our bill and find a full-service restaurant for lunch. The waiter was sitting a few tables from us, concentrating on his newspaper. I walked over and asked for the bill and he quickly folded up the paper. As he did this I noticed it was full of pictures of naked women. He gave me the bill as well as a grimace of embarrassment.

Andy sits at a 
Andy hanging out at the Karadeniz Pideci
Uphill just behind Divan Yolu and the Sultanahmet tramway tracks we found the Karadeniz Aile Pide ve Kebap Salonu -- The Black Sea Pizza and Kebap Salon. We sat outside under a red awning as Susanne ate a vegetarian Turkish pizza and I ate a spicy plate of köfte kebap. A neighborhood cat reconnoitered around our table, scouting for scraps. He didn't seem to care for pizza crusts but was more partial to my köfte meat. Just around the corner from the Karadeniz was the Sinem Internet Cafe, where we were able to use their clean bathrooms for free and check email for 200,000 lira (50 cents), or the cost of two public bathroom visits in any part of the city.

We still had a little time before having to go to the airport, so Susanne and I strolled down to the Hippodrome. Now a relaxing public garden, in its heyday the Hippodrome was the city's imperial racetrack. Along with its famous horse races, the Hippodrome was also the center of political intrigue and conspiracy. During the summer of 1826, the Hippodrome witnessed the end of the Ottoman Empire's legendary squadron of soldier-slaves, the Janissaries. Founded in the mid-1300s by Sultan Murad I as his imperial cavalry guard, the Janissaries (Yeni Çeri, or "new troops") were young Christian men, largely from the Balkans, who were captured and enslaved during Ottoman conquests. This enslavement, however, was also an opportunity for personal prestige and privilege. Janissaries were trained to serve as the empire's elite fighting force, and each soldier-slave was able to rise to the highest levels of military service based on personal merit.

Anatolian Trivia

The Jannisaries were immensely proud of the fact that they were the best-fed troops in the Ottoman Empire. So much so, their ranks were organized on culinary terms. As a whole, the Janissaries referred to themselves as the ocak (the hearth or fireplace); their symbol was a sacred cooking cauldron. Among the terms they used to represents their individual ranks were çorbaci (the soupmaker), asçibasi (the chief cook), gözlemici (the pancake maker) and the çörekci (the cake maker). On the occasions when they began a rebellion against the sultan, they would signify their ire by turning over their giant cauldrons of rice pilaf. Even today, the Turkish expression "to overturn the cauldrons" means to rebel against someone.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Janissaries were the pride of the Ottomans and the scourge of Christian Europe. In medieval cities like Budapest and Belgrade, the "Turk bells" would ring to warn citizens of their approach. At the height of the Ottoman Empire, Suleyman the Magnificent's Janissaries penetrated deep into central Europe, fighting their way to the gates of Vienna. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Janissaries began a long period of decline, succumbing to the temptations of corruption and political opportunism. On more than one occasion, Ottoman sultans were deposed and even assasinated during coup d'etats staged by the Janissaries. Numerous sultans were forced to placate the greety Janissaries with ill-conceived military campaigns, many of which furthered the decline of the empire.

By 1826, Sultan Mahmud II was fed up with the intransigence and avarice of the Janissaries. Two decades earlier they had staged a coup against his reform-minded brother, Sultan Selim III, partially because he tried to impose European-style military uniforms on its ranks. Selim was deposed and executed, and Mahmud would have met the same fate if it hadn't been for a loyal slave who hid him inside the unlit furnace of the royal baths. Proclaimed sultan in a swift counter-coup later that same day, Mahmud longed to carry out his murdered brother's dream of reforming the empire into a modern imperial state - as well as to exact revenge on the treacherous Janissaries.

Knowing the Janissaries would revolt if pushed hard enough, Mahmud announced a series of radical military reforms. The Janissaries, who were stationed in barracks inside the Hippodrome, initiated their revolt by defiantly turning over their giant cooking cauldrons and marching through the narrow streets of Sultanahmet towards Topkapi Palace. There they were met with a barrage of musket fire from soldiers loyal to the sultan. The Janissaries, surprised by the resistance, retreated to the confines of the Hippodrome, where they were unceremoniously slaughtered by Mahmud's loyal cavalry and artillery squadrons. Over 4,000 Janissaries perished in the attack, ending the military order once and for all, and opening the opportunity for Mahmud to reform his empire into a modern, European-style nation.

Young boy in royal 
circumcision costume
Young boy in circumcisional regalia
Today, of course, there is no sign of the violence and intrigue that once plagued this historic place. Scores of families were strolling along the Hippodrome's garden, enjoying the early afternoon sunshine. Streams of people washed their hands in Kaiser Wilhelm's Fountain, a turn-of-the-century monument given to the sultan by the kaiser during a visit to Constantinople. A young boy dressed in the customary circumcision costume was herded into position by his parents, who proudly snapped pictures of him. Susanne approached family and asked if she could take a photo. The parents graciously said yes, to the chagrin of the boy. Further down the mall we visited the obelisk of Theodosius, an ancient Egyptian obelisk imported to Constantinople by the emperor Theodosius in 390 AD. Theodosius mounted the obelisk on a marble pedestal decorated with images of his royal court and scenes promoting his battle prowess.

At the eastern end of the Hippodrome, not far from the Blue Mosque, Susanne and I stopped at Cafe Mesale , a shady garden teahouse sumptuously decorated with hanging carpets, Ottoman pillows and blazing torches. Susanne ordered a tea while I ran around the corner once again to call Aydin at the telephone kiosk. This time I managed to get ahold of him; he told me we had reservations at the Kalehan Hotel in Selçuk, and that the hotel recommended that we catch a dolmus to town from just outside the Izmir airport. Aydin warned me it would be a bit of a walk from the airport to the dolmus stop, but he said it probably wouldn't take too long.

Turkish Pronunciation

Interested in learning how to pronounce the Turkish words mentioned in this journal? Check out my Turkish pronunication guide!
As I returned to the cafe our waiter was talking to a pair of Turkish women who were sitting to our left. They ordered some kind of cake, so the waiter dashed around the corner and returned with a platter topped with a silver lid. He placed the platter on the table and raised the lid. To everyone's surprise a small black bunny jumped out into one of the women's laps. She let out a brief scream and then laughed hysterically, petting the frisky rodent. The waiter then came to our table and asked if I wanted anything.

"Bir Türk kahve ve bir sisede memba su, lütfen," I said, trying to ask for some Turkish coffee and a bottle of water.

"You want coffee and what?" he said to me in English, confused.

"Uh, a bottle of water," I stumbled. "Sisede memba su."

"Oh! Mem-BAH su," he laughed. "Not MEM-ba su -- mem-BAH su."

"Sisede mem-BAH su, then," I corrected myself, accentuating the proper syllable this time around.

"Very good," he answered. "Now you can be a Turk."

We sat at Cafe Mesale for an hour, slowly sipping our drinks and watching the black bunny hop around the table neighboring us. Every few minutes we'd see a large seed pod of some kind come crashing down from the tree above us, colliding with the cobblestone, the tables, even a Spanish tourist's head. A little boy was going around from table to table, picking the pods off the ground and stuffing them in his mother's purse. One of them pounded me on the shoulder and landed just off the table. I picked it up and found a large nut encased in a thick shell.

"They are very good," our waiter commented as he saw me pick it up.

"What kind of nut is it?" I asked.

"Kestane," he replied. "I don't know the name in English, but they are eaten roasted. You can buy them roasted all over Istanbul."

"They must be chestnuts, then," Susanne said. "Someone was selling them near the Egyptian Bazaar yesterday."

I cracked the nut on the table and revealed the inner flesh of what was indeed a chestnut. I ripped off a piece and tasted it -- unpleasantly sour.

"I told you," the waiter admonished me, seeing the grimace on my face. "You should roast them first..."

Around 2:30pm we returned to the guesthouse to pick up our backpacks and catch a taxi to the airport. The six-million-lira taxi ride took less than 20 minutes, giving us plenty of time to check in for our flight and hang out at the airport restaurant, drinking lemonade and splitting a piece of pecan pie. Our flight was delayed by 20 minutes but we eventually were allowed to board a transport bus which would take us to the plane. The bus rode around the tarmac for what seemed to be an eternity. We drove from terminal to terminal, passing what appeared to be entire fleet of Türk Hava Yollari (Turkish Airlines). Each plane was christened with the name of a different Turkish city. In the 15 minutes we spent circling the tarmac we managed a grand tour of the country: Kusadasi, Ankara, Trabzon, Van, Edirne. Just as it seemed the only place left for us to go was back to the terminal gate, the bus pulled up next to Gaziantep -- a THY Boeing 767. Finally we were on our way to Izmir.

The 45-minute flight passed by quickly as we scribbled in our journals and noshed on an airline snack of packaged fruit cake. A six- foot blonde woman who looked like Turkey's answer to Pamela Lee sat to our right, reading some kind of engineering journal. On the whole it was pretty uneventful, though I was eager to get to Izmir in order to figure out how we would reach Selçuk. Izmir's airport is south of the city center, along the road to Selçuk, but the Izmir bus station was north of the city. If we were to take the bus, we'd first have to go north through Izmir, Turkey's third largest metropolis and currently the host of an enormous international trade fair. Assuming we could get through the city to the otogar, we'd have to catch a second bus to Selçuk, backtracking through Izmir, past the airport again, before arriving at our destination. It wasn't a scenario I relished, especially since there was a possibility that we wouldn't arrive at the Izmir otogar in time for the last evening bus to Selçuk. Hopefully we wouldn't have a problem figuring out Aydin's suggestion to catch a dolmus instead.

Once inside the Izmir arrival terminal we looked around for a travel information desk. Unfortunately the terminal hosted only a trade fair bureau desk and a currency exchange. Just outside the terminal I approached a policeman to find out if there was by any chance a direct bus to Selçuk.

"Pardon, Memur Bey -- Selçuk otobus var mi?" I asked.

"Yok," the policeman replied.

"Dolmus var mi?"

"Yok," he said again, clicking his tongue.

It looked like we were stuck finding that dolmus station somewhere beyond the airport. Susanne and I walked away from the airport, down a deserted road towards a police checkpoint. Several paramilitary jendarma stood guard outside the checkpoint. They could tell we looked a little lost. One of them called out to us in Turkish, though I couldn't understand what he said.

"Iyi aksamlar, Memur Bey," I said to him as we approached. "Ingilizce konüsüyormüsünüz?"

"Ingilizce?," he replied. "Yok.... No Ingleesh." As he spoke I noticed he had the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen.

I struggled to find the right words in Turkish to explain that we were looking for a dolmus to Selçuk. "Uh.... Bizim... gidiz... Selçuk. Dolmus nerede?"

"Ah, dolmus," he replied. That was all I could understand as he spoke to me rapidly in Turkish.

"Uh, yavas, lütfen," I requested, asking him to slow down. The policeman nodded his head and spoke slower, but I could still not understand a word he said. He did, however, point down the road in the other direction. Hoping that he was telling us to go the other way, we thanked him and backtracked towards the airport.

"That soldier had the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen," Susanne said.

"Yeah, even I noticed them," I replied.

We walked around the perimeter of the airport along the edge of a highway. I didn't feel great about our predicament. An old man with a walking stick approached us from the other direction.

"Pardon, effendim," I said. "Selçuk dolmus nerede?"

"Orada," he replied, pointing far down the highway.

"Kaç saat?" I continued, wanting to know how far of a walk we had ahead of us. "On dakika? Otuz dakika?"

"Anlamadim," he responded. "Otuz dakika." I don't know -- 30 minutes...

His answer didn't boost my confidence, so I suggested we return to the airport and ask a few more people what options we had. I was a little surprised that no one here spoke a word of English, considering we were at a major international airport, but there wasn't much we could do about it.

Entering the airport parking lot we reached a small sentry post. A parking attendant sat inside, eating his dinner from a styrofoam box. "Pardon, Memur Bey," I said yet again, "Selçuk dolmus var mi?"

"Yok dolmus," he replied. "Bir dakika, lütfen..." He then picked up the phone and placed a call, speaking to someone for about 30 seconds before hanging up. The sentry pointed to the terminal and said, "Selçuk -- on besdakika." It appeared that there was a bus or some other vehicle going to Selçuk at six o'clock, 15 minutes from then.

"Alti saat Selçuk, degil mi?" I asked, confirming the time.

"Var," he replied, nodding his head once.

Susanne and I walked quickly towards the terminal, up a walkway from the parking lot. As we ascended the walkway I realized we had entered a small train station. A train! It never occurred to me there was a train station at the airport. I rushed to the counter and asked a woman in Turkish if there was indeed a train to Selçuk.

"Yes," she replied in English. "Ten minutes on Platform One."

I was quite pleased with myself as we stood on the platform. "I'm so glad I learned some Turkish," I said happily. "Without it there's no way we could have figured this out. Finally some language practice pays off."

A few minutes later we saw a train approach the platform. For some reason it stopped just short of the platform. An attendant climbed off the train and waved his hand to have us walk down the platform to the train. Just before we reached the engine car I noticed two German backpackers getting off the train. They were drenched in sweat, with one of them cursing to himself loudly. It wasn't a positive sign. We climbed down the end of the platform into the grass and were helped onto the train by some passengers. As we got on board we realized we were in for a rough ride: standing room only, dozens of people packed like sardines in 100-degree heat.

We immediately took off our backpacks and placed them by our feet, knowing there was no room on board for us to wear them. I managed to reach over two people in order to get my left hand wrapped around a metal pipe for support. Susanne, in turn, grasped my shoulder to stay balanced. We were the only people on the train who weren't Turkish. Old men in caps and baggy trousers wiped sweat from their brow as their headscarved wives stood behind them. A group of teenage boys maintained a polite distance from Susanne, careful not to give offense in some way. Even though there were 40 or 50 people squeezed into the car it was unusually quiet, save the rolling clatter of the tracks passing below us.

Susanne had an enormous smile on her face. "What the hell," she said, shrugging. "This is going to be an adventure."

About five minutes into the ride I could feel a moist film of sweat forming on my forehead. I used the sleeve of my free arm to wipe my face. An old man with a scruffy five o'clock shadow smiled at me, wiping his forehead in turn.

"Çok sicak, çok sicak," I said to him, commenting on how hot it was. Several people glanced up when they heard me speak Turkish.

"Allah Allah, çok sicak," the man answered, a large smile forming on his face. "Nerede gidisiniz?" he then asked, wanting to know our destination.

"Selçuk," I replied, eager to find out how far away the town was. "Selçuk Kaç saat?"

"Kirk kilometer," he answered. "Altmis dakika." We had 60 minutes to cover about 40 kilometers, apparently.

As we stood there, swaying with the crowd as we braved the intense heat, Susanne looked at me and pointed to her backpack.

"I have Wet Wipes, you know," she said quietly to me.

"I was just thinking that," I replied. "I don't know if we can use them if we don't have enough to share, though."

"I know," she agreed. "I think we have enough." Susanne pulled out a packet of moist towelettes, opening it up and handing me one. As I unfolded it she offered another packet to the old man and his wife.

"Tesekkürler, yok," he said, bowing his head and touching his chest with his hand, politely declining the offer.

"Lütfen, effendim," I insisted, showing him my unfolded Wet Wipe.

"Tamam, tamam," he replied, accepting my offer. "Tesekkür ederiz." He removed two towelettes, using one and passing the other to his wife.

Susanne continued to pass the towelettes around the crowded car: to a young mother and her child, to the group of teenage boys in soccer shirts. One by one they dabbed the lemon-fresh towelette on their foreheads, enjoying the brief respite from the heat. For a few moments we were the happiest car on the train.

The old man's wife leaned forward and offered me a small packet of hazelnuts, a Turkish favorite. "Sag olun," I said, thanking her. I opened the packet and tossed a couple of nuts in my mouth, offering them to Susanne as well.

"Cok güzel!" I exclaimed, which caused the woman to laugh. I then offered the nuts to several people including the woman who handed them to me. They all politely declined, wanting me and Susanne to enjoy them ourselves. I unbuttoned my shirt's front pocket and put the remaining nuts inside. A minute or two later the old man tapped my chest to get my attention. He motioned to his own shirt pocket and pretended to button it. I assumed he was trying to tell me to keep it closed for safety. I nodded my head and smiled, quickly buttoning the pocket.

Despite the rotisserie oven conditions I thoroughly enjoyed the train ride, though by the time we reached Selçuk I was more then ready to disembark. As the trained pulled into town I looked over at the old man to confirm our present location. "Selçuk! Selçuk burada!" he said, shooing us off the train in an endearing kind of way. We stepped onto the platform and were greeted by a blast of cool, fresh air that made me realize just how unpleasantly sweaty I had become.

As we walked out of the station a pretty Turkish woman approach us and asked in English, "Are you looking for a hotel?"

"No thanks," we replied. "We are staying at Hotel Kalehan."

"It is a little expensive," she replied. "I can take you somewhere nice, but cheaper."

"That's okay, we're meeting friends," I lied, hoping to get out of the situation.

Ruins of a Roman 
Ruins of a Roman aqueduct, Selçuk
"Okay," she replied, "Follow me and I'll show you where to go."

"No, that's all right," I said. "We can find it."

"Please," she insisted, heading out the exit. Since we had to go in that direction anyway we followed her, though I wondered how much of a tip she expected (on more than one occasion we've had scam artists try to lure us from bus and train stations to an overpriced hotel). Just outside the station we found ourselves standing under the remains of a giant Roman aqueduct, its bridge-like stonework soaring high above us. We walked through an open square with a war memorial towards a tree-lined pedestrian street.

"Walk straight ahead until you reach the main road," she said. "Take a right and you will find the Kalehan just below the castle. Have a nice time in Selçuk...." Before I could even contemplate a tip she waved at us and walked away. Apparently I had underestimated her gesture. Unlike the people of so many other countries we had visited in the past, every Turk we met seemed eager to be friendly to us just for the sake of friendliness. It made me think to myself how much I was enjoying this country.

Susanne and I walked along the street, passing a long row of garden cafes where locals and tourists alike dined on kebaps and drank bottles of Efes beer.

"This is really adorable," Susanne said.

"It's so much nicer than I expected," I replied. "I already wish we had an extra day to hang out here."

Street scene, Selcuk
Street Cafes, Selçuk

Beyond the row of cafes we turned along a busy roadway, walking through several more restaurants. Because these restaurants were using the sidewalk for table space we had to navigate around diners in order to reach the hotel. In five minutes we found ourselves just below Selçuk castle, with the Hotel Kalehan in front of us. The hotel was hidden within a grove of trees and was decorated with a fascinating array of Ottoman antiques.

"Iyi aksamlar," I said to the young man at the front desk.

"Good evening," he replied in English. "Do you have a reservation?"

"Yes -- under Carvin, please."

"Ah, Aydin's friends," he said. "Welcome to Selçuk!"

Susanne and I smiled at each other. Being friends of Aydin had its privileges, it seemed.

The young man led us through the hotel restaurant towards our room. The restaurant had a very romantic setting -- a dimly lit chamber with high wooden beams, slowly turning ceiling fans and soothing stone fountains. Part of me wanted to drop my bags right there and enjoy a leisurely dinner, but I desperately needed to change clothes.

Rose garden, Kalehan 
Hotel, Selcuk
Kalehan Hotel rose garden, Selçuk

Outside the back of the restaurant we passed through a courtyard garden densely packed with rose bushes, lawn furniture and giant stone urns. To our left I saw the swimming pool and a small bar. Our room was in a three-story estate that sat directly below the ruins of Selçuk Kalesi, the local castle. The scene was truly picturesque.

As Susanne and I settled into our room I pondered the possibility of spending an extra night here. "I think I could spend a whole day sitting out by the pool," I said.

"If this were the end of the trip I could see that too," Susanne said.

We really didn't have time to spend an extra day in Selçuk, so we took advantage of our setting by getting into our bathing suits and hitting the pool for a pre-dinner dip. The water was a bit too nippy for the Floridian in me, but Chicagoan Susanne took to the pool immediately, climbing into the deep end while carefully avoiding to keep her hair dry. A British couple and their teenage son sat at the bar, having a drink and chatting with the bartender. The bar would have been right at home in the Caribbean: a small shack covered in dried palm fronds, the words "Green Bar" fancifully painted across a wooden plank. "If a Wet Wipe on a hot train is a slice of heaven, this is the whole loaf," Susanne sighed.

After drying ourselves off we went to dinner at the hotel restaurant, sitting next to a small stone fountain. Susanne ordered spaghetti while I got the evening special, a four-course meal of white bean salad, borek, köfte meatballs and rice pudding. We also split a small bottle of red Cappadokian wine, which was quite delicious. Not long after drinking it, though, our sinuses became completely clogged. As we went to be I hoped we were simply having a reaction to the sulfides in the wine, but considering I had been nursing a cold for a few days, I now worried that it was Susanne's turn to come down with a chill.


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