Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. ~Mark Twain
We woke early to a crisp, sunny morning as we begin another day of travel. A look out the window revealed dozens of colorful, hot air balloons at various heights against the back drop of a blue sky carrying the dreams of the passengers into the clouds. The hotel staff of the Local Cave Hotel, a very attentive group, had breakfast ready for us including Turkish coffee and chai for sustenance at the start of the next phase in our trek around Turkey. They made us a special early breakfast well before they normally opened in the morning.
Today, we head to the West coast of Turkey to Izmir, Soke, and Guezlcamli (pronounced: goozle chamlee), where we will have the opportunity to view even more ancient wonders, via a 3 hour layover in Istanbul. There will be two legs of travel, two potential opportunities for luggage to disappear yet again. The first plane was so spacious, I could actually cross my legs comfortably. Outside of business class, I don’t ever recall having so much leg room on a flight.
The second leg took off over half an hour later than scheduled. I find this extra frustrating because we are being met at the airport in Izmir by locals, by a friend’s mother, Selma, and cousin, Mustafa, who have graciously agreed to give us a two day, personal tour of the sites in their region. Though it’s not my fault, I still feel bad at making them wait.
For our first stop after a late lunch, we visited the house of the Virgin Mary, a shrine to Jesus’ mother in what is said to be the place she lived. Our visit to the shrine was during a heavy rain storm. Visiting the shrine is a pilgrimage for many Christians. Outside the shrine is water from an underground spring which one is to drink and say a prayer. The rain was hitting us very hard at this point so we decided to forgo other sites for the day and headed into Soke to meet up with Kenan to begin the rest of our evening.
We went out for dinner at a local fish restaurant, one with a TV so we could watch the big match between Galatasary and Fenerbache. Which ever team won the game, would be the league champion for the year. In the event of a draw, Galatasary would be the champion due to having a superior point total for the season.
The restaurant was full with people just picking at their food during each of the halves. Fans from both teams were present so it was fun to watch the ebb and flow of the crowd as each team drew close to scoring but we never did experience the ecstasy of the ball hitting the back of the net.
During the halftime interval and post game, we did enjoy the wonderful seafood. Following the traditional Turkish starters of cucumbers, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce, we ate stuffed mussels, calamari, prawns, and fish. All the food was very fresh and very delicious as were the wines, both red and white. I typically am a red wine drinker but tried the white at the behest of my guest. We ended up drinking two of the white and one of the red.
There was a language barrier between us and our hosts but we did speak the universal language that is football (soccer) so communication was able to occur at a level those of us who love the beautiful game understand. In the end, Galatasary was the champion and there was much rejoicing in the crowd. There was also much rejoicing in the streets.
Following dinner, we went out for a drink and enjoyed the revelry of the fans that had taken to the streets. People were blowing their horns and singing of the glory of their team. It was a site to behold. In football, you are born to a team. Your identity is tied to a team. You live and die with the success of the team. So, when your team wins the championship, especially against a hated rival, there is a joy that is deep, a joy that is complete.
While out for the post dinner drink, we met up with some of their Turkish friends. One of the couples was adept at English so could translate allowing us to express much deeper thoughts. I was finally able to let them know of the quality son they raised. He is a person I work with in the US. I was able to tell them that he is a respected individual in the company and that we are expecting big things from him in addition to the great work he is currently doing.
Following the post dinner drinks, we set off with our hosts to their summer home by the Aegean sea in Guezlcamli where they dropped us off for a much needed sleep.