Published: October 18th 2011October 18th 2011
While in Europe, Bill advised EU leaders on the debt crisis
Welcome to the tenth edition of our journal documenting the first fifteen months of challenges and adventures while living in --and in this case, traveling out of--Antalya, Turkey. We've just returned to our dusty flat in Turkey after almost ten weeks in Hungary, Austria, and Slovenia. The trip ended in the U.S. for some sweet reunions with friends and family and for a wonderful family wedding in the mountains above the Pacific. Instead of a chronological record of the trip, we'd like to write a bit about some broad observations we had about the countries and cultures we visited.
We begin with this blog's theme "Carpe Diem" (or Seize the Day), chosen to capture the mood of our late summer travels in eastern and central Europe. As Americans, we are used to having an agenda for each day and are accustomed to planning our lives months--even years--in advance. Okay, we may get more done faster that way, but, we become slaves to our calendars and watches--always thinking ahead to the next thing--and the ones beyond that. Somehow we always schedule too much, so we're in a rush. Needless to say, with the clock ticking in our ears, we miss much
In Vienna, even the juice bottles urged the theme
of what the present moment offers. In retirement, we have the luxury of kicking that habit, and life in Turkey has given us a good start toward doing that. But our background as harried Americans still holds us in its grip, so we were happy for more lessons about Deep Leisure.
We were surprised to find the wisdom of carpe diem intact even in eastern and central Europe. In the cities, sidewalks were brimming with folks enjoying a summer day with a friend, a book and a glass of wine or coffee. For the most part, these folks weren't just taking a quick break. Their body language conveyed no tension or rush, and they were still there hours later. The camera picked up dozens of other examples: lovers nuzzling at a bus stop, women chatting on street corners, folks in long conversations at the spectacular public baths.
Then there were the bikes. In Slovenia, Austria, and Hungary, bikes provide indispensable transportation, and the cities have provided bike lanes that are completely separated from other vehicles. Like other progressive cities around the world, Vienna and Ljubljana provide free bikes available at kiosks all over the city--just grab one, pedal
Bus Stop Lovers
In Budapest, we caught them kanoodling in the rain.
to your destination, and drop the bike off for the next rider. (Bill really relished that experience!)
Oh, and the cuisine. After fourteen months without pork (well, almost), we eagerly compensated for that deprivation--for a week or so. Then we began to notice that in restaurants, almost every dish is a pork dish, and our enthusiasm waned. Fortunately, we were doing our own cooking most of the time, so we did our best to minimize the red meat and load up, Turkish style, on veggies. A high point in both personal and culinary realms was the nine days we spent in Vienna, where our friends Ed Bergman and Luisa Gil provided us with a wonderful empty flat and also cooked a number of spectacular (porkfree) meals for us in their home--meals that we will not soon forget!
We also loved the unaccustomed pleasure of church bells. In Turkey we enjoy hearing the call to prayer from nearby mosques five times a day. We hadn't expected to hear church bells roughly as often in Europe, but we did. Of course, the citizens of the three countries we visited are largely practicing Catholics, and frequent church bells are, I
guess, a benefit of a more religiously homogeneous populace. In villages, the melody and pattern of church bells even announce deaths and funerals--nothing automated about that.
Then, there was a huge variety of live music everywhere! Of course, we expected it in Vienna and Salzberg, but the music in Slovenia blew us away too. There, every village is said to have a chorus. The tiniest ones have, at least, a quartet. We heard some excellent music in street performances, and almost every evening in Ljubljana we found a free concert, sometimes vocal, sometime instrumental--but consistently fine quality.
Of course, Bill never goes anywhere without paying particular attention to land use, especially in the cities. We admired the enormous proportion of land devoted to green space within Vienna, Budapest, and Ljubljana. And since there is so little space devoted to sprawl or American-style suburbs, these cities are dense enough for public transportation to be truly effective. And effective it is --fast, integrated, and widely used. Makes our transit-loving hearts ache with envy!
Maybe the best feature of all in the countries we visited was the most predictable: jaw-dropping natural beauty! Of course, we've all seen mountains, but these
are MOUNTAINS, and their grandeur delivers goosebumps! Below the peaks, the hills are the most vivid, phosphorescent green either of us had ever seen. We tried, over and over, to capture the backlit luminous quality with the camera, but we just couldn't do it justice. And Bill, of course, fell under the spell of the gorgeous rivers. From the village where we stayed in Slovenia, he even did three days on the Sava River with huge silver flashes flapping heavily at the end of his line. And, yes, it's catch and release in Slovenia.
There were minor difficulties, of course. Just when we were beginning to get by in Antalya with our basic but emerging Turkish, we were in one country after another where we couldn't speak the language. (Actually Bill gets by with some residual German from earlier travels, but Hungarian? Slovenian? Croatian?) We had rented a car in Slovenia and for a sidetrip to Croatia, and found the traffic warning signs a constant puzzle.
Arriving in the U.S. after an absence of fifteen months proved that travel gives us fresh eyes. The faces of friends and family never looked so good! We got to spend five
!0 Km's from Ljubljana
Many Slovenian hills are topped by churches
comfy days with Kara and Matt in Seattle (nothing like the presence of grandsons Taulby (6) and Jude (8) to remind us to seize the day!) The wedding in California reinforced how much we treasure family and tradition, especially sincere, light-hearted tradition. The wedding also gave us a chance to savor some time with Kate and Ted Leslie (Carol's son and daughter), who came from the east coast. In Berkeley, we even squeezed in some hilarity with Judith McKoy, Carol's longstanding buddy from her long-ago life in New York
Some of our responses to stepping back into our old world in the U. S. were predictable. For example, it was wonderful to be surrounded again with the racial, religious and ethnic diversity that we haven't found elsewhere. And, naturally, everything in the U.S. seemed HUGE: the cars, the stores, the roads, the restaurant servings, and--of course--the people.
But other things were a bit startling. We'd forgotten how many folks in the U.S. are begging on curbs and sleeping in doorways. It had been fifteen months since we'd seen people publicly drunk, high, or in need of treatment for mental illness. Even in the parts of Europe where people
have a beer with breakfast, we hadn't seen any public intoxication--and certainly never in Turkey. We were both disheartened to see with fresh eyes the large amount of poverty and social dysfunction that continues unabated in the country we'll soon return to. We are following with deep interest the global protests that have spread from the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We'd love to hear your thoughts about it--either a blog comments or in private e-mail messages.
Back in Turkey, we've been delighted with the bright sunshine, blue/purple skies, and shirtsleeve weather. Bill has resumed his daily morning swims in the Mediterranean--now with a gaggle of friends. We loved a quick but truly fun visit from our daughter-in-law's (Lisa's) parents, Jan and Bill Marshall, from New Jersey.
But Turkey continues to teach us to give us lessons in patience. We returned to Antalya to learn that all the bus routes had been suddenly changed without notice. The city has distributed a new bus map--but it is wrong. The 1 million people who live here are figuring out the revised bus system hit and miss, then calling friends and family to share what they learn. (Our Turkish teacher called to
tell us how to get to the huge produce market we love.) And in another puzzling episode, the replacement prescription eyeglasses Carol ordered in the U.S. have arrived via FedEx (thanks Janet!)--but are being held in Istanbul for a variety of "customs fees" that amount to 1/3 to 1/2 the value of the glasses! In the end, we decided to send the glasses back!
On the brighter side, we leave in two days for a short trip, to perhaps the most fascinating part of Turkey--the Kurdish areas in the east and southeast very close to the borders with Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The weather's great and our volunteering hasn't resumed yet--so Carpe Diem! We'll be gone five days, spending three nights in village homestays with Kurdish and Arab families and seeing some of the world's oldest sites in the region where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow. This trip will be the focus of the next blog--please stay tuned.
As always, we are so very grateful to our readers for following along with us. It means so much to us to know you're out there! If you enjoy photos, keep scrolling down after the end of the text.
Free Bike System
Here we are in Vienna using the free (1st hour)bike system
This blog has the most photos of any so far. (We had to wrestle each other to the ground to reduce the number even this much!)
Bill and Carol Roach
There are more photos below