Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 35: Turkey Day

Today was devoted to preparation for our arrival in Istanbul tomorrow morning.  Sessions didn't start until late morning to give people a chance to sleep in and recover from Greece.  I have trouble sleeping past sunrise here so instead decided to hit the gym early.  Our first session was the only mandatory one and it was by our inter-port lecturer, an American diplomat currently assigned to Turkey.  She had a lot of great info and suggestions.  I later went to hear the inter-port student's presentation which had also had some useable info.  Later in the afternoon I attended a talk about the current state of political and economic affairs in Turkey.  It's interesting to look into some of the debate about why Turkey's EU admission has been continually delayed (likely because it's 98% Muslim).  Other than these sessions it was a pretty relaxed day.

I scheduled a much needed haircut for the afternoon.  I have to admit, it was a little weird for me because I haven't been anywhere besides a barber shop for the past 14 years or so.  They did a decent job and it was really thorough (I'm not used to the whole shampoo and head massage thing).  The timing worked out perfectly because as soon as I was done we got word that we were passing by Gallipoli into the Dardanelles.  Gallipoli is a city and site from a famous battle in WWI where the Turks defeated the Allies.  There's a pretty intense monument on the hill that was clearly visible as we sailed by.  The Dardanelles is the strait that begins the connection of the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.  In other words, it's the strip of water that separates Europe from Asia and we were able to clearly see both continents today.  That little entrance was definitely the highlight of the day at sea.  Not many people came out to see us enter the strait due to the extremely intense wind.  Coming from a guy who grew up in the Antelope Valley, today offered the most extreme wind experience I've ever had.  It was difficult to stand up and somewhat entertaining as people and objects flew by (there was more than one incident of glasses blowing off faces and shoes off feet) but it offered some good photo ops.

We had our logistical pre-port meeting tonight and I can't wait for arrival tomorrow.  Some of the cultural considerations are going to make it very different from anywhere I've previously been but I'm looking forward to the challenge.  After our diplomatic briefing and issuing of visas tomorrow I have a city orientation that hits most of the major mosques and other sites.  If we can work it out I'd love to do a night cruise up the Bosphorus.  Wednesday I depart early for a two day trip down to Izmir and Ephesus which should be really cool.  On Friday I'm planning on making my way to the Grand Bazaar and some other Istanbul exploration.  I have a session on Islamic art on Saturday followed by some open time to hopefully fit in whatever else needs to be seen. That's all for now, I up early tomorrow to watch us come in; I hear Turkey from afar is a beautiful sight.

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