June 14, 2006

European travels, pt. 1 England (wot wot) continued, and Turkey (Gobble Gobble)!!!

first off, lets talk about what was, for all intensive purposes, the last chunk of travel in Britain.

OXFORD: A charming town of higher education, dreaming spires, lazily meandering rivers, finely cut cricket pitches and grass tennis courts, a myriad of rowing clubs, and last but not least, plenty of public drunkedness.

We were in the Town of Oxford primarily for Kate's graduation ceremony--she finished her D.Phil two years ago, but never went through the commencements. The ceremony was done almost entirely in latin, and was as chalk full of pomp and circumstance as you might fancy an Oxford graduation ceremony might be.

Aside from the ceremony, we did a ton of visiting with Kate's friends that are still living in the town, and in between visits, there was ample opportunity to visit many of the town's ancient sites and college grounds. The Churches range from a few hundered to several hundred years old, as do the various colleges (there are 39 colleges that make up the university of Oxford). No shortage of famous attendees to Oxford colleges--JRR tolkein, Lewis Carrol, C.S. Lewis, and the list goes on. We also went kayaing and did a bit of punting ( river boating, for you uneducated plebians out there. Scoff, scoff).

All in all, as I said to Kate, if her social calendar during here three years here was anything like the few days we spent, I would have been spent within a month. IT's so damn tiring going to high teas, sitting in the parks in the shade of trees, picnicing with friends... okay, I'll shut up now.

on to TURKEY!

at 3 am on June 12th, we arose and made the short 20 minute walk to the Oxford bus station, where a shuttle took us to Heathrow Airport, where our flight to Istanbul awaited us.

arriving in Istanbul in the early afternoon, we took a short while to get into the area of Sultanhamet, and our hotel. We're in the heart if the monumental centre here, with the Grand Bazaar, the Ayasophya (eye-ah-so-fee-ah), and the Blue mosque all within spitting distance. the latter two are massive buildings, and as impressive as they are large. The Ayasophya was built in the 6th century, used as a place of worship for the Byzantine Christians. The roman catholics rolled through, trashed everything, and after that, it was used as a mosque. It is now a museum, featuring amazing works of art from both the Christian and Muslim worlds. we tried to spend lots of time in buldings such as this yesterday, because it was... COLD AND RAINING! hello? mediterranean? ummm, you should be hot and dry... as it was, the rain has passed and today is fantastic. But I digress...

The Grand Bazaar! This place makes west edmonton mall look like a strip mall. 4,000 shops, people. that's right, 4,000. Kate and I did some rug shopping in there on our first evening, and I am happy to say that we're the proud owners of two very fine turkish rugs, one from the 1920's, and one from the 1960's. Both Beautiful! the buying experience was a lot of fun, filled with bartering, small talk, and turkish apple tea. The Bazaar is a place where you can buy pretty much anything, or at least have people trying to get you to buy everything. the typical attention grabbers are "Yes! Hello!", "Hello my friend!" to gain some eye contact, but have also included things like "Hey Beeg Man!" or "Hey pretty lady!", and our personal favorite... Hey! You need viagra?!"...

up to speed, we are departing istanbul tonight on a bus destined for Selchuk, where we will visit Ephesus for a day or so. I'm really looking forward to seeing the temple of Artemis, as well as some major Christain Holy sites: the Bascillica of St. John--his burial place--and the House of the Virgin Mary, the residence that Mary lived out the rest of her days following the crucifiction of Jesus.

the bus ride down leaves at 8 pm, and will take 10 hours... supposedly... we'll see!!

that's all for now! cheers!

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