Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tales from Turkey and Switzerland

An unexpected beginning and an equally startling end marked our recent three week trip to Turkey and Europe. The training group had been preparing for this adventure for at least a year and a half, if not more, so although our departure was scheduled at the unearthly hour of 5 am, sleep was the last thing on our minds. Half past one at night. (Or you could say early in the morning). George and I await the driver Murugan who is supposed to help us get the luggage downstairs and reach us to the airport. Not only does he not appear at the appointed hour but several phone calls only confirm that his mobile phone has been switched off and that he is most unlikely to make an appearance in the next few minutes. We’re already marginally delayed, so George and I call for a cab and dash off. It’s only a couple of days later that we discover the reason for Murugan’s absence. The Enfant Terrible who has been working for us for a bit over a year, and seems like a somewhat older Indianised version of Denis the Menace, had apparently decided to take a sleeping tablet to help him relax a bit. Good thing he didn’t answer the phone, George said when we got the news in Cappadocia. What would have happened, if he had turned up and fallen asleep at the wheel!

Luckily the rest of the journey, in spite of some hiccups at Istanbul airport on account of a few people in our group having decided to get their visas on arrival, unfolded quite smoothly. The eight hour wait at the airport to catch our flight to Nevesehir in Cappadocia, was less harrowing than I expected though by the end of the day I have to confess I was half dead and felt that way most of the next day as well.
Waiting at Istanbul airport
But the magnificent scenery which greeted us on the bus ride from the airport kind of made up for everything and when we landed at our hotel and found ourselves surrounded by our Turkish friends, ready to show us up to our rooms, it felt like a real home coming.
Meditation room at Cappadocia
The workshop was a great bonding experience and there was a sense of two countries, two cultures having merged into one. What we need is a new politics,  we all I felt. The politics of friendship and freedom

Dilek, Uma, Ayse, Selva at the barbecue on our last evening at Cappadocia

The meals were splendid and I always looked forward to the breakfasts – hot coffee which Ayse or one of the others would bring up for me, shortly before a tray arrived filled with freshly baked bread, different kinds of cheeses, olives, wedges of tomato and cucumber, and an occasional slice of sausage or piece of omelet. It was so hard to stop eating, and the result is several extra kilos which have made my tummy their home which I am now trying hard to send back where they came from.
The bus journey through Cappadocia was spectacular – the weird natural rock formations in the shape of cones and ridges had all of us gaping most of the time.

The "camel" of Cappadocia

A ten hour bus ride from Nevsehir brought us to Izmir which was our next halt, and where about seven of us crashed Indian style at Aysegul’s two bedroom apartment. The day after we arrived we looked through the colourful market at Izmir, stopped at a roadside eatery for plates heaped with the most mouth watering kababs, shopped around, stopped once again, this time for coffee and ended the evening at a café on the seaside boulevard, where we relaxed with glasses of Raki, a bagful of mussels which Ful had bought at the market which was now passed around, along with an apple flavoured hookah.
Izmir market

Coffee stop with Aysegul, Venky, Sudha
Our last riotous evening in Turkey was spent at an outdoor restaurant which our Turkish friends had especially chosen for us, with Turkish folk music and dancing. Once the evening got underway nobody wanted to leave and maybe we would have stayed there till morning had it not been for the flight we had to catch to Zurich early the next day.

Farewell Izmir and Turkey
Switzerland was more peaceful and meditative in comparison, providing us with enough opportunity to truly chill, surrounded by green fields, gently mooing cows and the tinkle of cow bells. The workshop which we attended is something we wont forget in a hurry, once again serving to bond us with the Swiss and German people who attended it.
Chandran receives his certificate
Last afternoon in Solothurn
Three weeks later we found ourselves on our way back, tired, happy, full of memories but looking forward to the noise and filth of home. At Istanbul airport where we once again had to wait a few hours we lounged around an internet café, assuming that in a few hours time we would be able to crawl into bed and catch up on some sleep.

The THUD with which the Turkish airlines plane landed took us by surprise. Even when I heard it I presumed we had just landed a bit badly though realizing that the plane had come to a complete stop instead of taxiing forward to the gate, made me wonder. It was only three quarters of an hour later that we were officially told that we had made an emergency landing, that the plane had buried a part of itself in a patch of mud on the runway and that we would have to leave the aircraft from the exit at the back via a chute. And no bags allowed please, the airhostess waggled her finger at us.

So saying goodbye to all my precious belongings including an Ipod, an Ipad, my camera (a temporary goodbye as it luckily turned out) I got ready to whoosh down the chute and was mighty relieved at the end of it, to find myself in the arms of a burly, comforting member of the airport staff who saved me from sliding down into a puddle of wet mud and helped me into the bus waiting for us nearby.
Four hours later we were home surrounded by exclamations of relief. It had been fun. A fitting end to our trip, it seemed to me in retrospect.
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