It’s been pouring all night, the walls of this apartment are so thin that I can hear each thrust and moan, and I’ve had about 250 minutes of sleep. Amanda punches me in the shoulder and grimaces. I know she’s thinking “This is your fault.” And she’s right.
My advice to Amanda when she was planning, was to strive at all costs to get early morning or late night flights, so we could keep the days intact for travel. I stand by my strategy, but goddamn it’s painful today.
The AirBnB, which is really a hotel, (It’s got a front desk and laundry/maid service – I call that a hotel) ordered the cab for us, and the super nice driver takes us to Asia to the domestic airport in Turkey, quite a ways from the center. Fortunately there is no traffic, we eat decently at the airport and easily fly to our next destination: Selcuk (sel-CHOOK) Turkey.
Izmir airport is huge but empty. It’s the third largest city in Turkey and a huge summer resort and beach destination, but it’s far too cold. We wait at the information desk for our driver, but he apparently got mixed up and we catch a taxi for double the price. The very nice hotel owner promises to take the extra cost off our bill.
The hotel ‘Nazar’ is top rated on Trip Advisor and for good reason. The owner speaks the best English we’ve heard on our trip from a native, and he’s just a really nice guy. The rooms are modestly furnished and equipped, but the view of the Selcuk fort is stunning.
He refers us to a restaurant that does the best job for vegetarians, which usually means a few mushrooms or peppers instead of meat in the pide, which is like pizza or some kind of stew. They also have lentil soup made with yellow lentils and very little spice. In the cold days of April, we’ve come to enjoy strong Turkish tea and that lentil soup.
We have to finish quickly to get to the next street over, where we are shuffled into another white tourist van, and driven to the airport (airstrip?) along the main highway that connects with the seaside resorts. They are empty now and traffic is very light.
The driver tells us that the rush was because a local TV station is doing a segment on the local microlight company and they want to film and feature us on the program. “Ha! what a hoot,” I think. We will happily be on Turkish TV.
The winds are pretty high, and they only have one aircraft working. We go one at a time, and they want us to do the 20 minute flight, not the 30 that Amanda booked. The gear looks top notch, and the pilots all have uniforms and look like pilots in Ray-Bans, bushy mustaches and bomber jackets.
It’s Amanda’s first time on a microlight, but our third. The last time I did it was in 2011, and for some reason I wrote in the blog that I wouldn’t do it again for the money. I think I say that every time because it IS expensive and after the adrenaline subsides the credit card bill is a punch in the gut. But my memories are all so positive!
We also did one in Dunhuang China, and they let Lily go at age 9. Compared to that outfit, the one here is completely professional. They put Emma in a jumpsuit, which she finds so hilarious that she does a little dance. Into the cockpit behind the driver, and onto the runway she goes. The film crew is rolling an interview behind her as she gets ready.
Once she gets on her way, the crew comes to be for questions. “How do you feel about your daughter going on the flight?” One asks in good but choppy English. “Great!” I say, “I’m excited for her. She’s going to love it.” They pause. He restates the question, obviously looking for a different answer. “But what are your emotions about this?”
Not sure where he’s going, I restate my enthusiasm. They stop the video, and the guy says, laughing, “if it were my daughter….” and he grabs his chest and fakes a heart attack. Ha! I guess they wanted to see some nervousness. Maybe they should have asked me when I sent up my nine year old with unlicensed Chinese pilots over the Gobi Desert.
Amanda gets her turn, which she says is quite turbulent, and they rush up for the interview. She’s such a natural on camera, big smile, trustworthy eyes, confident mannerisms. They get the soundbites they need for the clip and pack up, but not before having tea with us and exchanging emails. One of them does the “Turkish people and American people are the same, they are very relaxed, not like Europe.” We nod! “Yes we love Turkey!” (and we do.) Hopefully we can get the video from them sometime.
Lily comes back smiling and giving me the thumbs up. If you are a reader of this blog, you know she suffers (like her mom) from occasional panic attacks. We never know when she will have to abort an activity because she’s terror stricken.
They send me up finally and it’s awesome. Being out in the open air while flying is incredible. I’ve done it in a hot air balloon, parachuting and microlights. Parachuting is a thrill, but it’s over too fast. Microlights have more directional control, but there is wind and noise the whole way. Balloons are wind dependent, but you feel and hear nothing while you are up there because you are going with the wind. There’s no resistance.
I stick my hand out to remind myself that I’m 2000 feet off the ground in the open. The Agean sea stretches in front of us. Resorts, some old, some dilapidated, none new dot the coast. I always find it fascinating how huge development projects like seaside resorts can run out of capital somehow, and go half completed. There are a few of these here.
Just behind the runway is Ephesus, our destination tomorrow, and one of the top events of our Turkey trip. You can just make out the massive amphitheater at the top of the silted former Roman canal that looks like a, well, it looks like a long penis to the right of the runway.
It seems like a long, long time ago that we woke up in rainy Istanbul at 3:45 am. It’s late afternoon so we grab some coffee at an empty cafe playing Metallica called ‘Cabare’. We still have plenty of time, it’s only 5pm, so Amanda searches through the guide book for something to do. She makes her selection and the cafe calls us a driver to head toward Sirice, (Sheer-en-DZE), a local village that is supposed to be charming.
Sirice is, sadly, a tourist trap. It boasts quaint old Greek architecture, local wines, and a special church on a hillside. It has none of those things. The houses look like any others, the special church is merely an abandoned church from the 1800’s, and the streets are t-shirts and key-chains. The fresh juices are crazy expensive (like double even the highest Istanbul prices.) and the hawkers are fierce.
Amanda does try a few wines with Emma, all of them sweet fruit wines that are probably pretty gross. Emma thinks that’s pretty cool. Lily and I make fun of them while they drink. We got a good shot of the girls though, so that was worth it.
On the ride back, the driver rips us off a bit, and charges about $15 more than it should have been. The nice hotel manager looks out the window and says “Oh yeah, he’s one of the bad ones.” Dems the breaks. You are going to get ripped off as a tourist.
We go to a small hole in the wall place for dinner that he recommends, and we laugh so hard that the old ladies having tea and playing backgammon have to tell us to shush. We’ve adopted Amanda’s rule of no phones at the table, and it’s been pretty funny to see us entertaining ourselves.
Big day tomorrow – Ephasus – perhaps the greatest presentation of Roman architecture on the planet. We’re excited.