On the 26th we (Sean and I) flew into Bucharest, Romania, which was a cold, hard city. Never go there. It is not worth it. You can't even google a map - only satellite images. It is filled with beggars with baby lambs in slings, packs of stray dogs that can (and WILL) give you rabies, and casinos. Lots of casinos. And snow that doesn't even stick. And no food.
THEN we got on a train to Istanbul, some 19 hours. Somehow, coincidentally, we ended up in the same compartment as two Americans, one of whom grew up in Portland, OR, and they both worked on trail repair in Alaska. I had my first encounter with a squat toilet, and had some of the worst, most interrupted sleep in my life. The sound of grumpy beauracrats yelling for passports in a language I didn't understand and banging on doors with their short staffs haunts me still. At the border to Turkey the beauracrats would only accept Euro or American (we're not even sure they would have taken YTL, the Turkish money), and there were no ATMs. Sean covered the two from our compartment plus two American expats living in Qatar, all of whom paid him back at the station in Istanbul. Turkish beauracrats yelling about money... ah, the sweet sound lingers still.
When we arrived in Istanbul, we had still not made up our minds about where we were staying for New Year's, but initial research proved that a hostel (or hotel) in Istanbul itself for the New Year's would be incredibly, astoundingly marked up (a room normally going for about 10 bucks a night would be 500!), so we ran south! On the bus to Cennakale a Turkish man insisted on paying for some Cay for Sean at the rest stop - I slept through this. We took a room in Anzac house in Cennakale, and visited the dear, wonderful Troy. It was much smaller than I anticipated, but I feel like I have fulfilled my Reedie heritage. The 'dolmus' that got us there (basically a bus service, but in a small van) stopped service over an hour before closing, and we therefore missed it going back to town. However, a local shopkeeper offered to give us a lift for the same price on his way back into town. He talked to us mostly about Australians - there was a battle in Gallipoli apparently, that the Brits shipped a lot of young Australians off to to die, and every year there's an "Anzac Day" in remembrence, so A LOT of Australians travel through Cennakale. Australia finds me again. After another night there, trying to store up some "sleep on a stationary bed", we bused to Izmir, transferred to a Dolmus (basically a van) to Selcuk, where I am writing now :D
Tonight, after dinner, a man snagged us with "Hey Rasta man, what are you looking for?", which led to Sean saying he was from California, which led to us being taught Backgammon in a hookah/wine bar while drinking Raki. I'm loving Turks, if you can't tell. So far, none of the people who have tried to snag us have actually tried to cheat us - "How can I help you? Oh, internet is around the corner... Toilet is over there, by the big tree... Dolmus to Selcuk is downstairs." We did avoid picking up a shoeshiner's dropped brush though - Sean read about that scam. He can't remember what they do to you once you lean over to pick it up, but apparently it's bad :(
Tomorrow, we head to Ephesus! The largest most intactest Roman city on the Mediterranean. Then, back to the hookah bar! We must polish our Backgammon skillz before trying to play with people in Istanbul...