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Turkey and Israel

ROMANIA | Thursday, 27 January 2011 | Views [398]

This year started crazy – passing an exam to become an official teacher at the University, crazy schedule, working at the lab and university. So by the time summer came, I was burnt out. I needed a vacation, badly.
When the parental unit offered a trip to Turkey with them, I did not jump at the chance – some bad memories from the Egyptian trip. However, they managed to convince me, so the beginning of June found us in Turkey. Antalya to be more precise.

The hotel was a mere 15 minutes bus-ride from the airport, and it was amazing – just glass, wood and steel, smack right on the beach. The room was on the 8th floor and we had a beautiful view of..the hotel next to us. You can’t have it all, I guess. The food, well delicious doesn’t even cover it – salads, steak, soup – whatever you wanted, you had it. They won my affection by serving pancakes for breakfast, with chocolate cream.

The first day on the beach was a complete failure. The walk on the hot sand (and I do mean HOT) was anything but pleasurable – you could almost hear my feet sizzling in the cold water (sea water that is). SO, after this let’s call it high-temperature-experience, we redirected our attention to the swimming pools – the water was cold here as well, but plus side – no hot sand. And, we had music by the pool, and as neighbors – another pool with water-slides – tried them all…summer pavlovian reflex.

The tour guide offered some optional trips, and we chose the Pamukkale *short stop for tour-like information* – pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and is a wonder of nature – the site has hot springs, rich in calcium and travertines – little terraces. The water flows really slow so the calcium has time to settle and everything becomes white. It’s truly a sight to behold. Next to the travertines are the ruins of ancient Hierapolis – the climb up there was MURDER.At the base of the hill is the legendary Pool of Cleopatra – it is said that if you bathe in it, you’ll feel and look younger – well I bathed but didn’t feel a darn thing – the old russian ladies fell for it though and you should have seen them shoving each other to get to the spring. What a performance!!! Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we got to the hotel – extreme cold and heat does that to people.

Another trip the tour lady presented was a one day journey to Jerusalem. Being the quintessential traveler, and some heavy persuasion from the parents, I signed up – another trip by myself. The tour-guide tells me there will be no Romanian or Hungarian guide (not unless I was willing to pay 200$ for the service – I wasn’t) but there will be an English one. I was supposed to leave on Thursday and on Wednesday afternoon I was still assured everything is fine. Yeah, right!

Thursday 4 a.m. The minibus came for me, almost packed with ONLY Russian tourists. To say I was the odd one there would be an understatement. At the next hotel we were supposed to pick 2 more tourists and waited 40 minutes for them – they overslept, bless their souls. We make it in good time to the airport, go through security, reach Tel Aviv and….showtime. There was no one waiting for us. I wandered around the airport like a stray cow caught in the hurricane and eventually found the bus with the agency’s logo. I get on the bus, and when I ask the guide “do you speak English?” she calmly replies “no’. Booooooooooooooy, you should have seen my face. I text the guide back in Turkey – dude, they screwed up, I’m in a bus full of Russian people and besides “Da” and “Nyet” I have no knowledge of the language. The tour-guide kept on rambling on and on about this and that, I’m sure it had something to do with the sites. I decide to suck it up and act touristy – that is open mouth, take as many pictures as possible and pray the day ends well.

We visited the Church of all Nations, the Garden of Ghetsemane, the Olive Mountain and then lunch. After lunch, the russian guide-lady tells me there is another group whose guide speaks English, and I can join them. Cool. I join the other team, another Russian one at that, and the guide spoke Russian too. No English. This got me wondering “what in the world is going on here? Am I some human ball between the two guides?” So I continued being touristy, wandering around, keeping a close eye on my new “family”.

Together we saw the Holy Tomb, the Hill of Golgotha – now don’t be fooled – everything is inside this huge church, the elements mentioned here are symbols. After this came the Wailing Wall (actually we went to it) and it is here that God showed me his mercy. While staying in the shade, I was eavesdropping on the team next to us. They were Americans. Hearing them speak English was an ointment for my soul. I almost wanted to tell them “please, take me with you” but I composed myself.

Leaving Jerusalem, we got to the Dead Sea. We were allowed to swim, but had to be careful – the water is REALLY salty, you can’t submerge even if you wanted to. Not that you want to, because ingesting that water or even get it in your eyes is a big no-no. So guess who got water in their eyes and walked out to the HOT beach to dry their stinging ocular aparatus? You would be right, me. So after such an eventful day, I felt I deserved a beer. Got to the bar, ordered a cold one and everything was alright in the world. Stopping for dinner and souvenir shopping, another group of Americans joined us, so I was happy again. This state of happiness continued throughout the evening, when I was able to walk inside the airport wearing flip-flops (it was summer, people so it seemed appropriate). While heading to the check-in, I find my original group and got in line. Here once again God smiled at me – the beautiful lady at the check-in desk spoke only English and Hebrew (I was avenged) so imagine the middle-aged ladies trying to understand a word (mu-ha-ha-ha). Naturally my seat was the one next to the emergency exit, so praying was an ever-present element throughout my journey. We made it to Turkey safe and sound and you can only imagine the looks on my parents’ faces when I told them about my Russian experience in the Holy Land. But I don’t regret it at all. I saw some amazing sites, felt amazing things, and got water from the Dead Sea in my eyes. Now tell me how many people can brag about that?
Next episode in the saga – my patience is pushed to its limits in Tunisia!

Tags: antalya, jerusalem, summer, travel

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