We traveled for 20-some hours yesterday. It's a necessary evil with international travel, but it puts this unfortunate pall over one's memory of an otherwise perfect trip. I will have to remind myself, when asked about my vacation, not to rant about the Keystone Customs guys who LOST someone, causing a shut-down of the whole international terminal in Houston. Or the 42 metal detectors we went through. Or the weird, but well-intentioned, Dutch airplane food. That was just the very end, the price of coming and going. When I asked, I will talk about:
The Turkish people. They're the most welcoming bunch of folks you could want to meet. Even the ones that are rough around the edges. They have immense national pride and it's well-deserved. We liked Turkey better than Spain and almost as well as Italy (yes, you heard me — someone call the EU Chamber of Commerce!). No evidence of the current Turkey-U.S. spat.
The East. There's magic in being somewhere that is not quite Western. It's Western enough, mind you — that's why we felt comfortable going. But the combination of Islamic elements (call to prayer, covered heads) and Asian elements (architecture, geography) was eye-opening.
The food. Consistently very good. Grilled meats and vegetables. Rich yogurt sauces. Eggplant prepared a thousand different ways. Not as weird or mysterious as you'd think: just earnest and delicious.
The big scenery. The hot-air balloon ride was the perfect climax to two weeks of eye-candy. Three different seas, lush hillsides dotted with grapevines, the moonscape of Cappadocia, architecture that is a religious experience (as it was intended).
The small scenery. Six little old ladies in their best headscarves carrying wrapped presents on a bus. The calf in someone's house. Shop windows filled with fezes and other wonders of felt. Grapes piled high on the roadside. Our breakfast table.
Our trip will not be tarnished by the many long hours home, or our sadness at its ending. We had something good to go home to: Lu. She was very cuddly last night, and kept saying, "I missed you guys. I'm so glad you're home."