Sandwich-creme cookies

Without fail, every country I've been to has their own variety of creme-filled sandwich cookie, available in a convenient roll from the corner market on those evenings when you are just too burned out to face the crowds. they always seem to taste better than their American counterparts. I can heartily recommend the Turkish "Kremali" brand. I just devoured an entire pack in a single setting, washed down with an ice cold Efes. Too late to walk up past the Hippodrome in search of more eggplant kebaps. Tomorrow, it's a quest for seafood, seaside photos, Beyagolu cafes. Settling in for some Orhan Pamuk.

Hi. Hello. Excuse me. Where are you from?

Monkey testicles Take a walk through the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar and you are likely to hear this phrase hundreds of times. Or maybe you'll hear "¡Hola, buenas tardes!" or "Bongiorno!". The really good touts size you up and guess your nationality before you've even reached their booth. If you don't respond, they quickly move onto the next language in their arsenal. I don't know what to make of the fact that I usually get "Bonjour". I wasn't even wearing my beret today (1). The pushy ones get right up in your face, blocking your way with a friendly grin and an outstretched hand. "How do you do? Where are you from?". I know that some people just ignore the salesmen in places like this, but that's just plain rude and cuts against my midwestern upbringing. They are just trying to earn a living and if you don't like it, you should stay away from markets. In the Spice Bazaar, I sat and chatted with one salesman after telling him I wasn't buying anything. He spent 15 minutes explaining to me what everything was then insisted that I stay for a cup of tea. Famous Turkish hospitalilty is around every corner. Just after sundown, I was taking photos of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofya when I encountered the reported "let's go get a drink" scam twice. The idea is this: a stranger befriends you and offers to show you a cool pub. The second you sit down, other people join the table and order drinks. When you are finally presented with the tab, it's 100s of YTL at which point you are invited to pay or invited to the back room. Immediately after, I was wandering around taking photos on the Hippodrome. "Merhaba, where are you from?" a stranger walking past asks. By this time, I was pretty frazzled and didn't want to deal with more crap so I just kept walking. He calls out after me, "What, don't you like to talk to people?", in a surprised tone. I turned around and apologized, and he said, "Oh, just looked like you needed directions, I know the area very well". I thanked him and explained my apprehension. He nodded in agreement said it's good to be on your toes and we parted ways. Travelling alone you have to know when to keep your guard up and when it's safe to let it down. It's usually pretty obvious but sometimes difficult when the good guys and the bad guys use the same tactics. Sometimes doors only open with a little bit of faith that you aren't getting taken. Footnotes: 1. I don't own a beret although I did in high school.

Travel can be boring

Lots of the time, travel can be boring. I'm not talking about things like flight delays or interminable waits for buses that never arrive. Those things are part and parcel of any trip -- so common that they can barely even be considered part of a travel experience. Travel makes you experience every single minute. There is no overloaded agenda, no myriad of diversions and entertainment options within arm's reach. Each moment becomes perceptible and possibly even memorable. Maybe it's because the unfamiliarity of things forces us to focus more on the tasks at hand and not on less immediate things. And it's at times when you've worn yourself out and have no energy left to explore that travel becomes boring. The idea of trying to find a suitable restaurant and stumble through ordering another meal turns your stomach. The thought of another museum, mosque, church, or cathedral makes your head pound. Sometimes riding a park bench in the sun (or even the rain) is about all you can muster.