Haven’t stopped adventuring
Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Joe Pfalzer (the author) and his wife, Sue, of Oakton.
Where, when, why: My wife and I spent 10 days in Istanbul and western Turkey at the end of June to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We were tempted to go back to Western Europe, where we met (after winning $12,500 on a slot machine in Vegas, she signed up for the same tour I was on; we got engaged after knowing each other eight weeks— story for another day!), but we decided we needed somewhere new and culturally exciting. Our families were worried about us traveling to the edge of the Middle East, but we lived in two countries abroad with our kids, and there are not a lot of places we would not go.
Highlights and high points: Hagia Sophia is 1,478 years old; it was a church, then a mosque and is now a museum. It is gigantic and awe-inspiring. The Blue Mosque sits a fewhundred yards from Hagia Sophia, and being in the park between them at any time of day is amazing. When we were on the trip, it was the height of Ramadan, and 11:30 p.m. might as well have been the middle of the day— adults as well as children enjoyed food and entertainment that comes with the biggest celebration in the Muslim world.
We also spent four days in Bodrum, on the Aegean Sea. We were lucky enough to have time to visit the ancient city of Ephesus where parts of the city have been unearthed and rebuilt. We saw buildings and statues more than 2,000 years old.
Cultural connection or disconnect: My wife works in the field of refugees, and we made connections with several Syrian refugees now living in Turkey. It was nice to get the true story from someone displaced by the civil war and not just the snippets provided by the local news media. Seeing Syrian children begging on the street made us realize how fortunate we are in the United States.
Biggest laugh or cry: We were not aware that shoeshine men in Istanbul have sneaky ways to get your attention and your money: They accidentally drop their brush off their carrying case, and when you pick it up, they seem to offer a free shoe shine for your kindness. But that is not the case. Once finished, they ask to be paid! It took us two times to just ignore the falling brush.
How unexpected: The history of Istanbul is unending and not something you can understand by reading a travel book. The city is spread over the continents of Europe and Asia. Also, although we spent most of our time on the European side, and were happy to do so, we were surprised that, after our 18-year absence from Europe, the number of people who smoke has not gone down.
Fondest memento or
memory: We had been wanting to buy a Turkish rug. Apparently they are very expensive. We ended up being “picked up” by a scout outside the Blue-Mosque and invited to his family’s factory. His uncle, as it turned out, lived in the United States for a long time and went to Ohio State University, as did my wife. His mother and other relatives live in Virginia. We got to have Turkish tea (a must-do while in Turkey) with the family and bought a small rug from them, from a Kurdish region in the eastern part of the country.
To tell us about your own trip, go to washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.
Sue and Joe Pfalzer explored the history and culture of Istanbul, above, to mark 20 years since their whirlwind romance abroad.