Haven’t stopped ad­ven­tur­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

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.

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