Our two-night home during the “major ruins” portion of our trip is the venerable Kismet Hotel, overlooking the bay just outside of Kusadasi (If you get to downtown Kusadasi, you’re close.)
We are informed that the Kismet was originated by the granddaughter of the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, its decorations including celebrity photographs of a bygone era and an actual caged parrot in the lobby suggesting a former glory and elegance we had missed by perhaps half a century. An Internet reviewer described the Kismet as,
“A hotel dwelling on past glories, now reminiscent of Fawlty Towers.”
(When somebody “nails it”, I feel no compunction to compete.)
The culinary highlight of our stay occurred when, while picking through the Kismet’s uninspired dinner buffet, we were approached by our incomparable guide Sarhan, who conspiratorially whispered,
“The hotel makes this spectacular lentil soup, but they only serve it to the help. If you’re interested, I will see if I can score us some.”
We were, he did, and it was delicious. I do not know how much Sarhan was being paid for his services, but he was worth it just for the soup.
Our tour was now in its final stages. In the morning, we were transported to Ismir, where we’d be flown back to Istanbul.
(It is a bizarre thing I am about to tell you, and I do not understand it at all. Turkish is another language, and I do not know how to speak it. But in my brain, for some reason, “another language” translated exclusively as Spanish. As a result, when our driver dropped us off at the Ismir airport, I heard myself saying, “Adios, amigo” to a fellow named Mustapha. And that was not the first time I had done that. The Turkish recipients of my linguistic inappropriateness must have thought I was crazy. Either that or Spanish.)
Turkish Airlines is amazing. A forty-five minute flight includes (complimentary) lunch. And that lunch, although packaged and boxed in cardboard, was delicious.
Landing in Istanbul, we were collected at Ataturk Airport and returned to our original hotel (not the Sumahan in Asia, but the one on the European side of Istanbul which was included in our tour package called the Armada.)
The Armada, though a block from the Sea of Marmara – the Sumahan is right on the Bosphorus – offered a “Bosphorus View” from our hotel room; plus, it was directly across the street from an impressive chunk of Istanbul’s (then called Constantinople’s) original, 19 kilometer-encircling stone wall, which was completed by Theodosius in the 5th Century A.D., having been constructed to protect the city from outside enemies on both land a sea, which it did until 1453, when by sheer force of numbers the city and consequently the entire Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks, led by Mehmed II. (In case anybody asks you. Or you are a contestant on Jeopardy.)
(One day, out for a solo stroll along a coastline walking path, I borrowed Dr. M’s camera and took a number of pictures of that wall, almost all of which were subsequently deleted, because…how interesting are pictures of an old wall? I did not disagree with that decision, but I am still happy I took them, and even happier that I was there and can therefore retain those uninteresting pictures in my mind.)
It is now time to… no, wait. First a compliment. That I am shy to repeat, though equally proud to have received.
When Sarhan dropped us off at the Armada and was ready to bid us farewell, I told him how delightful and indispensible he had been, quickly adding that if anything stupid had inadvertently come out of my mouth – I was thinking about a particularly thoughtless utterance which I may talk about later – I entreated him to please forgive me.
Sarhan responded by saying that I was an enhancing contributor to the trip, in that I asked “excellent questions.” It is amazing how instantaneously you (or at least I) stop doubting someone’s sincerity when their expressed words of adulation are directed towards you. I immediately beamed inwardly. (And perhaps somewhat outwardly as well.)
Okay. It is time to rejoin a story that was briefly begun earlier.
Returning to the boat after troubleshooting Jane’s medical arrangements (our traveling companion Jane had fallen on the boat the previous night and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment), Sarhan informed us that Jane and her husband Marvin who had planned to spend a few days after the tour in Istanbul before leaving for home, would now unable to do so as, after her surgery and an appropriate recovery period, they would be flying home (to Ann Arbor) not from Istanbul but from Ismir.
This led to the following request: Jane and Marvin had left two small bags back at the Armada Hotel (since they believed they’d be returning there after the tour.) Would it be possible, Sarhan inquired, on Jane and Marvin’s behalf, for us to take those two bags home with us, and FedEx the bags to them later in Ann Arbor?
I mean, what are you going to say? The woman’s laid up in a Turkish hospital.
We said “Yes.”
Owing to my rich and fertile imagination, my inevitable subsequent question to Dr. M was,
“Do you think they’re drug dealers?”
Dr. M, immediately incensed by my innuendo, shot back,
“What are you talking about!?!”
I then explained my concerns to my less fantasitically-minded spouse, after which she calmed down and, though the possibility was unlikely, she began having imaginings along similar lines herself. I mean, they were friends of our friends. But what did we really know about these people?
It was what the late, great Lakers basketball announcer Chick Hearn used to call “Nervous Time.” Between the two bags that we had not “packed ourselves” and the two contraband Cuban cigars I was secreting into the country, we were potentially looking at serious time in a Federal Penitentiary.
But that spine-chilling adventure lay somewhere in our future.