23 August 2014


Lets start with what we know. Traveling in Turkey is hard. Next to India, it's the most "difficult" place to sojourn I have perhaps ever been. Istanbul, however, is like a city state - this isolated, quite different place from anywhere else in the country. Think London to England.

The real challenge in Istanbul is the volume of humans, as everyone sea to have also figured out just how awesome the city is. After all, it has been at the center of a major empire for most of the last several thousand years and today straddles the Bosphorus, sitting half in Europe and half in Asia.

From the Hagia Sofia (which was a church then a mosque then a church then a mosque then a museum to the Grand Bizarre, ancient underground Roman cisterns to a near new modern art museum, there are tons of must-sees and must dos, all with hours of lines that aren't really lines and droves of tourists and large tour groups. If not done well, you could spend most of your time standing around. Fortunately, we killed it. No lines, no fuss and massive savings. Hence the name of this blog. You want to WIN in Istanbul be able to say "BLAMMO" at the end of every victory? Follow these top tips:

-On your first day in the city visit Topkopi Palace first thing in the morning and buy a 3-day Muze Kart. With this card you save money and get to cut almost all the lines. When you're buying it also skip past the line. There is a Muze Kart sale window past the fuss of the crowds and there seemed to be nobody who caught on to this save for us. Spend the rest of day 1 at the Grand Bizarre.

-Finish day 1 on the Bosphorus. Save money by riding the local ferry called TurYok. $2 a ride!

-Start day two PROMPTLY at 9am by visiting the underground Roman cistern, which has long lines from 10am and no Muze Kary queue jump.

-Head IMMEDIATELY to the Hagia Sofia next door. Again go right to the front and flash your Muze Kart to save time. You should be inside by 9:45 - just beating the horrifying crush of people that emerges from 10am.

-Next walk directly over to the Blue Mosque and go directly inside. External views come next.

-After running yourself rampant all morning head straight up to a rooftop cafe overlooking the Blue Mosque and take in this view over a leisurely cup of tea.

-Take the afternoon off then get yourself all gussied up and take in cocktails, dinner and dancing in Taksim, Istanbul's heart of "cool."

-If you have more time visit Istanbul Modern, the region's most impressive modern art gallery. A good guidebook can also talk you through the rest of the museums, sites and day trips beyond the absolute "must-dos."

Good luck!

-Kyle Taylor

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Location:Žrtava fašizma,,Montenegro

22 August 2014

Central Turkey is Gorgeous

So far I've focused perhaps too much on the funny and difficult bits of our time in Turkey without singing its praises. Central Turkey is spectacularly beautiful and it deserves at least one entry dedicated to that.

At the crossroads of the crusades, the Silk Road and the meeting of two continents, this dry desert fuels images of the Mojave in California and the red rock mountain ridges of Utah with dabbles of Arizona and New Mexico.

We spent time in three unique places, all with their own rich history and beauty.

Our first stop was Goreme in Cappadocia. This ancient civilization, while evolving with the modern world, has, in parts, continued to live in caves carved into the sides of its hillscape. This makes sense, considering how incredibly warm it was. We also partook, sleeping in a cave hotel that absolutely lived up to the hype.

Next it was a subterranean adventure in the underground city of Derinkuyu. As early as 3000 BC a community of more than 30,000 people had carved into the earth an underground world five stories tall as much as 210 feet deep to escape the climate and conflict above.

There were rooms for animals and sleeping, numerous churches and even a classroom for the children's schooling. It was fascinating!

Finally, we reached Pamukkale, where the temperatures soared to over 115 degrees Fahrenheit forest of the day. Thankfully, part of the experience was bathing in ancient clay baths filled by natural hot springs that cascade down the mountain in a truly otherworldly way. We definitely enjoyed ourselves.

At the top of the hillside, entirely protected by both vantage point and surrounding natural "walls" stood Heliopolis - Turkeys best preserved Roman ruins. This city was once the third largest in Rome'a empire and a global centre of art, culture and finance. To think that so much had happened in this now remote and isolated place was a reminder of how short our blip of life is in the history and story of both human civilization in particular and the planet in general.

So alas, despite the stresses of traveling here the places and experiences were absolutely worth it. Now back to Istanbul we go!

-Kyle Taylor

- Posted using BlogPress from my KyPhone

Location:5. proleterske brigade,,Montenegro

21 August 2014

On A Mission To Lead By Following (The Rules)

It's no secret we've had a few run-ins with our car rental company. We had a contractual agreement. They didn't follow it. That's breaking the rules. That is somehow okay here. This just isn't okay.

Nowhere has this propensity for rule-breaking been more apparent then while driving. For example, their are lane markers to delineate where people should keep their cars - in a lane. Any lane of their choosing (as long as they're going in the right direction, which we will get to later). In Turkey we have witnessed and were later told that driving right down the middle of a two-lane highway is not only allowed bit recommended. This of course makes no sense but the practice is rampant. Blinkerless, aimless roaming from lane to lane appears to be a national pastime.

Despite this and the other driving-related activities outlined below it does have to be said that we did not witness a single car accident or the aftermath of a car accident all of our 1100 miles. I managed to contain my LA road rage until yesterday when we reached Konya and the driving reached a new level of unsafe and I decided the least we could do was honk furiously in an effort to point out that such activities were incredibly dangerous. They included:

-A guy in an eleven-passenger van turning left across three lanes of forward traffic IN THE MIDDLE OF A ROUNDABOUT with his flashers on, inches from driving directly into us.

-A guy driving backwards in the innermost lane of the freeway.

-A guy driving backwards in the outermost lane of the freeway.

-A guy driving down the median of the freeway.

-A guy knowingly turning into a one-way street going the wrong direction. This one involved me honking and directing until he backed himself up down the street from which he turned then continuing down the road in the correct direction.

This was all punctuated not in a car but on a plane. As we landed in Istanbul, five people stood up and walked right down the aisle to the front while we were still taxing at breakneck speed falling a bumpy landing in the middle of a thunderstorm. The flight attendants did nothing but I found this incredibly dangerous for them and for the rest of us. They were opening the overhead bins, moving bags, and shouting that they had a connecting flight so they just had to get off quickly.

Perhaps the lack of rules or lack of enforcement of rules in the cultural norm and that's okay as long as it doesn't involve a motor vehicle or a Boeing 737. Somehow I think that's reasonable.

-Kyle Taylor

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18 August 2014

Whirling Dervishes!

We stopped in Konya for a Sufi experience watching the whirling dervishes, who commit their lives to their faith similar to a monk. The idea behind the spinning is getting closer to the "ecstasy of god." It was beautiful, fascinating and intense!

YouTube Video

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Almost Stranded In The Desert

In short, this rental car is THE WORST. We're still not even sure it's a rental car because it was insinuated that it may in fact be Steve's car or Bob's car, just on loan to us for a few days. "You know, like borrowing your friend's car" is, I believe, what we were told. It has nearly 100,000 miles on it. The engine temperature dances up and down as we traverse hills or just sit idling. It stalls standing still. The fact that we've nearly driven half-way across Turkey and back is, in many way, a miracle.
Without question, our biggest near-disaster on the trip as a whole took place just after we'd turned off of a dirt track that guided us through the mountains from one valley into the next, cutting off about an hour of driving time as we didn't have to go AROUND the whole mountain range. By the way, this dirt track was on google maps as a legitimate road. More on google maps later. Anyway, we were back on the main highway and cruising along at about 75 miles per hour which may or may not be the speed limit. We can't be certain about such matters because there are no speed limit signs, except when they want you to slow down to 30 miles an hour occassionally for no apparent reason (which nobody does).
So we're cruising along and start up a grade. I downshift from fifth to what I think is fourth but accidentally go into second for a split second. Well, this just enrages the car, which starts into a total fit. I go into fourth and attempt to accelerate up this hil to no avail at all. Then to third. Still nothing. In second we're able to crawl at about 20 miles per hour, inching slowly upward.
Now, it is approximately 1000 degrees outside give or take. We're in the middle of what feels like the desert. The gearbox is clunking out. I felt fairly confident this was an easy fix but the group were undestandably restless and concerned. My main goal was to get to the top of the hill, as it's always easier to get back down facing forward than slide backwards down the side of a mountain. At least that's what I was telling myself.
We reached the apex of the pass after what felt like an eternity. The car was just chugging and chugging upward, several lights on the dash flashing, several pings coming at us in multiple tones, lengths, and strengths. I turned the engine off, reset the clutch, waited a moment, then turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. OH. GOD. Again. Nothing. Holy F*$@. I instantly started to sweat. Everything bad that could possibly happen to us was running through my head. Did we have enough water? Was there any food? How far was the nearest town? If it came to ultimate survival, who would be eaten first? Of course none of these things would happen because we had five iPhones between us, GPS maps, and we were on a very well-travelled highway but still, the irrational stress when stuck on the top of a hill in the middle of the desert when it is a million degrees outside is seemingly uncontrollable.
With all that on my mind I fiddled with the clutch, depressed the clutch and brake and turned the key. The diesel engine slowly chug-chug-chug-chugged back to life. Everyone in the car erupted in cheers and applause. I put the car into first gear and away we went, as if nothing had happened. But something had happened, and it was the damn Fluence's fault.
This is, of course, not the only thing that makes this car THE WORST. A few more:
The trunk. It's small and the hinges swing into the trunk, which makes it a pain in the rear to pack. It's also like tetris. Everything only fits in one way, as exhibited by this photo.

The iPod input cable. It's mini jack to RCA. WHAT YEAR WAS THIS CAR BUILT THAT IT HAS AN RCA CABLE IN IT?
Finally, a note on google maps. We're alll fairly certain they haven't been to Turkey. There are roads on google that don't exist in real life. There are roads that exist in real life that don't exist on google. There is highway after highway that just ends in a pile of dirt. On google maps, they carry on into the sunset. It's like two different countries, which has just added to the excitement and the adventure, especially when it's 700 degrees outside. Oh, have I mentioned it's HOT?!
-Kyle Taylor
- Posted using BlogPress from my KyPhone

Location:Küçük Bayram Sokağı,Hüseyinağa,Turkey

14 August 2014

Going With The Flow

It's no secret that I did next to nothing planning this trip. All the destinations, lodging, driving routes, and nearly everything else we're booked and arranged for me. I literally just turned up. My friends new that was what I needed and delivered. As such, I had zero expectations for what this trip could, would or should be, which I'm learning is absolutely the best way to approach anything because there is zero room for disappointment. Nothing is more true of this trip. It's perfect.

From horseback riding through ancient cave cities at sunset to being welcomed with a bow to a local restaurant in a remote town as a "special tourist guest," exploring those less-traveled corners in the crossroad between east and west with your best friends couldn't be more wonderful.

We've figured out words and phrases to get our point across and played an excellent game of charades when words failed us. We've argued to the bitter end to sort out a rental car. We've coordinated flights, watched spectacular sunsets and devoured meal after meal of utterly divine Turkish cuisine. In short, we've made brilliant memories and we are only five days into this twenty-day adventure!

I can't imagine what else will come our way and I couldn't be happier about that. Yesterday is a fond memory, today is brilliant, and who knows what tomorrow will bring, because I didn't plan a thing, and its marvelous.
-Kyle Taylor
- Posted using BlogPress from my KyPhone

Location:Mehmet Akif Ersoy Bulvarı,Akköy,Turkey

Chauffeur Service

I'm the only one awake! :-)

YouTube Video

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Location:Mehmet Akif Ersoy Bulvarı,Akköy,Turkey