Better answer it now than send email later. I was about to get on a plane to Turkey, I explained to her. By myself, yes, and I would be back in ten days. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had saved days of worrying and fretting from both her and my dad. To be honest, I was already a little more than scared myself to be traveling to the middle of Turkey by myself for ten days. But I kept thinking of the words my college volleyball coach would preach to us:
"Do something every day that scares you."
I figured flying 20 hours to visit a country I'd never been to knew zilch language of and this would cover at least a month's worth of fright, so here I go, off to the middle of Turkey to look for my pappou's (Greek for grandpa) village.
I stopped over a few days in Istanbul. My yiayia (Greek for grandmother) was from Constantinopoli, as Greeks still refer to what was formerly known as Constantinople and now known as Istanbul - a city that was once a thriving metropolis of the Ottoman Empire is still and probably always be a fascinating city. In addition to touring Agia Sophia (the Greek Orthodox church) and the Blue Mosque, between bouts of fending off carpet dealing hustlers, I checked out the spice market and the open air food markets, tasting copious amounts of delicious Turkish cheeses as I walked along.
Fresh lambs' heads and brains for sale.
I crossed over the bospherous bridge to the Asian side and checked out the fish markets.
It made me happy to see fresh roasted chestnuts being peddled on the streets, just like they have in Greece.
Iraklis, in Thessaloniki and I also played professional sports in Greece and France. My pappou grew up in the middle region of Turkey, known as Cappadocia, where over one million Greeks were living during the time he was there. He was part of the Greek - Turkish population exchange of the 1920s and went with my grandmother to live in Athens, starting a textile business in the city center.
Not many Greeks have gone back to this area to find their relatives' homes, but after a few generations, the bad blood is diffusing. I met a few other Greeks during my trip doing the same thing I was: rummaging through the dilapidated old Greek mansions and begging locals with connections for old records. Since I was there for significant time, I toured the breathtaking outdoor "museum" as locals refer to it, famous for the 1,001 things to see before you die rock formations.
I don't care what they say about Japanese bathrooms, Cappdocia has the coolest bathroom ever.
Bars with applicable themes.
Bread was served with cold butter, olive oil and ground sumac-based spices.