Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I am traveling with morons.

I don’t mean this with respect to any one individual (come to think of it, there is one -- but that’s not the way I meant it). Most people I’ve met here are pretty sharp in the real. But as a group -- dumber than gravel, honestly.

After Rhodes, there was some partying in the ship’s lounge. The piano player stopped playing when the ship pulled out of Rhodes, to tell us there was a great view from the bow if we went up on deck. Everyone runs up the nearest stairs -- at the back of the ship, and then stayed there. I move up to the front, where there may be ten other people, and wonder if we’re really the only people who know what “bow” means.

We’re in Turkey today. Our tour guide (who learned English in Turkey and speaks the language very well, but puts the accent on the wrong word -- I can’t wait to meet other English-speaking Turks and find out if they all do this) tells us that the Mausoleum -- one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World -- was in Turkey. He tells us one other Wonder is also located in what is now Turkey. Do we know what it is?


“The Colossus of Rhodes,” volunteers someone. No, that’s in Greece. (Hence the “of Rhodes” part.) The guide gives us a prompt, “You’re seeing it tomorrow.”

I take pity on the guy. “Ephesus,” I say.

“The Virgin Mary’s house,” someone shouts. (Really? OK, yes, there is a tour that goes to a house accepted to be the house where the Virgin Mary lived at some point in time, but this is not a Wonder of the Ancient World. Number one: not ancient. Number two: not a wonder; a house with religious significance. Dork.)

(The correct answer was: The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Remember back when I showed you pictures I took in London, and I showed you that sculpted female face which I liked so much? From the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.)

But that’s tomorrow. Today, we are in Bodrum, Turkey. (Yes! A new country!) I went on a tour which went to Bodrum Castle -- another place with antiquities lodged in a medieval building. This one (which was built with the stones of the Mausoleum -- the other Wonder in Turkey) houses an Underwater Archeology Museum. (“Underwater” modifies “Archeology,” not “Museum.”) We basically saw lots (and lots) of stuff recovered from old (really old; like 16th Century B.C. old) shipwrecks. (Our guide does not say “B.C.” or even “Before Christ“; he says “Before Jesus,” which somehow never fails to crack me up.)

After the museum, our group, which numbers only 10, is taken on a “gulet,” a traditional Turkish boat (not TOO traditional -- it has a motor… and indoor plumbing). There are cushions and mattresses set up all over the boat, with canvas overhangs hoisted to give us shade. We all lounge around this boat feeling insanely pampered while we sail around, have lunch, and occasionally stop to have a swim in the waters off the coast of Turkey. It is here were I’m convinced my shipmates are not, in fact, morons. (“The Virgin Mary’s house”? REALLY?) We’re a very odd (non-random) assortment of 10 people. Two substantially older than the rest (in their 80s -- he’s in great health; just medaled in a Senior Olympics -- guy throws shotputs; she’s moving slow); two multi-generation family groups (a couple with their high-school-aged daughter -- the daughter, by the way, is insanely bright and well spoken; and a mother with her adult daughter); another couple; and me. Professions also vary -- we have a corporate interior designer and a bio-chemist who is planning to save us from an Anthrax attack; a veterinarian and someone who controls the appearance of stores in a well-known nationwide retail chain. Conversation was varied and interesting -- everything from the vet’s opinion of pitbulls to how it feels for several of us to be visiting a Muslim country for the first time. Ten people was a group just small enough that we could really gel, at least for a few hours -- and when you’re all this far from home, in the surrealistic setting of eating baklava and lying on towel-covered mattresses, you find yourselves talking about things you would never normally discuss with strangers. Bizarre and wonderful.

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