June News from Rick: Gliding High in Turkey
|Ballooning in Cappadocia: travel highs bring new perspectives.|
I've just spent two thrilling weeks in Turkey — tagging along with one of our tour groups — and it's created a colorful tapestry of travel memories...
Sunrise in Cappadocia, standing in the basket of a hot-air balloon, the rhythmic bursts of flame punctuate Mustafa's jokes while heating my wide eyes. Illogically, the stripes on his epaulet make me feel safe as we lift off. Moments later, I am silently gliding 1,000 feet above an endless landscape of craggy, sun-licked fairy chimneys.
On a market square, hourglasses of sweet chai and the clatter of backgammon dice among unshaven men (men who may look scary to Americans who never leave their TVs) makes it clear: we're all kids in the same playground.
In a mosque, I struggle to get comfortable, sitting cross-legged on the well-worn carpet. As the Imam explains that the mark of a good call to prayer is how the muezzin (singer) stays in the right zone, I ponder why craving to understand and be close to God drives societies apart rather than brings them together.
In a market, an old woman — her deep wrinkles evidence of a life lived close to the earth — earnestly tries to sell me a leech swimming laps in an old plastic water bottle.
In a hammam (Turkish bath), sprawled with five bus-mates on warm marble, like slabs of tourist meat in wet underwear, I surrender to my burly Turk, ready to be tenderized.
In this month's Travel News we'll do our best to tenderize your travel dreams with articles on a Sunday in Vienna, a scandal in the Cinque Terre, readers' tips on traveling alcohol-free, Europeans' take on American breakfasts, and my favorite bit of good news: my Rick Steves Audio Europe app — 200 tracks of audio walking tours and radio interviews — now also comes in a free Android version.
The hallmark of a great travel experience is this: when a trip gets us out of our comfort zone...we actually find ourselves in it. Like that balloon lifting off the Anatolian scrub, we are free from the bonds of our culture and ready to experience our world with a different perspective.
And here's the test: what will become of that freedom and perspective when our balloon touches down?
P.S. Starting next week you can follow more of my experiences with my Best of Turkey tour group through my video travelogue — I'll be posting a fresh video on Facebook and my blog each day for 30 days in a row — I hope you can join the fun!