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My Journey Through India, Greece, and Turkey

 A Short Hike Through India, Greece, and Turkey

             October 7, 1993 to  November 1993

 

 

 

October 7, 1993 Thursday               Los Angeles /  New York   /  Athens

 

At 8:20 a.m. I am airborne heading east.  Next stop, New York.  I awoke at 4:30 a.m., and immediately looked at the time.  After dressing casually, I gathered all travel gear together to inspect it for the last time.   I eliminated items that were not essential to my journey except for some instant coffee and a couple of small magic props that I bring to entertain kids. Since I don’t speak any of the languages of any of these countries I must do something that transcends language.  If kids laugh then their parents are happy too.  I reviewed my basic itinerary, but can't really lay it out since my purpose is to be able to change plans spontaneously.   I will change my plans for the smallest reason, maybe weather, hearing stories from fellow travelers, or just because I felt like it.  Anything could be adequate motivation to entirely restructure my destination and timetables.  I am only limited by money (I've brought $1,500), and time (I can't stay here forever), and weather (if turns really bad). 

 

At six in the morning, I drive to a twenty-four-hour drive-thru restaurant to eat a  cheeseburger with bacon and a cup of coffee.   I may not have this again until I return to the U.S.   I drove to the airport, where I logged on for a seat at TWA, then returned home. Three dollars was paid for parking at the airport for fifteen minutes.  Everything was gathered into my backpack, and then with no time to spare we left for the airport.  Truly no time to spare -- fortunately, I drove at breakneck speeds, dodging cars, speeding up through two yellow lights.  Stop! We're here at the terminal.   Bang -- shut the trunk after getting my bags out.  Ran to Gate 34 and right onto the plane and back to the rear in a light sweat.  Ahh!  I made it in time.

 

 

October 8, 1993 Friday      Athens, Greece

 

  As the airplane was approaching the Athens airport I saw heavy cloud covers, but the air was clear and warm.  I arrived at the International Airport, Athens, Greece.  I was more than tired, but excited with the invigoration that the discovery and exploration of new lands bring.  Immediately, without difficulty, thanks to an inquiring Tourist Policeman, I caught the double-decked bus to the Acropolis area.  For ninety drachmas I rode through busy streets of Athens.   The city was preparing for elections.  I wandered into a small travel agency with lots of English signs on it.  For me, this was a welcomed sight.  I spoke with a young man who spoke English very fluently.

 

He warned me of areas of the city, which I must avoid.   He provided me with a map and directions leading straight through one of the areas he had just told me I was to avoid.  As a friend had mentioned before I left, the Greek women are attractive and resemble, to my eye, the women of Italy, certainly due to geographic factors and probably historical too.

 


After a dizzying hike through the maze of streets, I found my hotel.   I want to use most of my money for the cost of transportation, so hotels were out.   I found, with the travel agent's assistance, my inexpensive hostel.  I had a bed with no sheet, and the mattress had obviously seen better days -- thin, worn, and stained, nonetheless very clean.  The room is shared with five other young men. I showered, shaved, and then slept for two more hours.  I paid the 1,500 drachmas, which is about seven U.S. dollars, for the first night. I left the very plain quarters to explore this neighborhood by foot.     Tomorrow I will spend the first day on a city tour.  I walked by the base of the Acropolis, which juts out of the city like the once-proud monument it is.

 

What a wonderful moment this is to be in Athens, the birthplace of democracy, and witness the excitement of the people on election night.  I only wish Americans reacted similarly, flag waving rallies everywhere. Hardly no one, except the obvious tourist, walked this night without a flag and yelling words of support to those, of their political party, carrying similar messages.  Young men on scooters with girlfriends in tow holding banners in both hands, working the city to frenzy till about eight p.m. Posters littered the streets everywhere. Cars sped through the main thoroughfares heaving twenty flyers at a time, at every fifteen-second intervals. I felt the excitement build.  The loudspeakers and noisemakers added to the moment. 

 

It has been dark since seven; now it is 8:30, and the city is lit with neon as I sit in a coffeehouse on the street and write this.

 

 

October 9, 1993 Friday       Athens, Greece

 

Back at the hostel, even though it's only a few minutes after nine in the early evening, I'm tired and intend to sleep so that I'll be alert for my 8:40 a.m. tour.   While I searched for postcards in this borough of Athens, I see no place to buy any cards except back in the downtown region.   The food is exceptionally flavorful and cheap.  There are affordable eateries on every street with few exceptions. 

 

Because of a variation from English style in letter and number appearance, I am having some difficulty using public transportation.  As I sit here in the hostel, I hear Beavis & Butthead in the background on TV.  I am conserving money as I have spent little on room or food yet.   I bought all film before leaving, so I've been spared the extremely expensive prices that are being charged locally.

 

I hope this tour will generate more enthusiasm in me  than I am feeling now.   I see that this is almost "just another Western European city.” As far as what I see, monuments here are not grander than all other cities of Europe as I had hoped.   While their historical significance is indisputable, the appearance of these ancient artifacts didn’t thrill me.   I must admit that the antiquities of Egypt were cared for and displayed with more dignity and aplomb than what I am witnessing here.  Here, it is almost like they don’t care that they are custodians of great and significant records of our civilization.

 

             Expenditures

 

Greece - Rate of Exchange:  230 Drachmas  = $1.00

TOTAL


Tour of Athens                                                   (Paid U.S.)             $25.00                       

 

Food                                                   800.00 dr.                  $5.00

 

Room                                                  1,500.00 dr.               7.00

 

Misc.: Water, tip                                400.00 dr.                  2.00

 

Taxi ride to fish market                                 4,500.00 dr.               9.00                            $40.00

 

Postcards (4ea)                                150.00 dr.                  1.00

 

Breakfast: Coffee, roll                                   500.00 dr.                  2.00

 

Bus Ticket Home                              100.00 dr.                  .50

 

Ice Cream                                          300.00 dr.                  1.50

 

Water & 2 Gyros                               800.00 dr.                  3.00

 

10 Postcards                                     250.00 dr.                              1.00

 

Room Rent                                         1,500.00 dr.               7.00                           

 

Paper                                                 800.00 dr.                  3.00                Day 39

 

 

Several people are going to sleep in our communal dorm-style room.    I'm not tired, so I came out of the room and sat at the so-called "meeting place" here, which is little more than a wide hallway with two small tables and six, even smaller, chairs.  Late into the night the flavors of political rallies abound, sirens and horns blasting away with no end in sight.  Now at 10:40 p.m., my eyes are tired, but my body is not; I'll close for the night.  It's about 65 F. and high humidity.

 

            Expenses      

 

Paper (280), Pen (400), Cigarette (300)                           980.00

 

Pistachios                                                                  580.00

 

Gyros (3)                                                                    600.00

 


Train tickets (2)                                                                     125.00

 

Boat                                                                            600.00

 

Motorcycle                                                                 8,000.00  +

 

Lunch (lamb cutlet)                                                    1,500.00

 

 

Room 2 x 1,500 (October 13, 1993 - Monday)                   12,350.00 dr.

 

 

October 9, 1993 Friday                     Athens, Greece

 

Today is Election Day, but I have witnessed very little campaigning.  It is now about seven p.m., and I awoke from a short two-hour nap, moments ago. 

 

Because there is no mechanism to adjust my biological clock, I am waking up at the right time IF I was back in L.A.     I awoke at 3:30 a.m. this morning and quickly dressed.   I left the modest but clean bedroom and decided to enjoy the vision of Athens waking up.  Even at this early hour I had little problem I found a taxi supplied with a taxi driver, who claims to have been given medical discharge from the Greek Army after attaining the status of General with three stars.  While he claimed to have a very good pension, he said he enjoyed his job and did it to meet people, not just for the money. Initially I had no reason to question this statement, which ultimately, I learned was said solely as male bravado.

 

I had asked to see the fish market.  My driver made several false starts and misdirected leads, but he had no car radio to get further advice.   Occasionally we became further confounded by well-meant instructions given by a few proprietors who were already at work and visible as we dizzily traversed the maze of Athenian streets at five a.m. Finally we blindly wandered into the adjacent parking lot along the water’s edge. The darkness still held tight until the first moment of daybreak three hours later.

 


The huge two block long warehouse had several gigantic open doors.  Fish guts spattered the outer asphalt and sleepy seagulls swooped in to examine each specimen.  I walked carefully to avoid the slimy cast off organs.  The cavernous innards of this building reeked of dead fish.  The busy marketplace was filled with buyers and sellers alike, many using bullhorns to broadcast their message, whether buying or selling, and what kind of creature they were dealing with.  As I climbed a private stairway to get a clearer view of this area, I was prevented from ascending further by a swarthy man whose rough complexion was further enhanced by the effects of an apparent stroke of sorts.  His mouth was loose as he spoke to my balding taxi driver - guide - interpreter.  My guide stood nearby, almost as if he was shielding me from the harsh tones of our antagonist.  My guide carefully gesticulated as he spoke.  It was easy to see that he said I was American and only here to take touristy-type pictures.  And that's exactly what I did.  The fish market was uniformly filled with a singular gender, but the ages spanned four generations; the hands of some were evidence that they never actually touched fish save with knife and fork.  Other men had their face sculpted by many years of the sea, salt air, and hard work.

 

We left through the ice-strewn wooden slate walkways between the open crates of carefully sorted ex-sea creatures.  None will ever see the sea again.  The fish's pitiful open-eyed gaze struck me as a plaintive call -- as if to say "What are you doing to me?"   Darkness had not begun to lift its heavy cloak as we serenely walked to the yellow taxi.

 

Once surrounded by the protective armor of his cab, we once again began to speak.  He asked, in his halting style, if I was married, how many children, what do I do for a living . . . moment by moment his questions were beginning to dig deeper into my persona.

 

For some mystic reason I felt as though I was being interrogated for more than casual conversation. I became defensive and attacked politely with equally personal questions about his life.  At first he was flattered by the brutal inquisition, but when I asked him about how much he made as a driver, he abruptly skirted the issue by saying "Very little" as he raised his index finger close to his thumb to show me just how little.

 

As we drove back to my hotel, the warm air flowed through the slightly open windows of the air-conditioned car and the smog-stained pollution of Athens was yet to be felt.

 

We arrived amidst an exchange of words about our respective childrens' deeds. The conversation halted abruptly as our mutual thoughts now involved money changing hands.  All the time, except while parked at the marketplace, the meter ran.  Frankly, while the 4,500 dr. exceeded the 2,000 dr. price he estimated the excursion would cost.    I felt the cost was reasonable except that he had me pay for his lack of knowledge about how to find our destination.  He was recalcitrant in accepting a 500 dr. tip (about two dollars).   At first I quietly rejoiced until chagrined by his furtive urban glance as if to say, "What?  That's all?"  And me, I thought, "What?  More?" AHey, am I in New York or what?”  Still, we left as friends of a very businesslike fashion.

 

Upon walking to the doorway, a quick glance back confirmed the absence of his watchful eye.  The cab had disappeared.  Though not as dark as before, the morning sun had not yet become visible; only its outermost rays could be seen by the Athenians..  My back to the door, at seven a.m., stillness reigned in this borough of Athens.  I opened . . . no,  try again, this time I will use a firmer grip, I opened the . . . nope.  I WAS LOCKED OUT!  No chance of getting in yet I could see through a window  that my personal things were where I had put them.

 


Realizing the futility of using my shoulder against the behemoth door, I meekly turned and walked down the steps to evaluate my alternatives.  I quickly decided that since I must make the two-mile journey to the downtown region to meet The Athens Tour #1 Bus, I might as well leave now. And this I did, slowly at first and gradually picking up a zesty pace as I strolled down the sloped streets littered with frail wooden crates filled with the evening gathering of paper trash and rotting vegetable matter.  Surprisingly, it was very little trouble to follow a direct route I saw on a city map. I made one minor attractive detour leading me through a different section of the National Gardens and by the Presidential Palace.  The Palace was guarded by four Greek honor guards dressed with short tunics and heavily tasseled shoes reminiscent of earlier Greek days.  Frankly, the way they were dressed looked silly

 

Moments later I saw a very small sidewalk café, where for 450 dr. I slowly sipped a demitasse of coffee and ate a honeyed chocolate donut bar.

 

By now I could feel a sharp pain in my right small toe.  The precursor to a blister probably, yet, I had visions of a bulbous cancer erupting slowly through the well-pounded skin of my foot concealed from sight by the shoe. Each step brought a shaper and sharper pain, yet I walked on.  Continuing my journey with deliberate steps that belied my painful condition.  Soon the pain disappeared (I wanted to believe).  The pain seems to dissipate somewhat through a conscious effort to concentrate on the fact that I was now lost.

 

With the aid of my compass and the map again, I thought I had placed my coordinate succinctly on the map grid.  I guided myself by street signs at each corner.   Ignored by the mapmakers were some of the smaller ancient twisted streets. I accurately placed myself on the map after finding several geographically significant monuments. Well within the time I had budgeted for it, found my destination in the center of town.   This is where the tourist buses originate and terminate their tours.

 

Since the city tour was to be in English, it was no surprise to me to find the area saturated with other American tourists.  I quickly made the acquaintance of several Americans from a variety of cities and regions. The seatmate I was to get was a physician from the Houston area, but conversation flowed freely in the enclosed environment of the huge bus.  Eventually there were six of us discussing Athen's merits and demerits.  Unfortunately, for all of us, it seemed I had been in Athens the longest.  As the Senior Visitor, with one full day under my belt,  I was asked questions which I blithely dismissed by issuing a sincere shrug to say AI don’t know.”

 

Immediately, all private conversation ceased when our tour guide began issuing facts and information over the public address system within the bus.  Since the PA was set at decibel levels scores above our conversation, it was next to impossible to clearly understand words uttered by our neighbor in the midst of statements emanating from the woofers, tweeters, and mid-range speakers scientifically placed throughout the bus.

 

Quietly, obediently, we disembarked or embarked as ordered.

 

"There on your left is the National Museum -- There on your right is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier -- Again, on your right is the National Bank."  And so on . . .   At each announced destination we were impatiently anticipated by a small band of hawkers doing what they do best.  At each stop they had the same merchandise consisting of postcards, coins, stamps, tour books, picture books.  All only in the language that appropriated that of the specific group as they disembarked, and marking watches to note when the fifteen-minute visit will expire.

 


The tour concluded three hours later at the Parthenon, probably the best understood monument of Athens.  I walked to Plaka, a very trendy, touristy spot spread out over a square mile, cluttered with small stores, each of which, barely had ten feet of frontage.  Prices seemed reasonable for what appeared to be well-made (by machine) goods.  Actually, having not been here long, I really cannot say with certainty whether high or low prices until I have been able to compare them with prices elsewhere.

 

On the outskirts of this area, gypsies plied their wares, old junk items that seemed to have been recently pilfered from a local resident or two.  One vendor balked as he saw me prepare to photograph his lot.   Each street was bent this way and that; ultimately I found myself without any bearings except to know at three o'clock the sun begins its downward journey to the West.

 

With some assistance extended by some local Samaritans, I found out how and where to buy a bus ticket to the hotel.  The ticket was purchased for 75 dr. from a local newspaper/magazine vendor, and I visually located the red and blue posted bus stop sign.  After an hour's wait the bus arrived, and amid the normal amount of pushing and shoving I managed to step up and grab a handle for the next ten minutes till I arrived nearby.  With great effort I struggle to the crest of the incline, find the hostel, find my bed, and take a cigarette while I massage my reddened feet after slowly, almost luxuriously, peeling back the white socks that are sticking to my feet.  At first glance my feet seem misshapened by the twelve-hour pummeling they were treated to.

 

My cigarette out, I quickly fall asleep on the naked mattress.  Awakened two hours later by the quiet din of honking horns and siren -- after all this is Election Day in Greece, and everybody must travel to their hometowns to vote (for without the casting of a ballot a citizen loses his driving privileges).

 

Within the hostel I have made several friends, one of which is Swen, a German man of about 25-27 years old and very well-traveled since his graduation from college.  We may go to India; he seems to think it is easy to live on $2 a day. Swen cooked a meal and invited me to join him-- some sort of tuna cacciatore . . . very good.

 

 

 

 

  October 10, 1993     Saturday        Athens, Greece

 

I tried to wait for Swen, but he slept deeply even when I stood near him calling his name.  Since it was eight o'clock, I wasn't going to spend more time around the hostel.  I cleaned up my bedding area, put all miscellaneous items handily in a standing locker and left on my own.

 

I began by looking for a place to have breakfast.  Since this was a holiday (both it was the day after elections and Sunday) I found no restaurateur willing to risk the wrath of his cohorts by breaking rank and opening for business.


 

Nothing was open at 10 a.m. -- Nothing!  Museums were also closed.  I headed toward the general area of Plaka.  If any place is open, this has to be it.  As I turned the corner of some unnamed alley-street, I saw it.  Open -- everything; business as usual here.  I treated myself to some pistachios for 500 drachmas from a small umbrella-topped pushcart.  Burnt, uncracked, too small for the effort, and those that didn’t fit into any of the above categories were flavorless. 

 

As soon as I found myself by a soulaki/gyro stand I bought one and discarded the nuts. Gobbling one down only whetted my appetite for another, then another.  Yes -- three in all.  While they were small and very inexpensive -- 50 cents each -- after three, I could feel my stomach expanding to handle these Greek lamb sandwiches.    I had swallowed each sandwich in two bites.  Now I need to find a bottle of water -- there it is in a white metal and glass refrigerator.  I slid the glass back and took a cold liter.  Now in the midst of swaying crowds flowing up that street and this, I was unable to determine the proprietor who owned the contents of the refrigerator.  I imagine such vendors develop a special sense when someone is prepared to pay as I was. He found me.  I paid in drachmae as was the custom, and I turned right to leave and before me stood the railway station -- nothing grand, rather small actually.  Two choices: North and South.  South ends in Pireaus, the port center for most of Greece.  I purchased a reasonably priced ticket for 75 dr. and after a short wait the train halted before the throngs of people who magically appeared just moments before its arrival.  I embarked, following local custom of pushing my way in, albeit I was the last to squeeze within the steamy interior filled with the garlicky breath of fifty people in this car, the middle unit of ten sections.  The weather had heated up to the low nineties, but the humidity intensified the heat.

 

The halting motion of the train and the awkward position I was forced to occupy caused me to inevitably scramble for a foothold or handhold at every jerk of the train. Cautiously, I plotted how I should fall if the train makes another completely unanticipated lurch.   I decided if necessary, I would fall on three large black plastic trash bags placed near the door, the door opened; people pushed out while others pushed in, causing me to pirouette like Wiley Coyote after another failed attempt on the Roadrunner.  During the entire thirty-minute trip I never was able to sit but I was able to lay claim to one of the black plastic straps hanging overhead to support myself at a stop.  The final stop did arrive, and I merely brought myself within the flow of people, consciously kept my balance as the river of souls pushed forward.  I just hoped we were all really going in the right direction. And we were.

 

Finding myself alone (in thought) in the cavernous belly of the Pireaus Termination point, I sought guidance from my two guide books.  As I looked up there was a big sign in English with the words: ALL ISLANDS --  Book your tour here.

 

 

That was enough for me, off I went.  Yes, the rotund middle-aged man spoke a very precise British English.  He willingly offered endless advice on different islands, but said Santori is the most beautiful, one of the furthest, and it is a three-day trip.  No thanks. I'm not certain exactly how seaworthy my sea legs are.

 

Give me the short trip to Aegina for 12 hours each way.  Almost immediately I was enjoying the journey through the dark blue waters. I didn’t see the clear blue waters I anticipated from the guidebooks yet.  And since we put into port at 2:45 p.m., it was too late for seeking the beach, since the day had already begun to cool to a pleasant 80F.


The impression of Catalina struck me as greatly similar.  I rode onshore as the people who were a shipboard with me moved as one great gelatinous mass toward the nearby business entirely built on the tourist trade.  I sat on a nearby bench to reconfirm some facts of the island I neglected to commit to memory on the first reading.  Ruins were here.  Too far to walk and a taxi was too expensive.  The carriage rides offered by about twenty individual horsemen were out of the question. While I sat and ate lunch (a very average lamb steak and risocotti), I noticed that the adjoining establishment rented motorbikes.  I talked to the owner, who took my passport and twenty dollars and rented to me my choice of bikes from his lot.

 

I rode out in a cloud of dust after I asked him for directions to the Temple of Diana.  Easy enough, since I only had to stay on the road, one street over, all the way.  The exhilaration of being free to roam the hills as I pleased.  Eventually I found it, but not before I enjoyed an incredibly beautiful self-guided tour.  I drove among the green olive trees, goats, blue ocean, white buildings, and churches  throughout the hilly island terrain.   Just as an artistic picture is balanced, so was everything I saw.  

 

The Temple of Diana did not seem to belong  in this oceanic parapet.  Instead, it should be in or around Athens.  The ruins were locked behind a crisscross wire fence.  I was not the first to entreat the attendant for a closer look. My plea was futile.   She had been through this all day, and it rather angered her that she had one more interruption to her very unbusy day.  Nonetheless, she mustered the effort to respond in English and deny my request. I saw it from about sixty feet away. I cut over the stony weed-littered lot and could see almost everything.  Even without visitation privileges to the temple, that could not dim the enjoyment of unimpeded travel throughout the island.  The antiquities of Greece don't favorably compare with those of Rome or even Egypt.  Traveling  by motorbike was so enjoyable that not being able to get a really close look did not bother me at all. I stopped often, trying to see everything and miss nothing.

 

 

 

After returning the scooter, slightly damaged in a small spill,  I checked my scratched knee.  The throttle stuck, you know. "No, it really wasn't my fault, mister.   It was kinda like that when I got it."  I tried to explain to the owner about the bent fender. He wasn't buying any of this, but even so, he told me it was necessary to pay for full damages, which were under twenty dollars.  I paid it quickly, and took back my passport which was left as a deposit. The night was coming closer.  The long shadows made eerie streaks of darkness that seemed so very distant end to end, enhanced by the terraced mountainside.

 

Within a score of minutes the ship which would deliver us to the island could be seen on the horizon. As one spied upon other islands, it was as difficult to count them as to count the stars.  And passing through them were several ships, only one of which was significant to me.

 

As the ship approached the docking area, I watched as it grew by the moment.  NO waiting when the boat touched dock -- Bang!  The ferry opened its gaping jaws to disgorge pedestrians, motorcycles, cars, and trucks in a hodgepodge disorder that clearly showed there was no one in charge, at least no one who gave even the smallest damn about any routine to the disembarkation.


Last night I was robbed of three hundred dollars.  Somehow someone broke into my room as I slept in this room alone.

 

I escaped into the darkness through a neon spotted path to the train station.  I sat across from a black-robed Greek Orthodox priest who stared at me with confused blue eyes partially hidden beneath a full pepper-colored beard that was in need of trimming.

 

As he began to speak to me, the tobacco-stained teeth made crooked by age, moved behind rose-colored lips that anyone could see well fit his age-lined face.  "Sorry," I said, "I don't speak Greek." Quickly he turned to the woman next to me and repeated his exclamation.  I followed the six or seven stops on the train till we arrived at Ombus Center.  It was easy to trace the next stop on the map posted on the wall of the train.

 

An accordion player tried to replicate bazuki sounds of his personal adaption of "Zorba the Greek" while he was accompanied by a much younger male companion who kept the rhythm with a tambourine.  I could only assume they were hoping for tips, but they never passed a hat to collect any money.

 

I walked in the pleasant Athenian evening, bypassing a shortcut through the park at the suggestion of my guidebook.  The walk was exhausting.  While fax service is fairly priced and bus service downright cheap, I foolishly plodded onwards, reminding myself of the health value of a walk.  Seeing the hostel was truly a relief.  Within minutes I met Swen. We talked for a while about the day's events.  He presented me with a tasteful dish of brown lentil soup with the consistency of chili.

 

The evening was spent quietly talking and exchanging ideas.  Swen and I will leave tomorrow for the tickets to India.

 

 

October 12, 1993  Monday

 

Last night or during the night somebody violated the trust code that generally exists in hostels. They took some of my money, then put the wallet back in my bag in an outer pocket -- none of the traveler's checks, but three hundred dollars are gone.  Nobody seemed too surprised; I guess I should have somehow locked my door.  I'm not going to let it stop me from having a good trip.

 

I woke Swen so we could go early to get the tickets -- naturally the posted price was 54,000 dr. but since they were no longer flying that route, they have a new price of 62,000.  No direct flights or quickly connecting flights.  Go to Rome, four-hour layover, then out to Bombay.  As the travel agent was about to issue the tickets we asked for visas.  Neither of us was in possession of one, nor did we know of the need to have one.  Okay, put the ticket purchase on hold, and off we went for about three miles to the Indian Consulate.

 


The travel agent had forewarned us that it may take several days.  A reconfirming statement spewed from the English-speaking Nigerian, who greeted us very matter-of-factly.  So at 10 a.m. our plans were already deteriorating.  Again, because we had been forewarned by the travel agent, we had expected this.   We were told should this happen just insist on seeing the ambassador.   The advice was heeded  immediately and I vociferously demanded to see him. The lightly mustachioed Nigerian called him by phone intercom and arranged the meeting as requested.

 

After many words had been exchanged with the Consular.   He kept  repeating that he must continue to follow form and format, which required a wait till at least Thursday, possibly earlier.  But if we were to take a Wednesday flight (the next one), then we must have approval now.  My traveling companion asked if we had a letter from our respective ambassadors which recommended us, would we then be granted the visa?  "Yes, immediately," was the reply.  So with that encouraging statement we left courteously, with thanks to the Indian Ambassador.

 

First, a long hike to the U.S. Embassy, located about a mile from the Hilton.  Closed?  The U.S. Embassy closed?  Why?  No reason could be extracted from the three Greek guards that stood nearby. "Only tomorrow" -- one of the guards said it will open at eight a.m. But we've invested the day to resolve these issues, and tomorrow  I'd like to do something that would add to the trip. The futility of it seemed to rest heavy with me, but I trudged on.  We immediately asked for directions to the German Embassy.  The instructions the sole female guard advised it is not nearby, but on the outskirts of Athens, about ten miles

 

Taxi time!  Athenian taxi drivers seem to be an unusual lot. They often will drive past, anticipatory patrons oblivious to them, staring straight ahead, hoping to have no interruption as they cruise the streets.  Eventually, with some jumping up and down, we were able to get one to stop. We had to stand in a lane of the street holding our open palm down at the end of our outstretched arms, yelling "A" . . . "A.”    Apparently this activity is what attracts their attention because that's how almost everybody uses such body language to get the job done.

 

At the German Embassy the clerk took Swen's papers and saw to it with due haste that the appropriate paper was prepared with typical German efficiency.  I still can't figure out why the U.S. Embassy was closed?  It was no holiday and no one answered the phone when I called from a pay phone. Within forty minutes we were out of there, Sven had his paper-in-hand. 

 

The taxi we hailed was, even among his peers, unusually unfriendly and grumpy.  Mumbling at infrequent moments to himself as we drove back to town.  I asked if we could halt for a moment before the huge glass and marble U.S. Embassy. Posted hours on the heavy green gate should reconfirm hours that had been told to me earlier.  I quickly exited the worn rear seat of the yellow cab and ran back of the sign.  Nine a.m. to noon the sign said.  I turned to recover my seat in the cab, only to find that Swen was holding my bag, standing on the sidewalk awaiting me.   Swen said the driver said that he must leave, too, so Swen refused to pay the full 690 dr., instead gave 680 and exited the cab.

 

We walked back to the Indian Embassy, Swen with his paper and me with the hope of convincing the Ambassador of the necessity of issuing the visa to me. I was granted an audience with him again.  He held to his original statement, but about five minutes into my dialogue he conceded when he said, "Let me see what I can do; leave your passport and statement with me, and you wait downstairs."  I naturally assumed the most optimistic view of this gesture, and thanked him for his consideration -- undaunted by his reminder that "We will try to help!”

 


After a two-hour wait, watching others leave papers and hear them being told, "Not until Friday" for their visa after they had trekked to the Embassy as I did, but were prepared to wait, to me getting the visa today now was a challenge to my abilities. I walked to the clerk's window and asked about my visa and Swen's visa.  The clerk said the man who must sign it has left for lunch twenty minutes ago and should return within an hour and a half from now.  Surprised by this, we left to eat something, and began to search for food, which seemed to be available at every turn, now escaped our view.  We walked about a mile and came by the return route to the hostel. My time was getting thin.  I still had places to go:  Bombay, three days; Island tour, three days; New Delhi, three days. Travel time in between these points was three + three + three+ four = 13 days more. 

 

 

I cannot afford to waste time.  I'll probably see how it will be to go direct to Istanbul from Rome, the "midway point" on the flight. I must conserve my money to transportation, and since I will have little money to do the travel I had hoped for, I will try to stay within budget.  Hopefully, the weather conditions which are supposed to change at this time of year and become rainy.  It is very dry in northern India at this time. 

 

All these thoughts passed through my head as I enjoyed the Italian ice cream Greek-style (with less impact of flavor, but resembling Italian-style closely in texture).  Swen had a large meal. Most of the items he bought were, in large part, unidentifiable to me with the one notable exception being an extremely thick, well-cooked steak.  He ate it all, and left hardly a gravy stain on his plate. 

 

After sitting for a while I finished my pistachio and deep chocolate gelato.  I didn't see what his meal cost, but since neither of us are literate in Greek, he made his selections guided only by the pale photos adhering to backlit sheets of white plastic placed above the ordering counter.

 

With our return to the Embassy, there remained, unbeknownst to us, two more hours of wait.  Quietly at first, followed by a long period of impatience, and concluded with sporadic outbursts of nervous laughter and quiet statements of derision for their ineptness.

 

It was simply needed to obtain a signature now, nothing more, but the one man who could save us by signing the visas was "away."  The moment finally arrived almost unexpectedly.  The relief of the moment was underwhelming.   Since I, now, had the visa I think it would be fun to go, and it may be the most difficult hurdle to overcome.

 

Now armed with the visa we went back to the ticket office Δssouri said he will have the tickets by tomorrow at three p.m. Disappointed though we were, we left. Swen returned to the hostel, and I went on to the marketplace, Plaka.  Souvlaka, the hot spinach pie, and gyros were worth the very minor temptation at the cafe we were at earlier.  I could live on the gyros, especially since they are only about $.60, 200 drachmas.

 


Two things I haven't been able to do yet:  make a call to the U.S., and get Steve his stamps.  The post office offered only  one style of stamp, and I need to go to a special post office for stamp collectors, but I haven't found it.  At Plaka many stamp dealers were there, and several spoke English, but my mission was unaccomplished. Every stamp they sold was already canceled and there were few that had pictures of something to do with the space program.

 

The phone system is especially complex -- not usable without a special encoded card, and according to the woman at the post office, you must go to a special place about three long blocks away to purchase the card.  Then I should return to use the phone here to make an overseas call.  I couldn't find the other office.  I may be able to call home from the airport.

 

I saw the shops were closed, so I headed back to the hostel, walking the three miles, and exhausted when I arrived.

 

It was important to wash my clothes and shower, since a very peculiar odor seemed to emanate from me. With no soap for clothes washing, I thought it ingenious to wear my shirt and pants into the shower and wash everything together.  It seemed to work, then I brought the damp clothing to the fifth floor rooftop to dry overnight in the warm Grecian air.  When I awoke at four a.m., my pants were still very moist, but since no alternative was available I put them on and wore-dried them.   As I started into the heart of the city, I could feel the damp pants drying almost immediately.

 

I had purchased a ticket to the ancient ruins of Delphi for this morning for about $48.00 U.S.   It's an all-day event.  It’s an important historical sight to see. While walking to waste some time, I sat and had breakfast -- cappuccino and a chestnut roll -- while I wrote these last lines.  Cost: 1,300 dr.

 

It was a three minute walk to the correct bus, but I am on it now; if it leaves on schedule, another five-minute wait.  It's English - French.  As I walked, I couldn't help but notice how cluttered and littered the streets remained with campaign material.  I think that the politicians who were running for office thought little of pollution or the waste that so much trash generates.

 

At 8:20 a.m. departure of the bus left through the crowded streets out to the highway to Delphi.  The multilingual group chattered forever.  I was seated in front of a man who sounded British, a heavy large man whose red-veined face made me believe he was from some cold north European city. 

 

This being my second tour bus in Athens, it was no surprise when a man of three quarters of a century entered the bus.  I have seen him before.  He was giving everyone postcards, maps, and a guidebook (very slender editions and poorly constructed).  I have witnessed this ploy before.  When he came forward, it was to collect the 1,000 dr. from those who realized now it was a sales pitch.  The gentleman behind me, who I later learned is Norwegian poet, spoke up; he said, "You shouldn't go round making people think this is free!  Nah?"  With little aplomb the vendor recovered his unsold goods and turned away with nothing more for a response except a shrug.

 

We stopped in a couple of picturesque hamlets in an area.   The merchants in this district were well prepared for the overbuying of kitsch tourist trinkets that tourists have a well-deserved reputation for buying. Next stop, Delphi.  The ruins do not appear to have been given the care that must be tendered to these remnants of where humanity


has been, our roots of western civilization.

 

It was an arduous trek to the top of the hill, where most items of historical interest lay. The Treasury, remnants of this once-mighty structure, fell with others nearby as the result of a succession of earthquakes.  Certain it is that Delphi's golden days had passed.  The Oracle of Delphi.  The romantics will be able to sense the wondrous moment when a slave had his name carved to this stone monument.  It meant he was free and could leave and go to his land.  Just to get here meant a rough climb. I'm certain it would take several months to walk here from Athens.  The Stadium at the top was straight and long.  Certain factors of its construction would make anyone think it is for running, but the easiest way to tell is by reading a guidebook that would confirm its use.

 

We walked west en masse to the Museum.  Some interesting statues are there:  Terra cotta, marble and alabaster (brought from other areas).  There is what our guide referred to as "Elephantine," that is gold and ivory worked together.

 

The marble statues were clearly the most impressive.  I am baffled by the Greek preoccupation with accurate depiction of the penis.  I mean it seems as though the artist really had to get close to make it look that accurate.  I left the small Delphi museum in the same blob of people as I had arrived with.

 

I boarded the bus; Sat down; got off the bus.  The bus stopped in the nearby town of Delphi, about one kilometer away.  Rather than going to the restaurant that the guide strongly encouraged us to visit, when I noticed all of its signs and advertising were in English, that warned me away.  It was set up for tourists only.  Prices and quality are probably designed for those who will never come back again. 

 

I walked up a nearby hill where I saw many businesses.  I stopped at a particularly attractive restaurant, had souvlaki and a Greek salad (about 3,000 dr. I think; I haven't gotten the bill yet).  The place overlooks the mountains and either a lake or the ocean, its a big body of water.  A delicious meal was served to me.  I enjoyed it.

 

 

I went back to the travel office to get the Bombay ticket, but they were not prepared to help even though they knew I was coming.  So I left without it.  I walked through the charming Plaka and went back to the hostel.  Tired and completely sweaty from the warm, humid nights, I climbed the stairs to the hostel.  Once inside, I sat to ease my feet, although the rest of me could have continued for a while longer.

 


I want to call home to let them know where I am, but not to tell them of where I intend to go.  When I told Swen where international phone calls could be made, he borrowed a motorbike and off we went. The drive through Athens at night can, if done as we did, do more to keep one awake than twenty cups of coffee.  Zoom here -- zoom there-- wrong way -- narrow street -- Do Not Enter -- loose bricks and bent streets added its own calamitous benediction to the drive. Still, we did find the place to call, and with no loss of blood.  I felt I was glued to the seat of the motorbike.  I couldn’t get off once we stopped.  I entered the building to make the call.  I was unfamiliar with this area and unfamiliar with procedure, but ahead I forged. 

 

After being charged 20 dr. to use the phone, I tried the telephone credit card which Andy from my office had prepared for me.  That did not work.  I called collect, $5.00 for first minute and $1.00 for each minute thereafter.  After speaking with my kids and my parents I took a quick trolley back to the hostel and walked the short distance from the trolley stop to it.  

  

 

October 12, 1993 Wednesday       Athens, Greece

 

Like yesterday I'm up early.   I thought if I wash the tee shirt and jeans, I would be clean for the flight.  While there was no problem to wash them while I showered, now, in the humid morning my pants have not dried at all.   I have put them on, still damp, and hope that they dry soon.  I awoke at

5:30 a.m. (still dark), so I am writing in the "TV Room," where I can have the light on while I write.

 

We must leave by eight a.m. to arrive at the ticket office by 8:30 and pick up  my ticket.  Then I hope to visit the small Jewish museum at 26 Amaly Street.  It is only open from nine a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.  I have used a week in Athens, longer than I expected.  I see my travel time getting shorter.  I hope my remaining days can work this way:

Weds./Thurs.             Travel to Bombay

Sat./Sun.                    Travel back to Athens if I can't change tripto Istanbul on return

Mon.                            Travel to Istanbul

Thurs.                          Leave Istanbul to Athens

Fri.                              Leave Athens through Piraeus, the port location for my cruise

Sat./Thurs.                  Cruise islands

Fri.                              Fly home

 

This morning was busy, but I left at seven a.m. to pick up my ticket for the flight to India.  First, at the travel agency it originally seemed as though I was overcharged, so I had to review all of the papers again.  The price was correct.   He had gentle ways, showing himself to be the consummate businessman although he had a very ruddy Corsican complexion and an elephantine smile that revealed many gold-covered teeth.   I had threatened to cancel the tickets, he adjusted prices till finally the deal was struck.

 

So now I was off to Bombay!  The mysterious Bombay that I have seen many pictures of but never did I dream to be there.  On our way to catch the bus to the airport, we stopped in the Jewish Greek Museum. We had another few hours before we needed to check in for the flight. 

 


We went inside a narrow four-story structure  of masonry blocks became par of this building in the late 20's or early 30's. The elevator was of the earliest merchandised type:  all open wrought, iron grilling which laced the path to the third floor.  As we rose to our destination, the cramped space in the elevator made me assume that it saw little usage.  After exiting, the one-foot long rectangular brass plate clearly said "Jewish Greek Museum."

 

We entered after pressing an outer door buzzer to gain entrance through a big mahogany double door. We were guided to seats by a woman whose accent revealed some connection to New York.  About sixty years old, she had the grace and aplomb one expects of a docent. Naturally she guided everybody by the money jar for contributions.  This was no surprise, but when I noticed the five cats that enjoyed the shelter of the Museum, that seemed out of the ordinary.  Swen, though German, didn't feel responsible for any of the happenings of the 30's and 40's.  And why should he?  It's truly not right to punish the children for misdeeds of parents.  In any case, we separately viewed the artifacts that were resident here.  Thirty minutes was adequate time to see most everything.    I was shocked to find how readily the Greeks gave up their Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals when demanded by Hitler’s Germany.  The docent said, despite the extremely small Jewish population of Athens today, there still remains a high degree of anti-Semitism.  This is the reason for the security gate we had to pass through to come inside this small museum.

 

As I walked through it, most prominent was the collection of costumes that were from the seventeen and eighteen hundreds.  The exhibits were well-preserved and shown nicely for a small museum with limited space. After understanding the situation better at the end of the tour I realized that I should make a donation, regardless of how small.  Five dollars was all I could afford to drop into the jar as we left the museum.   We made our way to the bus stop, which was just north of us up Amalys Street.      In the airport we discovered that Olympic Airlines still is at the old airport; but now we were running short of time -- an hour and ten minutes till our departure time of 12:10 p.m.   We hunted for the taxi stand about a kilometer away. We got one, and off we were.

 

The ride cost one thousand drachmas despite the meter saying 575,  Sven paid with little resistance rather than argue, with time now so rare.   Expeditiously we headed with Swen to the Olympic Airways Terminal.  Still, some order reigned within the terminal walls; while it was not unseen, few pushed into the loosely shaped lines to the check-in counter.  Quickly we evaluated, with artful accuracy, which line will move fastest.   With our selection made, we patiently awaited our moment.  Now time is preciously short -- thirty minutes or less remained before the plane was scheduled to depart. 

 

The dour ticket agent dispatched us with seats assigned in the smoking section.  We boarded a bus, one of seven, transporting globs of people to the plane.  We drove past a myriad of propeller-driven planes,  reminiscent of an era gone by.  The lack of more sophisticated machinery served as a good introduction to the part of the world which is our ultimate destination.  I expected to go back in time in India.  I expect to see life lived like I have seen in other poor countries.

 

First stop, Rome, which is ninety minutes away, and we're running a little late because the airplane was delayed on takeoff.   Fortunately for Sven and me, we have all our goods in our backpacks so that should help us speed along faster for the connecting flight to Bombay, India.

 

At this moment, in flight, I am enveloped by a cloud of smoke created by me, Swen and those around us.  Nonsmokers up front.  The noxious gases irritate my eyes and nasal passage.  I sit here constantly on the edge of a sneeze, but never quite ready to issue one, only close to it.

 


I can feel the plane preparing to descend.  The sign lights up, A “Fasten Seatbelts.”    Now we have arrived at the Rome International Airport.  It looks new and has plenty of fancy stores throughout the huge building complex. We have too much time to sit around, but not enough time to get into Rome; it's about an hour drive, and heavy city traffic when we leave.  We walked around the airport, but little opportunity for anything else during the three-hour  wait.

 

A small paper cup of orangeade sells for  $1.90 that is just too expensive.  I wonder if the city's prices are reflected here.  A drastic change from five years ago when I was here last.  Wait, wait, wait, wait.  The anticipation of the twelve-hour journey to Bombay is almost welcomed.  I can't tolerate this total waste of time, earning nothing for it. No sights of Rome to see, not anything.  Exploring the cavernous airport was finished in twenty minutes. I pulled out some information about India and began reading it for the fifth time. 

 

Along the walkway I spied a discarded copy of a newspaper, The New York Times.  I picked it up and carried under my arm.   The news show from four different Italian stations were practically impossible to understand, regardless of how intently I stared at the overhead television sets. 

 

While waiting in Rome, with little else to do, I am overcome by a forebearing thought of the mysteries which await me. Will I be overcome by the poverty and filth?  Will the human condition as I now perceive it, alter my conception of charity to humankind?  Certain it is that it will challenge my innermost conception of society.  This is my greatest danger to face.  Twelve hours on a plane headed east from Rome over unfriendly territory, has its risks, too, but these I  am willingly facing.

 

It is now 6:45 p.m. in Italy, one hour behind the time of Athens, which is nine hours ahead of LA.   The guide book indicates that India is 52 hours ahead of GMT.  Until it is announced, I don't have any idea, from all the above facts, what time it could really be in India right now.  How this two-hour stuff got put into it I don't have a clue.  Anyway, in boarding the plane we had to identify our luggage prior to boarding.  Now, as I write this, the plane is taxiing in the darkness, about to launch itself toward India.  Now we are in the air . . . next stop is Bombay!

 

Let me describe the interior of the plane.  The walls, papered recently with depictions of Indian gods all in gentle pink, white, tan, and blue soft pastels.  Almost every seat is filled except maybe eight or nine, which remain unoccupied.  I have very short leg space.   I would assume this allows adequate space for the typical Indian traveler who is much shorter.    The exterior of this airplane was a bit more tarnished than one from a Western nation, but the near Eastern "Sanskrit" written on the silver and red body would be clear proof of its origin.  Several movies have been scheduled for this long flight.  I couldn't hear the attendant when they were announced, but it seems as though they are about to start.

 

My book comforts me as I wonder about an anticipated barrage of language problems.  It says that English is the most widely spoken language because it was a common language in a county plagued with an infinite number of Indian languages, each with its own set of dialects and even those with subsets. The way I have interpreted the statements, is that it is much more of a surprise that any two of them do speak the same tongue than not.  Hindustan is being promoted as the language of India but, according to the book, that is not true yet.

 


October 14, 1993 Thursday           Bombay, India

 

After a short nap, I awoke in cramped quarters on the airplane.  Cursed in the middle aisle, four abreast, I was huddled in one of the two inner seats.  Throughout the trip, I had the good fortune to sit behind an old nasal-jeweled Indian who would tilt her seat back to its fullest, causing my small space to be much more compressed.    It caused my knees to be jammed against her chair, and after I realized the futility of verbiage, she didn't understand me, my next offense was to rub my knees periodically into the back of her chair, making her rock forward and back in jerky moments -- attempting to cause her some small measure of inconvenience.  At one point I was incessant in my activity, hoping to drive her crazy. 

Instead, I am certain I heard her emit a long, low tone resembling a purr.  This continued throughout the night.  If I can’t sleep, she won’t be either.  To add to it all, I tried to use the top of her chair as a pillow since she was rather diminutive and required much less space.  When the newly added inconvenience was begun, she then adjusted, only momentarily, her seat just long enough for my head to fall. This, too, was replayed all night.

 

The airline had movies. Indian movies. They dealt with marriage and moral values that I didn’t understand . . . especially when expressed in an Indian dialect.   I kept watching for the cowboys, but they never showed up.

 

My first encounter with the illiteracy of India happened this morning.  I was asked by one of a five member, all adult, family next to me to help in filling out disembarkation papers because, as well dressed as they appeared, none knew how to write or read.  Swen offered to help, too, an offer they readily accepted.

 

At this moment we have touched down in Delhi.  Overgrown on the outskirts with brown bush and scrub-like plants. The plane touched down in a usual fashion.    We have before us another two-hour leg of flight to continue till we are in Bombay.  My trepidations of India are soon to be resolved one way or the other.  The excitement builds with the anticipation.

 

Now it is 7:45 a.m., and the plane is back in the air, New Delhi to Bombay.  I watched as some passengers left and new ones arrived to fill their seats.  The racial/social makeup of the new group is dramatically different.  The new group is noticeably darker complexioned.  Hats are more prevalent, but even more turbans are donned by this motley group.  The sun is out and the weather is warm; I hope it continues through to Bombay.  The saris are worn by practically all the women native to this land, including the stewardesses.  We were served hard candies to ease the change in pressure for the ears, and later a small box of heavily sweetened mango juice in a lime green box called "Frooti."  We had watched a commercial for it on the way to Delhi.

 

Breakfast is served. It consisted of yogurt (which comes with every meal), a dry oblong bread roll, an egg omelet, a meat and kasha roll in some sort of small warm pastry, fresh fruit containing pineapple, mango, cherries, and another yet to be identified fruit.  Meanwhile, we are entertained with a plethora of commercials and, periodically, an Indian version of modern music videos like different renditions of "Grease -- India style."  Each of the musicals seemed to have similar thematic messages:

1)         Relationships are made in heaven so they supersede deeds a man has done.

2)         A woman's purpose is to please her man.


3)         Honor and Respect above all else

4)         Dance, dance, dance

 

These seem to be the representations I have garnered up to this minute from fourteen hours on the plane. Of course, I should add that I have yet to touch my foot to Indian soil.

 

I recall what I have read posted on the wall in the Greek hostel:

A Tourist travels to places well known.

A Traveler travels to places little known.

An Adventurer travels to places unknown.

 

Despite all previous travels I still clearly, for the majority of it, have not graduated out of "Tourist."  Nonetheless I’d rather be that than to have never traveled.

 

 

October 14, 1993 Thursday        Bombay, India

 

At ten a.m. we stepped off the Air India 747 to an airport isolated from the city by over forty miles, two other smaller airports, and squalid living conditions which abounded through the route into the city. The malodorous air, putrefied by extremely poor sewage control, was worse than any other city I've seen.  The armies of deformed people hop, crawl, slide, or those with limp infants in tow, walk so slowly along the roadside or just squat, with arms wrapped around their knees, and watch the traffic pass.

The long drive, a very long one through the outskirts of town -- about twenty miles by bus cost only fifty cents (paid in rupees).  Other than the oppressive heat,  the ride was very exhilarating.  The driving habits of this city bus driver included some incredible weaving -- I can't say patterns because that implies some sort of uniformity to the actions.  There was none.  As we drove, whenever I dared to look up I would see another premonition of my death. He was supposed to drive on the left side, but he actually drove on both sides as the case called for. Seldom did he find it necessary to drive all or part way on the sidewalk or to cross cement islands, but if that would be expeditious, well, he only drove on the broken and cracked walkway when he thought it was safe. He spoke enough English so that we could communicate properly.  He gave a deep, Russian-sounding "Ha Ha" whenever he heard me say "Aughh!" or "Oh, shit!".  I have never had a more scary ride except at Magic Mountain Amusement Park . . . except this was real.  The Indian natives could be really quick when they wanted to.  They got off the sidewalk or out of the street when they saw him coming.

 

Twice I showered today; the heat and humid atmosphere remind me of Florida.  I have made plans to travel further south after an evening exploring Bombay.  The city has its charming side; it just is more difficult to enjoy, pretty much like sitting to enjoy a wonderful lobster dinner in the middle of the city dump. These surroundings may amplify the magnificent splendor of this city's charms, but the contrast makes those things of beauty seem to be part of some bombastic charade.

 

 


Heroine, cocaine, and marijuana are sold freely all over the town.  Looking like a typical tourist, I was approached four times in a six-hour period. The water, while heavily chlorinated, has small white strands of unidentifiable matter swirling in it.  I don't want my adventures to happen in a hospital; I didn't drink it even though several Israeli travelers said they have without any effect yet.   I stayed in a different hostel than Swen even though we have plans to go together about 300 miles south after touring the city.  For a few rupees more I had a very nice and clean room with a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean from my fourth story room.  There is no elevator in the building, so I had to lug my backpack up the steep stairs by myself.

 

I hired a cyclocab to drive Sven and me around town.  After about one kilometer he parked and brought us upstairs to a very good restaurant.  The large front room was without air conditioning and without any tourists. We were escorted to the back room with air conditioning and dimly lit lights.  Soon my eyes acclimated to the low volume of light, and I could then read the English menu.  We ordered about five or six items, mostly Tandoori stuff: chicken and lamb cooked and covered with the bright red spices used for such cooking.  This was the best meal I've had in weeks, and everything, came to just under $10.00.  And we had ordered enough for four or five people.

 

Even though my room was fancy (it had air conditioning), the water ran with the same unusual smell.  I changed to go out and photograph some stuff. Hounded by beggars and misfits who tagged along for blocks.  It is worth noting that Bombay is noted for its pickpockets, so I kept special care of my stuff.  I had everything of value well hidden, except for my camera.

 

Some typical night scenes of the Bay and India Gate, a masonry and concrete structure about half the size of the Arc d' Triumph in Paris, but beautiful in its intricate designs. One particularly dislikeable chap followed me for more than fifteen minutes to get me to buy some Kama Sutra postcards -- not exactly family fare.  While the value of these depictions rests with antiquity, the penises and vaginas wouldn't exactly catch favorably any Western eye, save maybe the Postmaster General.

 

As I walked back to my hotel again surrounded by a small army of undesirables, I finally did break down and buy the postcards to send home.  When I did, twenty other vendors came over and wanted to sell me their postcards, feather fans, peanuts, shoe shines, books, pictures, and babies . . . yes, babies.  I thought poverty was bad elsewhere, but this is the worst.

 

I have a television set in my room.   While I write, it’s an enlightening accompaniment, except all but one station is English.   There just isn't anything good on right now, however I can see much of India and the wishes of the people (who can afford a television) through what kind of programs they watch.  Even with the air conditioning, when I open a window or walk in the hallway a wave of moist heat envelopes me instantly. 

My room, a three-star by India standards, would cost about a hundred dollars a day in the U.S., but here it's only fifteen dollars.  The hotel is cluttered with employees, hired to help and ready to fetch ANY whim at any time.    The evening ended amid blaring horns and pleas from the paupers, the living refuse that littered the streets of Bombay. 

 

October 15, 1993 Friday                Bombay, India

 

I was awake at 7:30.  Already the sun is out and its bright with the same moist heat from yesterday.


I can see the ocean from here.  The city seems quiet from inside my room.  It's still too early to get up to meet the taxi driver who, for five hundred rupees, will drive us around Bombay to show us the sights.  He will bring us into the squalid center of Bombay.  I got out of bed and took another shower.

 

I felt the heat beating on the windows, but not until I strode out into the hallway to wash up in the communal shower.   I met Swen and the taxi driver at nine a.m. outside my hotel.   We began to travel through the city.  Shrines and temples stood out as the most garish and significant landmarks peppering the city.  Everywhere I turned, I saw buildings obviously built by the British now in various states of decomposition.  Most were still in use.  Mansions, once probably occupied by an important British official now provide shelter to four or five Indian middle-class families.  No longer are the kempt gardens of these same manors lining the main boulevard.  Now scrubble and weeds are easier to see than any hardy plants that struggle to remain.  The paint of these buildings is colored in surrealistic ways.  Colors the original occupants intended, bright blues and yellows, are in huge peeling sheets falling away from the building.   The paint is aged quickly by the tropical temperament.

 

Even though I was advised against it, I bought a dessert called falooda from a neighborhood stand.  This stand looked clean, but it still is a danger because their idea of clean is very different from mine.  Cups were rubbed clean, not washed.  The falooda is made with milk, cream, rose syrup, shredded pistachios and almonds with some tiny noodles that looked like vermicelli. Great Cave of Elephanta in Bombay Harbor was only a few minutes by a small powerboat.  This ancient cave contains the Ganesh, which is a Hindu elephant god of good luck.

 

Swen and I bought tickets for Goa, a Portuguese west coast trading village.  Tonight at five p.m. we will board a bus to travel further south to Goa.  At this point I'll return while he'll continue into Tibet.  I'm sorry to lose such an experienced traveling companion.

 

The driver first brought us to the Hanging Gardens that are part of the Bombay City Park.    Some of the bushes were trimmed to resemble familiar animals.  This area, too, was originally created by the British.  India owes a great debt to it.  British clocks, still working, were visible in two places within the garden -- one in a diminutive clock tower about twenty feet high.   The other clock was in a wall to the south.

 

The city's water supply is pumped from here.  The well must be inexhaustible to feed the millions here.  Certainly there are other sources.  I watched two men dig a hole near to the main spring originally worked by the British in 1812.  Bombay was mainly swampland until it was drained and cleared by the British.

 

A famous place of worship was a beautiful Hindu temple out in the bay about a quarter mile from shore. The only pedestrian access is through a narrow walkway open only during a low tide.  Otherwise, a row boat equipped with a boatman will deliver you to one side or the other for 50 rupees.

 


During our ride the driver said he must interrupt the ride because his clutch is broken.  The taxis all seemed to be of the same make and vintage, 1957 Fiats  with left-hand drive.  He drove to a repair station and tried to get it fixed right away.  ANot able to fix quickly,” the mechanic said. So our ride with him was finished midday.  The driver walked us over to an expensive Chinese restaurant that was across the busy main street.  My meal was about two hundred rupees, that’s about eight dollars.  It was very fancy (for India).  The taxi driver sat to eat with us, but when Swen said the ride is over he became irritated and would not accept the 250 rupees, insisting instead on 350, which he got after speaking angrily and loudly in the restaurant. This was only a portion of the seven hundred rupees agreed for the day earlier.  Finally he left still unhappy because he was unfed and paid less than he had hoped for.  The manager of the restaurant had to grab him and take him outside by force.  I enjoyed the meal, relishing more the fact that I was eating Chinese fare in India rather than Indian food, delicious in its own right.

We finished the meal and walked out after paying 590 rupees, approximately $18.00.  A new taxi driver brought us to the center of Bombay, which has the largest slum in Asia. The living units are not even called apartments, instead they are called chawls, which are usually shabby, tiny rooms hammered out of discarded tin, cardboard, or other excelsior can be rummaged up.  The area seemed to be about four miles square (but I'm not certain of that fact).  I  exited the taxi in the heart of the squalor.  The immediate dismay of local residents of seeing European-looking men was certainly a surprise to them followed quickly by gushing inquisitiveness.  They crowded all around, and two young men that spoke English asked questions of me. They brought me around to show me how three women were in a small second-story room.  The odor was gut wrenching.  They sat, women in their early thirties, sorting waste plastic for what purpose I don't know -- neither did they.  They both eat and live there along with filling ten hours a day, six days each week with the tedium of this labor.  They earned about $20 a month, I was told.  The communal shit houses were supposed to be emptied every other day, according to what newly elected government officials had promised them, but they say the these six stalls, total, for about a hundred families are cleaned usually every other week.  The photos I took should tell a good story.  This area was strewn with litter and trash end to end, at least six inches deep all over.  There were few spots where the unpaved street was exposed through the discarded refuse. The heat amplified the musty stench exuding from the garbage. 

 

While the caste system has been legally removed from Indian life, it still exists.  The people living here in this slum belong to the so-called “untouchables.”  They are only able to obtain the lowest of jobs.  For food they usually go by the fruit and vegetable merchants at the end of the business day and buy what the vendor intends to discard.  Only the worst, the rottenest, the most putrefied remains were offered to them at very low prices, since they earn so little, its the only way they would get any food.   If fruit is discarded by the lowest caste, it must be garbage.   Rats, mice, strange brown bugs crossed my path at almost every step.  I couldn’t stay here longer, and hurriedly got back into the waiting cab. Sven and I looked at each other, amazed at the miserable life here for these poor people.   I felt something scurry up around my shin, under my pants. I looked, but I saw nothing.  

 


The driver drove us to the bus stop where we were scheduled to meet the bus.   In twenty minutes it appeared and we threw our bags aboard. The bus first lurched forward, with me as a passenger, from the center of Bombay.  It was already rather full before we boarded, but there were a number of open seats in the back of the bus.   The front seats were already crowded tightly with Indian travelers.  The roof of the bus was piled high with household goods and boxes that added another five feet to the height of the bus.  I already could imagine the calamity we’d have, should the bus attempt to go through a tunnel. Two walking funeral processions passed us as the bus crawled through the busy streets.   This was a good indication of our rate of travel.  Seven stops within the city earned us even more crowded conditions as more passengers tried to find a place on the bus.   India is not a place where a foreign man should look for a bargain in transportation, unless he knows what he’s getting.  One bit of bus riding strategy I learned was that there is good reason to try to sit up front.  Indian buses have no shock absorbers because, with the weight it carries, the rough roads would destroy the shocks very quickly.  With no shock absorbers, Sven and I flew out of our seats quite frequently.  There was no cushioning of the road hazards for us.   The bus continued its irregular travel.  Each lurch forward brought clouds of blue-black exhaust fumes into the interior chamber of this bus, creeping through every open window, and mixing with the other noxious odors. The moist heat of the day made the odors much worse. I was among the many riders who found it necessary to put a cloth over my mouth and nose.  Still we banged on, hitting bottom through every road, rut, or ditch.  The roads themselves being in such a state of disrepair that a smoother ride would be earned by horseback.  Continue we must until 11 p.m., when we got off the bus at its designated bus stop replete with standard Indian snacks.  I first ordered crackers, but on tasting the dry crumbling mass, I found I wasn't about to attempt digestion of saltines of this vintage.       

 

 It's taking longer to reach Goa than I thought.  In any case, it is the most awful, dirty bus I have yet to ride -- cramped, stinking people awash in a malodorous haze of Turkish cigarettes and a whiff of ganja.  Hot and sweaty with the tropic's stifling heat and the forbearance each passenger must carry.

 

 

The bus continued. The driver felt that somehow he could compensate for the bumps and dips so prevalent in the road's topography, and that he was not able to eliminate the faults of the road so, at least, he would make the ride as quickly as possible.  This added to the wondrously uncomfortable ride.    We continued through the night as though we were a busload of natives traveling through Peru.  I could easily imagine this scene coming out of some Bob Hope movie like The Road to Somewhere, as we were thrown on the bus around like pebbles. 

 

After twelve hours and several short piss stops, we found ourselves embraced within a long line of waiting vehicles, including seven buses carrying local school children and an army bus loaded with bostrios solders. We are only two hours from Goa, but we wait for something unknown to clear the road ahead of us.  It won’t be clear for a while and people are leaving their vehicles and wandering around without purpose.  After waiting in the middle of nowhere I find that I am developing a strange sense of complacency like the Hindus have. If I can just relax. I was told that a tree fell in the roadway, and it will just take time.  I am going to sleep.  At least the bus is still for the moment. 

 

Through incredibly green landscapes we drove and drove and drove.  The word "verdant" isn't strong enough.  The town of Goa is in the final week of its monsoon season and it's hot and muggy.

 

I step off the bus in Goa, and I will tour around this town for a day and a half if I can change my return ticket date. Sven and I part company here. He plans to go further south through India and I do not.   I hired a cab to drive me around.  The significance of Goa is its Portuguese influence.  The Portuguese came here about three hundred years ago and, according to my 28-year-old taxi driver, they only left about 33 years ago.  It was an important trading post for Portugal.

 

The tiny three-wheeled black taxi was as much open air as not.  The driver started it each time with a pull of a lever on his right side that acted as some sort of kick-start.  The young man in the cab with me was guiding me to the restaurant he felt would give me a good sample of Goan food.

 


We walked three flights up past the many English signs advising that I wouldn’t have a problem with my language.  I was the only Anglo in the restaurant, but I ordered their specialty:  curry rice and broiled local fish (who knows what kind of fish).  The guide showed me how to properly eat it.  You, first, spoon some of the golden yellow liquid over the rice, then, using only your right hand, pinch the rice to shape it in a ball; then, with your fingers, plop it in your mouth.  Occasionally spice up this dish with small pieces of hot mango that was marinated in the black hot sauce.  Next, I pinch some flesh off the boiled five-inch fish.  While there can be no argument that eating these foods this was is messy, I enjoyed the unusually hot flavors which I had never tasted before. This meal cost 36 cents.  Food is very cheap all over India, but even more so in Goa.  After the meal I used some paper napkins the host had gracefully provided. 

Strangely, the other patrons did not need or use napkins.  Then comes the dish of fennel seeds.  They taste like licorice and are commonly used like we use after dinner mints, except these actually freshen my breath. Lastly, bamboo "toothpicks," wide slivers of bamboo, are chewed to get the food particles removed.

 

The town was spread wide, with the busiest part of the small main area of commerce close to the marshland that lies a kilometer west.  The beaches to the south were clean and beautiful.  Craggy rocks sprung from the ocean floor to serve as a diving platform for the more adventurous swimmers.  The water was warm although I did not go in.  The taxi waited while I walked along the beach for a short way. When I raised my hand the driver started his vehicle and came to get me. 

 

 

October 16, 1993 Saturday   Goa, Southern India

 

 I left Goa early this morning.   As the guidebook suggested, it hasn't been hard-hit by tourism yet, and prices of everything there were less than Bombay.   Unfortunately, living on limited funds and having already purchased my non-refundable return bus ticket, I got on the bus to return to Bombay tonight.  I was prepared for an awful ride and that is exactly what was delivered to me.  I had bruises all over my body from this trip.  I don’t recall working so hard to try to stay in my seat for any ride ever before.

 

Once I got back to Bombay, the bus let me off about twenty kilometers from my stop by the Gateway of India.   At first glance I thought it was about half the size of Paris' Arch d' Triumph.  That is incorrect; I see that they are closer in size, with this being the smaller of the two. The large paved park that surrounds the arch created an optical illusion of size.

 

I hired a taxi to take me to the merchants’ Bazaar and to Fortis Street.  At the Bazaar, it was filled with used clothing especially, but it had its other motley vendors with bits and pieces of items no longer usable in its original state of design.  Through an elaborate scheme of cannibalization the Indians have managed to keep items, long ago destined for the trash heap, still running.  The taxis are certainly well represented in this category.  Everything being sold that was new, I could find back in L..A. in Chinatown.  So I bought nothing.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Fortis Street:  a colorful menagerie of prostitutes and hawkers where a quick one costs about one dollar, more or less.  The price seems to be a point to briefly haggle before the task is done.  Girls from twelve to fifty littered the chaws, periodically flashing otherwise concealed, erogenous areas.  Most unusual was the large assortment of transvestites who propagated the west side of the street.  While there were few foreigners walked this curious street, I saw young girls now twisted from this miserable and filth-laden existence, who seemed to be destined for a short life.   Maybe it's a way out of the slums, but without much doubt they'll be turned out on the street with even less than nothing when they can no longer earn a living in this modern-day Gomorrah.

 

I had spoken to my translator and guide to show me where the bus is for Air India so I can return to Greece tonight.  The taxi drove me to the bus stop, then I departed their company, and with them went a hundred rupees.

 

I saw a small restaurant that was well packed with Indians.  I went in, and was seated at the only available seat with a thirty-year-old, Jacob Josa, who is an electrical engineer making equivalent to $200 monthly.  While engaged in conversation almost immediately, like most educated Indians he spoke a very British English spiced with the Indian "rrr" sound and those special intonations making it clear he had learned the language in school.  We spoke of poverty and social progress (whatever level it may be).  To compare India's lifestyle to that in the U.S. should remember that there is only one fact to truly use in evaluation. How happy are the people?  Do they need the material wealth U.S. citizens often flaunt?  Jacob, a Catholic, said that the people do want more material wealth. All but the very rich are not able to travel.  $200 a month wouldn't go far.  He wants to study at a U.S. institution, but has to find a way to do it. It's a tough spot to be in.  His conversation added meaning to the moment he took to enjoy the Indian cuisine.  He was quite surprised that I enjoyed, but absolutely dumbfounded when he saw me shun the knife and fork to eat it in the traditional style.  He said now in metropolitan areas like Bombay the European eating utensils are rapidly gaining favor.  He gave me his business card, and I put it away almost without looking at it.  No intent of rudeness -- it was just that I'd have little need to know his business address.

 

We separated, and I walked to the Indian Gate.  I rather enjoy this higher class of people usually in families who stroll through the area.  While vendors and beggars still abound, there are no cows -- that in itself is a relief.

 

It is now ten minutes past three in the morning, and the flight to Delhi should go in an hour and a half.  I checked with several people, and they assured me that to fly to Delhi, stay awhile, and then continue to Rome is okay.  Fortunately, I was able to fall asleep easily at the hostel in Bombay until 10:30 p.m. from about six p.m., so I'm not too terribly tired now.

 


I went to get a taxi to the airport bus stop.  The first driver wanted 50 rupees; second said 30, but since it was only a short trip, I knew that 15 was fair.  In the space of one-half block I found a Muslim driver who said "Whatever you want to pay."  I told him before I got in that 15 rupees is fair.  "OK," he said, "Get in."  So I did.  During this short drive he said "did you say 15 or 50?"  "15" I angrily responded . . . "one, five" confirming with a show of a finger.  "Oh, no!" he said, "That isn't fair, it is much more." "Fifteen that is all." And now we arrived amid this squabble. "Here it is, goodbye" as I handed him fifteen rupees.   There is not an extensive policy of tipping like that in the U.S.  Just rarely and small tips are the most customary.   With him paid, I boarded the waiting blue and white bus, which was scheduled to leave every hour all  day and night.  Thirty rupees, I paid, for the hour drive.  I fell asleep on the bus and was the last to exit.  All other passengers, Indians, were pulling taped boxes and semi-repaired luggage off the bus in a hurried pace, but not without some order.

 

All things happened in a normal manner in the airport check-in.  The guard did ask me to identify my camera on the X-ray machine the camera -- I hope my film wasn't damaged.  The  throngs of people stood outside the main building, but few entered, as if someone very special is due to arrive.  I went to the area of the Waiting Room and sat.

 

 I met a chap about thirty-five with long blond hair, but it was clear he would, by age 40, has a bald pate . . .  Avilly,” he said, was his name.  He just arrived from Zimbabwe, where he wanted to resolve (get over) a relationship he had with a girl who lives there.  Unfortunately, I think, he couldn't get things patched up, so with his gear and his four wooden flutes, he left to come back to India, his favorite place.  As he claims, he has been struck by wanderlust and can't settle down.  During our discourse a Delhi resident interrupted, not in a rude fashion, but he relished the opportunity to talk with English-speaking people.  English is widely spoken here.  We all went through another metal detector, then boarded the plane at Gate 11.  While we separated for the long flight to our assigned seats, I was served a boxed, measured portion of "Frooti,"  a very popular and widely advertised sweetened mango drink.  I'll close now -- the plane is moving and it is about to taxi for take off.

 

The landing was a good one. I awoke during passenger unloading. Good -- another hour and a half of sleep.  I feel well-rested.  I took the 17 rs (rials) bus ride into town. Delhi is on first appearance more primitive than Bombay.  I'll leave that decision for later.  My room is at the third hotel I stopped at is  when I exited the bus at the City Center, I was confronted, as were all other light-skinned tourists, with a plea to ride a bicycle-driven rickshaw, theirs. I picked one driver from the crowd, he loaded my singular bag and off we went.  For a three-mile tote up a hill and down cost 7rs, about 15 cents, and that included two rupees as a tip.

 

 

 

We are in the Conaugh Centre Hotel; it’s clean, but two steep floors up -- a private bath, no window or air conditioning, but TV and phone. The room is small but cheap.  From here I booked a Delhi tour at 9:30 a.m.      After parking my bags in the room, I went to the bus stop.  I am writing this while waiting for the bus, which if on schedule, should be here in nine minutes.  I think the symptoms of a minor cold have left me, except for a nose that seems to incessantly run.

 

I have mounted the bus designated for the tour of Delhi, and I have not determined whether I have had good fortune by being seated up front in the driver's compartment.  No air conditioning in 90 weather, but it’s not too humid, even though there is no breeze to cool me.  Now I'm starting to run out of film and time.  I feel the pressure on me.  I am trying to spread myself out very thin.

 


I caught the bus, which was a little late, but after boarding I found that there were four more stops for the bus to make, so there's another hour wasted.  As the tour bus  finished loading and the guide completing head count, we began to discover the mysteries of New Delhi, which is right outside the medieval walls.  The walls were erected to protect the city now referred to as Old Delhi.  If one looked at the city map to find any pattern to street erection, I don't believe there can be one found in Old Delhi.  We missed another gas-propelled vehicle by much less than an inch.  Incredibly, I have yet to see damage to vehicles or the carcass of one so damaged, it was left to rot.  So they know the driving  "system"; I don't.

 

Our first stop is by the main governmental structure, and there are a lot of them in this huge complex of fancy buildings.   I was sitting up front next to the driver and witnessed through the bus window what is probably, just simply, part of everyday life in a city where everybody seems to struggle for survival.  Three little boys all under ten had acquired several large plastic binding straps that had held bales of clothing.  The owner of the clothing didn't want to give the straps to the kids, but, as kids do, they asked and asked with the desired result.  The man, not playfully it seemed, slapped the oldest boy on the back of his head, then told them they could have them.

 

About two minutes later a swarthy, rough complexioned man wearing a ragged green turban, turned his triped around in the busy street and ripped the straps from the boy’s hands.  While I heard no voices, the vision was clear that the boys pleaded and explained pleadingly that the straps were given to them.  Nobody came to their aid.  The burly man just pushed them away, and said he must eat with hand gestures.  The boys turned and walked away, resigned to accepting the "fait accompli."

 

As noon approached, the crowded traffic conditions -- both vehicular and pedestrian -- jumbled into some sort of roadway montage like it was built by a laboratory rat on LSD.  Nothing seemed to move, and the fumes and just-generated dirt wafted through the air to make several bike riders tie a kerchief over their faces. I watched streets lined with vendors of limes, lemons, coconuts, mangos, and watermelons.  Numerous other fruits and vegetables  which would be strange to my palate filled a myriad of tables and small stands, which propagated anywhere there were people and an empty space.

 

A highway project which we drove by struck my interest because of the digging along the side of the road for sewage pipes.  The diggers used a one-sided pickaxe -- all were wearing saris.  The women were accompanied by their children.  Each ardently struggling to move earth from one place to another in the 90 heat compounded by the chronic pollution that plagues this city.   Everywhere I looked, the billboards yelled their messages.  When English was used, frequently the billboards had obvious misspellings.

 

We saw the Red Fort. The Indians were quick to point out that the invading British stole all the gems embedded in the walls of one part of the fort reserved for royalty.  Maybe one hundred knifings in the wall to cut out each gem.  The Red Fort acquired its name because of the red clay bricks of which it is cut. Through Bombay to Goa I saw frequent hillsides cut deeply into the Arkansas-red earth.

 


My group was moving faster than me.  I felt I needed a closer, longer look at this fort.  As I hurriedly left to rejoin the city tour, I saw a long line of five to nine-year-old boys and girls -- maybe about two hundred children in a single file -- march within the walls of this national monument.  Each child was neatly dressed in a school brown and tan uniform. The young boys all with a tie, the girls with carefully pressed skirts. 

 

Forty minutes to visit this place wasn't enough time; I'll go back later.  But I made it back to the bus with time to spare.  I climbed up the first step and opened the glass door to the driver's cab where I was sitting.  There were two men there, chatting with the driver.  Some dispute over which Eastern music tape they should put in to play for the entertainment of all on the bus.  Finally, one tape was chosen and put into the slot.  The device swallowed the cassette and began spouting the selected popular tunes.  I have found it difficult to be able to distinguish between a good tape and an old, stretched, worn one.  The sounds of eastern music are unfamiliar to my ear, but not unpleasant.

 

I thought, while on the bus, how few women are on the street -- a disproportion of five to one. Further, at this last monument there were a large number of Sikhs.  Sikhs have moved here from Punjabi because of the fighting and insurrection that continues there.  According to the hotel manager, the Sikh's are financially subsidized by the Indian government to help quell the discontent of the move south and relocating. The manager also said that since the Sikhs are Hindu, albeit a subbranch, they are happy to move -- I don't believe that part.  I'm sure they want to go home.

 

The bread sold on the street is big, flat, and round.  It is slightly crisp on the outside, but very soft and airy on the inside, not very different from pita bread.  I enjoyed the one I bought for 2 rupee.  Alone it was almost a meal.  The vendor I purchased it from pulled it from the top of maybe two hundred breads evenly piled in a huge straw basket that in its present state seemed immobile -- certainly by him it was. 

We drove to the sanctified park where the revered Sanjay and Indira Gandhi  were buried.   We drove to where Gandhi was cremated, then had his ashes dropped over the rivers and mountains of India by plane.  These places are considered holy shrines and require the removal of shoes before getting close to  actual points of reverence within the park.

 

I met a British man married to an Indian doctor.  While her name was too long for me to master, I did have the opportunity to discuss Indian culture with her since her English was clear.  She explained about the dot between the eyes.  Symbolic of the spiritual center of a person's mind and soul.  Through that point each person is reminded is the primal concentration of the power of man over all else to bring himself to higher spiritual planes.  At one temple marked frequently with the swastik, an ancient religious symbol which is a Hindu marking of good luck The Brit, Peter, was not typical of the dominant male in Indian society, but he was rather submissive to the whims of his doctor-wife.  He exited this temple with the red ash markings of the Hindu on his forehead.  Few men placed such markings on their faces.

 

The most fascinating monument was that of a Mongol's Temple.  Built around the fourteenth century, the high tower still stands and the artwork is elaborate, and the arches are good examples of the extensive work performed and craftsmanship at that time.  I took quite a few photos of this artifact, and then I walked through the street underpass to the Temple.    Following current custom, I removed both shoes and socks before entering this elaborate building.

 


I was let out of the bus in about 30 minutes later, close to the hotel.  The manager was holding my flight tickets and passport because he was going to get my flight confirmation.  I was told that the state of bureaucracy in India surpasses all other nations, and that you must get your flight three days in advance.  I don't think I'll be able to leave when I want (which is two days) without his help.  Other than making a futile trip to the Delhi Air-India office in Collough area at eight a.m. this morning -- they were closed till 9:30 a.m. -- I never tried on my own to arrange it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I talked with the hotel manager.  He was kind of a queer sort.  He acts like your good friend, and then adds all kinds of charges to your bill.  I gave him some American coffee, Taster's choice, rather rare for these parts because he said he wanted to take care of my ticket confirmation as a favor.  It seemed like a fair exchange to me, then he says he wants a "torch," meaning a flashlight and 100 rupees to let me shower and change then rest for two hours before I must catch my flight.  I gave him the money --- he acted as though it were our secret.  Usually this kind of activity gets me the short end of the stick, so I asked this almost pleasant fellow for a receipt.  "Tomorrow," he says, knowing I'm leaving for Agra at six a.m., not to return till 11 p.m. I let the issue go; even one hundred rupees are only three U.S. dollars.

 

 

October 19, 1993 Tuesday          Delhi,  India

 

I was awakened at five a.m., an hour before I had asked to be wakened, by a phone call from the manager.  I've noticed that in the evening there are four hotel employees bedding down in the lobby -- tee shirts and shorts for all of them.  I don't get it!  What goes here?  So too late to go back to sleep; I tried to close my eyes, but the excitement was building. I didn't fall asleep until after midnight.

 

I met the bus at close to the scheduled time of six a.m. After we made four separate pickups, the tour bus was off to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is. 

 

As we exited the Indian metropolis, I noticed an aged building marked clearly with several Stars of David in the uppermost area of design.  Maybe this building was two hundred years old.  Nearby was some sort of transient encampment.  The small homes that dotted the highway to Agra were made from mud and branches usually, but there were several different materials used including concrete.  Most homes were set back from the road by forty or fifty feet and each had a mailbox posted at the edge of the highway.  Often the homes were heated by cow dung that had been gathered while moist and packed into a wooden container resembling a fifteen-inch pie tin.  The dung is left in these containers until they completely dry, then they can be used as fuel.    The smoke from the small fires that I had noticed, surprisingly, had a sweet, pleasant odor.

 

As we drove, I could see literally hundreds of cows and hundreds of big, horned, black water buffalo. There were women carrying tin or copper buckets of water, frequently three high atop their heads from the water pump at the town well.  They made this trip several times each day.


 

Our first tourist stop, about two hours into the journey, was at an area away from everything else, and all signs welcoming tourists were in English.  Once we entered, the gates were closed (so we couldn't get out). Then we were herded to the food counter where we would decide what we'd like to eat for breakfast, but before getting it we had to show a paid receipt.  I resented this treatment, and I bought nothing.  At this point we passed a sign that indicated another 180 kilometers to Agra.  We already had traveled a slow eighty kilometers.

 

I was thankful there was no music blaring in this bus yet (I know it will happen, though).  This is a main artery for traffic and supports businesses of the common roadway types.

 

Almost all of the land east and west of the road was for agrarian use.  Some  was lying fallow.  It all appeared to be arid useable land; none was barren often next to a large plot of land that was lush.  The farming system is akin to what we call sharecropping except for some very large plots of ground owned by a large company.    Off in the distance here and there are big manufacturing plants shooting pollutants high into the sky.  It seems unchecked.   The fumes rose quickly, high above the brick towers that were used as chimneys.  The wretched odors swirled through the air like black striped pinwheels, leaving a chalky black residue that rested on homes, streets, or human skin.  One area had the living quarters in a large wooden open crate suspended about a foot off the group by bricks and stones.

 

The small roadside businesses seem to crowd together closer and closer announcing that we are about to enter the City of Agra.  As I caught my first glimpse of this magnificent red-stoned fortress, I knew that I would always remember it regardless of what else is to follow.  As we came closer the roadside stands continued to expand in number unabated by the omnipotent presence of the forbearing world monument.  The fortress, which we would enter first, yielded sights of a singularly spectacular nature.  It's visible area must have been five acres of hilltop. The interior exhibited grandeur beyond any castle or fortress to which I have ever seen.  Some walls were made of onyx, some of marble or alabaster, with inset colored stones and gems put in such intricate patterns that it was no surprise when I was told the palace was made by fifteen thousand people over a six-year period. I attempted to capture the beauty around me on film, but I am unsure of my ability to catch it. It must be viewed as a whole to see how each area surpasses the next yet complements it.

 

The royal chambers offer the most excellent portal to view the Taj Mahal, a funerarium and monument to the Ruler's second wife. From the formerly bejeweled Throne Room, I can look out and down at the Taj Mahal.   I cannot write words that would do justice to the story of love and romance that are evoked from this sight.     The visitor who is lucky enough to share the beautiful monument

 

 


As a group we exit this complex and are greeted by a mass of misfits and beggars looking to gain sympathy through whatever level of freakiness they have managed to achieve. The more atrocious the appearance, the more likely they are to collect alms successfully.  Strangely, other than their teeth, few of these misfortunates look malnourished, quite unlike the workers, day laborers, and others who live in poverty within Delhi or Bombay.  The teeth are usually in an advanced stage of decay that is only worsened by advancement of the beggar's age.  Brown and crooked, the teeth pose as a serious threat to any who might be bitten by these jagged oral erections.

 

Even before we actually went to the Taj Mahal I again was reminded of the stark contrast between rich and poor -- the richness of India's monuments, and the wretchedness of its poor.

 

Before leaving the outer grounds of Agra, I noticed quite a number -- maybe fifty -- boys, all in a paramilitary uniform.  I spoke with the man similarly uniformed who spoke some English. Cub Scouts they were.  We talked briefly about the Scouts in the U.S., and he asked if the U.S. Scouts had comparable uniforms.  From the photos I took the difference is clear, but the same brown color uniform. I tried to shake his hand with the Scout handshake using the left hand.  He was startled but compliant.  Obviously this method was unfamiliar to him, and, after I gave it a moment's thought, repugnant since the left hand is used for toilet duties.  Still I could feel the bond between us.  I had to leave quickly since my group had long since departed and was no longer visible.

 

Our bus was soon filled with all of us and closed its doors as a band of beggars outside, was trying its best to get money from us.  The bus brought us out of the way to another "Welcome Tourist" type restaurant. Again, I ate nothing there while entrapped within its walls.  After lunch, back to the bus to see the Taj Mahal.  And off we drove, most diners very unsatisfied with the meal. I had the good fortune to eat a couple takis -- sort of mashed potato with spices and vegetables within, then as a thick small patty fried in the oiled open air wok till the outside is partly dark brown and crispy.  This costs ten rupees, and I ate while we were with the fortress. Now while the others remained within the restaurant I escaped and hired a rickshaw to take me around town for the next thirty minutes before re-embarking upon the bus.

 

Now this, the Taj Mahal, still surpassed the Agra Palace.  The whole thing so much more spectacular than I thought before. The bus released us at the base of a very broad incline; the top of this area is where the Taj is built.  Passed through the usual lot to get there though very tight security.

 

Right now security is tight all over India because some Pakistani Moslems blew up a temple, which was extremely sacred to the Hindus.  The Pakis said that it was built upon a sacred Moslem spot and that India should move it or they would destroy it.  It was held by terrorists then destroyed.  So now India has very high security.  The guard tapped lightly on my privates to see if--.  Metal detectors, all purses and bags opened.

 

I traveled through this area in the fellowship of an Indian man, his wife and three children.  They all spoke English except the mother and her youngest daughter.  While never having traveled out of India because of the tremendous expense, they were interested in world travel, especially Egypt.  I spoke of some of my travels as we walked up to the marble staircase.  At this point everyone had to remove their shoes. Quickly I doffed my tennis shoes and walked with this family.  They told me of its history and facts.  I listened intently still knowing that when I return I will want to read about it more. We spent a couple of hours exploring this splendid monument to love.  I returned to the bus after recovering my shoes.

 

We drove eight miles until we came to the town where Lord Krishna was born.  The excitement of those within -- the believers reveled in their joy of making their pilgrimage to this spot.

 


Security was very high and everything was again securely checked.  I to leave my shoes and socks in the bus to make the holy walk over the once rough-hewn bricks (now smoothly worn by the passage of time), leading me toward the entrance of this shrine.  I saw similar deities throughout my visit to India and even at Venice Beach with the Hare Krishnas. But this reached a higher, more beautiful form even though my eyes are unaccustomed to this style of eastern art. The spiritual feeling that all the people within shared with each other were easy for me to feel too.  I watched everything, the icons, people's faces and body movements, each tuning into the moment.     

 

I left the group and wandered through the surrounding village.  In the darkness, the exotic nature of everything becomes more apparent. Here, in India, somewhere between Agra and Delhi, the streets turned mysterious, only lit by the vendors’ kerosene lamps.  The walk brought me deeper into the magic of India.  Somehow, I found my way back to the bus.  The bus stopped next at another Hindu shrine.  Not understanding the history of it, I couldn't really feel inspired by it. The other passengers were Indian so there was little of the verbiage I could understand.  Occasionally, the guide spoke English, although more for me than anybody else. Hungry and thirsty I bought some beans from a vendor but rather than get them as they were, he smashed them, added peas in a sauce and then put them on a plate piled with other unidentified vegetables.  This dish was salty, spicy and sweet all at the same time.  I really preferred it the other way.

 

Now at the bus as the prescribed time, our driver was taken ill, food poisoning is suspected, am I feeling strange now or what?  No, I feel fine -- I think. He ate from the same vendor as I did. I sat quietly, introspectively on the bus.  Am I starting to feel hot?  A new driver came to take over.  Off we went and off I went -- asleep.  I was awakened at the stop I was to get out.  In a haze I wandered off the bus and to the hotel.  It was dark and locked.  I knocked on the door softly at first and kept increasing volume until I was heard. In his underpants he came to open the door and let me in.  I asked about my tickets; all okay.   I asked about the room for me to rest.  "Sorry, all full."  But he allowed me to use the restroom/shower to clean up and change.  So I did and packed my gear, went downstairs, but the door was locked again.  Loudly I said, "Open the door."  One of the employees startled from sleep jumped and said, "Moment.  Moment!"  He looked up my entry in the book.  I owed 30 rupees, which I refused to pay.  He let me out.  I started for the airport for my 5:40 flight.  I had my last Indian food for a while.  Chicken Tandoori, Tika, the curried rice, and almost everything wonderfully edible at a nearby restaurant that was open. The entire meal including a generous tip was only eighty cents.  I=ll remember this food for a long time to come.  It was delicious and I was hungry.

 

 

October 20, 1993 Saturday              New Delhi, India

 


It's now 12:50 a.m.  Plenty of time to make the twelve-mile journey. I thought I could get a bus, so a rickshaw brought me to the bus station for the cost of 20 cents.  I waited thirty minutes.  Buses came and went.  I saw people climb aboard the bus while it was moving at a good clip.  I stood alone at that spot.  Now my time to waste was shorter.  I hired a triped to drive me the distance -- it seemed forever.  We got to the airport and I paid him sixty rupees.  I got in the airport and within a normal time I boarded Air India to Rome.  I'm on it right now, trying to get some sleep.  Instead, I watched the two movies.  The first was an Indian movie with a great many moral messages about Indian womanhood.  Next, an American movie about a man who sells his wife for the night to a man for a million dollars, "The Proposition."  What a contrast.  A sugared doughnut, coffee, some mixed fruit and a plain dinner roll was served for a late night snack.  Now I'll try to sleep for a while.  Next stop, Rome.  I'll try to change my ticket to Istanbul from there. 

 

Still flying -- it's a nine-hour trip to Rome, my mind is not willing to sleep though my body would relish it.  This morning's cold ride in the open rickshaw to the airport rekindled my cold symptoms.  This is the very first time I have ever chosen to sit in the smoking section of the airplane.  I admit the fumes may be irritating my nasal passage and making my eyes watery.

 

As soon as we touched down to the Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome, the jostling and pushing really start.  First off, while my watch says 3:30 p.m. in Rome, it's noon. I'm not going to change my watch yet until I hit Athens.  Then I'm going directly to get my ticket to Istanbul.  Meanwhile at the Rome airport, everybody is pushing and shoving to get on or off.  The disorganization became just too much for me and I caught a manager's attention. She pulled me aside and checked for Istanbul.  The flight for today left around eight a.m. and my ticket is not endorsable anyway.  I had to at least try.

 

 

Now, as I wrote above, I move quickly in Athens after the two-hour flight.  There was absolutely no order in all the lines, utter chaos.  But the plane wouldn't leave without us, I couldn't understand the panic.  In today's paper I read of the light sentences handed down to the defendants in the beating of Rodney King, the precursory event that led to the L.A. riot.  It's difficult for others in the world to comprehend our legal system that doesn't serve to punish the criminal. 

 

I've been away since the seventh of October with today being the twentieth.  So it's only thirteen days of traveling as of today, but I've covered a lot of ground so far.  I have to purchase film too.  I was speaking to a young couple from Sacramento as we were boarding.  It's a pleasure to hear American spoken properly.  They have been traveling through Europe for six weeks and will be going to Athens but may only spend the day there.  Athens requires at least two days for the fastest and quickest moving travelers.  Delphi shouldn't be missed.  Well, I know how it is when you want to see everything and only have little time.

 

I chuckle (inside) when I think of my return to tell others where I have been.  Who would believe it?  Not even me.  What miracles in this world and wonderful places to travel, even on a budget, if done with the spirit of adventure really make me feel unusually conicente'.     I look at how small the world is, yet how few people ever see the other parts of it. You cannot judge the whole by examining only part.  Every time I see news of world issues and I can connect them to the countries and cities I have visited, the story becomes more vivid and real with true meaning. What a wonderful blessing I have, to have the health and the means and the desire to travel.  I am thankful.  Still mid-flight, going to Athens, I am urged by my consciousness to call home. I miss my family.  I have not really had the urge to be with a woman during my travels.  I've noted this feeling or, more correctly, lack of feeling.  The primal urges disappear.  I must study the causes when I get home.

 


The food on Italia Airlines is typical Italian.  A bit of fish, a bit of meat, and Italian roll, coffee and purple grapes for dessert. Everything and everybody are so fashion conscious--even the plastic ware I used for my meal has the fashion designer’s name stamped in it and, of course, the manufacturer’s.  Everything is fashion here.   Over the heavy layer of style is the light, almost humorous, staccato of the spoken language, and gestures with everything.  If prices were more reasonable, I might have spent more time in Rome.  As it is, my budget is tight.

 

Good fortune shined on me. I was able to use the credit card to buy the 23,500 drachmae ticket round trip to Istanbul.   Add two days for seeing the city and three days through the islands and there's just no way.  I'm unhappy about that.  The trip back was exhausting.  I hope I'll find good weather in Istanbul.  But as we flew over it, it was cloud covered.  I'm going anyway.  The bus stop was a little tricky to find but I did it.  I had to get on the other side of the train station by climbing a circular metal staircase to ascend on one side and descend on the other side of a broad motor way.  At the high point the bus station was visible.

 

I have been up, with the exception of several short naps which never exceeded an hour's length, for over thirty hours.  My teeth could use some brushing and my constantly running nose is not of benefit to good breath.  Some fennel seeds might go well now.  I was instructed to wait until 6:30 p.m. before being allowed access to the bus that runs every day.  While waiting for the bus I purchased three rolls of film, some water and a roll of hard candies.  I am greatly anticipating this adventure that starts soon.  I hope I'll sleep well.  The bus parked outside the terminal.   It looks like a very pleasant bus to travel on.

 

 

October 21, 1993 Thursday             Athens, Greece

 

It is now 5:45 a.m. Greek time.  I've changed my watch so many times.  I see real value in the double watch I saw the woman wear as we traveled to Athens.

 

Daylight glimmered just enough to let me see the ancient gate at Thesselanka.  The main road through town passed through it and by the ferry.  The fishermen were preparing their boats.  The vegetable market was busy with customers buying crates of fruits and vegetables, the nature of which was unrecognizable to me in the morning twilight.

 

Every two or three hours the bus stops at another good roadside cafe.  Not tourist-type stops or at least the cafes don't resemble the stereotypical ones I've seen.  Greeks handle the food with more care and attention.  A beverage is made to savor not just to slake thirst.  Quite a contrast to India.  Yes, the food was very good there too, but the care and appearance in India is handled in a much more, well, Spartan manner in all but the most expensive of establishments.

 

This point marks midway of the journey.  Still, in Greece, the cold bites at me.  In a thin sheet it creeps through the loosely fitting door as we travel. No matter where I move, it seems to find me.


 

No longer tired, but still on the bus, the strong coffee I enjoyed this morning has me chemically stimulated so that I can distinguish between last night and morning.  The first of two cups of 200 dr. coffee made slightly too sweet even for my taste helps me draw that line of demarcation which, otherwise, would have been too blurred for me to see.

 

In another two hours, if we are on schedule, we'll be in Istanbul.  I opened my Blue Book on Turkey.  Strangely, it has nothing on Istanbul.

 

As we continue the drive, the towns seem to have no unique qualities about them.  They are just places.  Places with a gas station, a cafe, a few plain homes, nothing special. Nothing dramatic.  Not unlike towns one would see outside Fresno or Bakersfield.  They just spring up for very practical purposes.  Nothing to be pretentious about, nor planned with any thought.  But real people live and die; love and have children here.  To them, their hamlet is a macrocosm without limits because of its isolation, not in miles, but in attitudes of simplicity.  Of the several homes in each of these numerous burgs not one stands more prominently than the next.  None aspire to be either the greatest or the least.  All are, on appearance to me, equal.  If I had the pleasure to reside in any one of them, I could be certain that an outsider would  be critically suspect in every action or inaction and it might take little more than a short while to feel comfortable at any one of these burgs.

 

We stopped in one small town at seven a.m.  While waiting to load and unload passengers, a horse wandered, confused and alone, through the street.  This hamlet being one of slightly larger stature has a drudgery, shoe store, houseware shop, tobacconist, a kiosk selling newspapers, magazines and small candies.  Also I noticed the standard fare of two gas stations, a bakery and a couple or three small cafes.

 

While shops don't seem to open till nine in the morning, people walk to work or catch a local bus to another nearby village to perform those daily tasks they have accepted as life's lot.  Generous, at least in things material, it isn't. 

 

Now, around eight a.m., we pass through a larger town.  I can see the contrast.  Here, and I don't know where "here" is, the traffic builds at points and the driver crowds his vehicle in to be next to go down the street.  Taxis, now empty, zoom through alleys and across main arteries to find the next fare-paying transitory occupant.

 

The only streetlights are around the centrally located city park.  A complex pattern of small white bulbs traverse the central business district in an intricately woven pattern.  I am sorry not to see it at night, I’m certain it becomes gaily lit.  An hour later and I am feeling worn from the constant travel.  But I must endure, for I want to see all that is important.  I have a semi-clear picture of where to go and how to get to a hostel in Istanbul. 

 


We have crossed the Bulgarian border to make a detour for some reason unknown to me.  The physiognomies of local women are shorter, stouter, and weigh more than their Greek or European counterparts.  We drove on past an active, morning marketplace. Soon we were traveling through a long expanse of farm land.  Crop rotation appeared to be using a half acre lot for the mainly hand tilled land. A wavy land surface reaching a mile on each side of the road, beyond which were hills of a small size framed this picturesque farming area.  Cotton seemed to be a very popular crop. 

 

At 10:45 we are stopped from entering at Greek customs into Turkey.  Turkey and Greece are at odds over Macedonia and other issues.  The driver had taken a wrong turn and there was no guard, even though there was a guard station and we had wandered into Bulgaria.  After an hour's delay and a check of everybody's passport, we resumed the trip.

 

Of the women, I should note that clothing style, or lack of it, usually includes dark, most commonly black, dresses and coats with a head kerchief, which is rather long, but is tied tightly below the chin.  Complexions are sallow white even though the sun is shining warmly down on this mid-October day.  Hands are rough except for the youngest and no signs of feminine frivolities such as painted lips or nails, except for young women who have adopted some Western styles.  Wearing tee shirts or simple shirts with American words or brand names emblazoned on them often misspelled.  "University of Florada" was one example I saw more than once. 

 

Before crossing into Turkey, we stopped at the Duty Free shop.  I could confirm as I had read that American cigarettes were really being dumped.  A carton of Marlboro was $6.  I only purchased a pound and half of shelled hazelnuts for $.60.   Now crossing a bridge, we enter the Turkish side.  For an hour and a half they check all baggage coming in with the thoroughness they believe needed.  I open the combination to my lock and pull some larger items out of it so the guard may more easily inspect it.  This is no simple task.  The small carrying pack and bag are really filled fully.  Because of language problems, I am unable to garner enough information to determine the reason for our delay now.  But in the pleasant afternoon sun I am sitting on a bench to write this.  Even though I believe we are close in distance, the delay was partially anticipated in the brochure timetable. 

 

 

A pair of squat, black-garbed old women had some sort of fish in their handbags and the warm bus amplified the sour odors.  I'll not eat fish for several days after this even if I am lucky enough to watch from the exterior of the bus and see them eating the rotting morsels now.  Fish odor has a way to permeate everything it touches.  The air will  let the molecules of fish smell linger until the end of this trip in five more hours. It is with heavy heart that it just struck me that my stuffy nose is clearing up -- perfect! Now was the only time I was glad to have nasal blockage.  Police and guards in army green and medium blue respectively number at least forty collectively.  What else shall cause more delay?  Still we wait -- and wait.  Someone who is Turkish had no passport, so she was not allowed to continue.  Her accompanying daughter of about twenty years was left to continue until the next stop.  Confused about how to rejoin her mother, she halted her journey and waited at the bus stop  to not have  too much distance between her mother and herself.  Even I felt guilty leaving the girl, but truly, the mother should have prepared better.


We drove on through huge farm fields.  A dozen trucks drove past us with huge bins in tow filled with turnips.  For two hours, we continued on.  Stopping in Mahomet now it's 3:30 p.m.  It seems to be an orderly and normal life that is lead here.  They stop at red lights, go on the green, drive on the right side of the street.  They do not  race to speed through town.   This is a substantial town on a seaport, laden with small fishing vessels of wood, except the largest ships.

 

Since Turkey is Islamic, I'm prepared for a style similar to the Middle Eastern cultures I visited.  As we neared Istanbul, I became surprised at how many (in the thousands) of new homes and apartments newly built or recently finished.  I'm thoroughly impressed with the phenomenal number.  This city is much more new than old.  There are many significant relics of the past.  I'll visit them tomorrow to see them with more light; it is starting to get dark now.  I shot a few evening pictures at slow shutter speeds without a tripod or timed release.  Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll come out okay.   I stayed in a modest, but clean establishment called Hotel Petrol, recommended by some Americans from South Carolina who was leaving as I arrived.  Almost all the real touristy stuff is right nearby.  Since most of the monuments are within a mile of my hotel, I'll take a walking tour using my guidebook instead of a bus tour this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was too tired to sleep so I walked one way then the other until I happened upon a restaurant -- The Pudding Shop on the main street that the modern (very) traversed.  The "siskebob" as the Turks call it is pieces of mutton with tomato pieces and two long pale green chilies served with some sourdough bread.  A bite of this, a bite of that.  At the table, instead of salt and pepper, they had ground fennel and ground peppers.  All is served with a generous piece of a sourdough loaf.  "Cay" or tea is often drunk with this.  28,000 Turkish Lira it had cost.  Still hungry, I later had similar food, but the innards were put in a sandwich and I walked along the beautiful old street as I ate the sandwich. 10,000 T.L. My guide book did say the Lira was having problems and the exchange rate is  12,700 T.L. to one U.S. dollar.  A year ago, before this terrible inflation Turkey is dealing with, it was $1 = $6919 T.L.

 

I walked the streets until I saw a Turkish bath house and I guess I ought to try it according to the book. I should describe what occurred. First I entered and immediately noticed it was all men. They were standing around in red banded towels tucked at the waistline, but nothing else covered their bodies.  Every seat, every floor, and the walls were made of black streaked marble without any edges I could see.  The huge entire cavity was over ninety degrees and, of course, very high humidity --it was like New York in the summer.  I was sent to a room with just enough room to stand. In it I undressed and wrapped the towel around me in the fashion I had seen.  I locked the room and turned out the lights, all while standing outside the room.  I followed a thin, similarly dressed attendant into the main chamber where billowy clouds of steam hung in the air.  Everything is marble.  The men would either be sitting or lying on a huge circular bench, which was about four inches thick and at least ten yards across from any one side to the other. 

 

 


Off to the side there were little rooms where one or two people would go after being steam cleaned in the main chamber.  There you washed your private parts.  If you want a rubdown, the attendant will, as he did me, have you lay on the main marble slab and he'll massage you.  My muscles ached for a day after my massage; in fact, while he was doing it, at first it felt good . . . then as he dug deeper, I had to gather all my strength to keep from screaming or worse, crying.  Then he soaped me down and took a small maroon plastic bowl and scooped bowl after bowl of water on me.  Then I wrapped a new towel around me, the other one was soaked through.  Then one was put turban-style around my head. Last, another towel was wrapped around my shoulders.  I waited until I was dry then dressed and left after paying about $20 for this adventure. I have gotten a brochure from them -- I guess when you print up brochures that's certain proof that you are part of the tourist trade.     I bought a few post cards then went back to the hotel and fell asleep instantly.

 

 

 

 

 

October 22, 1993 Friday         Istanbul, Turkey

 

I awoke at six a.m. and took care of my toilet time before I packed and left.  This took me two hours, I was moving slowly.  I am in a busy bakery/coffee house and I ordered some sort of shredded wheat and shredded coconut sweet roll.  The sweetness is compounded because it is marinated in a syrupy congealment.  While it looked very good, its flavor was hidden under the massive sweetness.  I have yet to drink the chocolate colored Turkish coffee.  It still steams in its demitasse cup.  The first small sip confirms the super charged caffeine content.  This tiny breakfast should keep me powered until I wind down midday.  I'll visit Istanbul's monuments today, but I’m already thinking that  I want to visit some of the Greek islands when I return to Greece.

 

Still haunted by cold symptoms, I'll continue undaunted.  The city while short from my anticipation of endless monuments, it certainly has its share and several museums most notable according to my guide book being the one for Islamic art.  All of these things are here in the Sultan Ahmet district.  I'll hope to catch an English group and tag along. My bus leaves at 6:30 but I might go to Izik or Bursa if I can find justification.  Meanwhile, my current dilemma involves the need for clean clothes.  Especially a shirt.  Since the white one is dirt stained and the black one I've worn since Rome, I will probably buy one.  Every shirt is printed in English -- none in Turkish that I have yet to see.

 

The pastry I am eating leaves a bit to be desired.  Rather than crisp, it's soft flesh must have been prepared days ago. Nonetheless, the "meal" at 32,000 Turkish Lira costs in American dollars $2.50, fair for average food. I left and started touring the area. Quite easy to do because almost all the important stuff is within about a mile area of this stop.

 


Turkey once ruled the world up through the Byzantine epoch on through the Ottoman Empire.  This is how its museum (started centuries ago) was able to amass a huge inventory of Egyptian and Roman stuff.  I attempted to photograph much of it but because of low levels of light it was not something I could accomplish easily.  I ate the street food with relish.  The fried fish was a real treat and often eaten by Turks as they walked along the streets of this seaport city.  Crispy and fresh inside.  The Hotel Petrol was nearby.  I checked out and made the bus arrangements.  I found Turkey to be quite different from my expectations, certainly more into the 20th century than the other Islamic countries.

 

I purchased a few trinkets from street peddlers.   The sellers generally know the busiest spots to congregate, now they are en masse outside the old wall of Istanbul, which was called Constantinople at an earlier time when Rome ruled this country.  The vendors are a difficult group to deal with.  One flute seller followed me a hundred yards carrying on a one-sided conversation with each phrase baiting me to join in and fill in the long silent periods: "36,000 Lira, 36, good flute, musical notes okay mister 36? Okay? 36? Okay, 35 okay? 35, okay mister?  35?" "No, get out of here.  I wouldn't want it if you were giving them away!"   " Okay, okay 34, 34 is good price.  34.  How many?"  And so on, much longer than I care to write about it.

 

If one keeps in mind the strength of Turkey in former years, seeing an impressive jewel collection like at the Topkapi Palace where huge gems were on display would be understandable.  I can't recall all of the things off hand in retrospect, but I did see quite a few older Americans taking a cruise of the Black Sea, visiting Ukrainian ports and included was Istanbul which calls itself "the Gateway to Asia,” almost downplaying its own unique place in history as a world capital.  Of course, it is significant that it was a location all passed through to conquer lands of the East in ancient times.  It is the only city on two continents.

 

It is 6:10 p.m.  I found the bus to Athens without too much effort.    Because the train or trolley (if you want to call it that) is so cheap and efficient it costs a dime to travel the four miles from the station to Sultan Ahmet, which is the older, more historical part of Istanbul. Tourists are usually bused here from other more modern areas of this tourist Mecca.  At 2 p.m. I was able to arrange a seat for the bus that leaves at 6:30 p.m.  There weren't a lot of seats left even at that early hour.

 

 

October 23, 1993 Saturday         Istanbul, Turkey

 

Again at the point the bus crosses the border there are delays obviously due to discontent between the two countries over Cypress and other issues.  We have spent over an hour and a half and haven't even started through the Greek checkpoint.  It is a half an hour past midnight and I am still in doubt whether I'll use the Island Cruise tickets for which I have already paid about $100.  Because of time delays, I might get home soon.  I'll continue my attempts to use the phone.  I'm going back on the bus.  The temperature is in the 60's.  Everywhere I went, I had terrific weather that, I am told, is unusual for this time of the year.  In India, the monsoon season wasn't over yet, but I had great tee shirt-type' weather.  Greece and Turkey have been the same.  Certainly that would be a factor to helping me decide what to do.

 

 


The seat next to me is occupied by a Turk, about 25 years old with black framed teeth.  His passport showed all the signs of someone who makes this crossing regularly.  Since I am on the last leg of my journey, I look back especially to exotic India.  What a strange and wonderful place.  I hope I'll revisit it with more time to spend and enjoy it more fully.

 

I left my other journal on the bus when we transferred at 2:30 a.m..  Sleepily I forgot it.  The rest of the ride was long and uncomfortable because of my neglect.  The bus driver made arrangements for me to pick it up in a day at the main bus terminal.

 

Immediately after arriving in Athens, I elected to make the journey to some of  the islands.   When will I be here again?  I took a thirty minute hike from the bus station to a small park called Victoria. This is where the Metro travels through to Poros, which is the main terminal for boats and ferries. It is only ten or fifteen miles from Athens.  I found the boat without asking more than four people and then I picked a spot that seemed comfortable enough on the upper deck.  I bought two pounds of bananas from a street vendor.  I sat comfortably in the balmy upper deck, already reminiscing of the mystic places sojourned.

 

I saw the moon float above the outlines of clouds in the light from the half moon.  The boat cruised about twenty miles an hour.   At 5:30 p.m. tomorrow I'll catch the bus for 6:30 to the board for the island of Ios.

 

In all the travel, shipboard was pleasant to start but slowly, gradually, as we got further out to sea the cold was dredged up from the deep Kingdom of Neptune.  The small hours after midnight brought a heavy, sticky, salt mist with it.  The damp permeated everything inside and out of the monolithic vessel.

 

A cigarette couldn't be easily lit unless the offer of another burning ember from another cigarette was offered.

 

I slept for a while, shielded from the chill with two jackets, but as time approached daybreak, the cold had permeated even that shield and forced me to find shelter within the innermost passageways accessible to those who paid fares.

 

I slept for five minutes before the garbled and muted sounds of an announcement of arrival at Ios was made.

 

 

While this port, not being my destination, was enough to arouse my curiosity of its character as visible from shipboard.  Dimly lit and quiet, as one might expect, with the minor exception of a couple of tazi (taxi, that is) waiting to deliver another tourist to an overpriced hotel and have the driver awarded whatever fee the hotelier deems appropriate.  As I watched this scene occur, I wondered if I should escape the trappings of finding early morning lodgings in Santorini.

 

We put in dock within ten minutes time, and we were underway to the next stop, Santorini.  And so it happened.  At about 3:30 a.m. we fled ships, all in a made rush to find lodging and bed at a time we should all be asleep.


As destiny played itself out, I, too, was to find myself in a bus with four other Americans, all too willingly following the thin, scraggly-bearded old Greek to a van where luggage was quickly loaded and off to a hotel about a mile from the beach.

 

While I must admit this room to be the cleanest and most pleasant of all I have been in, the late hour was cause enough to shower, shave, and brush my badly stained teeth, which had suffered themselves from the greatest lack of care for the whole duration of this adventure. 

 

I awoke in a room warmed directly by the direct warmth from the sun.  It struck the single pane of glass, which had until recently protected my slumber from the cold morning wind.  Too warm to sleep and too excited to stay within, I dressed and put all things away.  Ready to travel again.  But most importantly, I hurriedly paid the innkeeper and left to see the azure seas and black sand beaches.

 

On both counts I was disappointed.  The city was heavily laden with more American tourists than any other place I have been outside the U.S.  Almost one out of five visitors are from the States, and the Greeks catered to this.  Almost everywhere the signs of advertisements were clearly meant for the eyes of English speakers, and moreover, evidence of American reminders stood.

 

Why have this stuff?  Why would somebody go to the Greek Cyclades and buy a hat that says "Boss" or some silly ditty printed on the back.  At least get one that says "Santorini." on it.

 

I missed a boat trip out to the nearby dormant volcano because I couldn't run fast enough with all my gear, from a safe place in the shade to the bus stop.  The bus left, but it gave me a chance to enjoy a fish souvlaki.  The meal costs   1,800 dr., but that included a bottle of mineral water. 

 

Since all water is imported to the island, it is a precious commodity and used sparingly by all residents. All gardening and shrubbery were only that which grows as native vegetation and through natural propagation.

 

October 31, 1993, Sunday       Santorini, Greek Isles

 

I returned to Athens by boat.   The trip took all day.  I  hurried back to the airport the following morning.  When I got to the airport I was told that it is unlikely I will be able to go on this flight because it is fully booked.  A flight to  New York only goes every other day and it is only one flight.

 

Good fortune was with me. I was the second to the last person to board.  Thankfully they had a no show.

A short thirty minute layover in JFK Airport and I was on a plane to L.A.  I miss home


 

            EPILOGUE OF THE GREECE, TURKEY, AND INDIA ADVENTURE

 

 

May 13, 1994

Yesterday the final chapter of this adventure unfolded.   This last event began with the loss of my second notebook somewhere in either Greece or Turkey as the bus was halted on some dark street at about 2 a.m., close to the border.  All passengers had to disembark and go onto another bus going to Athens.

 

Because of the hour and my inattentiveness, I left my second notebook on the knit pocket hinged behind the seat in front of me.  It contained information and entries from India mainly, but also Greece.  I did not attempt to sharpen my recollection of events by rereading any portion of the journal, so the following story is entirely based on my memory of the episode.

 

In ten minutes, after reboarding the second bus, now traveling at a good pace along dark roads, I tried to make the driver aware of my loss. Unfortunately, his inability to understand American and my inability to speak either Turk or Greek, created a chasm that was unbreechable.  Looking worried and troubled, I tried to garner assistance from one of the thirty other passengers, but nobody was conversant in American, and I couldn’t explain to them my need to get my journal.

 

I vainly tried to express myself with body language, but I imagine my gesticulation was merely interpreted by all witnesses as being without meaning at all; maybe I was insane or worse was probably the predominant thought of the wide-eyed passengers.

 

I resigned myself to the loss of the journal until it became possible to find someone who could translate my words.  In about an hour from this point we stopped at a roadside cafe where the translation took place.  The bus driver said that he would call to the station to let them know of my loss and try to recover it soon.  Even though this was a relief to hear, I could sense the growing physical distance between the diary and my corporal being.

 

I have reflected with diligence in the pages of my journal most of the events that immediately followed this mishap, so I won't add duplicate verbiage here.

 

I waited in Athens and made a trip to the islands to allow for adequate time for the recovery to occur and for the tome to be forwarded to the bus station, where I checked several times during my extended stay in Athens.  I had even left an envelope with adequate postage on it when the album is found.

 

 

It was not recovered prior to my departure, despite all my efforts.  Sadly, I resigned myself to its loss.  Still, a spark of hope resided within my soul.  The actual loss I felt of so valuable a document was unimpeachable proof of its real value to me.  I guess it follows the old story of you don't know what something is worth until you lose it. This was a clear example of the aforementioned idea in practice.


 

Several calls from Los Angeles on varying days being spaced out with longer and longer gaps between calls to the bus station never brought the news, I had hoped for.  I had my friend, George Malisos call for me a couple of times since he speaks Greek. While I appreciated his efforts, nothing positive came of it.

 

The faint flame of hope withered away.  Even the final whiff of smoke had long disappeared.  No longer did I delude myself with the idea that the booklet would ever resurface in my possession.

 

Yesterday I received a phone call from a man who works at TWA.  He had been in Greece recently and was asked if he knew where Playa del Rey is.  When he responded affirmatively, he was given the booklet wrapped and ready for mailing. Still sealed, the unidentified caller said that he would be able to drop it by to me after he finishes work today even though I asked if I could come by to pick it up.

 

I couldn't believe that the missing fifty-odd pages of my journal might be back in my hands soon. I waited and anticipated the miracle to come.

 

The mysterious stranger came by and dropped off the journal.  I was overjoyed and tried to give the man a thirty-dollar reward for his trouble.  He refused, saying that HE was overjoyed that he could make somebody so happy by a small effort on his part.  This reminds me of mitzvah I have done and how my basic philosophy of life was reflected so pristinely here; if you do good, it will come back to you.  If you do evil, it too will come back to you.  Before you die it will all even up. 

 

I will send a reward to:          Nick Marlantis; Railroad Station;     Peloponnese Booking;  Athens, Greece

 

A few blank pages were torn from the rear of the booklet, but otherwise it was intact and in very good condition according to how I remember it looking.  That evening I spent reading my entries, and it was something of great value to me.  I could feel the feelings that I felt when I read more deeper the rediscovered journal.

 

Now it is together, and I will bind it as I have my other diaries.  I'm happy to have recovered this valuable reflection of my inner feelings. It is something I could never replace.

 

 

 

 

 

            My Journey Through Greece, Turkey and India

                     October – November 1993    Mike Richards