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After Work: On The Road With The Optimist

"It’s wonderful being married to a resilient, optimistic man. Even one who sings happily off-key at 7 a.m.'' says Dona Gibbs, as she and her husband go sight-seeing in Istanbul and the remoter parts of Turkey.

...St. Sophia, check.
The Blue Mosque, check.
Smoozing with the slick rug merchants, check.
Lunching in a hilltop restaurant, check.
Seeing the moonrise over the Bosporus, check.
Noting families enjoying nighttime picnics, check...

* *

“Istanbul is Constantinople
It’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
It’s a Turkish delight
On a moonlight night.”

My husband sang and hummed some version of this earworm of a song all the way to the Zagreb airport.

It’s wonderful being married to a resilient, optimistic man. Even one who sings happily off-key at 7 a.m.

Yes, we were on our way to Istanbul. You see we, as Americans, never had a gap year so now in our late middle years we making up for some lost cultural opportunities.

After five minutes that Marty allotted for unpacking, we hit the streets.

St. Sophia, check.
The Blue Mosque, check.
Smoozing with the slick rug merchants, check.
Lunching in a hilltop restaurant, check.
Seeing the moonrise over the Bosporus, check.
Noting families enjoying nighttime picnics, check.

Somehow the Grand Bazaar fell off the list, but Marty had done Istanbul, not Constantinople.

Once again at 7 a.m. the following morning we were on our way to the airport again. This time to Kayseri, a jumping off point to Cappadoccia, the famous region of Turkey that some have described as a moonscape and others as a land that appears to have been inhabited by succeeding groups of super-size gnomes.

There are hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of homes, store rooms and churches carved from fantastical rocky pillars The remoteness of the area offered shelter to people for thousands of years, including early Christians whose paintings adorn walls of some of the more impressive dug out caverns.

The underground cities run for miles underneath the scrubby, rocky soil and had offered a place of refuge for the hardy inhabitants while various armies overran the country above ground. They were complete with stables, cooking areas, bedrooms, dining rooms and even areas set aside as nurseries.

Marty had to see it for himself.

The plane arrived in Kayeria right on time with no a bump or a jolt. The Kayserians and the Japanese tourists applauded. Somehow I always find applause for a landing a little unsettling. What does it mean? Perhaps something like, “Thank you, dear Pilot, for landing the plane on the intended runway and not on that forbidding peak we see before us.”

Anyway the Japanese tourists were trotting off to their prearranged tour buses and the traveling towns people were greeted with many hugs and kisses by their near and dear.

Optimistic Marty sped toward the taxi line. Cappadocia was still forty-five minutes away. Hardly an obstacle for a purposeful man such as he. An equally purposeful man saw him coming and steered us to a waiting car where the driver appeared to be napping.

“Hello, hello! He’ll take you. Two hundred American dollars. Complete tour,” the taxi wrangler didn’t pause for a breath as he rattled off the many wonders that lay before us on this eight-hour car trip.

The driver looked more than a little startled and mumbled a few words.

“No problem,” grinned taxis wrangler, glancing at us over his shoulder.

It was then he unfolded a map and began circling a route for the driver.

“Do you speak English?” asked Marty.

The driver shook his head.

“Do any of the drivers speak English?”

The driver shrugged.

Marty looked at me as the truth dawned. The driver didn’t know where we were going. Over a million Turkish tourists pour through the area each year but the driver was not one of them.

Now less optimistic man would have leaped from the cab and perhaps even snarled at the taxis wrangler.

Instead Marty said happily, “He’s never been to Cappdocia so it’s going to be a new experience for all of us.

Together we bounced over the designated route and saw all the marvels you’d find on postcards. We picked up an English guidebook along the way and read descriptions to each other. Turkish speakers along the way clued in the driver.

We made plenty of wrong turns. We ended up on a few dead end roads but the driver soldiered on, even asking directions with no embarrassment.

When we reached the site of the most important underground city, we lucked into a group of English-speaking telecommunications managers enjoying some kind of junket. They had an English-speaking guide to lead us through the seven levels. Narrow, steep and dark in many places. The airshafts were unprotected by any kind of guardrail and the overly well fed should be warned away. Maybe a similar kind of arrangement like airlines use for carryon luggage would do the trick.

The driver’s eyes passed saucer-size and headed towards salad-plate size as he looked around him. What a story he could tell his wife over dinner.

Once again Marty was right. Optimism is the way. And it was fun for all of us.

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