Saturday, March 30, 2013

Just a few more days...

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...until we have internet at home!

Can't wait...I feel I've really lost some momentum on the blog.  At first I was constantly thinking of things I could write about and taking pictures of stuff that seemed interesting or different to put up, but definitely lost steam when I couldn't follow through on it.  By now I'm starting to get used to some of the kinds of things I was taking pictures of earlier.  I'm hoping to get it all back once I can get online normally again.

Since I last checked in the days have been blurring together.  We signed up to pay council tax and someone came by with special garbage bags for us to throw regular and "green" (plant cuttings etc) trash away in.  We got library cards.  The movers came and dropped off all our stuff, we unpacked most of it.  There's still a lot of stuff we aren't sure what to do with.  Moving to a new set up changes your workflow a lot and going from 1.5 rooms to 4 really does.  Also, everything is still new and this place is very cute and I'm loathe to mess it up by, say, having filing binders and craft bins visible somewhere the way they had to be in our German apartment.  We're still working our way through figuring all that out, but otherwise things are all in place.  We have a whole extra cupboard in the kitchen that's not full!!  We checked out more local stores. We got library cards.  Ordered change of address cards.

Hopefully, more details on all that later. I am also hoping to change the blog layout and maybe the name to reflect my new situation - but the address will remain the same.

Happy Easter!
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Monday, March 25, 2013

It's getting frustrating...

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...not having internet at home!  Well, we do have it in the form of D's smartphone, but the connection is slow and since he's logged into Facebook and Twitter via apps I just don't even bother trying to get into my own. Email writing is frustratingly slow on that thing, too, so I only respond to emails if it's urgent, and  my replies always feel a bit too curt.  Right now I just want to be connected more than ever - to drop in a note online about strange British stuff I've noticed or upload a photo I think a friend would appreciate or just connect to a familiar human being other than D - but I only can when I'm sitting at wifi somewhere downtown.  (Haven't managed to find any in my neighborhood yet.)  Although I am sort of psyched to have discovered there's wifi at Krispy Kreme.  But they don't heat the Krispy Kreme for some reason and my GOD it's been freaking cold here.  Also it's in the Bull Ring, a mall which is an impressively annoying place to be.  Conclusion number one from visiting the Bull Ring on a weekday - no one in Birmingham has a day job, but they all have plenty of spending money.  It's so full and everyone's shopping away.

This morning we successfully found a neighborhood with both a train station and a well-populated high street - Cotteridge, only one stop from us!  We looked through all the charity shops there this morning and didn't see anything we're searching for, but I DID see this awesome chest with tall ship carvings on it which I'd have totally gotten if I just had a place for it. (I definitely have a use. Just not a place.)  I'd show you, but can't get my memory stick in D's computer. There are also two butchers and a hardware shop there, which could be useful.  Our neighborhood has a couple of hardware shops but they're both massive chains and really expensive.

We've managed to sign up with the gas/electric company, leaving one major startup chore, which is signing up to pay council tax.  We dropped in a city council office in our neighborhood to ask about it, and they told us that we had to go to a different office and make an appointment.  There must be some better way because that seems like a lot of complication on our part when they're the ones who want money from us.

Yesterday for lunch we braved the latest leg of the blizzard to have lunch at our local pub, and it was not bad at all, and at a good price.  Sadly, they only have food on the weekends so it wouldn't be an option for a lazy  post-work Tuesday dinner.  Speaking of the snow, we'd heard many tales of how poor the UK is at dealing with snow.  It seemed throughout the three days of snow we had that it was business as usual in Birmingham, with some train delays.  The only problem I've noticed is that none of the sidewalks are cleared, salted, or sanded at all, so you walk around at your own risk!

Two days until the movers arrive with our things.  We asked the secretary at the estate agent's office if she had any ideas for how to clear our street for the truck with any certainty, but she only suggested the same thing the moving company did - just asking the neighbors not to park there on Wednesday.  Of course this assumes that only our neighbors would ever be parking there, which isn't necessarily a great assumption.  So, all the awkwardness and freezing-cold work of trudging up and down knocking on doors may be for naught.  Now we know why this moving company was the cheapest.  Maybe a more expensive one would arrange their own place to park and shuttle a van onto our little street instead.  Anyway, I'm not sure how I feel about the impending arrival of our stuff.  It will of course be nice to have everything, especially in the kitchen and wardrobe.  But it's also going to start feeling really crowded in our place once it all comes.  What little we have for extra space is all given over to a guest room.  Make that worth it, you all.  Make that worth it. :)

Well, it's REALLY cold in this Krispy Kreme so that's all for now.  Everyone cross your fingers that my sanity stays intact in these limited-connectivity days. ;)
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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Still Setting Up!

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Hello from free wi-fi again!  It's snowing like crazy here.  The movers have all our weather-appropriate gear, so we're picking through three-inch deep slush in sneakers.  It's pretty, though!

We meant to set up a few more things yesterday by calling in, then had all kinds of problems with the pay-as-you-go cards.  I ordered a package on mine that's supposed to save money, but it cost the whole amount of my balance on the card, and then I couldn't make a call to the gas company, which is an 0800 number.  Those are apparently not covered by the minutes in the package.  Then D's balance dropped from 10 pounds to 0 with a single 5-minute phone call to our German bank to transfer money to our new British account.  Ouch!  Normally you can add to your balance via text message, but we could not because we don't have British debit cards yet.  So...so much for getting all that done.  By the time we got to a place to top up the cards, it was the end of the day.

First we waited to go out until after lunch, because it had snowed and we had this sneaker situation.  Then we wanted to first get some shopping done.  The lady at the bank had recommended we go to a shop called Home Bargains.  The easiest one to get to was two train stops and a 1-mile walk away.  In the snow and slush, that wasn't as pleasant as it could have been!  It did introduce us to Northfield's high street (generally a neighborhood's main shopping street), though, which was fun because it has like 7 charity shops (along the lines of Salvation Army/Goodwill) within 2 blocks, and those are so fun to pick through.  Thing I've noticed: a neighborhood either has great train access OR a bustling high street, but not both.  If you know a place with both please comment, because we got week train passes and are finding the only useful place with a train stop is downtown, and that gets old.  Our neighborhood, Stirchley, falls on the train side - the high street is limited.  The busier high streets I've seen/heard of - Harborne, King's Heath, and Northfield - are all not convenient to any trains.

Anyway, we found a couple of things we needed at Home Bargains but it was just as spotty as everyplace else we've tried - mattress pads in single/king but not queen, small and giant trash bins but no mediums, medium and large cleaning gloves but no smalls, etc.  They did have 8 Cadbury Creme Eggs for a pound. ;)  Just like moving to Germany, we have to learn all over again which stores you can expect to have what for what kind of prices. 

After the shopping was done we headed to the closest place we know to top-up, a huge grocery store.  Next to it is a store specializing in frozen food, Farmfoods.  The name seems way off.  This was one of the bleakest and most depressing stores I've ever been in.  Still....they did really have frozen everything.  In Germany it is hard to find frozen vegetables that don't have some kind of sauce chunk in there with them.  Plus we had pretty much no freezer anyway.  Now we have a freezer that's the size of our entire German fridge!!  It's a whole new way of thinking to have a freezer again!!  On the down side, our oven is smaller and that seems to be normal there.  We needed to pick up a tray for it and the largest one they had was like half the size of the trays we had in Germany.  I wanted to hold out for something bigger because it would take twice as long to make cookies with a tray that size.  Then we got it anyway and took it home and....it's the biggest tray that will fit in our oven.  Cookie-making may be a thing of the past.

I've taken lots of photos to share, but my memory card doesn't fit in D's laptop so I have to wait for my desktop to come with the movers.  Speaking of the movers, they have asked us to clear 4 car lengths in front of our apartment for the day they arrive.  We asked them how the heck one does this and they said we just need to ask the neighbors to not park there.  Oh lawdy, I did not want to meet my neighbors under the situation of having to ask them for such a big favor.  Our street generally doesn't seem to be tight parking-wise but there's not going to naturally be a 4-car-sized open spot.

Things I've noticed a lot of in our shopping adventures:
* polka dots
* memory foam
* rounded-edge sans-serif fonts
* color-coded cutting boards
* mug trees
* Union Jack designs (not just for tourists?)

 Without internet (and therefore Skype) at home until April 2 at the earliest, and still with some confusion on the international-phone-call front (recommendations on contracts vs. pay-as-you-go are welcome), I'm definitely feeling a bit cut off.  We know a couple of people here but they are all super-busy for different reasons and can't meet up with them until the end of next week at the earliest.  By then D will be back to work and that should help socially.  I'm feeling a bit of withdrawal after our hyper-social final days in Germany. 

Anyway, off to hopefully find a rug for the front room that we actually LIKE.  We are in this situation where we need certain supplies right now and don't really have time to find out where the cute independent shop that sells truly loveable rugs might be...nor the funds considering the move.  So we buy some ugly rug just to do the job.  In a few months we'll find the cute rug and won't buy it because we already have a rug.  Argh.
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hello from Free Wifi Somewhere in Birmingham

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Our last days in Germany were very rough.  Our landlord and his Makler were such epic assholes to us on our last day that at the time I could not imagine ever feeling unangry again. The upshot was that although we spent enough time and money on cleaning and painting to make our last week pretty damn miserable - and as regards the painting I find this rage-inducingly unfair - we still will end up losing most of our deposit because the Makler, using a special flaw-finding lamp, found our paint job to be unsatisfactory.  Although I can imagine living in Germany again in some ways, when it comes to renting, I know I can just not possibly ever go back based on their ridiculous tenancy requirements and what utter assholes they were to us about it in the end.  Unbelievable.  I can feel my blood pressure going up now...so more about the full story later when I'm a few more days removed from the trauma.

We finally found ourselves free of the apartment at the end of Tuesday and spent our last night at a friend's in Heidelberg, then flew to Birmingham on Wednesday morning.  Our entry visas were stamped at immigration and we headed straight to the estate agent's office, where we signed our new lease. It's only for 6 months, although we were hoping for 12, but it included NO madness involving painting. It is similar to a US lease in that "fair wear and tear" is considered the responsibility of the property owner.  Our apartment is very close to the office so we just walked around the corner with our new old-fashioned-looking keys and were home.

In the front garden there were freshly-planted narcissus, rosemary, and tiny tree-looking things.  The apartment was shiny and smelled of paint.  Sweet, sweet, landlord-applied paint. The kitchen, with 3.5x as much counter space as our old one and a grown-up fridge.  On a little table in the living room (the apartment came furnished) was a welcome card from the landlords along with a bottle of wine and a flowering plant.  About a week previous we'd asked if they could remove one of the supplied beds so we could move our own in, and they had done it without giving us any crap.  Our things will arrive in one week, until then we're sleeping on the guest bed.

The rest of the day was filled with doing what was just necessary - getting blankets and pillows for the bed, food at the grocery store, a couple of bowls.  We had already brought a few things - a couple of knives, spoons, forks, plates, and towels - in our luggage.  We also checked out the local tiny co-op shop, which is connected to a bakery/baking school and has fresh baked goods.  The hot-cross buns were delicious!  (I will add links later, but I'm in a bit of a hurry at the moment.) 

Then there was the adventure of trying to figure out the apartment.  I needed to do a little laundry since we'd given our German machine away a few days before moving and packed up some of the dirty laundry in our luggage.  The washer turned out to be a combined washer-dryer and I accidentally set it to dry. What a weird machine!  We tried all the keys in all the apartment's zillion locks - there are two keys for each door to the outside and keys in all the windows.  The boiler and heat were are the biggest problem right now - we have not been able to figure out the system for keeping the radiators running.  It may have to do with leftover timer presets on the boiler.  There are many other manuals left in the apartment for us, but not for the boiler, and we've never actually had to deal with one before.  Meanwhile, our apartment is really cold.  We haven't been able to get it over 15'C and that's when we're doing well.  The shower knobs were also a little challenging but finally we got them going.  The flusher is one of those British ones that seems to have to be let go at just the right time.  Thankfully, the bathroom has a mixer tap! 

Today we've been setting things up - a bank account, first of all.  It was easy.  We went in, showed them our passports and tenancy agreement, and they set up an account for us.  Then we set up internet and TV (although we don't have a TV yet).  We went with Virgin as it came recommended.  This was also extremely easy.  Alas, no one at our address has used Virgin before, so it will take 12 days because someone has to come wire it up.  A new SIM card for my phone from O2 - haven't figured out where/if we'll get phone contracts yet. Still traumatized on that front, too, since in Germany we thought we'd gotten a rolling contract and instead got one with an end date.  They are disastrous because even if you leave the country you have to pay fees up to the end of the contract that nearly meet the cost of continuing your account.

Now, a bit of stuff that needs to be done online at a free wifi spot.  Next, some more shopping - trash cans, drain traps, etc.  I need to contact the GEZ-equivalent here (TV licencing) because there were already multiple cranky letters in our mail slot when we arrived about our address' lack of registration. We also still need to set up the paying of council tax, water, gas, and electricity. Luckily all these things are already on, we just need to change the accounts.  The estate agent took care of the meter-readings.  (That was not taken care of by anybody when we moved in to Germany, which resulted in a lot of disaster a few months after the move.)

It's a bit stressful thinking about how we're bleeding money right now on this move.  D's new job will pay up to a certain amount for moving expenses, but I think we already used it up just on movers, plane tickets, and the cost of our apartment-searching week.  Which was totally worth it when we had a home to go to almost immediately off the plane.  But, it will all calm down in a bit, I hope, and we can focus more on just enjoying life here instead of constantly paying to set it up! :)
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Monday, March 18, 2013

This Month's Frequently Asked Questions

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How is the move going?

Ehhhh it's going.  Our landlord is making us paint before we leave.  This seems rather unfair as it was not painted before we moved in.  In the US a professional cleaning and painting between tenants is generally considered standard and the responsibility of the landlord (this varies by state of course) but here tenants must provide this as slave labor for landlords while also paying them rent.  I can't wrap my head around it. On top of that my landlord has been engaging in some other behavior I don't find appropriate so that makes me even less fond of spending most of my last days in Heidelberg painting around windowsills and scrubbing between the ridges of the radiators.  For those about to suggest the Mietverein, we talked to them and the lease stands because it is worded vaguely enough.

The packers/movers arrive tomorrow sometime between 10 and 12...a little vague.  I'm not sure what they'll think about our place.  Nearly all of our furniture was sold or given away, meaning anything stored in said furniture is all over the floor in piles.  Does that make it easier or harder? ;)

Closing things down has gone okay.  O2 was the worst because at the time we signed our contract we understood it to be month-to-month with a three-month notice necessary to cancel, but it turned out it wasn't and we have to pay fees almost equivalent to our monthly bill each month until the contract ends.  We also have to mail their modem back to them which is another really annoying task to be shoved into our last day here.  Sparkasse was not too bad - someone sat with us and went over all our accounts and insurances individually with us to give us our options.  Unregistering with the city was not bad.  Many places need evidence of this unregistration - for example, the GEZ (TV tax people) - in order to actually cancel things.

Mail forwarding could be ugly.  When we moved across town in 2006, they failed to forward about half our mail.  Between that and the fact that they could not accept our UK address in the proper format, I'm hoping that nothing important will end up addressed to our German address!  We may never see it.

No idea how setting things up in the UK will be yet!

What are you going to miss most/least about Heidelberg?

Most:
1. My friends. The people I know here are among the best I've known anywhere.  I'm glad that it's easy nowadays to keep up online, but it's not the same.
2. Quiz at the Brass Monkey.  A comforting weekly ritual. :)
3. Eis at Schmelzpunkt.  In general, Eis here...Germans are pretty into it so there are a lot of options and it's done well.
4. Falafel (the restaurant near the Jesuitenkirche). So delicious, so appropriately priced, such a pretty room.
5. The views.  I have definitely come to take it for granted.  Let's face it, Birmingham is only marginally prettier than your average American city.  Heidelberg is gorgeous.

Least:
1. My apartment.  UGH, I can't believe how long we've stayed in this cave. It should be condemned.
2. My landlord and German tenancy in general.  As I mentioned in the previous section of my post, I think the system here is nuts.
3. Conservativeness. Heidelberg is pretty bland. Not a lot of restaurant variety. Everything too expensive.
4. German.  I love it in theory, I hate it at the doctor's office.
5. My apartment.  GOD I HATE THIS APARTMENT.

Why England?

This is just where D got a job.  There was no concerted effort to move to the UK.  The job search was limited to German- and English-speaking countries in Europe or North America.  If anything the US seemed most likely just due to sheer size, but...it's England.  There you go!  I think it's pretty exciting, but I'm aware that there could be a lot of sucky aspects and it's not going to be all some little Anglophile fantasy.  Still...you can be near Europe and have everything be in English? That's cool!  Also, the BBC.  Sticky toffee pudding, people.  Sticky toffee pudding.
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American Cream

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Spotted at Rewe:

  Somehow, the name just doesn't work. I'll miss finding weird English things like this. (It's a whole new kind of weird English in the UK!)
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Music Post 2012

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Not as careful as most years - I just didn't keep up well and don't have a lot of time to curate, but here are my favorites from 2012 (no order). If GEMA is blocking it, if you have ProxTube installed just click through to YouTube and it will unblock.

Orbital "New France"


fun. "One Foot" ("Some Nights" also but you probably already heard that on the radio.)


Tame Impala "Elephant"


Grimes "Circumambient"


King Charles "Bam Bam"


Woodkid "Run Boy Run"


Andy Stott "Luxury Problems"


Santigold "Big Mouth"


Dan Deacon "USA I-IV"
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Turkey Travelogue: Selçuk, Ephesus, and Sirince!

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Brace yourselves - I'm dumping the entire rest of the Turkey trip here!

After three full days in Istanbul, we had breakfast at our apartment, then hailed a cab on the nearby main street to get to the airport.  The backseat of the cab had no seatbelts, which made it a less than fun ride for me.  Turks seem to have a dislike of them, with tons of people on planes unbuckling right as landing is over, whereas people usually unbuckle at the gate on most flights I've been on.

The airport had double security - there's a check before you even check in for your flight.  We checked in on our flight, and while we did the guy helping us said something about Damon to another girl and they both had a laugh. No idea what that was about. If only we spoke Turkish. The flight was only 45 minutes long but we got a drink and our choice of sandwiches or cake!  On all the flights on this trip the games like Sudoku were in a separate insert so the whole magazine doesn't have to get switched out.  Cool idea!  There were beautiful views from the plane of misty hills and fields.

We flew on AtlasJet to İzmir, and they offer a free shuttle to our destination of Selçuk, which we successfully caught.  An American family we'd seen on our flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul was also there, but wasn't friendly when we tried to say hi to them.  Maybe we fellow Amis were ruining their authentic Turkish experience.

We checked in at Homeros Pension and were welcomed with tea and little sesame crackers.  They told us there was a big market going on in town so we checked that out. My friend M got 3 oranges for 0.25 Turkish lira (10 Euro cents) and they were delicious!  We also stopped for pide since the airplane sandwich didn't really do anything for anyone.  They were making them in full view which was cool.  Walking around town, it seemed people were really scrounging for tourist money, maybe because it was off-season. Or maybe it's just normal.

We visited the ruins of St. John's Basilica, where St. John the Evangelist is thought to be buried, and were approached by a dude trying to sell fake old coins.  He sulked when we told him that no, we did not even want to just hold them.  Also there were some seemingly drunk dudes hanging around.  The ruins were beautiful though and set on a hill with a great view of the sunset, hills, and Isa Bey Mosque.

The basilica ruins close at 5pm and as we left we noticed a tiny mosque across the street from the exit. I commented on it to D & M, calling it a mini-mosque, and a guy there brought us into the mosque to show us his skills for the 5:15 prayers!  He said he sings them there every day.  No one else was there to pray.  It was pretty cool but of course he really wanted some money and to sell us a book about Islam.  He found the right people since we actually had been wondering about a lot of the procedures so we asked for the book before he even made his pitch to buy it!

We had dinner at the pension, which was not bad, tons of food.  The family showed up to eat as we were finishing up but they didn't seem that friendly.  We headed out to buy some water and shopkeepers kept trying to reel us in.  We did get sucked in by one guy who wanted to go on and on about how traditional it is there with marriage and children.  Then he really wanted us to go in his shop.  Mary did need to buy another scarf for someone she remembered so she actually did get something.  We followed it up with drinks at a bar, but a lot of things on the menu weren't available.  I ordered a mojito and it took about 20 minutes while they found some ice.  They did give us free popcorn and a fruit plate.  There was an American family there but no one else.  The family was really into REM.  Back to the Pension to sleep before Ephesus!

The next morning, breakfast at the Pension was great: a plate full of fruit and vegetables, an egg, bread, and some spreads for the bread.  The owner gave us a ride to near Ephesus.  Apparently he couldn't go the whole way because hotels are not allowed to offer free rides to tourists - it hurts the cab business.  Another expensive ticket and we were off!  Ephesus was the reason we came down to this area - it's a Roman city in ruins, much like Ostia Antica.  In all we spent a little over 3 hours in the ruins, including a look through the terraced houses, which cost extra. In that area, which is covered, there are work sites where archaeologists are trying to piece together the marble walls of an ancient reception room. There were some pretty amazing buildings and carvings, but also some tourist bottlenecks, even on a rainy January day.  It reminded us very much of Ostia Antica, except that it has some more impressive bits like an entire library facade (reconstructed from pieces).  Only 18% of it has been uncovered!

Ephesus Jan 13
After finishing we stopped at the museum bookstore so we could get a look at some of the touristy goods while not constantly talked to about what we should buy, then got a cab back to Selçuk.  No one had mentioned the shuttle to us. I wished I had done some research prior to the visit but things were crazy during December and I just didn't have time.  Based on later shuttles we experienced I'm sure it would have been cheaper than a cab.

We had lunch at Mehmet & Alibaba's near our pension, and it was really nice.  We met a fellow American there who is in history grad school at Notre Dame, and a French woman who'd moved to the area.  Since we had a huge late lunch we decided against having dinner at the Pension again (since it's so early) and went back to let them know.  Then we visited the Isa Bey Mosque, sadly locked, and the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.  On the way to the Temple, we ran into a group of carpet sellers who had just closed their shop and wanted to make BFFs with us so we'd stop by their shop the next morning.  There's not much left of the Temple, and the one standing column (topped with a crane's nest) looks like it was slapped together from all the column pieces they could find and not originally all one column.

By the end of that, nightfall had come and we couldn't really do more sightseeing, and weren't hungry for dinner yet, so we stopped at a bar for a drink.  We wanted to find some kunefe in town but weren't sure where and it was so cold we didn't want to aimlessly look for it ourselves, so we asked one of the guys working at the bar where we could find some.  He walked us to one himself, probably so he could be sure to claim commission from the owner of the shop.  Once we got there we asked if they'd be open later so we could stop after having dinner.  Then the guy decided to show us where he thought we should eat.  This was starting to seem like possibly an expensive idea but he took us to a place recommended in Lonely Planet so it seemed okay...but the place was full and we'd have needed to wait.  So he took us to some other place which was fine, but the guy there suggested we get the sharing platter instead of ordering off the menu.  Normally I think we would have gone with the menu but all the food sounded too big for our not-so-big appetites so we went with the sharing platter, which wasn't on the menu, but ended up costing more.  Still cheap by German/US standards, but we suspected we were paying commission for the guy who took us there.  Still, the food was quite good.  They had a really cool grill.  Afterward we went back to the kunefe place and had some, and while we were there the guy who'd originally showed us the place came to check in.  I think we paid commission there, too, but we liked the place anyway so....whatever.  The evening was fun even though it left us imagining a huge scheme of kickbacks all over the city!  After kunefe we headed back to the Pension to warm up and review our group accounting.

Selçuk Jan 13

The next morning we had the awesome breakfast again, then checked out and took a minibus to the nearby town of Sirince for 3 TL per person.  All the tourist shops - and there were a lot - were just opening up and getting their sell on, and there weren't many tourists there yet either.  A guy told us where the church ruin was (thanks to my lack of research, I hadn't even known there was one) and then told us to come back to his shop afterward for "tea" while telling us he made the jewelry for a lot of big movies like Gladiator.  We went up to the church and got another half-hearted "where are you from" sell (they always start with this) from a guy who was just setting up.  The church was small and most of the paintings remaining were pretty badly damaged, but the setting was great.  After looking around there we made our way out to the edge of town and up a hill, hoping for some nice country views.  A lady yelled at us to come into her house and drink something that she had in a big jug!  We declined!

M decided she was done with Sirince so she headed back to Selçuk with the goal of spending another afternoon at Ephesus.  This wasn't an option for us since we had to fly out in the late afternoon, so we bid her farewell and stayed on in Sirince.  The town is mostly just nice scenery and souvenir shops.  We stopped in a pide joint for tea and fresh-squeeze pomegranate juice and ended up getting kunefe too.  It was the biggest and best kunefe ever, and the wood stove was also a plus.  No one else came in the entire time.  Then we looked around the shops because I was hoping to find a certain kind of wall hanging that I'd seen at the Pension.  I didn't find it, but a pair of socks caught my eye somehow.  There were handknit socks all over Sirince but none as awesome as these ones!  I couldn't get her to give me a freaking discount and she either didn't speak any English (including numbers) or pretended not to, so I just paid because they were awesome and the original price was tolerable. I ended up getting two pairs, one as a gift, but then I couldn't decide which pair to give away!  We also walked past a guy who was eager to show us that he cracks almonds open with a hammer and we should buy them. I guess he thinks dumb city people have never seen that almonds come in shells.

Sirince Jan 13
We took the bus back to Selçuk and were recruited to a lunch joint near the bus stop, where D had some crazy liver dish and it was all really cheap.  We made another stop at the place where we had kunefe the previous night to grab some baklava for the road.  The guy remembered us and joked about how we tried to pay for kunefe the previous night with a 50 - which was true because we'd just been to an ATM, not because we were rich.  Anyway while another worker was weighing our kunefe he slid a tiny piece of baklava into an adorable little box and gave it to us.  This is not an unusual gesture when you buy a lot at a baklava shop - we always get bread with our baklava in Mannheim - but the little box was so adorable that I will love that shop forever.  Even if they charged us commission for that guy who led us there.  Then I wanted to make one more effort to find the wall hanging I wanted.  We had limited time and I had to ask for exactly what I wanted, which meant I was in no position to haggle, but I had a price in mind which turned out to be more than what they were charging when I finally found one. This was an interesting process.  I stopped at a shop and since I didn't know what it was called, I drew it for the guy there. He said he had none but knew someone who did.  Of course he did not just give us directions to the other guy but walked us over there himself.  He then hung around the entire time while the other guy tried to sell me one of the two he had.  I didn't like either of them so he moved on to trying to sell me other things.  To be fair, he had some really nice stuff that I would have loved to have if I had the money and space, but I needed this wall hanging and nothing else!  I asked him if he knew who else might have one and he drew me a map to a place in Istanbul since I said we were going back there. I don't know why he didn't bother to tell me that the place right down the street in Selçuk had them. (Hmm.) We stopped there as a last-ditch effort and the guy had several, one of which I happily took home.

After our shopping, we stopped back at the Pension to warm up in the common room before catching our shuttle back to the airport in İzmir. As we neared the pension the call to prayer started and at an intersection near our Pension the sound of them layering was amazing - like when church bells in Heidelberg get so echoed and layered it almost sounds like just one sound.  When we got in, one of the owners gave us tea and we sat with her for a bit.  Then we went to the airport shuttle stop and waited for 45 minutes in the freezing cold and no shuttle came.  We started to worry about missing our flight and D called the pension, ostensibly to get the number for the airline so we could ask what the heck was going on.  The Pension offered us a ride to İzmir for 110 TL.  That was about what I'd estimated a cab would cost and we really had no bus options at that point as it was only 1.5 hours until our flight...so we took the ride.  We took a really scenic route back to İzmir, different from the one the bus took. The sun was setting over the sea as we drove along cliffs. Unfortunately we didn't enjoy it as much as we could have because we were feeling the sting of going from thinking we'd get a free shuttle ride to paying the equivalent of 45 Euro for a ride from the Pension owner. 

When we got to the airport, we found out right away why the shuttle hadn't come.  Our flight wasn't listed on the departures board.  We went up to the AtlasJet agent, who looked at our receipt and told us our flight had been cancelled 3 months prior!  That would have been only ~5 days after I booked it and I never was notified that it was cancelled.  Thankfully, the guy didn't give us any crap about it but immediately walked over to another agent and booked us on the next flight on a different airline (Pegasus) lickety-split.  We checked in and checked our bags and went to the gate, only to have the flight cancelled about five minutes later due to snow-related delays in Istanbul!  So much for getting back to Istanbul in time for another dinner at Hamdi (we'd been talking about those pistachio and yogurtlu kebaps all day)!  We had the option of rebooking to an 8pm flight to the Sabiha Gokcen Airport, about an hour outside Istanbul, or waiting for a 10pm flight to Istanbul Ataturk.  After considerable hemming and hawing about which was more likely to be cancelled and the risks to our checked luggage, we ended up taking the 10pm flight.  Pegasus served us all drinks and crappy sandwiches while we waited.  The flight left on time and we landed in snowy Istanbul at 11pm. The airport was clearly having some problems and it took a while to get a gate.  While we were waiting for the gate we saw the airport have a brief blackout!

While it was great to see Ephesus and we really enjoyed seeing some smaller towns, if I were to book this trip again I would not have nested flights into such a short trip.  The flying took up half a day each time and I felt that was too much of the trip to lose to such an irritating experience.  I think I'd either have a longer trip and keep the flights, or a much longer trip and use some other transit that would involve seeing things in between (road trip?), or visit a small town closer to Istanbul. I'd love to go to both places again - I was bummed that we missed seeing Mary's house near Ephesus, as it sounds like it would be right up my shrine-loving alley.  And Istanbul...you probably can't spend too much time there.

TL;DR: Click on the photo albums.
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