Curious Europe on a Dime – WIF Travel

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Interesting Facts

About Europe

Isn’t it scary how many people don’t know if Europe is a country or a continent? Wow…
What kind of expectations should we have from the poor, ignorant people if even the president called Europe a country?!

Now, let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he wanted to say “countries like in Europe” and not “countries like Europe”

But it is a continent and a quite enchanting one at that.

10. Istanbul, the City of Two Continents

Since ancient times, Magical Istanbul has united Asia and Europe through the mighty Strait of Bosporus. Without a doubt, this amazing city is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world bridging two continents. Istanbul was Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2010, a program initiated by the European Union.

Throughout history, the city has been the capital of many empires. Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

If you are considering breakfast in Asia and lunch in Europe, Istanbul is the place for you!

9. Europe’s Most Famous and Active Volcanoes

Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. With a maximum elevation of about 3350 m, Mount Etna is a stratovolcano situated in Sicily, southern Italy.

The tallest European volcano is actually one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Etna erupted again this year and one of the most recent eruptions occurred at the end of July. You can look for updates on this topic browsing the website of Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia. An English version is available. The volcano’s eruptions have been documented since ancient times, more exactly since 1500 BC. It’s the longest period of documented eruptions in the world.

Stromboli is also one of the planet’s most active volcanoes. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie), a volcanic archipelago off the coast. According to specialists, Stromboli is the only active volcano on the European mainland.

Mount Vesuvius, best known for its eruption that completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, last erupted 67 years ago, in 1944.

Vatnajökull (Iceland) is the largest European glacier in volume and underneath its ice-cap are at least seven volcanoes located.

8. The Largest/Smallest Country in the World

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Europe is home to both the smallest country in the world, Vatican City State

(Stato della Città del Vaticano), and the largest, Russia (by both population and area). China is the country with most neighbors (15), followed by Russia (14) and Brazil (10).

According to the CIA World Factbook, Russia’s area compromises 17,098,242 sq km (land 16,377,742 sq km; water 720,500 sq km), while Vatican’s area is only 0.44 sq km. The Vatican City State is a UNESCO world heritage centre, the only site to encompass an entire state.

7. The Merry Cemetery in Romania

Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. Sapanta, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sapanta is a unique cemetery and a major touristic attraction.  What is so unusual about it? The atypical design of the tombstones. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood. They are painted by hand in vivid colors such as red, blue, green, yellow and engraved with funny epitaphs briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these persons passed away.

The man behind this concept is Romanian craftsman Ioan Stan Patras, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian’s ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. Sapanta preserves this positive attitude towards death and welcomes it with a smile.

6. The Statue of Liberty was Constructed in France

 

Unknown to many of us, the famous Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi. The colossal neoclassical sculpture was constructed in France and given as a gift of friendship to the United States of America. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the brilliant French engineer behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris, made the statue’s steel framework.

The total overall height of the statue  is 305 feet, 6 inches, and the seven rays on Lady’s Liberty crown represent the seven continents.

Replicas of Lady Liberty have been created all over the world, the most famous being located in France.

5. Europe, the Meaning

Image result for europa myth

According to ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a beautiful Phoenician princess. She was the daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre. Zeus felt in love with Europa, so he decided to appear in front of her as a magnificent white bull to gain her trust. Zeus’s power of metamorphosis is a key element in Greek mythology.

The princess climbed on the bull’s back and was immediately carried to Crete, where Zeus revealed himself to Europa in all his glory. The king of Gods and Europa had three children – Sarpedon, Minos and Rhadamanthys.

Etymologically speaking, the word Europe comes from ancient Greek and means broad, wide-gazing, broad of aspect.

4. The Mediterranean Was Once a Desert

Image result for Messinian Salinity Crisis

In the last 40 years solid evidence has been found that the Mediterranean Sea frequently dried up completely in the past. The event is also known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The amazing story of the discovery is told in “The Mediterranean Was a Desert, Voyage of the Glomar Challenger”  by Kenneth J. Hsu.

According to Rob Butler, “the ‘Salinity Crisis’ in the Mediterranean represents one of the most dramatic examples environmental change outside of glaciated areas in the relatively young geological record.”

3. Greatest Empires

Many of the greatest empires in history were based in Europe. The British Empire was at one time the largest empire in the world. It covered more than 36 million square kilometres and had a population between 480 and 570 million people. At the peak of the Empire’s power, it was said that the “sun never sets” on it, because the sun was always shining on at least one part of the Empire. It covered a quarter of the Earth’s surface.

Other notable colonial empires were the Spanish Empire, the Russian Empire, the French Empire, the Portuguese Empire etc.

The Roman Empire, a pre-colonial empire, often described as the cradle of modern civilization, was one of the world’s most successful empires.

2. The Longest Names

Image result for Llanfair

Prepare yourself for some of the longest names officially recognized. It is hard to beat Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the M?ori name for a hill in New Zealand, but let’s give it a try.

A village in Wales, United Kingdom contains 58 letters and is the longest European one-word place-name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.” The shorter version of this name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Check out these other unusually long names: Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä, located in Finland, Siemieniakowszczyzna in Poland and Newtownmountkennedy in Ireland.

1. Age of Migrations

The “Age of Migrations” remains one of the most unknown facts about Europe. There was a period in history, also called the Migration Period, when various tribes flooded Europe.

The first phase of the migration movement came to an end around 500 AD, when the Germanic tribes (Franks, Goths, Saxons, Vandals, Lombards etc.) established their own kingdoms in Central, Western, Southern and SE Europe. This period was followed by the second phase of the Migration Period ((ca. 500-700 AD), the migration of the Slavic people.

The invasions of the Avars and Bulgarians, the Muslim Conquest of Sicily, the Hungarian Invasions and the invasion of the Vikings are other important moments in European history.

This is how the rich course of history has shaped and defined Europe’s peoples and their intangible culture over the centuries.


Enchanting Europe on a Dime

WIF Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 44

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 44

…“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen.”…

Mehmet Erim leads the Afridi’s into the radio station, the empty halls echoing the voices, of many anxious voices, over the over-the-air loudspeakers. His brother-in-law Abad sees Mehmet as an opportunist, always looking to make a fast Turkish Lira or having married his sister out of hunger.103.00 METEOR RADYO FM utilizes the tallest spire on a deserted building, with a sole lonesome announcer at the microphone. Image result for radio studio telephonesThere is a citywide buzz about the fracas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque; dead bodies always generate high audience participation.

“What do you want Erim? Make it quick; can’t you see that all the lines are lit up like the Sultan Mosque?” In the midst of a cluttered newsroom, he is short with Mehmet and before he gets a response, he asks, “Who are these people and why do you bring them here?”

Sometimes, when his wife’s brother talks down to him, he feels like rubbing his smug egotistical face into a dj-001wall, but this time it is he who is holding the trump card, an insider mosque story that will boost the ratings on The Mad Morning Turk Show. He cannot wait to see the look on his face when he realizes it.

“Abad, these good people were at the mosque in Galata. They are Talibanistani defectors wanting to talk with the man in charge of Space Colony 1.”

“So would I Mehmet. Many of my listeners are following Turkey’s contribution to the Mars Colony… great story.” In a ratings driven industry, it’s all about the buzz. “There is a trail of blood following these innocent looking persons. What makes you think that I can help them?”

space-colony-banner-001“This,” simply stated and effective = Abdullah Ashtaar, “and the fact that you control the world’s most powerful narrowband radio signal. Mr. Afridi here knows the frequency that the American Space Program uses.”

“If the exalted Abdullah Ashtaar gives you his blessing, who am I to doubt you, Mehmet.” He never calls him by his first name.

“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen,” pleads Afridi.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 44


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 43

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 43

…“Tough pickle, very tough pickle, Saied,” the taxi driver states the obvious…

in-a-pickle-001

“There are others who want me dead.” claims Aldona Afridi.

“Lucky for you, I stayed on this side of the Bosporus. So someone is after you, I don’t care that you are a criminal, I like you. How can such a nice man be in such a pickle? I will take you anywhere you want to go, no charge.”

“I do not know where to go… I mean I know where I want to go, but there one continent and an ocean to cross to get there. You see, I have valuable information for the Americans, but cannot seem to talk to the right people.”

“Tough pickle, very tough pickle, Saied.” Mehmet stops to decide whether any of his connections could possibly assist this pathetic man and his mysterious dilemma. “What do you have to trade, maybe I can find a way……stolen jewels, smuggled drugs, American dollars?”

“I only have this,” Aldona reaches for his left ankle.“

“That is a nice shoe, but the people who might help will require more.”abdullah-ashtaar-001

He hands his 3×5 “key to Istanbul” over to him.

“OOOooooo, Abdullah! This is better than money, a favor cashed in.”

“But what does this get me?”

“Who do you want to talk to and where?”

He gives over a meaningless name in a place in the United States.

“Oh really, you will need more than a telephone for this. Get into my taxi you Afridis, I think I know a way to talk to Galveston Texas. Hang on now.”

During their excursion through Istanbul’s maze-laden streets, Mehmet Ali explains where they are going. It turns out that he knows the operator of Turkey’s state owned radio station, his brother-in-law actually and if anyone could make this long distance connection, he could.

Three mosques, two idled street markets, and 20 minutes later, Mehmet and his passengers motor up to a dj-001building, topped off not with a dome but several antennae of different configurations. It is still early, 2:30 in the morning early, but this is a station that does not sleep.

103.00 METEOR RADYO FM utilizes the tallest spire on a deserted building with a sole lonesome announcer (Abad the Mad Morning Turk) at the microphone. There is a citywide buzz about the fracas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque; dead bodies always generate high audience participation.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 43


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 42

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 42

May God bless everyone,” is all Aldona can say, in this all-hands-on-deck, everyone-for-themselves, Turkish Delight  free-for-all.

free-for-all-001

With the trouble heading to the floor above, Afridi leaps into action, “We are leaving this mosque, Allah be damned! They will not leave until they have found me.”

Fatima stares at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque ceiling, where the Deming and the staff are/were sleeping.

May God bless everyone,” is all Aldona can say, in this all-hands-on-deck, everyone-for-themselves, Turkish Delight,  free-for-all.

Fatima Alfridi stares at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque ceiling, where the Deming and the staff are/were sleeping.

“May God bless their souls,” is all Aldona can say, in this free-for-all, all-hands-on-deck, everyone-for-themselves shake-up.

His timing is good, in this case only fair, considering his run of uncanny luck. Upon seeing that the assailants failed to leave a “trailer” to protect the rear; the Afridis show exceptional speed in streaking out the back door, one after the other, to parts unknown.

Parts unknown are a sure thing. Had they waited for protection from US official guard, they would be facing no future at all. Perhaps if they had the powers-that-be listened and taken his story at face value, both they and Afridi would be winging their way to Galveston Texas.

So, without concrete direction and armed only with the Ashtaar business card {the key toabdullah-ashtaar-001 Istanbul}, these four hunted people, throw caution to the wind and head for much needed anonymity. “Us against the world” is not a strange feeling to Afridi, though one he thought would vanish once they reached the American Consulate. But they did not make it and the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is now awash in conflict, innocent participants in a fight for now distant outer space.

Amid the smattering of near-distant gunfire and the rushing stream of sirens, a Mehmet Ali Erim driven something-or-other joins the chaotic scene, Mehmet having worried about Afridi’s safety. From out of the shadows Afridi cries out, “Mehmet, Mehmet,” jumps in front of his taxi, lest he not notice him. Taxi drivers are not notoriously good drivers and the man’s actions cause him to panic, depressing the accelerator instead of the brake. With little time to react, Afridi is thrown up onto the hood.

“Are you mad man? There are better ways to hail a cab than this,” helping the dazed man off turkish-taxi-001his front windshield.

“Aldona!!!” Fatima and the girls rush to the scene.

Mehmet begins to piece things together, “My friend from the train station. Hey, did not things work out with the Americans?”

“We had to leave—THEY have found me.”

“The Americans? You found them. I am confused. I think they believe you.”

“There are others who want me dead.”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 42


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 41

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 41

…A sole window allows Afridi to peer into the Turkish night. His wrist-digital device flashes 12:00, leaving him with at least five more hours to fret.

turkish-nights-001

Turkey Night Wallpaper (Istanbul) by alisarikaya

And so it is that the Afridi’s are a family unit again, after a harrowing month on the run. At least they have each other, away from evil powers bent on jealous destruction.

Even still, Aldona Afridi will not rest easy.

Back with his three dear ones, he continues his tirade in the form of a letter. He struggles to find the words camel-to-water-001that will open up the correct ears & eyes. If only they would come to their senses.

Points be made or not, Afridi decides to let it go, roll with the flow, having done everything in his power to express his concerns about Space Colony 1. He recites a Talibanistani Proverb: ‘You can lead a camel to water— but he won’t stop drinking.’ It has little to do with his quandary, but he does thirst for swift resolution.

Now would be a convenient time to rest his weary soul, post-New Orient Express excursion aside, he finds a deep sleep elusive. In its stead, he is content holding his bride close. His mind strays to several options and back, unable to resolve a single one of them.

Image result for flashing 12:00 clock gifSo he retracts is arm, as not wake anyone and he inches off the bed. A sole window allows him to peer into the Turkish night. His wrist-digital device flashes 12:00, leaving him with at least five more hours to fret.

After watching a steady stream of headlights at this early hour, wondering who may be out this late/early, two very long speeding black cars come to a halt outside the mosques gates. His initial reaction is one of relief, anticipating the arrival of those in authority; the Ambassador and the CIA are ahead of schedule!

He fumbles in the dark to find the clothes given him by those nice folks that allowed him to get this far. He efforts not to disturb the others, running a comb through his untidy black hair to look as professional as possible.

The intent of the visitors at the gate seems curious though. If they have peaceful plans, their actions are quite hasty.

An explosion, of sufficient intensity to bring down the perimeter fencing of the Muslim place of prayer, lays waste to anything within 30 yards.

Before the smoke can clear, six armed men sprint to the buildings many steps. Afridi warns his family, “They must be after me…….get dressed quickly, children please be quiet as a mouse! They must believe this room is empty. He ushers one and all into a hidden nook, behind a false curtain.

Sure enough, those cars did not carry peaceful men of diplomacy. Automatic weapons spray the room without respect to its occupants or their business. Once determined empty, it is on to the next and the next.

6 pairs of feet scamper across the marble floors, then up the granite stairs.

With the trouble heading to the floor above, Afridi leaps into action, “We are leaving this mosque, Allah be damned! Those men will not leave until they have found me.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 41


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

…Four armed guards charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”…

turkish-taxi-001

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune.

The homemade taxi pulls up to the gates of the Ahmet Mosque, tall and unwelcoming. Four armed guards are-you-001charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”

“I didn’t know what he was up to, I swear,” pleads the spineless driver, once an ally.

“Not you Cabbie! We are from the American Consulate, called here by your wife, she told us you would be coming.” Those are Marine uniformed men. “Pull that hunk of junk into that garage and leave the keys with the Sergeant.”

Naturally they comply, while being led inside, then left alone. The young Turk comments, “Whoever you are or whatever you know, I am impressed Saied.”

“Fatima, my dear Fatima,” Afridi prays aloud.

“Your fat mother?”

He needs to fill in the gaping blanks, “My name is Aldona Afridi and my wife Fatima and my two daughters are probably inside somewhere.”

“And mine is Mehmet Ali Erim,” they embrace like old friends. “I own a taxi, what do you do?”

“I am a scientist not a criminal, and there evil men chasing me!”

“I am intrigued, but not surprised Saied Al. You act like a man with a scorpion in your pants.”

“Do not tell Mr. Erim anything else,” the embassy guards warn.

“They know my name!”Image result for spy

“They may have been listening when you introduced yourself,” Afridi remarks, being the “seasoned spy” that he has become.

They are escorted into the catacombs of the 3rd Century structure and shown separate rooms. The two shake hands, not knowing what the future holds.

Mehmet Ali Erim is briefly debriefed as a precaution and released to the streets and his next fare.

Aldona Afridi is grilled on a number of subjects, none of which mention his defection, so it is he who asks, “May I see my family and when can I speak to someone about the Space Colony?”space-colony-banner-001

The team of inquisitors is headed by Elliot Deming, Consulate General of the Turkish delegation based in Ankara. The very tall middle-aged American political appointee paces in front of Aldona, knowing that he has not heard the whole story. “The Ambassador to Turkey is scheduled to arrive in another hour. We cannot move on your wife’s suspicious information until the Ambassador personally speaks with the United States Secretary of State.

“What I have to say cannot wait… I would not have risked my family’s lives for anything less!”

“We have to fully vet your story, I hope you understand?”

“No I do not.” This is no time for governmental red tape. He hangs his weary and exasperated head.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 32


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 31

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 31

Was one of your fares a beautiful woman and two little girls perhaps?…

escape2-001

Aldona Afridi continues his defection to save Space Colony 1

“We must cross the Golden Horn to get reach Galata.”

The Golden Horn is an inlet of the Bosporus, the narrow band of water separating them from the mosque. The main bridge that connects Galata to Stamboul is choked with evening traffic and in the waters below is Image result for the bosporus waterwaynearly as busy, with floating forms of alternative transportation. Boatmen take their fares in the same dinghies driven by a hundred generations, bobbing side-by-side with a number of larger commuter boats.

A certain ferry commands Aldona’s attention. He scans each bow for the name Mother of the Black Sea, the ship of escape for (his wife) Fatima and the girls. It may be either under-sail or moored, are they aboard or are they ashore, in the safe confines of the mosque?

“There are many a ferry tonight, Saied,” the driver notices his passenger’s keen interest.

“Is the Mother of the Black Sea one of them?”

“Oh yes Saied, the largest of them, with the many lights no doubt. It is docked for the night.” He smiles fondly at the thought; the daily visits by the Black Sea ferryboat are a boon to the taxis.

“Docked this afternoon you say? Did you have any fares from that boat?”

“Oh my yes Saied, every docking brings many fares.”

“Was one of your fares a beautiful woman and two little girls perhaps?”

“No, but I may have seen such a group coming down the ramp, more baggage than my humble cab can carry. I think poor Muhammad XXVII may have gotten them, not good for his bad back.

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Turkish traffic

“Can we go faster; I need to get to the mosque yesterday?”

“We will kill more than pecking chickens…The world has gone mad for haste….”

“I don’t care; get us out of this stagnant mess.”

Never let it be said that a good taxi driver does not enjoy a challenge, especially if it involves driving obnoxiously; foot to pedal, hand on horn.

And the race is on!! The resourceful combination of a jet ski and a golf cart squirts through gaps barely wider than a bicycle, prompting Afridi to scrunch his shoulders and close his eyes. But as in old movie sight-gag, they magically appear on the other side, clear of the bottleneck.

So, leaving the trail of tangled auto, with their fist-shaking drivers behind, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is mere minutes away in Galata, the commercial hub of Old Constantinople.

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune. When he was back in that cold river, bullets splashing like rain around him, his long-term welfare was undecided at best. Hopefully there will be sympathetic ears to hear his story, at the end of his cross-continental campaign, ending here in the land of the Great Crusades.

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THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 31


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 30

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 30

…“One thousand perfect virgins in Heaven!” The taxi-man looks Afridi up and down…

ok-now-what

A scientist is accustomed to having the answers to most everything; killers at trivial pursuits, that leave mere mortals with that dirty, uneducated feeling. Yet few of his fringe information will be helping him out here and now. This bustling Arab city will confound the most worldly of traveler, especially virgin travelers, who lack logistical confidence.

But he does have a rudimentary travel visa, Abdullah Ashtaar’s 2×3 Biz Card passport, none more useful in a cosmopolitan area that includes the merging of four to five ancient metropolises. He reflects on the actions he will take from here on in and those vexatious global ramifications.

Topping any agenda is to locate his family in this muslin clothed morass. His newly acquired impulsive streak has placed both him and them in danger. He is driven by his good conscience, hoping for good results.

His destination is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, somewhere in this undiplomatic state, but where? He had had a plan when he concocted it about 36 hours ago, but now for the life of him, he cannot recall that reasoning.

Possible rejoinders and other anonymities lay before his very eyes. Where else in the world can you lose Related imageyourself, like a carelessly pitched-penny disappearing thru a crack in the cobblestones? Oriental or Jew, black, white, red or brown, you name it and who is there that cares? Only a Martian or the Man in the Moon would stand out in this city.

Certainly Aldona Afridi can locate his family in order to secure the future for them…..along with nine and ninety billion others and their descendants.

Never let it be said that Istanbul does not care for her guests. Afridi was lost, obvious to even the most casual observer. One such well-meaning native drives a souped-up rickshaw-taxi and nearly runs over two other pedestrians to get to a good fare. That stray bandy-rooster in his way is not so lucky, a left behind meal for the people of the street.

abdullah-ashtaar-001“Hey man, where can I take you?” asked without asking, driving on without direction.

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque,” Afridi flashes the conductor’s gift keycard to Constantinople.

“One thousand perfect virgins in Heaven!” The taxi-man looks Afridi up and down, trying to guess the nature of his business, why he is possession of a key to the Turkish underground. “We must cross the Golden Horn to reach Galata.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Sultan Ahmet Mosque - Istanbul by shhhhh-art deviantart.com

Sultan Ahmet Mosque – Istanbul by shhhhh-art deviantart.com

Episode 30


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 29

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 29

…You can disembark any time you like, but you can never leave.” On a dark desert byway, dusty breeze in my hair, the warm smell of opiates rising up in the air…

constantinople-001

Afridi must have drifted off, despite an effort to keep one of them peeled. The sun is giving back the day, silhouetting the domes of Constantinople’s many mosques, and others who have chosen this old city as a destination, begin to stir noisily. This entire foreign hubbub trims the much welcomed mental respite for a psychologically fatigued traitor/defector/fugitive/ husband/father.

The conductor/funnyman goes out of his way to sweep Aldona’s berth, perhaps feeling personally responsible for the success of whatever the man is up to. Surely he has done the same for an untold number of equally fascinating patrons.

“I was awake, sir,” responds Afridi to the bonus care. “Say, please take these as a token.”

afghan-noteHe takes possession of several rumpled Afghani notes given him and is truly impressed, so much so that he reaches into his own pocket to fetch a business card, which is printed with magnetic resonance. “Use this in Istanbul, a value that trumps money; it contains my name, the password is “ByZantium”. {Please note that it is abdullah-ashtaar-001electronically case-sensitive}

He hands him his card.

Double A meets double AA. “Your kindness will rewarded by the Creator of us all. Perhaps we will meet again.”

You can disembark any time you like, but you can never leave.” On a dark desert byway, dusty breeze in my hair, the warm smell of opiates rising up in the air…

Aldona Afridi extracts what he can from the cryptic statement, while holding a key to a most ancient of world capitals in his hand. Within moments the bullet train swooshes to an abrupt stop, compelling people and objects to spill to the front of each car; standers go down, sitters double over, and sleepers tumble in their blankets. Those new brakes really work.

But they have arrived at Marmaray Station as promised, safely and on time.

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THE RETURN TRIP

Constantinople by Gianomo Franco

Map of the island of Constantinople, created in 1597 by the Venetian Giacomo Franco

Episode 29


page 28

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 21

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 21

…I need for you & the children to meet me in Istanbul. You have the numbers for our Switzerland account; have your cousin Fasil drive you to Ahmadinejad {formerly Iran}

Defection by Jovan Stankić

Defection by Jovan Stankić

”Do you have a…?” Afridi puts a hand to his ear, the universal cellphone gesture.

The husband reaches into his backpack to hand over his Talibanistani version of a communicator, “Safe,” he reassures.

Afridi feels he owes the family (who is giving him refuge) some kind of an explanation, but he is aware of how straightforward their life is, simple and routine, neither of which applies to his. They politely shuffle off to another room when they see him entering the numbers that will go directly to his oldest child’s phone, fear-the-worst-by-linwood barclyhoping he is at home, while dodging a wiretap of his wife’s device.

Three rings, four, five and he begins to fear the worst. “They” had gotten to his family, salting them away with the intent of having them fall through the porous cracks of tribal autocracy.

Suddenly a familiar voice picks up; praise and glory to the God he is forbidden to worship!

“Are you at home my son, good? Hand your phone to your mother.”

“Aldona, Sheikh Kamran came to tell me that you were missing! Are you in trouble, what have you done?”

“Fatima listen very carefully, we have little time to dawdle,” accent on time. “We must defect immediately. ‘They’ wanted me to participate in something my conscience will not allow; I will have no part in their jealous ruin, what a fool I was.”

“What should we do Aldona? You know I support you in all your decisions.”

“You wanted me to get a job in the West, I should have listened, but now we have no choice. I am wounded…safe and well in the home of kind strangers. ‘They’ think I am dead, so act like you know nothing.

defection1I need for you & the children to meet me in Istanbul. You have the numbers for our Switzerland account; have your cousin Fasil drive you to Ahmadinejad {formerly Iran} and cross into Turkey from there.”

It is reflective moment for Afridi.

“If we make it through this ordeal, I vow to work endlessly for the good of the entire world. I have been escape2-001funneling my talents into an evil pit.

“Please go straight to the Galata district and seek refuge Sultan Ahmet Mosque, it is run by Christians, and you will be safe there.”

“We will do so Aldona. Praise God for sparing your life.”

“May He sponsor us in our time of need.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Episode 21


page 20