And the rest of the trip passed uneventfully...
In case you (that being the hypothetical "you", the implied reader, the "you" who would be reading this if people actually read blogs) were concerned by the dangling narrative, in case you thought that our journey ended in tragedy somewhere between Jericho and JFK, let me conclude. Conclude and continue. I write this in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New York, the neighbourhood I've been calling home lately, and the rest of the trip passed not uneventfully - there were many events, some worthy of semi-fictionalized elaboration - but at least without lasting negative repercussions.
So much happened on that short trip that I failed to report to you - including a lot of my favourite occurences. That is good. It is good that I did not tell you about all of those good things, because it means I have some stories up my sleeve. And this summer I am working on expanding the sequel to my first book (it will be a re-issue including several new stories and conclusions to some of the original stories, and it will be called My Own Devices: Airport Version).
So rather than try to recap what the rest of the trip was like, suffice it to say that we spent a few more days in Israel, mostly in and around Jerusalem, and then one sunny warm afternoon we took a cab to Ben Gurion airport and left for Turkey, which turned out to be shockingly cold. I spent my 34th birthday there, in Cappadocia, tramping amid the fairy chimneys and sleeping in a cave. It was actually I think one of the best birthdays I have ever spent, although a true evaluation of that claim would require a lot of careful nostalgia. But how does this sound: I woke up on my birthday in one of my favourite places to wake up, on a train, in a bunk, and the first thing I saw through the window of the train was snow falling on vast fields and distant mountains. I had not before then seen any snow in Turkey, and if it weren't for the Orhan Pamuk novel Snow I don't suppose I would have even realized that snow was a possibility in Turkey. Waking up in a berth on a train on your birthday is great enough, but waking up on a train that is taking you through the snow-covered countryside toward Ankara, knowing that by the end of the day you will be in fabled Cappadocia, land of underground cities and marvelous miniature mountains made of tuff, well, that's altogether stupendous. Add to that a rock-hewn monastery (featuring ecclesiastical cave paintings and a gang of friendly puppies), a kitten named Pamuk - which incidentally means Cotton - who liked to climb on my back as I examined the carpets and kilims, one of the most amazing meals I've ever had, with excellent Cappadocian wine and piles of baklava, and a hotel room carved into the side of a hill, and you can perhaps understand my approbation.
Here is Goreme, a little Cappadocian town carved in porous volcanic stone. If you want to see a lot more pictures than the ones I have posted here, flickr.com is where you'll find them. Try searching for cjfkhw.
We did have some problems in Turkey. Istanbul is an enchanting place - the Hagia Sofia was breathtaking, the Grand Bazaar was beautiful and bizarre, and I found the ferry ride at sunset across the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia irresistably romantic. This is all very Orientalist of course, but the city also has an unmistakeably cosmopolitain flair to it. It must be an exciting place to live if you can avoid the tourist neighbourhoods (which we did not). Young Turks really are cool, I think, with their long noses and blasé smiles. The drawback is that Istanbul knows it is alluring and it is surprisingly expensive and, especially in the off-season I think, a small army of sidewalk salesmen are determined that no foreigner will leave the country without a hand-dyed all-wool antique Turkish carpet. We almost got ripped off by a tour organizer who tried to imply that it was our fault that a blizzard had spelled cancellation for our spelunking expedition (we managed to get a refund). But I did get ripped off by a cabbie who was skilled at leger-de-main and indirection, and who managed to trade my 20 New Turkish Lira bill for a worthless 250,000 Old Turkish Lira bill right under my nose (it was dark). I was angry at first, but later I silently thanked him for the souvenir, which is, after all, 250,000 smackeroos.
There is much more to the story than that, of course, and more to the story of Shivta and Petra, and Amman, and Bethlehem and the Wall, and the West Bank, but you will have to read the book. The next time I write here it will be about a very different place.