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  • Check out our YouTube Video Channel HERE.

The Final Count

As soon as we showed our heads in England we got asked, what are the numbers? Finally here is the official tally of our trip in its entirety. While admittedly, not all the countries we stopped in we can say we really visited (especially on the drive home) we did cross all of their borders. This is what our map looks like now.


View NeverQuiteThere in a larger map

All the countries we wandered you can see on the map are: France, Andorra, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium. Our numbers look like this:

Mileage:   14,341

Number of Countries:   18

Length of Time:   8 months to the day

The HOW FAR? contest has new winners:

Dick holds the title for mileage since his was the largest guess of 11,000 miles.

Nick and Romey are tied winners for being the closest on number of countries (Nick guessed 17 and Romey guessed 19)

Alex and Gaye also have claim to fame  for guessing correctly the number of months (8).

CONGRATULATIONS !!!!

Journey’s End

After Athens we drove a mighty 3,000km back to England in 6 days.

It was lots of driving and little else, but we did do one last stop in Bruges, Belgium for the day. You can catch a glimpse of Bruges HERE.

Then it was the ferry back across to England. Veronique has done an amazing job. What a great van! She deserves a prize.

Vero our Hero

Hellenic heritage

A glimpse of my Greek family:

Athens

Parthenon

In Athens, we met up with my family and visited some of my Greek relatives.

We had a great time stumbling around ancient ruins, including, amazingly, in the metro, hearing about the ‘missing marbles’ that Greece is hoping to get back from English museums, and eating some delicious Greek food. Veronique even got a Greek nickname – Vanaki – which means affectionately: ‘little van.’

And we had a fabulous time with my Greek relatives with whom we ate some delicious home-cooked meals, did lots of laughing and even some Greek dancing!

A few glimpses HERE – click on the View with PicLens option to see a slideshow version.

A Few Random Videos

Here are some more videos, held back due to Turkey’s odd restrictions on people using the internet in their country.

This video is what Christina calls the ‘Human Teapot’.  We found him wandering the big old bazaar in Istanbul.  In the heat of the summer he was serving up a cold sour cherry drink which was delicious enough for us to order a second after tasting it the first time.  In fact, he seemed to be quite popular with everyone in the market on that hot summer day!

This next video is a quick one I took of a Turkish baker rolling out some thin pastry breads.

This last video is an interesting video of a Turkish man running through his prayer beads, or worry beads.  He was standing and watching some traditional music and dancing.  You can tell by his smooth action that he has been doing this for many years.  Watch him flip them over when he feels that he’s reached the end.  Worry beads are very popular with older men in Turkey, who seemingly have to have something in their hands at all times!

Plucky Girl

Now that we are out of the no-YouTube zone (in Turkey, see the Attaturk post) we can again post and link videos in the blog.

To get warmed up, here are a couple of videos taken while we were staying with the rural farming family in the grasslands of Eastern Turkey.



We were asked a bunch of times before dinner if we would eat a chicken if they killed one. There was also some interesting back-and-forth about which chicken was going to get it to keep us all fed. It is the eldest son’s job, apparently, to do the actual chicken catching. However, when he first came back triumphantly holding our soon to be dinner, she was given a last minute reprieve when somebody noted that she was still laying. That meant another chase for our boy, who then showed up with this young cockerel.


The second video is a machine that takes in raw cow milk in one end and separates it for cheese-making, drinking etc. into milk and cream streams. There is a short shot at the end of several members of the extended family standing around making sure she’s doing it right…

5 days til running water

We are moving down the Greek coast with a destination in mind.

We’re meeting up with my family in Athens, Greece where we’ll be sleeping in proper beds, and have luxuries such as showers, toilets, a fridge. These things have come up in conversation a surprising number of times recently…

It’s well worth an official countdown.

5 DAYS LEFT and counting…

Of course, it will be great to see my family too.

Derinkuyu – An Underground City!

Homey for Hobbits

This is one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen, an entire town built underground.  Basically the idea was that the whole town would hide underground when those persecuting armies would come invading.  There are several in the area, but this one in Derinkuyu was huge, with hundreds of tunnels, rooms, stairwells, and air shafts.  They had places to store animals, a chapel, running water, toilets, and everything else they could think of to withstand sieges.  I believe this one was seven levels deep.

One interesting defense against having those marauding armies just follow you underground was to build yourself some nice stone doors.  These guys decided to build nice round rolling doors that would cover the access tunnel by slotting neatly into the disc-shaped wall slots on the far wall.  You could then brace the door to prevent it from being rolled back again, leaving those marauding armies with a foot thick stone door to deal with before they could do any more marauding.

Ready for Refugees

Ready to Roll the Rock

A firmly closed door.

GREECE

We’ve crossed another border.

We’re now in GREECE, or Ellas – if you’re Greek, or Yunanistan – if you’re Turkish (I’d love to know the origin of that name… You can imagine our confusion and surprise as we started following signs out of Turkey and Yunanistan seemed to also be in the direction we were headed…)

Home of the ancient philosophers, cheap white wine (Retsina), the Greek alphabet, souvlaki, gyros and Greek salad. So far we’re doing quite well on our checklist of things Greek to experience.

We’re halted in Alexandropoulis at the moment and are again amazed by the enthusiastic cafe culture and late night outdoor dining. The restaurants seem most full around 9:30 pm.

This means that our travel country count is now 11. We’ve been on the road 7 months and have traveled in our van Veronique 11,200 miles….

CONGRATULATIONS to Gaye, Tricia, Iain and Dick for their guesses in our HOW FAR? contest.

Turkey’s Idol Worship

The Beloved Two

One of the things you can’t help but notice in Turkey is its patriotism.  In traveling around the world, I’ve never seen any place with as much of a flag fetish as America has, that is until I went to Turkey!  Bright red flags adorn pretty much everything in Turkey.

More interestingly, there is a historical figure whose features are nearly as common as the flag itself.  This man is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  He was first (bizarrely) introduced to us as we were listening to a podcast which included a Turkish woman who had been organizing tours for foreigners in Turkey for more than a decade.  So we are driving along, listening to bits and pieces about Turkish history, clothing, religion, etc. when the lady pulls out this quote:  ” For a long time I stayed single because I thought I could never love another man because I was so in love with Ataturk.  ”    Keep in mind that the man she refers to was dead before she was born.

This certainly perked up our interest in this figure.  One of the things which didn’t remain a mystery for long was his appearance.  The man is literally everywhere every time you turn around.  Shops have his picture, cars and buses have his face and/or signature, buildings have his profile, mountains carry his likeness.  The only (non-religious) figure I can remember being this popular is the king of Thailand, who frequents about 25% of all walls in every building I was inside in Thailand (once per room).

Ataturk is beloved by many of the Turks for single handedly wrestling Turkey into the modern age and building a modern secular democracy.  Kudos to a great statesman.

However, Ataturk is so beloved by the Turks that they interpret attacks against the great man as defamatory attacks on Turkey itself, punishable as a crime laid out in the Turkish constitution itself.  This kind of infatuation is somewhat less fun, but has had at least one rather amusing knock-on effect in Turkey.

Resting in Peace?

The Greeks, famously belligerent to Turks and knowing just exactly how to irritate them, got wound up during a Greece v. Turkey football match and decided to have a little singsong suggesting that the great man was gay.  Someone posted this little ditty on YouTube and so the government of Turkey decided that this couldn’t be allowed to continue and so banned YouTube. That’s right, thanks to Turkish sensitivities and the Greek willingness to poke the Turks where it hurts, all Turkish ISPs block access to YouTube in Turkey.

I’m wondering if some enterprising Greeks are right now figuring that it would be pretty sweet to try and trigger additional Turkish internet bannings with a bit more Ataturk shenanigans.  Anyone for starting a new Facebook group???

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