May 2013

Rendezvous in Istanbul: I came from Qatar, Miss Roshni Panday from Bombay, my sister from Houston & our friends Molly & Bob from Durango. We stayed just two blocks from the main attractions, which we all took in, including of course the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophyia, with its splendid dome dating back to the year 537.

We ate very well, and while visiting a friend of a friend in another part of the city I saw a street demonstration about to begin, which I now realize was one of the dress rehearsals for June’s explosion of confrontation.

Then we headed to Cappadocia (or Kappadokya), where we stayed in Urgup. We wandered about the countryside, visiting the fairy chimneys and an underground city, and stopping by for breakfast at the thoroughly expanded Hotel Gamirasu, where I conducted a couple of retreats some years ago. On one morning, an excellent balloon ride (thankfully some weeks before the fatal accident there). We stayed in the Hotel Cave Konak, opposite which is the family-run local hamam. Do not miss it if you go there:

Next on to Rome, flying directly from the last outpost of the Roman Empire (Constantinople, its Eastern capital, which fell to the Turks only in 1453) to its origin, which after some centuries of unchallenged imperial glory devolved into the Empire’s Western capital in AD 285. The best gelato shop in the entire Eternal City (Old Bridge) is conveniently located right across the street from the Vatican, a mere 3 blocks from where we stayed. We toured the Vatican, of course, in a mob of fellow tourists (the Rafael Rooms remain favorites of mine), the Foro Romano, Palatino Hill, and Colisseum, and the amazing Pantheon, one of the best preserved of ancient Roman buildings, whose dome nearly two thousand years after its construction remains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

On to the always wonderful Assisi, then Firenze for the Uffizi (and more gelato, at Vivoli), where our tour guides were mi amici Paolo and Piero. Should you ever require geological evaluation of a deposit of stone, you would do well to contact Bettini & Porro:

After Firenze, Cinque Terre, whose beauty made even the miseries of a three-hour hike in the rain bearable. Then a brief stop in the USA, and on to Central America.

this article May 2013