Art, architecture, history, travel

We decided to go to Turkey for Christmas, Germany 1977-8

Basilica Cistern.

Basilica Cistern. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Pudding Shop restaurant, Istanbul.

English: The ceiling of the Basilica Cistern (...

English: The ceiling of the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) in Istanbul, Turkey, mirrored in the still waters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I spent a year abroad  in Germany.

Jack F. Matlock, Jr.

Ambassador Jack Matlock

Deutsch: Die Bibliothek der Hochschule Regensb...

Deutsch: Die Bibliothek der Hochschule Regensburg am späten Abend. Kirundi: The library of the University of Applied Sciences of Regensburg, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Germany Switzerland Italy
I did a lot of traveling with my friend Ted D., also from St Louis. Oh, you’re both from St Louis are you brothers? I had a friend at the bank and at the train station. They knew we liked to travel. I had the train schedule memorized. We were always looking for the best deal. He’d say where are we going this time boys.
Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest ...

Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest van Sinterklaas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We decided to go to Turkey for Christmas. If we could be with our families we wanted to go somewhere that wouldn’t remind us of home. The train was very crowded. This was going to be an adventure. The train left Munich for Austria and didn’t stop till we crossed the border.

Getting the visas and crossing the bordernew-years-count-up5

They tell you can get your visa at the border, but it is better if you get it ahead of time. This is done by visiting the consulate in another city  before your trip, filling out  a form, showing your passport and paying a fee. You might also have to give a photograph.

Yugoslavia, yes it was before the breakup. Slovenia, we had crossed the Iron curtain at Klagenfurt Austria for Maribor. The first of many times that year.

Jack Matlock told me although the Croatian  language is essentially the same as Serbian it is written in the Latin alphabet. I know many will dispute that statement so don’t get angry. When he met Germans who complained Americans couldn’t speak German he asked oh where do you go on vacation? Dubrovnik, then you speak fluent Serbo-Croatian.


Croatia: Zagreb is the capital of Croatia. It was our first stop. It was nice. It was also one of the coldest places I have ever been. The cathedral reminded me of Vienna. Zagreb consists of an upper and lower town. People gave me money for my coin collection.  I try to get the smallest circulating coin or billon from each  country I visit, also a cigar and a newspaper.This is a catholic country. Many Serbs are orthodox.
1922, Departure of Mehmed VI who was the last ...

1922, Departure of Mehmed VI who was the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Zagreb (Photo credit: Morton1905)

It has a beautiful and impressive fortress at the confluence of the Danube and Sava
Christmas in Belgrade was a Tuesday, besides being a communist country the few Christians celebrate on January sixth. A man smiled and handed us a pack of cigarettes. We smiled and took them. We didn’t smoke so later we gave them to the maid in the Hotel. The hotel was really far out by bus. In Belgrade we discovered the wonderful dish of kebapcisi. It is winter. It is cold here, but it is a fun city.

Even in those times Belgrade had a reputation for an active nightlife, especially in the Skadarlija (Скадарлија) area. I remember the Republic square, equestrian statue of Prince Michael, Art museum, and parliament.

St. Margrethen - Switzerland / Austria

St. Margrethen – Switzerland / Austria (Photo credit: Kecko)

They don’t have Santa Claus in Belgrade. He’s called the New Years man. they still have colored lights and New year’s trees and a nice outdoor market. It’s very festive. We enjoy looking at the things for sale in the shops.
Before we got to Niš an argument ensued. Half the people said the train was going to Athens the other Half Istanbul.


We rented a car and driver and personal guide for twenty dollars. I know they thought we were some kind of big shots. The woman was nice. The highlight was the Rila Monastery. We also went to the opera.

When I told my neighbor about my trip she said,I don’t even know where Bulgaria is and you’ve been there.

English: Belgrade Railway junction

English: Belgrade Railway junction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Istanbul Istanbul Istanbul
The train pulled into Istanbul Sirkeci station exactly a week after we had left Munich.

In Turkey we met two Italians from N. Italy who spoke German, Roberto+Marisa. They became our friends. I corresponded with them for years.

We visited the great Istanbul Grand Bazar. The Pudding shop is a great place to meet people and exchange information. The food’s not bad either even the pudding. It’s loaded with hippies. Istanbul is truly a crossroads between east and west.

We visited the famous underground Basilica Cistern Yerebatan Sarnıcı

We stayed in a cheap hotel in Istanbul. It was clean and the people we nice and helpful. They had a full-time cook. I had fried eggs cooked to order everyday for breakfast. We celebrated new Year’s Eve at the hotel with our new friends. The movie Midnight Express had jut come out. Our friends in Regensburg were sure we would never make it back alive. It snowed that year in Istanbul. It get’s dark about five o’clock the same as St. Louis this time of year. Traveling is nice because the crowds are low.

Before we left my friend Beth gave me a language guide Turkisch fur auslander (Turkish for foreigners.) Turkish is an Altaic language, not related to European. At one time the Ottoman Empire occupied half of Europe.

On day when we left our hotel a black car pulled up. A window rolled down a man asked, would you like to  go to Asia? Istanbul museum bust of Alexander the great. At the Istanbul Museum we met some students from  Pakistan. They told us how much they liked the United States. When I looked at a globe later I realized we where closer to Pakistan than St Louis. The idea that you could drive across Asia. We met a lot of people from England who were doing just  that. We met others who were on their way back to England from Hong Kong, India, or Iran.

Topkapi palace is an unbelievable. It has the largest emerald I have ever seen, 3.5 kg. It was the home of the sulltans of the Ottoman Empire. Tea is served in little glasses, just like the ones I bought in Jerusalem. University it wasn’t safe. The hammam is the turkish bath. It is really nice.

Golden Horn Istanbul

Golden Horn Istanbul


We got to the bus depot at night we had to ask for help. It was very crowded. An argument ensued. Somehow we got on the right bus. I wonder ow it would work out today.

Taking the bus to Izmir our Italian friends decided to join us. They don’t speak English. We communicate with Roberto in German. He translates into Italian for her. She is mad at him. He has always told he speaks English, but he doesn’t. They are dating. We got a guide and visited the caravanserai and a carpet shop. People are nice they really want to be your friends. We saw some kids watching the Jetsons in Turkish in a shop on an old black and white tv. We took their picture.

Greece it was winter it was cold in Athens. I took a bus from Istanbul to Athens it took 26 hours. They Parthenon is fantastic. I met some friends from Regensburg and had lunch at her apartment. We played cards and talked. It was great. I was tired of walking around in the cold. the high was about 5 C.
Back in Germany
I got back to Germany just in time for classes to begin. Reversing my route for Athens to Thessalonica, Nis, Belgrade, Munich

The one day I got up early to see the Domspatzen they were having a guest  choir from Ukraine.



2 responses

  1. Pingback: Germany Erste Teil | Things that I care about

  2. Pingback: I Spent a year in Germany Part 2 | Things that I care about

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