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Turkey Trip 2018- Weeks 1 + 2: Ankara and Bodrum (meeting Ayşe Arman) + New AABO Vlog

This post will be a summary of weeks 1 and 2 of my annual vacation in Turkey. My family is completely Turkish, and while I live in the northeastern US, I do pay them a visit them every year. This visit, while it has varied slightly over the course of 13 years, is usually in the same format: One week visiting my mom's side in Ankara, one week visiting my dad's side in Bursa and Yalova, and one week just chilling in the Mediterranean Sea, at a beach resort in Antalya or Bodrum. My trips do vary slightly from this format in terms of whether it is just one week or two per location, and the order of places can vary chronologically, but other than that, this years trip is just like that. 

In my three-year tradition of journaling my Turkish travels, this time, since I didn't have enough photos to show for week one (Ankara), I have combined weeks one and two into one post, for your viewing convenience. Week three, which I just started yesterday, will be uploaded at least a week later. While you can look forward to that, enjoy this post in which you'll receive more bang for your buck (or more things to read in relation to the amount of links you click, I guess). Two weeks in one post, here we goooooo..... 

We left in the afternoon of August 3rd, and drove straight to NYC so that we would be on time for our flight in JFK airport. The car ride took two hours, and that's with relatively average traffic conditions (which, in New York terms, means a lot). I spent the ride reading the first few chapters of my book ("Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline), and staring out the car window at the cluster of cars, angry motorcyclists, and the avalanche of rain that formed a deep fog a few feet ahead of the car. The car ride wasn't as boring as you'd think, due to getting entertainment in two different forms: one, my really good book, and two, the moment I got to see a motorcyclist be not so polite and rage at a nearby driver. Hey, it may not be a good thing, but at least it kept me from dozing asleep when I wasn't reading my book. 

At the airport, it was the usual yadda-yadda, a routine which I practically had embedded in my brain after doing it every year for more than a decade. Wait at the check-in, eat at the cafeteria (the only valid option is McDonalds, unless I'm somehow okay with "Vegan Meals" and "Udon Town"), load our luggage, and wait at the flight gate to board the plane. I was continuing this routine by chewing gum (in preparation for the amount of pain to my jaw and ears that low-air-pressure in the flight may cause), when suddenly, my mom tapped a finger to my shoulder and awoke me from my bored-a-tose. Apparently, a famous Turkish journalist was sitting a few benches ahead of us. 

Ayşe Arman is her name (for my non-Turkish readers, the pronunciation of her first name is: Eye-Sheh), and here's a bit of background info on her for those who are unfamiliar with her: She is a full-time journalist for the popular Turkish newspaper Huriyet, and her role isn't a small one, either; she has a full page dedicated to the stories she writes. That's right, you heard me right: Not just a small box every once in a while, but a full page every single week! A huge image of her is plastered on the newspaper page, and it appears in the first few pages of each issue. How well known is she? Let me put it in context: Even my mom, who hardly every touches or reads newspapers, knew recognized her in the airport right away. 

My mom was very excited that, by pure coincidence, we had somehow ended up on the same exact flight as a Turkish celebrity. She immediately went to introduce herself to her, and I later followed, out of pure curiosity to see who she was. So I (alongside my little brother Onur) went and met herself and her daughter, who happened to be the same age as me. We took a picture together (shown at the top of this post). She is the woman with the blond hair, her daughter is to the left of her, and me and Onur are to the right, and after hearing about her newspaper work, I decided this was the perfect time to tell her about my blog (the one you're reading right now). I'm not sure whether she was actually ever able to check out the address I gave her, since she is a very busy woman (she is a Turkish woman living in India with a full time job for a popular newspaper in Turkey, and currently was bringing her daughter back from a competition in the States). 

It would still be an honor to know that such a renowned writer had read my blogging work, which I have poured hours of my time and effort into over the course of five years. Her work has recently given me the motivation to blog as frequently as possible (her column is so successful, especially since she has the time to do it every single week), and it would be great if she could let me know if she is reading this right now by leaving me a comment down below. All you need is a Google account, and its at the very bottom of this page. Thanks!

I boarded the Turkish Airlines NYC-Istanbul plane near 7 PM, and along the way, I met a kid (he looked to. E maybe two or three years younger than me) in the plane seat right behind us who had brought a Nintendo Switch. I saw him playing Super Mario Odyssey, and greeted him and told him that I also had a Switch, which I also brought with me on this same flight. I didn't learn too much about him, but he seemed like a cool guy (I saw a huge stash of vintage Marvel comic books in his backpack). Anyways, I had time to watch two movies in the airplane, using the in-flight entertainement system (which, sadly, was using a proprietary OS, so I couldn't tinker with it that much 😢). Since the flight was nearly 8 hours long, you might me surprised at the fact that I didn't watch more than just two movies. The answer is simple: Since the flight happened late in the night, I slept for most of it. 

The two movies I watched were Doctor Strange and Isle of Dogs, in that order. Doctor Strange was a cool Marvel movie I hadn't yet watched prior to this flight, and aisle of Dogs is a very interesting and funny stop-motion animated film about Japanese dogs being banished to an island after a radioactive disease. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but it's is actually very funny, entertaining, and well-made. You can look up a trailer for it if you want to, trust me. I currently don't have any plans to review any of these movies on my blog just yet. I might if I have some extra time, but currently, I have way too many planned posts to make within the remaining weeks of summer. 

I wake up (after a long struggle to manage to fall asleep while sitting upright on the seat), and look out the window to see the city of Istanbul, thousands of feet below us. We begin to land, as I start chewing my Swedish-Fish-flavored gum to stop any potential ear popping (which I rarely ever get on long distance flights, due to the increased air altitude, as opposed to, say, an in-country flight). We arrive and see it, for the 20-somethingth time in my life. 

My time spent is Istanbul is quite ironic: I go to Turkey every single year, yet I only spend twenty minutes (twice) in Istanbul each year. Why? Well, there are no direct flights from New York to anywhere in Turkey, except for Istanbul. This makes sense, since it's the most touristic and well-known Turkish city (even though, contrary to popular belief, it's not the capital. That would be Ankara). However, it creates a slight inconvenience for our family, since we spend most of our time visiting our family, who lives outside of Istanbul. How do we solve this problem? Each time we go to Turkey, we take a total of two flights in one day: The first one is from NYC to Istanbul, and the second is from Istanbul to wherever else in Turkey we're trying to go. This time, our second flight landed us in Ankara, the real capital of Turkey, and where we would spend our first week visiting my mom's side of the family. (I kind of feel bad for not getting to see much of Istanbul, despite being Turkish and visiting it so many times. Maybe I'll have a tour of it a few years from now, who knows?)

My mom's side of the family is quite small: We only visit five people. That is a stark contrast from my dad's side, which has 15 people (my dad has three brothers). While visiting them in Ankara, we didn't do that much outside of their apartment. Most of the time, we stayed inside and spent time together. I entertained myself by reading, playing on my Switch, and teaching my grandpa to do origami (we made a lion together, which is the mascot for his favorite Turkish soccer team, Galatasaray). 

While most of my stay in Ankara tends to be not as eventful as the rest of my trip (less family members means less places to travel), it still manages to be just as fun. My favorite thing I did there this year was something I haven't done any year before: Visit the science museum in METU (Middle Eastern Technology University). METU is one of the best technology universities in the entire Mediterannean, Eurasian, and Middle Eastern regions. Ali and Burak's (my very close friends) parents both studied there. Inside the campus, there is a big museum that combines science, technology, and even history.

They had awesome exhibits on everything from real-life war airplanes which was you could walk up close to (I got to stand in the cockpit of a Turkish bomber plane from World War I), to artifacts from the Ottoman Empire, to a building full of hands-on science experiments for kids to try. The experiment building had plenty of cool physics based experiments using hands-on models and machines that gave thorough instructions with each. I highly recommend to anyone who visits there with their kids to go and check it out. The history portions were also interesting; they had a building full of antique cars, both Turkish and international ones. One building was basically a walking timeline of Turkey; you would literally get to walk along the floor, closer and closer to each mini-room which displayed artifacts, paintings, weapons, and technology from different eras of Turkish history. Everything from early humans in Mesopotamia, to the Roman and Greek Empires, to Ottaman Anatolia, to present day.

The museum was super high quality and a must-visit for anybody who even bothers to visit Ankara (seriously, last time I checked, Istanbul was waaaay more touristic). We got to see all of the exhibits except for one, the astronomy one, just because it was closed for maintenance. 

On the days following our museum visit, we would sometimes go to a nearby mall, where we would eat food (Turkish food such as pita), browse the book store they had there, and once, we watched a movie. The movie was "Ant-Man and the Wasp", which I will write a review of soon. I enjoyed it, and thought that this was better than the movie which it was a sequel to, the original "Ant-Man" from 2015. My cousin Alkim, however, disagreed; he thought that the original was better. 

While checking out the book shop, a book caught my eye that I thought was quite funny: 

The book, shown above, is obviously a Turkish rip-off of Harry Potter. No, it isn't a translation, either: They also had the legitimate Turkish translations of the series in the self right next to it. This one has a different author, cover, and spelling. The subtitle, which I can understand in Turkish, when translated to English is: "Hayri Potur versus Harry Potter". So obviously, "Hayri Potur" is a bootleg that is making fun of the original Harry Potter. Flipping through the pages, I found that this book has basically nothing to do with the real Harry Potter (apart from the fact that the kid has a similar name and can do magic). No magical school, no wands, no battles, nothing. This was just a book made by a trolling author who wanted to make some money off of poor parents trying to get their kids an actual Harry Potter book, but accidentally buying this garbage instead, while he sat in his mom's basement somewhere, laughing his butt off at all the people he just scammed. Come on, J.K. Rowling! This is practically a lawsuit waiting to happen.

After six days in Ankara, we leave to go to week two of our trip, Bodrum. This will fill the "scenic Mediterranean beach" category of our annual trip. This year, we went to the same exact resort we went to last year: Bodrum Imperial. I wrote a review of this place last year, which you can find here: 

For the most part, my opinion on this place remains unchanged, so I won't write another review of the same place. For the past few years, we have been trying out a new resort each year, so that's how I was able to make a new hotel review each summer for the past two years. This year, I won't be able to do that, but I can still talk a bit about what I did at the place, and show some photos. I still highly recommend you check last year's review out at some point of you want to learn more about the place. 

First of all, I would like to point out that I find the name "Imperial" highly ironic, for a few reasons. Mainly, this has to do with the fact that it reminds me so much of Star Wars, in ways that seem to be too much of a coincidence. In case you didn't know, the Empire is the main evil entity in the the original Star Wars trilogy of films. This group of baddies, lead by Emperor Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) includes a bunch of storm troopers, spaceships, and Darth Vader himself. This resort's logo literally looks like the Death Star, no joke! I noticed that after looking at the visitor band that they give you once you stay there. There are two types of these bands: a blue one, worn by adults, and a white one, worn by all those who cannot drink (such as me). The second one is black and white, and the logo on it is a black circle, with lines leading across it like a globe, with a single big white circle in the middle. Sound familiar? That is literally the shape of the Death Star, the Empire's massive planet-destroying super weapon in Star Wars. You can see an image of the logo below, a side by side comparison: 

So now I couldn't look at this place's logo without feeling like I was in some Empire-based boot camp. I swear that I even once had a dream while I was there of swimming at the beach and seeing stormtroopers in swim suits and floaties all around me. Kind of like that poster for Rogue One, except with the word "tourist" spelled out all over it. And that it happened to include Darth Vader and Princess Leia, both in swimsuits, playing volleyball. 

Anyways, the beach was great and I enjoyed swimming in it and looking at the view. The only problem I had was that this year, unlike last year, it was a bit windy. This is purely a weather problem and only happened by bad chance. It probably won't always be the case if you decide to go there. The beach was still relatively warm, and 100% wave-free, as usual. The only time there was even a bump on the surface of the water was when a boat passed by! This is since the entirety of the Bodrum coast is is an enclosed cove, which is formed by the west Turkish coast intersecting with Greece (the Aegian Sea). The place was great for what we came there for: the beach. In all other categories, it was still very good overall. Again, I won't talk too much about the specifics, but if you want to learn more, check out my review from last year. 

Something new I found out about that place this year is that, right next to the resort, there is a scenic walking trail leading up to a peninsula on the edge of the coast. We went here a few times near dawn and the view was very scenic. I wish we had brought a phone with us so we could take a picture of the full view, but we did take at least one picture of me and Onur standing there, with a part of the view still visible. 

Here's a family photo of us with mom's side of the family:

 After a nice, relaxing week in Bodrum, we drove to the airport and left on a plane flight to, wait for it... Istanbul again. After spending a nice fifteen minutes in the best city in Turkey (by sitting around in the airport), we went on a ferry boat from there to Yalova, which was a one hour boat ride. I think it's pretty cool that in just one day, we did all three forms of transportation: land, air, and sea. Now, in Yalova, we are visiting my dad's side of the family. We've got lots of people to visit, and lots of time to stay here. Plus, the second annual Eid is just a few days away. I expect to continue to have fun, but don't expect to hear about it right away. My trip ends over a week later, so I'll make a post about week three of my trip sometime around then. 

Until then, I've got plenty of time to spare, so don't worry; I will be able to continue to blog throughout the coming week. I will try to post a few times within this week, so stay tuned! My potential upcoming posts include an Ant-Man and the Wasp movie review, some Switch game reviews, and maybe I'll share some of my old school project stories if I'm lucky. See you then!

Also, be sure to check out this brand new video for The AABO Show, which I recently finished editing and uploading. It's all about what we do at a sleepover, with an outdoor grill and a viewing session of the World Cup. Plus, you can expect to see a surprise guest in the vlog, in the form of, I won't spoil it for you, someone with the code name "Oha Dude". Here it is, enjoy: