Day 33 to 37 - Cappadocia, Istanbul, Munich
I'm laid up in Hotel Dolomit in Munich, Germany with a sore throat, croaky voice, and a constellation of heat hives on my left arm. Yesterday, when we landed in Munich, the first thing we did was shop for coats along the rows of shops near Marienplatz. I was here in 2011 and nothing much has changed. There's a storm predicted and it's that special kind of European icy; the type of weather when locals in suburbs will keep their juices and Cokes on the ledges outside their window because it's colder than the fridge. The lagoon in Oludeniz is a very distant memory.
In our last two days in Cappadocia, at the Goreme Open Air Museum, I was told off many times by security guards for taking photos of cave frescoes and encased skeletons when I wasn't supposed to. I'm following in the proud tradition of my mother, the resident family menace to Renaissance Art, who was threatened with camera removal for her illicit photo of the original David in the Accademia, Florence.
At sunset, we wheeze up the wonky staircase of Uchisar Castle to gawk at the sunset, like classic tourists. It is freezing. I'm wearing four layers of clothing. We meet a couple, both tall, blonde and Germanic. They casually announce that they're driving to New Zealand. At first, I think they are joking. But no, they are not. The man wears shorts and thick woolly socks hiked up to his knees.
At the Derinkuyu Underground City, we're offered guide services by a random security guard. Our Jordan-alert goes off. 50 liras for a guide who is clearly in his security guard uniform and wandering in the labyrinths underground not wanting to get caught by the legitimate guides or employees? No, thank you. Having said that, the underground city is best with a guide because without one, it's basically paying 20 lira to clamber into the deepest cave city in Turkey and freak yourself out squeezing into the narrow, unlit corrider marked "Graves" and then chickening out very quickly. Our high from buying a Turkish kilim rug earlier on is very quickly erased by this afternoon of scurrying around in a damp cave, 55 metres underground.
The 11+ hour overnight bus trip from Goreme to Istanbul is an event, requiring serious commitment to being uncomfortable and rudely awaken every three hours. At several points in time one of us would mutter, "We should have gone on the plane." We sit at the back of the bus with all the other tourists. One of them is very annoyed at being put in the backseat. "I asked him to put me in a good seat," he loudly exclaims to anyone who'll listen.
Locals board with their three kids, thirty-four boxes, and six sacks of potatoes in tow. An old lady, enormous like a German potato dumpling, argues with the driver and squeezes into the seat, next to a tiny Japanese woman travelling solo. She is so large that she can't get out of the seat when the arm rest is up. Later, at our 3 am stop, she's wailing, gesturing wildly to the offending arm rest, and looking at me for help. I yank and yank but the arm rest won't go down. I'm trying so hard not to laugh. Finally, someone wrestles the arm rest down and she's free to go. Five hours later in Istanbul, I see her breathing into a black plastic bag. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
That morning, we add an 11 hour overnight bus trip in Turkey to our list of things never to do again. It sits with avoiding canoyeering and a mutual dislike for Wadi Musa, Jordan. We spend all day at a hotel near the airport, recovering from our hellish bus trip. We don't take any photos, we eat hotel buffets, we use the pool and the sauna and watch endless rounds of BBC news. It is exactly what the doctor ordered. The view outside our window is of a working-class suburb in Istanbul; hardly the glossy, touristy Istanbul that we encountered two and a half weeks earlier. It could be any big city. I feel ready to say goodbye to Turkey.
When we land in Munich, I'm sick and feeling it. I basically use Munich as an expensive city to rest in. Rob gets familiar with the pharmacy, supermarket, and German cold, cough and flu medicine. After swallowing a battery of tablets and liquids, I manage to get upright and we visit the Residenz. It's filled with a literal treasury of royal bling and fancy stuff like any self-respecting castle that existed during the Baroque and Rococo eras. I adore the frippery of this era and their more-is-more approach. You only have to spend a few minutes in places like Versailles or Fontainebleau, Schonbrunn, or any of Ludwig II's Bavarian castles to get a glimpse of why the teeming masses outside palace walls may not have felt quite the same way.
We're captivated by the collection of reliquaries. I've never been able to get up close to so many at once. Usually, you only get to squint at relics from a distance inside cavernous Gothic churches. There's babies enclosed in fancy glass cases, skulls shrouded in jewel-studded clothes, and gnarled black hands upright in gold containers. It is deliciously macabre, gloriously tacky, and quite frankly, totally bonkers. Obviously, I love it.
Afterwards, we stumble on a restaurant that's all antlers-on-the-wall, dark wood panelling, and dirndls. It's Zun Durnbrau, a 500 year old Bavarian Inn. I'm the Asian lady drinking Darjeeling tea in a German bavarian beer hall. Just yesterday, we were in a restaurant with a 90 year old lady eating white sausages washed down with half a litre of beer. I'm mildly embarrassed but my throat will not cope. I really want some German bear though. To compensate, I blitz my delicious schnitzel. Rob plows through his pork knuckle and potato dumplings and his eyes bulge. "No wonder you went on and on about German food," he says. Protein and stodge. Why wouldn't I go on about that?!
The day ends with news that we're stuck in non-reclining seats for an overnight train trip between Munich and Venice. All the sleepers are sold out. Our mild PTSD from our Turkey bus trips is still with us. We spend the walk back to the hotel telling each other it'll be fine. Just fine.