Cruising the Bosphorus

It may be a bit of an oversimplification, but you could probably say that Istanbul exists because of the Bosphorus. It was the first thing I wanted to see when we got there. We dropped our bags at the Empress Zoe hotel, and headed right out. We were only a few blocks away, and so our first impressions of Istanbul were those of the strong current flowing from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the ships lined up waiting for their pilots to take them through the strait, and the lines of fishermen with their lines in dark water.

Fantastic Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, In a word: fantastic. In the literal sense. It’s a fantasy land, both in terms of history and landscape. The region is a network of small towns that have one thing in common: the weird geology of the region lent itself over the ages to people digging caves to live in. And so they did.

And, if you look at a map, and know a little of the history of the Christian church, you’ll see that this area also lent itself to becoming a true cradle for the infant church–a cradle which sheltered Christians in these caves for up to fifteen centuries.

The Ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplontis

I posted about Rome six days ago, and at the time promised to go on endlessly about our subsequent visits to the sites that were destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD, or as the secularists say, 79 CE. Since I’m a Latin guy though, I’m sticking with AD.

So, here goes. First there was a train ride from Rome to Naples, then a change for Pompeii. We had decided to stay in Pompeii, instead of Naples, for a couple of reasons. Number one is that Naples is pretty much of a shit hole, and I can’t remember the second one.

A Quick Visit to Rome, But Not the Churchy Stuff

I’ve been pretty lax in writing lately, at least for this blog. I keep telling myself I’ll write a long post when I get an internet connection, but they’ve been harder to come by lately it seems, and when I do get one, I have to spend an hour making train and hotel reservations, and, of course, screwing around on Facebook.

Kris and I just finished a 40 minute forced march across Rome (did you know we were in Rome?) to the train station. There was a hell of a lightning storm here this morning, and it took out the taxi dispatch system evidently, so because of that and because it was raining there were no taxis to be found anywhere. So, we were damn glad we’re in shape from having walked across Spain, because if we hadn’t been, we’d be dying somewhere on a Roman sidewalk and have missed our train to Pompeii.

Valparaíso and So Forth

Kris and I went for the weekend in Valparaíso and stayed for the rain.

The three month long drought in Chile broke all over us last weekend. We took a two-hour bus trip to Valpo on Friday even though we’d been warned that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. I don’t know why we didn’t just postpone until the week. It’s not like we have jobs or anything that makes us note the difference between weekends and weekdays, but, at least one of us is really stubborn.

The Beginning of the End of the Incas, Sacsayhuaman

I’ve been reading, for the second time, a book called The Last Days of the Incas by Kim McQuarrie. It makes traveling so much better when you know something about the history of what you’re looking at. It’s a terrific lot of historical research that reconstructs in great detail just how the Spanish destroyed the Inca empire, and fits in beautifully with Hiram Bingham’s accounts of his rediscovery of the Incan sites, particularly Machu Picchu. (Did you know, btw, that Bingham was looking for Vilcabamba, the last Incan capital, and thought that’s what he’d found at Machu Picchu? Oh well, that’s another story for later, and to be told by someone else–scholars, for instance–who are interested in academic credit.)

Bottle dancing in Quito

Saturday and Sunday are the best days to walk around the city for two reasons: everyone else is doing it, and the city provides entertainment in the form of music and dancing.

First, the people watching part: both weekend days are big shopping days. On Saturday, all shops are open and are doing big business. Squeezing through the stalls of the Quiteño equivalent of a mall is an experience in itself. The shopping centers mostly resemble a U.S. storage locker facility where rows of 12 x 24 foot empty spaces face each other across a narrow hallway. Here, though, those lockers are packed to the top with merchandise of all types. One stall has underwear, the next has shoes, the next has small appliances, and the one next to that has mattresses (which reminds me, I need one.)

Looking down on Quito

The Virgin of the Panecillo

I have one English student right now. His name is Carlos, and he’s a National Police officer who is currently stationed as an immigration officer at the Quito airport. Kris and I met him when we came back to Quito after my father’s funeral, and he happened to be the officer we drew to check our passports and visas.

We began talking a bit while he was checking us in, and he asked me why we were in Quito. I said I had been teaching English, but had to quit my job because I’d had to go back to the US twice already. He asked if I gave private classes, and the rest just sort of worked itself out.

First Steps in Quito, Ecuador

virgin panecillo quito ecuador

I’ve been living in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, for about four and a half months now, counting the two trips back to the U.S. to take care of some business. Now my wife, Kristin Henning, and I are here for the duration, and that could be indefinite as we’ve just applied for resident visas.

The picture at the top of the blog’s home page is the view from outside the picture window of my apartment. The apartment is very small, very inexpensive, but, except for the mattress, very comfortable. Depending on how successful I am with the visa application, I will remedy the mattress situation soon.

The view is of a hill, which rises right in the middle of the valley of Quito and is called the Panecillo, which translates as “Little Loaf of Bread.” It’s topped by a large statue of the Virgin Mary, which sort of serves as the logo of Quito. And, as Quiteños are proud to point out, she’s the only Virgin with wings in the world. That’s because she’s the Virgin of the Apocalypse and is stomping on the snake from the Garden of Eden. It’s the image of the final triumph at the end of the world of good over evil. I’ll believe it when I see it.