Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bustin' Outta This Joint

Mike and I joke that we're never actually going to move somewhere together. Last year, Mike left for Izmir about two weeks before I got there.   This time around, we didn't end up leaving at the same time either, but that was more by choice....kind of.

Let's back up though.  Thursday was crazy although not quite as stressful.  We packed everything up and tried to breath after holding our breath for a week, but the most exciting part of the day was when the Navy sent Mike a ticket for a flight out of Turkey for the next day!! I wanted to cry I was so happy.  We broke out of the hotel for one last stroll along the kordon and one last glass of tea to celebrate

Alright Izmir, you aren't terrible....
 Normally, the Navy would buy both of our flights for a move, but since I had already been evacuated and moved out by the Navy, they only purchased a flight for Mike.  That was one risk we knew we were taking when I decided to come back for the move.  We began looking for flights for me around the same time as Mike's, but they all had a layover in Istanbul.  I really wanted to avoid that, just in case something happened, especially since I wasn't going to be with Mike.  I didn't think anything would happen, but it was a risk I wasn't willing to take.

Instead, I opted for a flight a few hours later than Mike.  I wasn't pleased to be leaving without Mike and I definitely didn't like to be the last one out of the country, but it was the best option.  I headed to the airport with a duffel bag and another carry on, a suitcase to check and two beach chairs.  In Europe, they have these stands in the airports where you can get your luggage wrapped with plastic.  I never understood why anyone would do that, but we needed to package the beach chairs together and we couldn't find a box big enough.  This plastic wrap was the perfect solution! The guy kind of laughed at me when I asked him to wrap the chairs, but he did and I was happy as a clam.

Those green things? They're beach chairs!

I've never been afraid of flying or being in an airport, but that morning, I definitely had a heightened sense of awareness that morning.  Like I said, I didn't think anything was going to happen, but I also didn't think a coup was going to happen.  Add in a language barrier and I was a nervous nelly. I got a text from Mike while I was waiting to check in (of course, there was no organization to the check in line because...Turkey) to say that he had landed in Berlin and I let out a sigh of relief.  One Hogan down, one to go.  After finally checking in, making it past customs and grabbing something to eat, I boarded the plane and said Gorusuruz to Izmir one final time.

 Needless to say, for so many reasons, I was happy to have wheels on the ground when my flight landed in Berlin.

We made it!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Moving Saga Continues....

Wednesday was supposed to be a big day.  We had to load all of our stuff we were planning to drive with into the car, have the Air Force guys come and pick up some furniture, check out of our apartment with the land lord, get the temporary plates to drive with, catch the car ferry to Athens, and be on our way to Berlin.  It was going to be a big day.

We woke up early and loaded the car full of our stuff.  Surprisingly, all of it fit and there was room to spare!  Things were looking up.  Around eight, the guys came to get the furniture and were gone by nine.  Mike had to go meet with some people on base about the car so he left and I hung out at the apartment. All along, we knew we would have to deregister the car in Turkey and get temporary plates to drive out.  When Mike got to the base, the guy asked for his Turkish ID number that he had used to register the car. It was soon discovered that he didn't have an ID number and had somehow managed to register the car (and get a cell phone) without one.  Welcome to the bureaucratic mess that is Turkey!

The only way to get temporary plates for the car was to go down to the social security office and get an ID number. We did this for me and it took 4-5 weeks and was a huge head ache! Add in the fact that, earlier that week, thousands of government employees had been arrested and fired because of the coup.  Plus, Mike is an American and Erdogan isn't thinking too highly of America because we're housing the guy he feels responsible for the coup. All of that being said, going to the social security office sounded like maybe the worst idea possible.  So, we were stuck.

Mike called me and we quickly decided that it wasn't worth the head ache of trying to get temporary plates.  Instead, we would just fly out. We could still deregister the car and ship it, so we'd still be able to get it to Germany, but it would take longer.  At this point, though, anything that would get our car and us out of Turkey was worth it.  The only issue with this plan was that the movers had already come and shipped all of our household goods, so all of the stuff that we had planned to take in the car had to somehow make it on the plane with us.   We tabled that issue for a few hours and focused on the other issue at hand....

We weren't allowed to leave Turkey.  Yup, that's right.  We were stuck.  Because we were still on FPCON Delta (aka house arrest), nobody was allowed to fly or drive out of Turkey, including people who were trying to move out.   Even if we had still planned on driving, we wouldn't have been able to do so until after Delta was lifted. So, once the landlord came and checked us out, we drove our car full of stuff over to a hotel that the Navy booked for us and tried to consolidate all of our stuff, hoping that we wouldn't be in a hotel for too long, but knowing that it could be a while.

We figured that if we could get our stuff into four checked bags and four carry-ons, we'd be good and wouldn't have to pay anything extra.  Our biggest issue was the two beach chairs that we had.  We also had a lot of cooking supplies, such as flour and spices, that we wanted to bring with us. We were kicking ourselves as we were packing because 1. If we had known we were going to fly, we could have sent all of this stuff in an express shipment via the movers to have waiting for us when we got there and 2.  The movers would have given us boxes that would have been useful to put things like beach chairs in.  Apparently, Turks never move and therefore there is no such thing as a moving or shipping supply store in Izmir.

After lots of consolidation and sitting on suitcases, we managed to get almost everything except for the food into suitcases.  The two beach chairs would get wrapped in plastic at the airport the next morning (Europeans are big on getting their suitcases wrapped in plastic. I don't get it, but it was perfect for this!).  We did manage to get a box from the commissary to put things like Mike's scuba gear and some other random stuff in.  We had to sacrifice a lot of our food, although I managed to stick a lot of the spices and stuff in random pockets, but that was the least of our worries at this point.

Once that crisis was managed, Mike called the car shipment place and made an appointment to meet with them later that day.  When they were going over the documents they needed to ship the car, we realized that somehow, the title to the car had been packed and shipped with all of our furniture.  In Turkey, they tell you not to keep your title in your car so that if your car gets stolen, you have proof that it's yours.  So, when they were packing up Mike's desk, off went the title.  At this point, I thought Mike was going to lose it.  Luckily, about a half hour later, they called back and said that they had our title in the system since we had used them to ship our car in to Turkey.  HALLELUJAH!!

Mike left quickly to ship the car before some other crisis arose.  At this point, it was around 4:00 and Delta still hadn't been lifted, so we knew that we would be hanging out in Turkey at least one more day (probably two).  So, we made our way down to the free happy hour of our hotel and settled in for the night because if anyone deserved a happy hour, it was Mike.

To sum up, we (mainly Mike) dealt with the following all in one day...
1. Realized that we couldn't drive our car out because we couldn't get temporary plates.
2. Because of this, we had to consolidate a car full of stuff into four checked bags and four carry ons.
3. Checked into a hotel indefinitely because we weren't allowed to leave Turkey
4.  Shipped our car after thinking we might not be able to.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Moving Days

On July 18th, three months after I was evacuated, we finally moved out of our house.  We had hoped to do it at the beginning of June, but orders didn't arrive in time, so we pushed it back a few weeks, only to find out the movers couldn't come because it was Ramadan.  So, here we were, in the middle of July, finally moving out of our house.

The only good thing about being stuck in your house and not being allowed to leave is that you have plenty of time to move.  Since we were planning on driving, we had set aside everything we wanted to bring with us in one room and just told the movers to not worry about that room.  When we moved to Izmir, we were flying (obviously), so we sent an express shipment of stuff, like pots and pans, an air mattress and some other essentials that arrived when we did to help survive until we got our furniture.  This time, since we were planning to drive, we basically put everything in our car that we would have sent in the express shipment.

The movers came around 8:30 on Monday and were quick.  We don't pack anything up beforehand as a liability rule.  If it breaks, we want them to have packed it.  That being said, there was a lot of stuff to pack, but they worked quickly and were out by 2:30.  They took a break for lunch around 1:00 and I was extremely jealous that they were allowed outside.  Oh the joys of house arrest....

Question of the day: Can all of that stuff (minus the lamp, bed and dryer) fit into a VW Golf?

Goodbye bedroom...

Monday and Tuesday night were spent sleeping on an air mattress under the air conditioning unit.  It was less than comfortable....

Tuesday morning came early.  The movers were back at 8:00am ready to get all of our stuff out and into the shipping crates.  When we moved in, they sent everything up in the tiny elevator or carried it up eight flights of spiral staircases.  This time, they were smart and brought the lift.

How it works: There is a truck down on the ground that has a remote control.  It controls the lift that goes up to our balcony.  The movers then put boxes on the lift and the guy down at the bottom lowers it back down.  Meanwhile, I say a prayer that nothing falls off because there aren't sides to this contraption and I'm envisioning our china or our bed frame falling eight floors.  NBD.  Welcome to Turkey.

That sofa just didn't want to fit through the door.  They had to unwrap it, take it apart, and then reassemble it down at the bottom.
Goodbye stuff. Please don't fall. 

And by 11:00am, it was all out.  I didn't think I would be sad to leave.  I never LOVED Izmir (although Turkey is something special) and it's been a tumultuous few months to say the least, but as I was standing in our empty living room, I did get a little nostalgic.  It's been an adventure.

Tuesday night, we spent sleeping on our air mattress and sitting in our beach chairs, just like we did when we first moved in.  To say I was less than pleased would be an understatement.  The air force guys were coming the next day to get our refrigerator, washer/dryer and some other furniture and the land lord would come and check us out before we planned to head out on the ferry the next night and make our way up north to Berlin.

My thoughts on moving at this point....

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Coup and House Arrest

We landed in Izmir around 7:00 on Friday night, got home, and a few hours later, a coup happened. How's that for a wild Friday night?

Actually, things were pretty calm in Izmir the entire time. Around 11:00pm, we got a Facebook message from a friend saying there was a possible coup in Turkey.  We ran out to our balcony to see what was going on and all we saw were people drinking tea.  A normal Friday night. When we turned on the news, they were reporting about Trump's VP pick (side note: we get American news, not Turkish news).  In a matter of minutes, though, things changed.  Trump was cut off mid-sentence to show images of Istanbul in chaos and Facebook and Reddit started exploding with reports of the coup.  We were told by the US military that we were to stay inside and not leave.

Still, the people of Izmir drank tea.

We quickly packed a bag in case we had to leave and sat and waited.  We watched things unfold on the news and finally people here started to get wind of what was happening up north and in their capital. Around 1:00am, cars started honking and flags waving in what we think was in support of the coup.  At some point, we watched Erdogan address the nation via FaceTime and ask his supporters to take to the streets in unity.  Around 3:00am, we decided to go to bed.  Things didn't seem to be changing in Istanbul, Ankara or in Izmir.

Still, the people of Izmir drank tea.

When we woke up on Saturday, we saw that the coup had failed.  We were still supposed to stay inside, but things in Izmir were calm.  The only people outside on Saturday morning was one guy wandering around playing Pokemon Go.  Even that night, things were quiet. We heard some more cars honking, but there weren't any protests that we saw.  Actually, it was probably one of the calmer weekends we've experienced here.

Still, the people of Izmir drank tea.

By Sunday, we received word that the commissary would be open for two hours and that we would be allowed to leave our house for food.  Mike went and stocked up on stuff to get us through the next few days, while I stayed at home and prepared for the movers that were coming the next day.  Things outside stayed calm, but more and more people were out and about.  We heard about ongoing protests in Istanbul and Ankara and some of unrest within the government, but things in Izmir resumed as normal.

Still, the people of Izmir drank tea.

We went to bed on Sunday ready for the movers to come, but unsure of when we'd be allowed to leave the house...or the country.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Day in Athens

 Mike knew that he had to head back to Izmir to get ready for the move and flights from Berlin were so much cheaper if you were willing to do a 24 hour layover in Athens.  Originally, I was going to spend the next few days in Athens before Mike came back with the car and we prepared for the move, but the thought of being alone for five days was extremely unappealing and I could see a lot of homesick crying sessions in my future. Athens had been on our list of places to see, but always kept getting pushed back because it was so easy to get to from Izmir.  We regretted not doing Athens sooner because it's a lot farther from Berlin.  So, when this 24 hour layover option presented itself, we jumped on it.   Fun fact: you really only need a day to see Athens. 

We found a hotel right downtown and got there around 8:30 on Thursday night.  If you need a hotel in Athens, we recommend Hotel 360 for sure.  The room was spacious, the bathroom clean and the rooftop bar had a view of the Acropolis.  What more could we ask for?

Since we had limited time in Athens, our day started early.  The sights open at 8am and we knew we wanted to get there around that time for a few reasons.  

One: We didn't have a ton of time and wanted to make sure we could see all of the big stuff. 

Two: It was hot.  It was supposed to be 97 degrees that day and I'm pretty sure it hit 90 around 9:00am.  We were both hot and sweaty all day.  I felt bad for the people sitting around us on the plane. 

Three: The crowds.  It's prime travel season.  We arrived at the the Acropolis' ticket booth a little before 9:00am and it was crowded then.  I can only imagine what it was like in the middle of the day. 

Random ruin in the middle of downtown Athens

You have to hike up to the top of the mountain to see all of the major ruins, but you get a few great views as you're climbing up.

Once we purchased our tickets and made our way through the gates, we turned to our buddy Rick Steves to guide us.  One lesson we learned is that we need to each download the walking tour and wear our own head phones.  Trying to navigate crowds, take pictures and stay connected on head phones is nearly impossible.  That being said, the walking tour was great and was extremely informative.  And the sights?  Oh, they were just as good as you would expect!

Hot, sweaty, and happy to be in Athens

I spy a donkey....

We were so hot afterwards that the only sight we wanted to see was the air conditioned museum.  The museum had a bunch of relics that had been on the acropolis.  The museum was interesting, although there are but so many statues you can look at before they all start to look the same.  After enjoying the air conditioning, we headed back outside.  We found some more ruins....  

There is a huge park in the middle of the city that has walking paths and is completely in the shade.  There are also a lot of wandering turtles....strange, but true. 

By this point, it was around one and it was time to get something (a gyro!!!) to eat, grab our stuff and head to the airport.  I was sad to leave Athens, but really, 24 hours was about the perfect amount of time. We were able to see all of the sights, grab something to eat, and not feel too rushed.  I would recommend if you are planning a trip to Athens, plan it for some other time besides July because it's a scorcher, but really, any day in Athens is a good day! 

This gyro is my hero!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wroclaw, Poland

Mike and I had a lot of fun (and trouble) trying to say the name of this Polish town.  In Polish, the 'W' sounds like a 'V' and the 'C' sounds like an 'S' so the town we were pronouncing roe-claw was really "Vro-slav."  You learn something new every day.

We spent two days in Wroclaw and had the same sentiments as we did about Poznan.  That was basically our sentiment about Poland in general.  Nice, but nothing too exciting.  The most exciting thing about Wroclaw is the gnomes! They're everywhere!  Gnomes are apparently huge in Polish history and culture.  The gnome became the mascot of the anti-communist movement in Wroclaw and the anti-communist group would go around painting graffiti gnomes everywhere in protest of censorship in public space.  They stuck around and now there are over 300 little gnome statues all around the city.  It was a great way to see the city and do some gnome hunting.  I'm sure kids would have loved this activity, but we definitely got a lot of enjoyment out of it, too!

Me in gnome form. Map in hand.  Camera around neck. The ultimate tourist.  

This one's for you JP!

We found about 35 gnomes over the course of our two days, but there were tons more out there.  They even have an app that lets you know the locations of all of them.  Other than the gnomes, we felt the same sentiments about Wroclaw as we did about the rest of Poland.  We ventured out to the UNESCO sight and it was nothing.  It looked like a big building with no historical or cultural significance.  Wroclaw was a beautiful little town with not a lot to do. We spent a couple of days walking around before bidding farewell and heading back to Berlin. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Poznan, Poland

When I was in Croatia, I met up with Jennifer and Justin Bronder and their three children.  Justin was the Olmsted scholar placed in Poznan, Poland and was just finishing up his time in Poznan when I met them.  They spoke so highly of Poznan that I knew I wanted to make a stop there.  We planned a two night stay there, but in hindsight, we really only needed an afternoon and night there.

Mike and I have been talking a lot about the difference in cities.  We've come to the conclusion that some cities are great to live in, but not so great to visit.  Others are great to visit, but not where we would want to live.  Poznan is one city where we would be glad to live, but there wasn't a ton to see on a visit there.  There were tons of restaurants and bars and was a great little college town. I could see so many options for a weekend night with friends. There weren't a ton of sights to see, so it wasn't the best place to visit for more than a night, but it seemed like a fun university town for residents.

Anyways, we walked around the town the first day we got there and took in the feel.

Poznan has a town square with lots of little restaurants and biergartens along the edges.  At noon, the clock tower chimes and two goats come out of the top and fight.  It's quite entertaining, albeit a little weird.

The next day, we did some more wandering.  A lot of that wandering was centered around Mike catching pokemon on Pokemon Go, but sightseeing is sightseeing :)

One of the most exciting things that happened in Poznan was that Mike got a haircut!  A lot of the guys doing the Olmsted program grow their hair out because it's their only opportunity while serving in the military.  Some of the guys have grown full beards, while others have had shoulder length hair.  Mike doesn't have a ton of facial hair, so a beard was out, but he wanted to try and grow his hair out, just to see what it looked like.  I didn't have high hopes for it, but knew this was his only chance, so I went along with it.  My  fear that it would grow out instead of down was slowly confirmed as his hair grew and it finally got to the point where he couldn't stand it anymore and wanted to get a hair cut.  Since we had spare time in Poznan, off to the barber he went!

Before: My sentiments exactly
After: with a celebratory beer!

He looks and feels so much better!

Our last stop in Poznan was a bar that took us back to the days of Communism in Poland. #tbt anyone?


Overall, we thought Poznan was a cute little town, perfect for an afternoon or one night stay.  We were a little bored by the time we left, but it's got character and definitely worth stopping by if you find yourself in Poland.

Also, random Michael Musing....

"Being married is a lot more fun than I thought it would be."   Thanks?

I'm pretty sure I heard a story about my dad saying something along these lines a month or so after I was born.  I guess I'm just a ton of fun! hahahah

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Castle of Malbork

We bid farewell to the Hollars and their gang of little boys and headed south to Malbork, where there is a historic castle.  I don't know about you, but I don't really think of castles when I think of Poland.  I was wrong because there is a castle in Poland and it is huge!!  It's also in great shape, considering that it seems like the rest of Poland didn't survive WWII.

When we purchased our tickets, we were given audio guides as well. This was great because it provided a ton of information.  If you were a Polish history buff, you could have spent the entire day there.  We only lasted a few hours, but it was pretty cool, both inside and out. 

love these ceilings!

After a few hours at the castle, we were ready to head on to our next town, but not before we stopped for lunch at a tent outside of the castle.  Since Poland is so close to Germany in proximity, it didn't surprise us that our choices were various types of pork with sides of potatoes.  I got a shish kabob with pork and Mike got a bratwurst and we split a side of potatoes.  My vegetable loving self was missing the side salad that it enjoys, but I just figure I'm getting warmed up for life in Germany :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gdansk, Poland with the Hollars

I made it through security and found my bags in Berlin pretty easily after landing at the airport.  I was exhausted, though, and had a few hours to kill in the airport before Mike landed.  I found a spot and camped out there for a while. Around lunch time, Mike's plane landed and it wasn't long before I saw his smiling face amid all of the Turks.  Well, actually, if you know Mike and traveling with Turks, it was a little bit of a look of frustration.  Anyways, we were definitely happy to see each other.  It's nice knowing that we won't have to be separated for an extended period of time, at least for a while. 

After the reunion, we were both starving, so we grabbed lunch and headed into town for our hotel.  Originally, our plan was to spend the week house hunting in Berlin before Mike went back to Izmir for the move out.  We figured if we could look at places, we might be able to move in sometime in late August or early September.  Our household goods (HHG) are not going to arrive in Berlin until mid-September, so we wanted to cut down on the amount of time we spent sitting in lawn chairs in our empty apartment.  I still cringe thinking about our first couple of weeks in our Izmir apartment.   We quickly realized that apartments were turning over pretty quickly and if we found one, we'd have to sign a lease and be ready to sign a lease for the near future.  Not wanting to spend an extra second in those beach chairs, we nixed our original plan and decided to travel instead! Are you surprised?

I didn't want to travel too far and wanted to do something pretty low key that didn't involve hours and hours of sight seeing (I was tired, y'all).  The Hollars, another Olmsted family are in Gdansk, Poland and were willing to host my jet-lagged self and Mike for a couple of nights, so we jumped on the opportunity with the thought that we would stop in some other Polish towns as well.  Plus, seeing friends and traveling would be a good distraction to keep the homesickness at bay.  

Poland had never been on our must-see list, primarily because of it's distance from Turkey, but also because neither of us really knew much about it.  Sean Hollars gave us the tour of Gdansk with the forewarning that you can see it all in a few hours, which is true.  While there isn't a ton to see there, it's Old Town is picturesque and the beach is within walking distance of their apartment.

We climbed up to the top of a church tower to get a view of the city from above.  Luckily, the view made the 400 step hike worth it.

Czesc from Poland!
 We went to the history museum, which was really interesting for all of us.  Sean enjoyed it because he knew a ton about Polish history.  Mike and I enjoyed it because we knew nothing.

We always laugh because whenever we stay with people who have kids, they jump on the opportunity to get a babysitter and have an adult night.  We definitely don't mind hanging with the little ones, but I think the parents are eager to get a few hours of adult conversation in.   The Hollars have three little boys under the age of seven who are all-boy all the time. The second night we were with the Hollars, the babysitter came and the adults hit the town.  I don't know who was more excited about the babysitter, the parents or the kids! 

Downtown Sopot is a cool area with lots of restaurants and things to do, including the world's longest pier!  We wandered around for a little while downtown before heading to dinner.

We went to a brewery in Gdansk where the food was good and the drinks even better!

Our night ended at some VERY POPULAR (wait 20 minutes for a drink popular) bar where they make custom drinks for you.  You tell them what kind of drinks you like and they concoct a drink just for you!

Look at those drinks!!
The next day was the Hollars' anniversary so we made our way to the next Polish town so they could celebrate on their own.  They were celebrating by taking a Polish cooking class!! How fun! Happy anniversary guys and thanks for being such great hosts!