Tag Archives: Travel

The Top 5 Weirdly Specific, Totally Irrational Fears and Phobias of an American Expat Living in Germany

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“…and THIS, children, is the face of insanity!” — Image Credit: Okko Pyykkö (https://www.flickr.com/photos/data_op/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

We’re all afraid of something — spiders, heights, confined spaces — these are all common phobias. And while they scare the everloving shit out of me too, I have an additional set of fears which are far weirder and less rational than the rest. Fears I have always had, but which have been made far worse since I became an American expat living in Germany.

Phobia #5: Getting Lint in My Pee-Hole

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“Things way flow out, but NEVER in.” — Image Credit: Marc Diego (https://www.flickr.com/photos/132739655@N07/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

Few things are more sacred than my urinary meatus. It is the very keyhole behind which my soul is locked, and therefore, never to be sullied. Still, I have an intense fear of getting lint — or any other foreign object — lodged inside it. I cringe at the very thought. In fact, I am cringing super hard right now.

I suspect this fear stems from a moment in my childhood when I was at the playground near my house. Like most playgrounds, this one sat atop a thick layer of bark dust. I recall finding an unusually long piece of bark dust, then proceeding to run around swinging it over my head like a pirate. Soon enough, I needed to climb the play structure in order to better command my swabbies, but I only had one free hand. Thinking I was the smartest pirate ever, I jammed the bark dust into the waistband of my shorts and started climbing. By the time I got to the top, what was once a sword had exploded into a thousand merry splinters, one of which worked its way into my tiny piss hole. “Yarr, Matey! Batten down the hatches and–HOLY FUCK IT STIIIIIIINGS!”

What does this have to do with Germany? Well, I refuse to sleep naked. You see, occasionally, the summer months in Germany are actually hot, and air conditioning is a very rare indulgence in this country. Even though it is obviously the greatest thing ever, Germans tend to see air conditioning as wasteful and, in some cases, even unhealthy. Since my wife and I don’t want to be the only assholes on the block with an A/C unit sticking out the window, we must escape the heat through a pair of oscillating fans and our own nakedness. But therein lies the problem: As I’ve already explained, I am irrationally afraid something will find its way into my glue chute. That I’ll roll over while I’m asleep and crush my boner headfirst into a pile of sock lint, resulting in a massive infection and a trip to the emergency room, where my inflamed bongus starts shooting out whole socks like a malfunctioning clothes dryer.

Phobia #4: Sitting with My Back to the Door

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“Someone is sneaking up behind me right now. I KNOW it.” — Image Credit: Ralph Daily (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ralphandjenny/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

I’m just a nerd who sits at home all day making pretty on the computer. I am not a secret agent. I am not a criminal, nor am I an assassin, so realistically, no one is out to get me. I have absolutely no reason to fear having my back to the door in public places, and yet, it still bugs the holy Christ out of me. Restaurants, classrooms, offices — really anywhere I must remain for longer than a few seconds — are all spaces in which I am compelled to position myself so I can see exactly who is coming through the door at all times. Sure, I can white-knuckle my way through dinner at a sushi restaurant with a steady flow of foot traffic behind me, but I’ll look over my shoulder so many times my wife will eventually throw down her chopsticks and switch seats with me just so we can both relax.

This anxiety is all about control. I have no control over people when I can’t see them, and that makes me feel vulnerable. When I can see them, I feel as if I at least have a chance to protect myself and my wife from danger — even if I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. Like, if some halfwit marches into a cafe and lights the place up with an assault rifle, at the very least I’m going to throw a salt shaker at him. Maybe even a dinner plate or something. Bang, bang, bang… “Fuck youuuuuuuu!” SMASH! …NEWS FLASH… American Expat in Germany Saves Dozens of Lives by Incapacitating Gunman with Fennel Caprese Salad.

What does this have to do with Germany? Well, public transportation in German cities is pretty sweet. My wife and I don’t need a car; we ride our bikes, take the bus or hop on the U-Bahn. You know what sucks about the U-Bahn though? There’s always a door behind you. Unless you want to stand up the entire time at the front of the train with your back pressed against the driver’s booth, staring the other passengers in the eye like some creepy homunculus, people are going to be entering and exiting right behind you. It sucks, and that’s why I always ride the U-Bahn with a tiny canister of pepper spray in my pocket — my thumb hovering nervously over the button — just waiting to ruin someone’s day.

Phobia #3: Drain Cleaner

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“Pictured: The burning tears of Gomorrah.” — Image Credit: Mike Mozart (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

Chemical drain cleaners are scary as hell. Have you ever used one, like Drano, Liquid-Plumr or Rid-X? God damn, that shit will eat through anything, and it’s not exactly discerning; It’ll burn through the wad of soap scum clogging your shower drain just as easily as it will your wrinkled scrotum. With this in mind, I handle drain cleaner like unstable dynamite; delicately tiptoeing my way through the house, keeping the bottle at arm’s length and my face turned slightly away while wearing an expression of dainty horror. Basically, like the world’s biggest pussy.

I am deathly afraid of getting drain cleaner on my skin, and I am 100% convinced it will somehow, magically, wind up in my eyes and blind me for life. Like, the fear itself is so strong it could blow a fuse in my brain, short out my instinct for self-preservation and replace it with the impulse to pour heinous amounts of acid directly into my eyes and mouth. This, in turn, causes more fear, which makes the impulse seem even more real, resulting in a thought loop from which I cannot escape, and proving — once and for all — I have lost my goddamn mind.

How does this relate to Germany? Well, renting houses and apartments — rather than owning them — is much more common in this country. Lots of Germans rent their homes their entire lives, but the universal problem with renters from any country is they rarely care about the place they’re renting. They don’t own it, so fuck it, right? On top of that, cheapskate apartment managers never fix things when they break. You’ve got to handle problems yourself, and that’s where drain cleaner comes into play. See, if your wife has long, sexy German hair like mine does, your shower drain will clog with hairballs at regular intervals throughout the year. This will force you to either buy a plumber’s snake (yeah right, that’s gross) or resort to the use of chemicals. And since my wife has deemed all things pertaining to clogged pipes as “icky” and “a man’s job,” I must regularly face my fear of drain cleaner — or as I have come to call it, “Cowering in Fear of the Devil’s Hot Acid Ejaculate.”

Phobia #2: Dogs

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“Oh, how cute! A pretty princess and a handsome gentleman… with razor-sharp knives in their mouths.” — Image Credit: Pets Adviser (petsadviser.com) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

I used to love dogs, man. When I was younger, I had no fear of them whatsoever. But that all changed back in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-2000s, when I made the ingenious decision to try and break up a pit bull fight in my underwear.

You see, I was renting a room in a house owned by a woman with a pit bull. There was another renter living there too, and he also owned a pit bull, but neither of these two idiots had the slightest clue how to raise dogs like these. So, I woke up one Saturday morning to the unmistakable sound of dogs fighting over food in the kitchen, but it wasn’t just the usual snarling and barking; what I heard was two pit bulls trying to kill each other.

Not my problem, I thought to myself, rolling over and pulling the pillow down over my ears. But the bloody murder just got louder and louder, until it was clear one of the dogs was about to die. I jumped out of bed — out of anger and annoyance, not heroism — grabbed the canister of bear mace I kept (and still keep) next to my bed, and walked into the kitchen wearing nothing but a pair of thin, blue boxer shorts.

There was dog food, blood and hair all over the kitchen floor, and the woman who owned the house — whom we shall refer to as Muffinbrain McTouchedinthehead — was trying to bodily heft one of the pit pulls up and out the back door. She wasn’t strong enough to pull this off though, especially since the other pit bull had locked its jaws on the dog’s hind leg. I got Muffinbrain’s attention and offered to use the can of mace in my hand, but she insisted I try and pull the second dog away and separate them instead. I don’t know why, but I went ahead and grabbed the dog’s collar and yanked it back. It worked, but stupid goddamn Muffinbrain let her dog get away, and it charged across the kitchen and sank it’s teeth into the second dog’s neck. Of course my fingers were in the way, and to this very day I have the scars to prove it.

Anyway, it was at that moment when I absolutely lost my shit: I was basically naked — my exposed flesh vulnerable from all angles — bleeding and pissed off, so I pulled the safety guard off the canister and bear-maced the holy shit out of pit bull #1. Not yet satisfied, I firehosed pit bull #2 for good measure, then gave them both a few departing shots as I walked back to my room. I got dressed and left the house, but not before seeing Muffinbrain still in the kitchen, coughing and gagging on the atomized pepper spray in the air, and the two pit bulls standing there with vacant looks in their eyes — like nothing happened. In retrospect, I think the mace had temporarily blinded them, but they handled it calmly and professionally, like the purebred assassins they are.

How does this relate to Germany? Well, Germans like to bring their dogs with them everywhere. Restaurants, cafes, department stores… even the U-Bahn. You can’t get away from the filthy little beasts, especially here in Hannover. And every time one gets close to me — even if it’s just a little Pomeranian puffball — I am convinced it will bite me and I must resist the urge to punt that little fucker like a football.

Phobia #1: Young Men

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“We cannot be hurt. We cannot die. And together, we will bring an end to all that is good and decent in this world.” — Image Credit: fakeyoursmile (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fakeyoursmile/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

I ask you, is there anything more dangerous than a group of bored young men between the ages of 16 and 25? Having been one myself, I can confirm, yes, they are, in fact, the most dangerous species on the planet. (And they stink too, secreting a perpetual musk of assholes and armpits.)

Young men are selfish, loud, rude and oblivious to the people around them. Of course there are exceptions; I’ve met many kind and considerate young men. But the vast majority have brains which are not yet fully developed — like half baked lumps of monkey shit — so they literally cannot imagine how their actions today might result in negative reactions tomorrow. This is why they get obnoxiously drunk, drive too fast, get into fistfights and think of little else beyond finding girls willing to smooch their he-chicken.

What does this have to do with Germany? Well, I must admit, I do feel a bit safer around young German man than I do American ones. This is probably because Germans are far less likely to own guns, but also because they just don’t seem quite so… aggressive. But then you have young, German, frothing-at-the-mouth soccer fans, and being trapped in an U-Bahn car with these drunken idiots after the big game makes me feel about as safe as a fat-tailed gerbil in a sack full of cats. “So, uh, has everyone already eaten today? How about them flea collars, eh? Itch like a real bastard, I bet! Heh heh… oh my God please don’t kill me.”

Summary:

I have to say, given the morbidly obsessive and wildly irrational specificity of my phobias — especially as they have been exacerbated by life in Germany — I must award them with a solid 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:

Merkel Diamond from Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany
However, this is not a perfect score: If you think you can top any single one of my fears in terms of overall weirdness or potential to incapacitate you as a human being, the comment section is wiiiiiide open…


Graphic Designer in Portland, Oregon and Hannover, Germany - Grafikdesigner Illustrator Copywriter

Ungrateful Little Sh*ts: What It’s Like to Plan a Field Trip for Teenage Students in Hannover, Germany

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“Wooohooo! I am the center of the universe!” — Image Credit: Philipp (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mapled/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

As you are probably aware, my wife is German. She is also a Gymnasium teacher here in Hannover, Germany. This means she teaches students between the ages of 10 and 18 — or 5th grade through 12th. That’s a lot of teenagers, man, and if you’re anything like me, you know teenagers are a bunch of filthy, disgusting little shitbags.

Yes, there are exceptions. If you have a teenager at home, I’m sure he or she is a perfect little angel who burps love and farts rainbows. But the rest of them are 100% self-focused, with underdeveloped personalities and little or no regard for those around them. And they stink. God dammit, how hard is it to slap a little Old Spice under them pits, Dieter von Reekenstein? Mother of God, I would rather dip my nuts in hot coffee than be trapped on the U-Bahn amidst a gaggle of these screeching retards.

Luckily, my wife does not regard her students with the same kind of vehement hatred I do. She loves her students, and she’s a damn good teacher. That said, even she stumbles across the occasional moment of annoyance. Like the other day, when she was trying to organize a field trip for her 8th grade class; she offered to take them to one of the museums here in Hannover, or even the incredibly awesome Hannover Adventure Zoo. The field trip wasn’t part of the class — she just offered her own free time in order to do something fun and educational with them. And like the ungrateful 13-year-old balls of snot they are, they insisted on going to Hamburg instead. Not even, “Thank you for the idea, but we would really love to see the Port of Hamburg,” or “Would it be possible to tour Hamburg’s Old Town instead?” They were just like, “We’d rather go to Hamburg.” Period.

So my wife came home that night and explained the situation to me. She took a sip of wine, shook her head in exasperation and said:

“I tell you, you give them your little finger, and they take your whole hand.”


Graphic Designer in Portland, Oregon and Hannover, Germany - Grafikdesigner Illustrator Copywriter

Fashion Tips from My German Wife: Choosing the Perfect Tie for Any Occasion

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“Honey, I love you, but you dress like a blind man.” — Image Credit: bark (https://www.flickr.com/photos/barkbud/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic Copyright.

My wife and I have attended a few weddings here in Hannover, Germany — like 3 or 4 — so you’d think by now I would have my wardrobe all figured out, but I absolutely do not. I wore my dad’s old, gray, 1970s suit (with suspenders) for every formal occasion from 2001 until, oh, 2014. I just hate shopping for clothes, man. I’ve got a weird build: broad shoulders, a short torso, long legs and Bill Clinton’s godawful bitch hips. I don’t need the reminder, especially while having my scrotum tickled by some dude measuring my inseam. God dammit, I’m getting mad just thinking about this again.

Anyway, my wife and I were getting dressed for a wedding not too long ago, and she insisted we wear matching outfits. At first she wanted me to wear a red tie to match her red dress, but I didn’t have any black dress pants; only blue jeans, black shoes and a white button-down shirt. A red tie would have meant wearing 4 different colors, so I talked her into letting me wear a blue tie. (Only 3 colors. That’s awesome, right?) So once we’d settled the issue of which tie I should wear, my wife took a good, hard look at all of my ties. I had one in each color, including black. This was apparently a good thing, because she nodded her head, shut the closet door and said:

“Perfect. You have every color you need, and black is always good for funerals.”

If you liked this post, there’s a solid chance you’ll dig this one too: My German Wife Offers the Perfect Alternative to Traditional Childbirth

Learn to Love Your Thighs: American Expat Ruins a Perfectly Good Day at the Beach

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“Honey, does this swimsuit make me look like a fat, disgusting whale?” — Image Credit: Frank Kovalchek (https://www.flickr.com/photos/72213316@N00/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic Copyright.

Very few of us are lucky enough to have beach bodies. You know, the kind of frame which genuinely looks good in a bathing suit and makes everyone else hate your fucking guts? I go to the gym five days a week and I still have Will Farrell’s midsection. It just isn’t fair. Especially when you’re married to someone like my wife; a gorgeous German woman who can eat all the seedy bread and cured pig fat she wants and never gain a pound. It’s genetic, and not everyone is similarly blessed. However, everyone is cursed with some degree of self-consciousness. No matter how sexy you are, I guarantee there is a part of your body you don’t like. Maybe some part you even hate. Maybe if the Devil himself offered to magically rid you of this part of your body, and all you had to do in return was murder some random person in cold blood, you would find the closest drifter asleep on the sidewalk and stab him right in the windpipe.

What I’m saying here is, even though my wife has a fantastic beach body, she still complains about it. One incident in particular springs to mind: Remember that trip my wife and I took to the Spanish island of Mallorca? When we visited the city of Palma, had some drinks in the El Arenal district, and took the historical train to beautiful Port de Sóller? Well, on the very last day of that trip, we finally donned our bathing suits and got some real sunbathing done. We were on the beach southeast of Palma, lounging around in the sand and just generally burning the sweet merry hell out of our skin. (Oh God… our freakishly, blindingly white skin…) We were napping on our towels, and at one point I rolled over onto my side — accidentally mashing my wife’s thigh in the process — which caused her to shout:

“Ow! Ow! You are pressing my big meat!”

If you would like to read the full post about that trip, check out: German-American Couple Visits the Spanish Island of Mallorca

Expat Life in Germany: Taking Day Trips to Hamburg

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“Danish beer at the Hamburg Harbor? Clearly we are going to hell.”

Last weekend, my German wife and I took another one of our day trips to Hamburg, Germany. Like a big boy, I boarded the Metronom train all on my own in Hannover, switched trains in Uelzen, then met The Wife in Lüneburg. (And I didn’t get lost once!) Lüneburg is a super cute town, so we strolled around and ate lunch before continuing on to Hamburg. What follows is a 2.5 minute video of the journey, including lots of beer, rain, and one terribly deformed homeless person.

*** WARNING ***
Video contains a lot of swearing. You might want to cover your delicate little baby ears.

If you would like to check out another one of our posts about Hamburg, check out: American Man Speaks with Prostitute in Hamburg, Germany

Visiting Konya: Pictures and Videos from Our Trip to Turkey

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So much tea, it will forever haunt my dreams…

As you may have read from our last post, my German wife and I recently enjoyed an epic trip to Konya, Turkey, and we had a blast. This post, however, contains the pictures we took, plus a video at the end, which will give you a nice summary of our experience in just 4.5 minutes.

Here are our pictures! We hope you like them!
Click one of the thumbnails below to start the slideshow and see the captions:

*** WARNING *** Video contains some colorful language. (Also, the sound quality absolutely blows, so you may need to adjust your volume settings higher or lower, depending upon which scene you’re watching.)

If you would like to read the original Konya post, check it out: Discovering Konya, Turkey: The Top 10 Preconceived Notions Dislodged from My American Brain

Discovering Konya, Turkey: The Top 10 Preconceived Notions Dislodged from My American Brain

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Welcome to Konya: City of Tulips, Tourism and Tea (Oh my God, so much tea…)

My wife is German and I am American. We live in Hannover, Germany, and though I’ve learned a lot about Germany over the past couple years, I know virtually nothing about other countries — especially those to the East. I hate flying and I’m a bit of a misanthrope, so in the Spring of 2015, when my wife informed me we would be taking a 1-week trip to Konya, Turkey, my mind was assaulted by a dazzling slideshow of Middle Eastern stereotypes, misconceptions and false expectations — all of which contributed to a borderline panic attack followed by persistent numbing of the testicles.

Before our trip, I could not have found Turkey on a map, and my only real experiences with Turkish people had been here in Germany. (All of which were positive — and that’s a damn good thing — because at 5% of the population, Turks comprise the largest ethnic minority in the country.) Therefore, I am ashamed to admit this — and will deny it vehemently should the subject arise in mixed company — but here is the sum totality of what I expected to find when I arrived in Turkey:

  1. Sand
  2. Heat
  3. Overpopulation
  4. Women wearing veils on their heads
  5. Men calling me an infidel and attacking me with flaming scimitars

In terms of sand, heat and overpopulation, well, that was just my childlike brain transposing Turkey for Egypt — a version of Egypt based entirely upon Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I did see women wearing hijab (veils covering their hair), but obviously I was not attacked by anyone, and not once was I called an infidel. My wife and I have since returned from our trip and I am now sitting in the safety of my home office blogging about it while I should be working, but my pre-trip ignorance went well beyond this initial, fearful, knee-jerk reaction. What follows is a list of the top 10 assumptions I’d made about Konya — and Turkey as a whole — and the resulting knowledge I probably should have had in the first place:

1.) Turkey is in the middle east, right?

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“Yeah. No. Sort of. I don’t know.” — Image Credit: The Emirr (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:The_Emirr) — Subject to CC 3.0 Unported Copyright.

The definition of the term “Middle East” varies wildly depending upon who you ask, but one thing is absolutely, 100% certain: it scares the merry hell out of a lot of Americans. For many, the Middle East is a blanket term for any Muslim country residing to the southeast of western Europe. (You know, where things start to get weird.) But until World War II, Turkey and its neighbors along the Mediterranean were known as the “Near East.”

Since traveling from Germany to Turkey and back, I am of the opinion Turkey is more like a bridge between Europe and the Middle East; a Middle East-Lite, if you will. The flight time from Hannover to Istanbul is only 3 hours, and Turkey and Germany have been flirting with each other since the Ottoman Empire. Hell, Turkey has been negotiating to join the European Union since 2005, so, if anything, I was a little disappointed by how “Middle Eastern” Turkey wasn’t.

2.) Turkish Airlines sucks, I bet.

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“I saw the pilot doing his preflight inspection, but maybe I should go ahead and have a look too…”

As I’ve said before, I hate flying. To me, one airline is no different than the next: just a pleasant logo slapped up side a dick-shaped coffin. But I figured Turkish Airlines would suck just a little harder than the rest. I didn’t even have a good reason why; just straight-up judgement — no facts.

You know how, when you see that MADE IN GERMANY stamp on a certain product, you kind of think to yourself, “Well, those Germans probably know what they’re doing…” yet when you see MADE IN CHINA, you just assume it’s a toxic piece of shit? It was kind of like that, only I really didn’t even know Turkish Airlines existed before this trip, so in my mind, it had neither a positive nor a negative reputation — I just wrote the whole company off because I literally knew nothing about it.

Oh, and as it turns out, Turkish Airlines was ranked 5th among the top 100 airlines in the world in 2014. Jesus Christ, they beat the hell out of my beloved Lufthansa (ranked 10th), and KLM was way down there in 32nd place. And as for the airlines of my homeland? Sheeeeeeit: Delta was 49th and American Airlines came in at 89th place. Last place was some company called Kulula, operating out of South Africa. (Let’s all agree not to fly that one.)

3.) Turkey is totally, like, Muslim, isn’t it?

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Look at that pointy tower, just stabbing at the sky all day long…

Again, I’m still not really sure about this one. Islam is the largest religion in Turkey, with well over 95% of the population registered as Muslim, but since 1924, the country has been secular and does not recognize any official religion. Of course, all public schools — from elementary to high school — hold mandatory religion classes teaching Islam, so… I guess so.

All I know is, in Konya, I saw a lot of mosques. Those pointy sons of bitches where just everywhere, and each one staggered its call to prayer by a couple minutes so as not to barrage worshippers all at the same time. The effect upon foreigners like me, however, was like being encircled by bullhorns, each one taking a turn blasting my eardrums out my anus.

In retrospect, I think it just seemed like there was a mosque on every block because we specifically visited a bunch of mosques. That, and their pointy towers — or minarets — can be seen from really far away, so they appeared to surround us. As for the Muslim call to prayer, well, in Konya it was actually only 6 times per day. (But still, it was played over loudspeakers, and I hate loud noises, so that shit was truly annoying.)

4.) Muslims in Turkey are super extreme, right? Just like in those other scary countries?

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“I see you there, you little religious fanatic…”

I can only speak for the city of Konya on this one, and judging by the dozen or so friends we made there, I can safely say no, no one seemed radical or even particularly conservative regarding their faith. A couple of our friends would just slink off once or twice a day for a couple minutes, then rejoin the group. I seriously thought they were using the bathroom or taking a smoke break or something. They were like prayer ninjas. One of our best friends said she didn’t even bother with mosques; she just prayed at home — once in the morning and once in the evening.

But you know what I liked best about the way I saw Islam being practiced there? It was subtle. Yes, the calls to prayer were obnoxious, but the people were super chill about their religious beliefs. They didn’t even talk about religion unless I asked some stupid question, like:

073-tile-mosaic-allahME: “Hey, what’s with that wacky symbol I keep seeing on all the mosques?”

TURKISH FRIEND: “From right to left, it reads, ‘Allah.’

ME: “Yep. Shoulda seen that one coming.”

5.) Aren’t women totally subjugated in Turkey?

This is a tough one. It would seem the rights of women are far more respected in Turkey than in countries like India, but two things still gave me pause:

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“I love you honey, but this thing on my head itches like a bitch.” — Image Credit: HENG FU MING (https://www.flickr.com/photos/58362996@N04/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Generic Copyright

Many women still wear the hijab, or traditional headscarves.
Muslim women wear hijab for lots of reasons, and not all of them are religious. Sometimes it’s just tradition or the style of a particular area. What I don’t like is when women are required to wear them — especially not when it’s done for the sake of men. If a guy wants his wife to hide some aspect her beauty, I immediately suspect that dude of having a little wiener.

Interestingly, head coverings were banned in Turkish universities, libraries, public buildings and government buildings until late 2013. The ban has since been lifted, yet roughly half of Turkish women still cover their heads for religious or cultural reasons. In the big cities, like Istanbul and Ankara, most women actually don’t cover their heads at all. In Konya, for every woman I saw wearing the hijab, there was one standing right next to her who did not. Either way, it seemed like there was no pressure to wear one, and women were free to dress however they liked. (Hell, they could have gone completely topless, if anyone had been interested in my opinion.)

075B-mevlana-mosque-muslim-women-praying-hijab 075C-mevlana-mosque-men-praying-islam-muslim

Women are separated from men during worship.
The idea behind separating women from men inside of mosques has to do with distraction during prayer. Diversions, especially those of a potentially sexual nature, are thought to hinder both men and women, and distance them from Allah. This results in a tradition where the men pray up front, and the women pray while hidden behind a wall.

I respect the religious traditions of all people, so long as they don’t include hurting anyone, but this one still bugs me a little. It figuratively and literally places women in a position of secondary importance — at least to my American sensibilities — and I know for damn sure my German wife wouldn’t stand for it:

ME: “Honey, I don’t feel close enough to God when I can see you in my peripheral vision. Please go behind that wall with the rest of the ladies.”

THE WIFE: “Good idea. You’re gonna need to pray really hard for a new wife.”

6.) What’s with all the Whirling Dervishes in Konya?

077-Mevlana-Museum-Whirling-Dervishes

“Oh, I get it. They’re just really creepy clones.”

The Whirling Dervishes — more accurately known as the Mevlevi Order — were outlawed in 1925 by the Turkish Republic, and survive today as a nonpolitical organization for cultural history. The twirling performances of the Mevlevi have since become a big tourist draw, especially in Istanbul and Konya.

The Mevlevi believe in performing their dhikr (Islamic devotional acts) in the form of a twirling dance known as the Sama. This dance represents a spiritual ascent through the mind and through love, literally turning toward truth as the follower abandons his ego and arrives at the “Perfect.” Apparently, the dancer then returns from his spiritual journey as one who has attained a higher level of perfection and is able to love and be of better service to creation as a whole. (We Americans achieve this exact same state by rubbing one out to internet porn and reaching for a cold beer.)

I’ll be real honest with you; except for these statues in the Mevlana Museum, we didn’t see a single Whirling Dervish while we were there. Why, you might ask? Because in Konya, they only perform on Saturdays — exactly the day we arrived in and departed from Turkey.

Next time, you dizzy dancers. Next time…

7.) What are those weird rock formations? Anthills or something?

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“Come closer, foreigners, for the Termite Queen demands sacrifice.”

This would be Göreme National Park, home of the Rock Sites of Cappadocia. The Cappadocians (later known as the Cappadocian Greeks) actually lived inside these caves before the time of Herodotus, so we’re talking in the 400s BC here. Early Christian frescoes decorate the insides, and I’m sure archeologists find them very interesting, but I gotta say… if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. That said, it’s easy to forget there was a time when being Christian meant somebody was probably trying to kill you.

Cappadocia contains several underground cities, like the Kaymaklı Underground City, which was used as a hiding place before it was chill to be Christian. You’ll find all kinds of very creative traps inside, like large round stones to block doors and holes in the ceiling through which defenders could drop spears upon invading armies. (Like a child’s drawing of just the coolest dungeon ever.)

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The crazy mountains, hills and “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia were formed when volcanic eruptions blanketed the area with lava. Wind and water eroded everything except the isolated pinnacles you see today, many of which look exactly like giant horse dongs.

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8.) Isn’t alcohol illegal there? Great. This trip is gonna suck.

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“Here’s your last beer for a week, Sir.”

The consumption of alcohol is prohibited within the Islamic faith, but to my surprise, I learned alcohol isn’t actually illegal in Turkey. However, according to one of our Turkish friends, it is a huge pain in the ass to find. Supposedly there are a few stores and restaurants which sell it, and apparently you can arrange to have alcohol at special events, but I sure as hell didn’t see any hooch in Konya.

And you know what? It wasn’t necessary. We had an awesome time. But having never visited an effectively dry city before, I noticed two interesting phenomena:

  1. Omnipresent Smoking
  2. Polite Conversation
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“Forget cancer and emphysema — these things will break your joystick.”

Holy Christ do they smoke a lot of cigarettes in Konya. Especially the younger men. Never before have I seen so many packs of swarthy youths — all dressed to the nines — standing around chain smoking cigarettes. Just strutting around, gabbing endlessly, hoping to catch some young woman’s eye. They’re like strutting peacocks with absolutely nothing better to do on a Saturday night than suck coffin nails and look dashing.

As for polite conversation, this was something I noticed only after going out to dinner in Konya a few times; we met up with our friends, walked into the restaurant sober, and walked out of the restaurant sober — our bellies full and our heads clear. This meant everybody stayed nice and polite. No risky jokes. No swearing. In an odd way, sober conversation feels a little less honest than one had over a few drinks, because everyone has their impulses under control. People are little less themselves. On the other hand, sober conversation is generally of greater value, because people’s thoughts aren’t overly emphatic. There’s nuance and insight to be gleaned. So maybe, just maybe, a little bit of inhibition is a good thing.

Then again, beer rules, so here’s to you, Konya. Prost!

9.) Do they really drink that much tea in Turkey?

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“One more glass and I’m definitely gonna hurl.”

YES. Oh my God yes. In Konya, we drank a lot of çay (pronounced Chai), which is a black tea, though it appears dark red when served in traditional Turkish glasses. It’s also served with cubes of beet sugar and a tiny spoon. (I heard it was a compliment in Konya to loudly clink your spoon inside the glass as you stir it, so I made sure to clink the holy hell out of mine.)

I saw people drinking tea at all hours of the day, but especially after lunch and dinner. In fact, if you order one glass of tea, you’re pretty much obligated to drink 3 or 4, because they’re gonna keep parading the stuff out until you do. And if you’re like me — a nonsmoker with no access to alcohol and precious little to contribute to any given conversation — there’s really nothing else to do, so you’re gonna keep right on drinking those little cups of tea until you barf.

I kept asking people if there was actually any caffeine in the tea, and the answer seemed to vary from person to person. What I gathered, by the end of our trip, was that what we were drinking contained no true caffeine, but rather natural and/or herbal stimulants of some sort. Of course, this was concluded through a massive language barrier, so for all I know, we could have been drinking hot goat piss.

10.) Do they have real toilets in Konya?

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“Nevermind. I’ll just hold it for the next 7 days.”

It depends upon your definition of “toilet,” but if you mean the sitting down, flushing kind, the answer to this one is: sometimes. I saw a lot of stalls like the one in this picture — squat toilets — where you perch yourself over a simple hole in the floor, drop your stink nuggets, then use the pitcher and faucet to rinse your shame away. I also saw stalls with holes like this one, but with running water and a flushing mechanism. And of course I saw a few Western-style flush toilets too. It depends where you are. Posh restaurants in the middle of downtown Konya are more likely to have Western-style toilets, but little villages on the outskirts of town? Oh, you’re squatting. And if there’s no toilet paper, just pray there’s running water to use when you’re done, because you’ll be using your left hand to clean your sweet little cinnamon ring.

I think my wife used a squat toilet exactly one time in Konya, and only to go pee. Still, she was not at all happy about it when she came out of the bathroom. She was even less happy after regaling me with her experience, only to have me shrug my shoulders and say, “Hey, when in Rome…”

Now, you may be asking yourself if I used a squat toilet while we were in Konya, and the answer is, no; my bowels have the ability to power down like a cowardly robot when confronted by unfamiliar surroundings. But the second I got back to our hotel room? Oh my God. Fireworks.

Summary

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“Would I like another glass of tea? Oh, no thank y–aaaaand you’re giving it to me anyway.”

I can’t speak for any other cities in Turkey, but I do know one thing for sure: Konya rules. You should definitely visit this place. It’s beautiful. We had a fantastic time, saw amazing sights and learned a lot, like how to do Konya’s traditional spoon dance, and the fact that we really like ayran — the national Turkish beverage consisting of cold yogurt, water and salt. (The yogurt is pretty gamey, and it might even make you gag the first time it hits your tonsils, but you’ll learn to love it like a porn star.)

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“Here comes the money shot.”

Of most importance, however, are the Turkish friends we made. My wife and I can tell already some of them will be lifelong friends. Now, I know there are exceptions to every rule, and jerks can be found in every country of the planet, but I’m gonna go ahead and make a sweeping generalization anyway: There’s just something inherently warm, friendly and inviting about Turkish people. They’re nice as hell, and for some inexplicable reason, they love Germans. And that’s really the way to my heart: Be nice to my wife, and you’ve got me as a friend for life.

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Thank you, Konya. We love you.

 


If you would like to read another post regarding our international travels, check this one out: German-American Couple Visits the North Sea, Denmark and a Whole Hell of a Lot of Sheep