that's the greeting that sits on a large plastic sign high on the wall in the passport control office on the Syrian Border 40km outside of Allepo. I had the misfortune to have to use the grim keyhole toilet located outside the office and the book I'm reading called "What Went Wrong" by Bernard Russell (which is an overview of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the West) seemed to be so relevant.
We are really really tired today thanks to a slack travel agent in Istanbul who stuffed up our bus booking resulting in our arrival at a bus station in Hattai in Southern Turkey at 2am in the morning with no follow-on transfer. I also have a filthy headcold but fortunately my headlice seem to have been exterminated by the poisonous shampoo purchased in Dubrovnic.
Since my last entry weve covered some ground, the vast bulk on overnight trains. We took the Balkan Express from Belgrade to Istanbul which was a 24hr haul over the mountains through Bulgaria and we had a 6 berth couchette all to ourselves, in fact we had the whole couchette carriage to ourselves. We also took the Anadolu Express from Istanbul to Ankara which was only 10hrs, but also pleasant (once the Turks next door stopped smoking). The rhythmic patter of the train is a very pleasant bedfellow and having now done a few long bus distance bus hauls, we now know what we prefer.
We are now moving thru the transition zone from West to East. Istanbul is the vibrant crossroad and we enjoyed wandering its streets and taking in some of its historical sights. In Istanbul I became nauseous from inhaling too much mint tobacco from a large exotic waterpipe whilst battling Victor and Max in backgammon on mother of pearl inlaid boards. We were lucky enough to see a live Sufi "whirling dervish" performance in a large room at Istanbul train station and I was elevated and taken away with the music. The performance was somewhat let down by the venue, but it was an insight into the religion that Rumi began so long ago. I think the boys found it a bit boring but perhaps one day they will appreciate it.
Books have become very important on our journey and the boys are now busy chewing on the first two books of Lord of the Rings. Max is a bit like me (somewhat obsessive) and once he gets into a book there is no stopping him. Unfortunately for him this means he is living though floods and droughts as our journey is not regularly intersecting English bookstores. Victor is busy devouring all the maps we are gathering, he loves to get them and adjust them with pens and highlighters creating new imaginary lands.