Out of Ukraine - 20 Pounds Later...
As with all family reunions, eventually our time in Ukraine had to come to an end. While certainly better than five-year gaps between visits like Jenna’s heartbreaking 2013 to 2018 stretch, it’s still tough leaving family. With Jenna being an only child, it’s obviously difficult every time she has to say goodbye. But, for Chipp, too, it’s now leaving family – his second parents – every time we head out of Zap.
We certainly took some good memories – and physical reminders! – with us, though.
Food, Beer, and the Tale of the Boiling Chipp
Story goes that, if you drop a frog into boiling water, it’ll jump right out. On the other hand, if you put the same frog into a cool pot of water, it’ll stay in as the water gradually boils.
Interesting? Sure. Accurate? Probably not. Relevant to our story? You bet.
We’ve talked plenty about it, but in addition to cooking absolutely delicious food for us, Jenna’s mom also cooked massive amounts of delicious food. And, as a good Ukrainian mom, she insisted that Chipp’s plate remain full at all times. Pair this with Chipp’s daily ration of dark Ukrainian beer, and the calories added up, to say the least.
Throw 20 pounds onto someone Day 1, and he’ll notice. Gradually work those extras “LBs” on over the course of a month of professional eating and drinking, and next thing you know, you’re in a pot of boiling water.
At least during our time in Turkey, Chipp had some daily exercise. Beyond our long walks through the city, he had a routine of 20 air squats and 10 push-ups every morning (NOTE: if interested in where Chipp finds his strenuous work-out programs, here's his source).
Well, even that level of fitness eluded Chipp in Zap. So, a month later, he looked, as the Ukrainians would say, a little like a “perezhok” (dumpling). Worth it for the deliciousness!
Minus the “extra baggage” Chipp carried towards the end of our visit, we couldn’t have asked for a better time with family. But, to steal from a real writer, we had promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep. While we could’ve easily – and quite comfortably – remained in Zap for the rest of our time on the road, we had plans to keep moving.
Next, stop – back to Turkey. We absolutely loved our time in Istanbul, and now we wanted to explore some other parts of the country. Without any compelling reason besides it looking like an awesome city, we decided Izmir – on the Aegean coast – would be the next destination.
It would 100 percent live up to our expectations, but that’s jumping ahead.
Back in Zap, we had a teary goodbye (once again, mostly Jenna and her mom, but a little bit all around). Waiting for a taxi to take us to the airport, we said our goodbyes and gave plenty of hugs, and then we were off.
Off to Izmir
From Zap, we flew to Istanbul before catching a quick, domestic hop down the coast to Izmir. Smooth travels, by and large, until arriving in Izmir. Moving from the jetway to baggage claim, we encountered an authority figure of some sort – in retrospect, probably just an airport employee. But, this is what we heard:
Airport authority figure: “If you’re traveling from Ukraine, come with me.”
Hearing “come with me” just has a particularly negative connotation when spoken by people in uniform – conjures up too many images of interrogation rooms buried in the bowels of an airport. After a seemingly-endless-but-probably-only-split-second delay, he followed up with:
“Your baggage is coming out at another carousel.”
Oh man, huge sigh of relief. Realizing we weren’t being detained for something or other – just guided to the correct baggage carousel – we grabbed our bags and headed outside to find a taxi.
Arriving after dark, we couldn’t see much during the 30-minute drive north from the airport. But, for the last stretch – as we entered the city proper – the lighted promenade along the Aegean unfolded to our left. As the third-largest and most secular city in Turkey, bars, restaurants, cafes, and parks marked Izmir’s seaside. While this brief drive just gave us a little taste, the city clearly embraced its Aegean locale.
Eight Floors – or Eight Thousand Meters?
Within Izmir, we decided to stay in the city’s Alsancak neighborhood. A centrally-located neighborhood known, for lack of better terms, as “trendy,” it’s a great place to stay for newcomers – plenty of food, booze, sites, and access to the rest of the city. If we were “cool,” this is probably where we’d spend weekend nights eating and drinking with friends.
But, it’s also a neighborhood of high-rise apartment buildings, and our building happened to have a broken elevator when we arrived. Backpacks on, we climbed the eight floors to our apartment.
Beautiful balcony – check. Block from the water – check. Tallest building in the world (at least in our minds) – also check.
Yep, more than a little hyperbole here, but that (in all reality not terribly difficult) climb up the stairs may as well have been a climb up Kilimanjaro, which, jumping ahead again, fortunately Jenna would talk Chipp out of trying. Bottom line, this climb was way harder than it should’ve been – need to get back into some exercise.
Work-out starts on Monday!