The IMD MBA Class of 2008 reunion in Bodrum, Turkey was awesome! My Turkish classmate organized a trip to his homeland and invited the rest of us. As I was already on this side of the Atlantic I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity!
My journey began very inauspiciously. I had planned down to the minute my Thursday morning schedule: drop Acacia off at the kennel, pack, walk to the Lutry train station, take the train to Geneva airport, and wait patiently/comfortably for my flight–very Swiss! However, it was not meant to be. There was construction on the one road into the tiny town where the kennel was located and my GPS had a hard time finding an alternative route. After an hour of driving around in concentric circles, the GPS finally locked onto a new route and we were in business–but the damage was done.
I raced back home, grabbed my suitcase, hoping that it had enough toiletries and clothes to sustain me for four days, and then realized that I was too late to catch the train from Lutry. My next chance was the train from Lausanne, so I hopped in the car and proceeded apace, intending to park the car at the Lausanne train station. Unfortunately I arrived about two minutes too late, leaving me with one final option: driving to the airport and parking there–very American!
Driving to the airport is slower than taking the fast train, though, so I would be cutting it close. And the Swiss have HUGE penalties for speeding (They take a percentage of your salary instead of a fixed fee.) so I wouldn’t be able to make up time that way. It was my only option, though, so I moved ahead. And then I hit major traffic due to construction–doh! Finally I arrived at the airport, figured out how/where to park, and ran into the checkin line about 40 minutes before the flight was due to depart.
This is where the Swiss really showed their quality. It took me minutes to check in and then I was expedited through security. After a very friendly exchange at Passport Control, I made it to the gate with 25 minutes to spare. Well done, well run GVA airport!
Turkish Airlines was another story altogether. Aside from the flight that left from Geneva, all of my Turkish Airlines flights were delayed. They also kept strange things like passenger meals and newspapers in the overhead bins, a practice I had never seen before. But the food was good, even the turkey sandwich (Was that supposed to be a joke?) on my second leg. At long last, we eventually made it to Bodrum airport several hours late. After a bus and a taxi ride I finally caught up with the rest of the group for dinner at a nice hotel along the ocean. Fresh, local seafood, mmm!
I shared a room on the trip with my Danish classmate, Peter, whom I usually call “The Great Dane.” Our room was small but it had enough air conditioning for us to sleep. He’s super nice and very athletic so we were looking forward to playing a lot of beach volleyball together during the trip. I brought my Wilson AVP ball to be used in its 5th country.
Friday we woke up early and went for a swim in the ocean, which was cool, clear, and still. This was followed by a monstrous breakfast as we waited for others to wake up. Turkish food features many cool foods with high water content, e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelon, which work well in the hot, dry climate. These foods plus lots of cheese, bread, and honey comprised our breakfast each morning and were omnipresent throughout the rest of our days.
We spent the rest of Friday at a private hotel beach. “Beach” may not be accurate as there wasn’t any sand but they had wooden docks with shade and lounge chairs all along the coast line plus a private swimming area and great bar/kitchen. It was a very, very nice way to spend a long day in the sun.
Turkish women are beautiful, by the way. Everywhere you look there are Princess Jasmine lookalikes. This was not what I expected out of Turkey but it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve shown myself to be culturally ignorant.
Saturday we rented a boat and motored around the Aegean, dropping anchor here and there to swim and eat freshly caught, grilled fish and Turkish pastries. What a life! That evening we were treated to a veritable feast at a local restaurant where we had an “in” with the owners. We began the meal already full and by the end we were positively stuffed. To digest we added Raki (Turkish liqueur) too and then rolled ourselves home.
Sunday we spent the day eating and lounging around the beach at our Turkish classmate’s parents’ house. We hadn’t been able to find any beach volleyball the entire trip (Go figure with no “beaches” available!) but this place at least had a ping pong table. So finally we got some land sport in on top of the swimming we had been doing. By that evening all of our classmates had already departed so Peter and I walked along the coast, found a nice place for fresh seafood and had one final meal.
My return trip went about as well as my first one. The taxi got me to the airport with plenty of time but my flight was delayed 80 minutes. We arrived in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport after my connection should have departed but, fortunately for me, Turkish Airlines is consistent and my flight to Geneva was also delayed–just long enough for me to sprint across the airport and run down the jetway before they closed the hatch.
Waiting for me at GVA was a friend from Rice who will stay here for a few days. It’s good to be back in Switzerland but my few days in Turkey definitely generated positive memories that will last a lifetime! More than the eating, swimming, and boating, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to catch up with my classmates and make some new Turkish friends.