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2006 Summer in Turkey

by Trudy (1/6/2009)

From Malatya to Adana



Sunday May 28th: Malatya – Gaziantep (250 kilometres)

            The bus that was promised at eight o’clock to bring me from the bus company’s office to the otogar is not coming. A taxi is the solution. MASTI is the name of Malatya’s otogar, new, big and like a mall with many mirrors. Four hours later I am in Gaziantep, Antep as the Turkish people say. On the road a deserted scenery. Very rare a sign to a village that in no case can be seen from the bus. The road has many hairpins and continues between the high, rocky mountains. These mountains have hardly any plants or trees. That is why there are almost no cattle to see. Probably they are at the other side of the mountains. Until Pazarcik, the landscape changes in a more urbanised valley with lower mountains, more far from the road. The weather is better than yesterday, it is dry and warm. This is the first time there is no service to town, or is it the bus company’s quality? I find hotel Yunus soon. I have not slept well last night and all day a terrible headache is teasing me. Pain killers do not work and with a nap I hope to freshen-up and get rid of my headache.

            Café ├×ezade is located in an old hammam. Where the fountains were there are now places to sit in, full with cushions. Also here there is loud music so getting fresh air at a local square is a good idea. I sit on a bench next to a dolmus station and everyone seems to look at me. One man is so obsessed with looking that he falls in a kind of pothole. I have to laugh loudly, not my fault he fell. Other people who saw it happen have to laugh too.

            In this area there are more Kurds. I can see that by their darker skin but with the women also at their more colourful clothing and the way they wear their scarf – in a round way. Some women are less into fashion in my views, several colours and patterns are used the same time.

            Vitamin shop Gürbüzün Yeri sells a juice called ├żalgam – red beet juice with garlic and peppers. Not bad but it will not become my favourite as well. Though Gaziantep seems to have some nice pubs I call it a day after dinner. Every bar has live music and I still have a headache.


Monday May 29th: Gaziantep

            The bazaar district is lively and special. Rows of shops selling all the same: shoes or textile for example. Is competition possible? I see many stores selling rifles and guns, neatly sorted in the windows as if they are fashion articles. Searching for a place to have lunch. Not too dark of course, as a ‘decent’ woman I cannot go everywhere, can I? I choose the chicken kebab with the help of making animal sounds…

            Several lokanta have in their windows the skulls of sheep. Probably a good sign to Muslims, I do not think it is attractive. It reminds me more of an abattoir than a restaurant. The five sheep I see walking in the shopping area will have their destination like wise, I think.

            Traffic in Turkey sometimes means to cross the street at own risk: you could get hurt! A zebra or even green light for pedestrians just means drive faster to some drivers (as if they can earn prizes or so…). I go from çay bahçesi to lokanta to pastane, I stay thirsty. And though I am not sweating so much, I feel like parched. At one of those lokanta the owner talks to me in broken Dutch (Hallo mievrouw – Hello miesses). He has lived in Amsterdam for six months. He gives me some köfte to taste. Nice, this kind of köfte I like to taste more.

            In Turkey I see all kind of people, dressed in very different styles. Men in costumes, or casual and sportive but also in obvious working clothes or in ├żalvar (though that is sometimes just inevitable because of their enormous belly’s). Women dressed in western style, sometime much more revealing than decent me in my t-shirts with long sleeves. Also Islamic clothing I see, trendy with fitting colours. Traditionally dressed women with coats down to their ankles. Women with headscarves casual around their heads and some hair to see or the tight ones with the under scarf. I hardly see women in chador or burqa, I really do not like those things.

            Here in Gaziantep for the first time I have the feeling they cheat me. At the Boyaci Camii the caretaker asks for money after my visit. That is no problem but the amount he asked is enough for a good dinner or two lunches. He obviously tries to rip me off as a stupid tourist. And yes, I am stupid, I give him the money. I hope he will buy a good deodorant for that, he did smell awful.

            Most of Turkey´s people are nice and friendly. Sometimes it works to stand on a corner with my travel guide in my hand, pretending I am blond (in real I am red headed….) It can take a while – a man will not immediately approach an unknown woman – but in almost all situations some comes up to me to ask if he can help. He, yes, until now never a she.

            At restaurant / bar Tarihi Evleri Kor-Lok I am in the shadowed courtyard reading for a couple of hours. Again, my drinks are paid for me without me knowing who did that. I never can say thanks. My dinner I choose – using animal sounds again – at the neighbours. Adana kebab it will be. The other options are liver (I hate that) and chicken, which I ate this afternoon already. Or I can choose an animal saying kot-kot-kot. What animal that is, turkey maybe? I don’t know, my dictionary is not helpful this time. The Yeni Zigma Café is boring with only three lonely beer-drinking men. No partying tonight.


Tuesday May 30th: Gaziantep – Antakya (Hatay) (200 kilometres)

            To Antakya – the Turkish people still call the city Hatay – there is only a minibus. I do not have to buy my bus ticket at one of the big bus companies, just pay the driver or his assistant. At the otogar there are many, many touts yelling the destinations they sell tickets for. I just smile and continue walking, about ten men following me. They disappear when they see which platform I am heading for, I am not an interesting customer anymore. During the ride the destination is shouted to people on the streets, hoping there will be more passengers. In the bus are 18 seats but hey, with a bit of pushing at least 24 can enter….

            Arriving in Hatay I see ribbon building. To prevent the bus ride through town I walk back to ask for Hotel Saray, the name I have from my travelling guide. Through the big bazaar they send me in and out of many streets and I make many left and right turns. Then I see another hotel. I am tired, my backpack is heavy and it is hot, so I will stop here. The room in hotel Onay is not big but clean and comfortable.

            Hatay is near the Syrian border and has Arabian influences. One thing that makes that influence clear is the menu: yogurt soup and humus, a welcome change after twelve days of döner, kebab and köfte. Already I miss the courtyard of the restaurant in Gaziantep yesterday. It is hot here, no shadowed place to find. No restaurants with air-conditioning. At Antikrestaurant Han I do surprise the waiters. One of the local delicacies is mint, fresh mint. I really like that, in my tea. I ask them for hot water. They giggle and bring me a bottle of water not from the fridge. No, that is not what I mean. Then they understand and I get a cup of hot water. When they see me putting the mint in the hot water with lots of sugar adding to it, they nod, yes, that is nice.

            In Hatay live about 1200 Christians of whom the most are Syrian-Orthodox and a few Roman-Catholics. Still there are two Christian churches in use. That is special because churches are mostly or in devastating condition or now in use as a mosque. At the Catholic church I ask if I can have a Mass for my deceased father. Yes, that is possible, the parish worker says. Thursday morning there will be a real Mass with a priest. I cannot attend that Mass myself so I hope everything will be okay.

            Walking through I hear the bells ring, it is six o’clock. It appears to be the orthodox Mass. Because also this building is only open during prayer times I take a seat. The complete ceremony takes twenty minutes. Probably because I recognize more but a church like this I really find more attractive than most mosques. The plaster of the ceiling and walls is almost completely intact, lamps and railing of the high pulpit are made of cast iron, there are several beautiful icons and the windows have enamelled glass. Only the mass itself I do not understand. The priest I can hardly see, he is almost constantly behind half-closed curtains. He walks across the church with incense to bless the four (!) present worshippers. Two of them sing – to hear by the monotone sound a bit shuffling - their litanies. It sounds very familiar although I do not understand a word.


Wednesday May 31st: Hatay – Harbiye v.v. (16 kilometres)

            Half an hour walking – in the burning sun – north of Hatay there is a cave of which is said it was the first meeting place of Christians and St. Peter. This place is mentioned in the Bible: Acts of the Apostles 11, 26. The Turkish people call this place St. Pyer Kilisesi. Pope Paul VI served a Mass there in 1963 and said that it will be a pilgrim place for anyone who wants to get an indulgence. High above the cave, only reachable by a lot of climbing, there you can see the face of Virgin Mary, cut by wind and rain in the rocks. A little bit of fantasy is necessary but there is resemblance.

            A boy of about 11 years who speaks quite good English claims to be a tourist guide, without me asking for it. He shows me the way up (and happily also down again). When I see him jumping from stone to stone I think it is not the first time he is doing this. The loose rocks next to the path sometime scare me. The kid wants to have money, of course. Five lira is not enough, he asks for more. I think it is okay for just ten minutes walk. Only when I put the money back in my wallet, he agrees and almost grasps it out of my hand.

            Back in town I drink real filter coffee (what a pleasure after all that Nescafe) with künefe in the five star hotel Savon. A large cool lobby to rest. Künefe is the local sweet treat served hot with syrup and pistachio. I have to ask my students Abdullah, Mehmet and Halil if I can buy that in Holland too, I have never seen it at a Turkish bakery. Kral künefe has the most delicious servings in town, they say. I do not know, it all tastes good.

            I do not understand a thing of the dolmus system. No bus stops, so recognizable for a tourist like me. Standing on the street, absolutely no bus stop in sight, I raise my hand and yes, a dolmus stops. In half an hour I am in Harbye, the town famous because of the story of Daphne, who wanted to be saved from the advances of the god Apollo and changed into a laurel tree. No laurel trees to see anymore now, but the views are fantastic. Looking over the green valley and with the sounds of the deafening – partly artificial – falls I eat trout. Together with Açili Esme, humus and oregano salad, it is much more than just okay.

            A sms to my colleague to ask students for the exact meaning of Ma├żallah turns into a heated discussion in Rotterdam. Students cannot agree, they all say it has to do with the evil eye. Now I have to bring such a Nazar for my colleague. The word Ma├żallah is at almost every car and truck but if preventing from the evil eye with just a word is such a relief considering the aggressive traffic manners here… I doubt.

            The archaeologists of the museum in Hatay did a fantastic job. There are the usual coins, vases, amphora’s and other excavated objects from Greek, Roman and Byzantine era’s. But what makes this museum so special are the meters high and wide mosaics. Some almost completely intact, from the second to fifth century after Christ. Tableau’s from Eros, Heracles, Oceanus and other Greek gods, pictures of hunting parties, feasts and several mythological stories. The little stones of the mosaic, about one square centimetre each, are perfectly conserved and put together. A very funny one is the mosaic of two sportsmen whose eyes you follow, even if you walk away.

            In the bazaar I look for a Nazar necklace and with the help of the receptionist of Hotel Onur I find three of them and also a matching pair of earrings.


Thursday June 1st: Antakya – Adana (190 kilometres)

            Turkey is for an independent, undisciplined, solo-travelling woman like me not always the most ideal country. In this male dominated society sometimes every feministic hair is standing up right! No sir, I will not approach you just because you order me to do that. No sir, I am perfectly capable of choosing a bus company myself. The level of English, very bad, that these touts speak, makes it sometimes very demanding. One syllable and a quite harsh tone, I do not always like it.

            Just after the bus left the conductor ask if I want to change places with my neighbour so she can sit next to a friend. It’s my pleasure, her smell is not that fantastic… Along the road to Adana the bus stops and I have to change to a dolmus that brings me to the otogar. The yelling of the touts is not bothering me now, I just do not listen and have very soon my next bus ticket.

            This is the first town I really have to look for a hotel. The first one I see, Otel Seyhan, turns out be a five star hotel. Curious as I am, I ask for the price. They do not say, the hotel is booked out. Hotel number 2, Princess Maya, my first choice from my travel guide is not as cheap as they say, bargaining is not possible and the receptionist is rude. Hotel number 3, hotel Turkay, is much cheaper but has a certain atmosphere. Yikes, some silent looking men in the lobby, almost undressing me with their eyes. Happily there are double locks on the room door because else I would not feel safe, I think. Walking through Adana I get an unpleasant feeling. Why did I come to this city? I do not know why, but in this western looking city I do not feel comfortable. I decide just to stay one night, I want to leave right now but that is not possible.

            The Sabanci Merkez Camii with 6 minarets is the biggest between Istanbul and Saudi Arabia. It is very new. Full of marble and gold leaves and very good to see. It is named after the deceased industrial Sakip Sabanci.

            Dinner I have at Pronto, a chic restaurant with a partly Italian menu, like the name. It is also fusion, several French, Turkish and Japanese courses are possible as well. I try to keep up the tradition of eating sushi in every country I visit, but sorry no fresh fish tonight, the waiter tells me. Okay, something light plus an imported beer: Heineken of course! I can notice this restaurant has class. Although the two courses I order at first are put at my table at the same time, a small gesture is enough to make it clear I like to wait a while. There is no pushing like in some other Turkish restaurants. The fruit salad I have ordered is, I think, enough for four persons. Now I understand the frown on the waiters face!


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From Adana to Elazig

1. From Ankara to Malatya
2. From Malatya to Adana
3. From Adana to Elazig
4. From Elazig to Erzurum
5. From Erzurum to Dogubayazit (and surroundings)
6. From Dogubayazit back home

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