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Exploring Turkey part 3: From Arapgir via Kars to Ordu

by Trudy (2/4/2009)

Uzungol, Tirebolu and Ordu


In the bus to Uzungöl I am sitting next to Tuðba, a twenty six year old English teacher. She is originally from Aydýn but the government sent her here for at least four years. She explains the Turkish system to me: ‘Sending graduate students to the East is one way the Turkish government uses to make sure that the more abandoned areas also have enough teachers. With this type of compulsory job, students pay off their debt to the government. After four years they can choose themselves where they would like to live and work.’ Today Tuðba is on a one-day holiday with four female family members. In the bus and on the street I see little girls of at most six years old who wear headscarves. I always thought that even for strict Muslims the minimum age was nine, the year they say girls are old enough to marry. ‘Tuðba,’ I ask, ‘why are these little girls already wearing scarves? They cannot decide that themselves?’ ‘No,’ Tuðba answers tight lipped, ‘they can’t. It is the choice of their family, partly out of tradition and partly out of belief. And believe me, when I see these girls or completely covered women, I feel just as uncomfortable as you. That goes for my family and friends as well.’


The wooden houses of Uzungöl look a little like Swiss chalets giving the village the charisma of the Alps. At the westside there are many pensions, motels and restaurants. Often with very ‘original’ names: Uzungöl motel, Uzungöl otel, Uzungöl pansyon... The village itself has 2800 inhabitants, three mosques of which two are in the centre and one is high up in the mountains but for all the tourists – mostly Turkish according to all the advertisement billboards – there is also a mosque at the side of the lake. The Gölbasi Uzungöl Camii is completely made of wood. Inside there are many refined wood engravings and sculptures. It gives the building a very personal character, so different from mosques with Kütahya or Iznik porcelain tiles. At several places along the lake shores there are wooden picnic tables, belonging to one of the many restaurants. All of them are occupied by families who, so it seems, have taken half of their household effects with them. I see gas tanks for grilling köfte, samovars for tea, huge vacuum flasks, and bags filled with vegetables, fruit and bread. I have lunch at one of these restaurants, a local specialty from the Kaçkar Mountains: muhlama. It is baked and melted cheese in a frying pan. Very delicious, but also very greasy, the cheese floats in the butter.


Despite the fact there are many visitors, the village is very quiet. The wooded and uncultivated mountain slopes, the small scale and the sound of the murmuring river makes the village peaceful. I walk around the lake, it only takes me one hour so I guess the circumference of the lake is 5 kilometre at most. In the bus back to Trabzon most passengers are the same as this morning and I sit next to Tuðba again who tells me what she and her family did today. A few minutes before we arrive in Trabzon Tuðba gives me a nice embroidered key ring, this gift should make me not forget her. What a sweet gesture!


Nuh, the hotel receptionist, tells me I must see the sunset at Boztepe. ‘I would love to go with you, but I can’t, I have to work,’ he says. The dolmus takes me to the summit in ten minutes and I run around looking for a good spot to take pictures, the sun is already very low. A car with four women stops: ‘Are you looking for the Byzantine convent? We can drop you there.’ Nuh is right, sitting on a terrace with the forests to the left of me and the sea on my right, I look over the town while the sun slowly sets. What a splendid view!



After two hours in the bus I arrive in Tirebolu where I am dropped off near the harbour. I see the sign of a restaurant and I walk towards it. The sign is old; the restaurant is now a storage place. A man in overalls with oil stains points out the other side of the harbour to me, about one kilometre from here. I sigh and pick up my heavy backpack. A harbour employee sees me and offers me a ride. Normally I never accept a ride, but this time I do. I just feel it is only friendliness. At the foot of the tiny St. Jeans castle is a restaurant. A table, almost next to the sea in the middle of rocks, draws my attention. In the kitchen I can choose my fish but I take the advice of the cook. It will be mezgit, fried whiting, which tastes delicious.


Then there is Huseyin, the brother of the restaurant owner. He asks if I want a Black Sea sight seeing by boat for half an hour. ‘How much does that cost?,’ I ask. ‘Nothing,’ Huseyin answers, ‘I want to go to the sea myself anyway.’ My intuition tells me that I can trust this fat bellied, bold thirty-something year old man but my mind is protesting: ‘Are you nuts? Going to the sea alone with an unknown man?’ Still I decide to accept his offer and in his boat, called Ömer in memory of his deceased father, we leave the harbour. Just off the basalt sea wall Huseyin takes off his T-shirt, undershirt and short trousers, underneath I see orange-white boxers with an enormous mass of ashen fat. I am frightened, what is happening? Am I mistaken? Every hair on my body stood on end. But no, Huseyin takes a towel and a bottle of sun lotion to protect him against the scorching hot sun. We navigate for about half an hour along the coast, the beaches of Tirebolu where I can see women in bikini, bathing suit but also fully dressed to go swimming. Such a new Islamic bathing suit, a burkini, I do not see. Huseyin points at a rock and above the noise of the diesel motor I hear ‘...camii...’ I look and look but I can’t see a mosque. The pictures I take from here are so beautiful. After about one hour I start feeling a little uncomfortable. Huseyin is not doing anything wrong but I want to go back. How can I make this clear to him without insulting him? I think I find a simple but acceptable solution. Even though the Black Sea is very calm I pretend I am very sea sick. Not honest, but to me the best choice, the distance became just a little too long for me. Back in the harbour I am not allowed to pay for my lunch; my loud protests have no effect. Huseyin shows me the entrance of the little castle next to the restaurant. Hundred of steps up, a smart concessionaire has started a small tea garden here, in the ruins of the nave of the former church there are now some tables and chairs. Back down again Huseyin asks if I would like to see his house. ‘No, thank you,’ I answer, ‘it is time to move along; I want to go to Giresun and Ordu today.’ Huseyin reacts surprisingly clearly to my rejection: ‘The police station is next to my house; you do not have to be scared.’ He understands my resistance very well. In spite of his friendly offer with his boat, I now feel his questions seem a bit pushy. Probably my suspicions do him a great injustice. I am truly sorry for that.



Getting a long distance bus to Giresun or Ordu on the coastal road? No way. Even if the buses stop, they all drive along when they hear my final destination. The distance of ninety kilometres is obviously not lucrative enough. With a dolmus to Giresun and a second one to Ordu I arrive at my destination of this day.


My hotel room in Ordu has a balcony with a stunning sea view. Too bad for me the swimming pool is already closed though it is only five o ‘clock. Like in Birecik there is a wedding tonight. ‘Are you staying one or two nights?,’ the receptionist asks in perfect English. ‘I don’t know yet,’ I answer, ‘I would like to see Paþaoðlu Konaðý but I am not sure if that is open tomorrow because it is Monday.’ ‘I will check that for you,’ is the reply. His name is Berkant according to the personal visiting card he gives me. Berkant offers a lot more information and he gives me two large photo books. The bellboy will bring them to my room.


In Ordu I get lost very quickly. As orderly as the much larger Trabzon is as confusing I find the alleys and streets here. I ask a passer-by the way to the dolmus station. ‘Come with me,’ the man says, ‘I will show you.’ While walking he wants to know my name and I ask him the same. ‘My name is Aþkýn, with an n,’ he says with a grin on his face when he sees me looking surprised. He understands it directly. The Turkish word ‘aþkým’, with an m, means lover. I don’t think that is a common name for men. I think it is very special that people walk with you for quite some distance to show you where you want to go. They even do that when they have to go in the other direction themselves or if they have to leave their shop for it. Do not expect the same in The Netherlands. The best that can happen to you there is someone saying ‘third street on the right and then cross it.’


Ordu is big in space but absolutely not in curiosities. Still, there are a few gems in this town. The Paþaoðlu Konaðý is a gorgeous decorated Ottoman house. For a long time I stare full of admiration at the beautiful rooms. The concierge shows me around, he points at the room names. Some, like the bedrooms, are obvious by their style but for others like the brides’ room and the guest waiting room I need my dictionary. On the ceiling are porcelain lamps, brown-beige painted, set in gracefully casted foundry iron. Two former churches, of which one was Greek-Orthodox, are now in use as a theatre and as a cultural centre. One church was used for a while as a prison. I cannot see anything that reminds of that time, the character of the church has remained. The vaults of the nave and the aisles are exquisite, beautifully plastered and with girders of light coloured wood. In the local gallery I see placards, mementos and commemoration medals from the inheritance of a former governor, Kemal Yazýcýoðlu Vali. The man must have been brave and famous; I count two hundred and three pieces!


It is very hot today and not so Turkish though nice I have a siesta. After that I want to swim. Berkant has told me it is also possible late afternoon or in the evenings. A hotel employee stops me when I want to go to the swimming pool because ‘no one swims after six o ‘clock’. Well, I do! It takes some wheedling and with the support of Berkant I can go, again the swimming pool is for me alone, a real luxury!. Berkant gives me his private cell phone number so I can call him to pick me up if there are problems with public transport. He tells me I should go to Gardenya, a restaurant with an international menu. I have not experienced that a lot outside Istanbul. ‘It is expensive, this restaurant with live music,’ Berkant tells me, ‘but I have a friend working there and if you tell him my name, prices can go down.’ Too bad, this friend has a day off. The fajita is delicious but indeed pricey by Turkish standards. To get to this restaurant I have to take three dolmusses. I have the idea I am seeing half the province: a large area with newly built houses, an even larger industrial complex, a sports complex, four police stations and for kilometres long the coastal road.


At my hotel room the television has over thirty channels but none of them is English or subtitled. While zapping I discover a Hustler hard porn channel. Watching it for only two seconds does make me realize that even in the ‘free’ Netherlands this would not be possible on a public channel. Turkey surprises me every day, I never expected this.

Another ´thank you´ for LIR!

And..... comments are welcome.... ;)

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Arapgir, Kemaliye, Erzurum, Kars and Trabzon

1. Arapgir, Kemaliye, Erzurum, Kars and Trabzon
2. Uzungol, Tirebolu and Ordu

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