Saturday, October 05, 2002

Turkiye (Turkey)

Got to speed this email thing up...

here goes:

Entered Turkey in the very north-eastern point.

monastery perched on a cliffside. Fantastic frescoes inside (including Jonah and the Trout (or so it looks like), giant Virgin, giant Jesus, lots of Eastery scenes) but somewhat wrecked by (a) the grafiti scratched into all the ones within reach, (b) the big lumps taken out by shepherds and randoms over the centuries and (c) the big lumps taken out by a gang of art thieves in an abortive attempt to make off with them in the eighties.

Black Sea Coast:
Nice to see (geddit?).

Cut across the mountains, camped in the middle somewhere near Sivas then on to Cappadoccia.

Cappadoccia (Kapadokya):
Quite a culture shock after the almost complete absence of tourists throughout Central Asia and the Caucasus. Tour buses full of pensioners, guided tours with flags-on-sticks everywhere you look, restaurants and hostels and bus stations and tour company offices packed full with back-packers. Oh yes, and lots of aussies all of a sudden!

The formations themselves (fairy chimneys, underground cities, churches and fortresses carved out of rock, camel-shaped columns, phallic columns, Mr.Whippy formations, etc) are very groovy. We went under, round, though and over them using the truck and our hiking boots during the day, a hot air balloon at dawn and taking our lives into our hands to climb around inside one of them one afternoon. Some of the girls got a little emotional on the climb (obviously, they were never 'scared' as such...).

I almost, accidentally, bought a $5000 vase as well (for $1000). Don't name ANY price unless you intend to make a purchase, even in response to 'oh, how much did you think it was worth?'!!!

Sped across from Kapadokya to Istanbul, where I've been since:

Lavish palaces, complete with harems, libraries, treasuries full of golden armour, emeralds the size of your fist and a magnificently displayed dazzling giant diamond.

Byzantine and Ottoman and modern architecture, including the famous Blue Mosque, the enormous Suleymane Mosque, the incredible Hagia Sofya Cathedral->Mosque->Museum, the fourth longest suspension bridge in the world, the Rustem Pasha Mosque with its funky tiling, the serene Beyazit mosque devoid of tourists, and lots more.

lots of street hassle for single girls (one of the girls in the hostel came back today totally shattered from the constant attentions of the locals and one of my room-mates moved to a different hostel to escape the attentions of the guys working there)

lots of carpet-hassle for everyone (look inside my shop sir... wouldn't you like to buy a carpet sir? ... where are you from sir? oh, a carpet would look nice in England ... Wait! You've forgotten something! No, I don't think I have. Yes, sir, you have - you've forgotten to take a look at my carpets! .)

fun to be had haggling in the many bustling bazaars (Egyptian (spice) bazaar, with all manner of funky foodstuffs; covered (Grand) bazaar, that's bigger than some shopping malls and has more than a thousand vendors; side bazaar, next to the grand bazaar and open even when the GB is shut on Sundays; ripped-CD bazaar; and so on...)

lots to do in general, with nightclubs, cafes, restaurants, internet, bookshops, museums. Met lots (well, about 4) people that came to visit and are now working in Turkey. It's quite a nice place, just seems to me to be a little economically and politically unstable.

and lots of history to brush up on - Ottomans, Byzantines, Hittites, Ataturk, WWI, WWII, Crimean War, Romans... all incredibly interesting.

So, tomorrow I meet a new group and we head off together around the coast towards Syria. Apologies for the drying up of interesting things to say... I've got email burn. Hopefully I can pick up the level again for the next update.


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