Monday, October 21, 2002

Wonder #8?

Quick update (well, that was the plan, but it has turned into a bit of a monster) before I enter the internet black hole that is Syria. Apparently ISPs are not allowed there, but we shall see. Shame really, since Syria never signed any international copyright agreement, so Napster could set up shop there and be perfectly legal(ish!).

Left the Antipodian campers in Goreme, sitting outside Fat Boy's pub.

Then the adventure began. 8 o'clock bus from Goreme to Kayseri with NZ travelling companion (who left his slightly peeved girlfriend with the group for three nights). 90min wait in Kayseri for connection to Kahta, met Turkish family and conversed something like this:
"Lutfen (gesturing to the chairs), take a seat"
"teshekur, teshekur" (they take the seats, except the one next to me - the daughter prefers to sit on a table)
"Lutfen - take a seat! :)"
She moves, tentatively, closer.
"Where are you going? (with lots of hand signals)"
"To Ankara?"
"Hayir. (No)"
"From Ankara?"
"Hayir. Batman."
"From Batman? (a town in East Turkey)"
"Hayir (smiles all round)"
"To Batman?"
"Hayir (more smiles all round)"
"Aha - meeting friend from Batman!"
Then the friend turns up and we figure out that they're seeing him off.
"Where from?"
"I'm from England, my friend from Yeni Zelanda."
"Ah - English" At this point the father talks in Turkish with the son, something along the lines of 'son, you're learning english at school - talk to these people!' He gives an embarrased smile, tries to think of a question then gives up. We've all been there when we meet someone French or German with our parents in tow...

Anyway, the conversation picked up a little (the son, 18, and daughter, 24, could speak reasonable english once they got started) and they translated the political cartoons in the newspaper that wrapped our sandwiches and the father ended up giving us a turkish lesson - how to say 'I like Turkey - it's beautiful', 'pleased to meet you', 'she's beautiful', etc. Quite an enjoyable way to kill an hour in a bus station.

As they left the guy who sold us the ticket was spotted running around looking frantic. He was looking for us because the bus was due to go in 5 mins and, for the first time in Turkish history, it was on time.

Fun drive to Kahta. Tried to sleep on what appeared to be an 'ergonomically designed' chair, but was actually impossible to be comfortable unless you were sitting bolt upright and lying across 2 of them caused great distress to your kidneys, ribs or hips where the 'anti-roll super-comfort system' dug in.

Arrived zombified at 5:30am in the dustbowl that is Kahta otogar (bus depot). Tried asking about what time buses ran to Antakya (which we needed that evening) but nobody seemed to have ever heard of Antakya or Antioch (but, now I'm here, I can testify that it does exist and it's extremely vibrant). But then our moustachioed survivor turned up.

"Antakya? You must go here. Osmaniye. At one of these times (pointing to the timetable). Then find new bus to Antakya. Hostel tonight? Where are you from?"
"Yeni Zelan-"
"-ah, I have 2 New Zealanders in my hostel already. Come with me."
"5 minutes please."
"ok" (he walks out the door of the bus co. office)
We confer about whether to go to Antakya that night or the next morning.
He returns: "Hostel room - 10 million."
"That's a little expensive, we were hoping for 7 or 8" says Karl.
"ok, 8. Come with me."
"5 minutes, lutfen!"
(he walks out the door of the bus co. office)
He returns: "Come with me. 600m to hostel. Free information service. Nemrut Dagi tours, bus reservations, change money."
"5 minutes, lutfen!"
(he walks out the door of the bus co. office)
He returns: "Come with me. 600m to hostel. I need toilet! Quickly! 600m"
"ok, ok!"
So we get into his car, drive about a km, stop outside a door, and watch as he leaps out of the car and dashes for the loo. We sit stunned in the car for a minute, then decide to go inside. It turns out to be the side entrance to the hostel and he reappears about 5 or 6 minutes later, slightly flustered and trying to hide the splash marks down his trousers (presumably from the sink) behind the counter.
"sorry. not good. (pointing to his stomach)"
"it's ok!"
Then he starts talking about trips up to the mountain, and we explain that we're going to leave that evening so he makes us an offer we can't refuse - a good price for the trip and use of a room and shower until midday. Sleep!

At midday we get up after 5 1/2 unexpected but very welcome hours of sleep, take turns to have an argument with the temperamental and very hot shower then get bundled out of our room by a young turk. It's still 30 mins before the trip was meant to start. Another early turkish departure?
"Need bank, yes?" asks the lad, after leading us out to a minibus with engine running and 3 slightly bemused looking tourists inside.
"Tamam. (ok)"
We get in and drive helter-skelter through town. I get some cash then we helter-skelter back to the hostel.
"Now you pay."
"Ah - ok." So we wander inside with our bags and pay him for the tour.
"Anywhere we can get some food?"
He points us to a dodgy kofte (meatball) shack on the edge of the wasteground opposite the hostel. We get our kofte-in-a-doners and Karl blags a rolly off the shack owner in exchange for a filter. He then explains with glee - (pointing to his big tin of tobacco, "bir milyon (1 million lira)". picking up filter cigarette "pakete, bir milyon!" then he lights it, takes a deep drag and leans back with a smile.

We mosey back to the hostel and across to the minibus, engine still running, tourists still waiting, and climb in to set off up Nemrut mountain.

Mini-tumulus fairly funky
Septimus Severus bridge v.impressive (almost 2000 years old and still in use today - with a little concrete added here and there)
Ruined city had funky relief frescoes and a very long, dark, tunnel.

Nemrut itself excellent - lots of 2000yo giant heads and decapitated statues on top of a windswept mountain, backed by a huge, man-made, pile of rocks. Atmospheric yes. Undoubtedly impressive and well worth the trip, but not quite the 8th wonder of the world.

Back to Kahta for about 2 hours down the bone-shaking mountain road. Driven to Otogar, sorted out tickets then went hunting for food. Found funky local house-o-lahmacun (Turkish wafer-thin pizza) and ate our fill. Only two passing locals shyly popped their heads around the door to ask us where we were from before scampering off.

With a couple of hours to kill before the bus we wandered down the street past a building housing a political rally for Ataturk's CHP party. We walked slowly past the door to get a glimpse of the speaker inside and past the plastic tables on the pavement surrounded by party supporters, aged 7 to 77, chatting over mini-glasses of turkish tea.

To cut (another) long story short (cos this email is already WAY too long). They started off with the usual hellos, and where are you from, and lots of hand shaking and offers of tea and almost no English spoken. Then, when there was a good-sized ring of people (totally) surrounding us and hot tea in our hands, they asked us "which party best? Severmisin (do you like) AK party? Severmisin DEHAP party?".
A quick look at the posters on the wall then I said "Hayir - severim CHP. Severim... Denis Bay...kal. (reading what I hoped was a name off one of the posters)"
(smiles all around the circle, much relief within the circle. Phew.)

We spoke, gesticulated, got fed way too much chai (the caffeine content of which is probably why I got no sleep last night. Well, that and the sod's luck that Karl (6 foot 4) and I (6 foot 1 in my socks) got the two seats with the least legroom on the bus and may well have blood clots the size of Wales by now.), got shown a guy up to his elbows making kofte for everyone present, took photos that we now have to post to an almost illegible address in Turkey, met the speakers and party leaders, almost made the mistake of naming Galatasaray as a good football team when most people there supported Fenerbahce, talked (carefully) about politics ("Ecevit (current PM of Turkey) bye-bye"), got fed the incredibly spicy kofte-in-a-doner whilst the onlookers laughed at our distress before removing all the chilli peppers from their own portions, and generally passed an excellent 2 hours. Oh yes and Karl was given a CHP lapel pin. I'm very jealous.

Caught the no leg room edition of the six hour bus to Osmaniye, complete with over-officious conductor - "You Must Sit Here!" (after moving us for the third time to the smallest seats on the bus. Maybe he didn't like Karl's lapel pin) and psycho driver at the controls who decided to carry out some bizarre experiment on the medium-term effects of extreme heat and lack of oxygen on the human body (no air flow, no air con, no nothing. just hotter and hotter and less and less air on a bus where EVERY seat was filled. Much fun!). Arrived 4:20 am in Osmaniye, played draughts and drank (more) tea until 5am dolmus (minibus) rocked up. Sat in cramped minibus (again, no leg room. Indeed, almost no room at all) for 30 mins whilst driver discussed something with his mates then set off for Iskendere. Arrived about 7am, bundled straight onto bus for Antakya.

"Kach para Antakya? (how much to Antakya?)"
"Tamam, tamam (OK, OK)" (driver says, gesticulating to sit down).

fall asleep. woken up 90mins later by guy talking rapid turkish. finally figure out that he's the un-uniformed conductor and pay him. Get out of bus. Get shoes shined in bus station then a cut-throat shave from incredibly camp barber to pass time until things open properly. Found out museum (main reason for coming here) is shut all day mondays (damn the 5 year old rough guide I borrowed from the truck). So we spent today wandering the streets of Antakya, slightly zombified. Ate lots of Lahmacun and ice cream. Thought cinema would be a good idea, but only found a porno den. Interesting 70s soft-focus ultra-soft porn, though - first film even in English so we could follow the plot! Got bored and left cinema to write ultra-long emails to anyone that'll listen.

So I hope you've enjoyed it!

Hopefully(!) meeting up with the truck tomorrow morning then crossing the border into Syria...


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