Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eastern Turkey - Holy Carp Batman

Beyond our intermission in the UK and most of the way through our second, more challenging and exotic leg of the Walkabout, here's some results:

Physical Status - The trip before Istanbul endowed me with a bum an African woman would be proud of, built on sometimes monotonous food and omnipresent vino. Since then I have been alternating between the squirts (thanks Turkey), great variety and tastiness in food (thanks Georgia and Armenia), starving (Georgia too), weeks without booze (too much Turkish tea) or forced to skull vodka (those piss head Caucasians). Need a hair cut; I've grown a daggy Diana.

Mental Status - Head crammed to overload of experiences and images of previously unheard of ancient wonders, historic horrors, beyond words natural beauty, loony alphabets, local's everyday lives. Thus, I'll only tackle Turkey in this update.

After breathing in the exotic feel of Istanbul only briefly, we bolted for the great interior of Turkey. We decided to focus on the east with only a smattering of tourists (thanks PKK) and found a load of stuff we had never heard of before.

One of the most friendly and safe places I have ever been was a pious, Muslim pilgrimage town - Urfa. We still regret not staying longer to soak up the mix of dress of the Iranian or Arabic pilgrims, wander the labyrinth bazaar, laze in the peaceful gardens, chat with the pleasant locals who stopped us every five minutes or scream "ewwwwww" at the writhing mass of holy carp eating our breadcrumbs.

We were swollen with tea in Mardin, a town of honey coloured, old, extravagant mansions dripping down a mountain side. The view of the roasting plains of Mesopotamia spread below our tea house, seemingly into antiquity.

Filled with quiet excitement at the beauty of little Hasankeyf, we climbed the ancient fortress overlooking the Tigris river, yellow mountains, and people still living in caves. Batman was up the road but dodgy apparently.

Mick's favourite photo: Hasankeyf and the Tigris River in a scene unchanged for centuries.

We visited both Mt Nemruts. One at dawn to watch the sun spread across the ancient stone heads left to honour a long ago king. On top of the other Nemrut we splashed about in a volcanic lake and watched locals devour a whole sheep for a picnic - brought along alive.

Turkish baklava is the best!

I was denied paradise - found a house full of cats, but I could hardly touch them. The rare pure white cats of Van, many with one green and one blue eye, are in quarantine playing in gardens caged by mesh or bars that I could at least stick my fingers through.

A mysterious Van Cat

Anyone heard of the Urartians? Well I hadn't, but we met a man who spoke their ancient language and checked out millennia-old ruins.

t Ararat took our breath away as it loomed over us from its 5,137m height with the remains of the top 1,825m spewed about from an eruption a while ago. I'm confused as to why anyone believes a bit of old lava flow is Noah's Ark.

Us and Noah's Ark - apparently

I had a Turkish bath, of course, and briefly was less of a grot - scrubbed so clean.

Kars was a dump of a town, but the nearby old Armenian city of Ani was eerie and magnificent. Various earthquakes and destructive hordes left only the walls, churches and mosque standing. An act of God? Ani is long deserted, but quietly watched by Russian guards on the locked-down border with Armenia.

In the east we met plenty of overeager locals offering tea, seemingly every few minutes. However, the stone-throwing, doodle flashing, 'money, money, money' chanting kids can grow boils on their tongues. Also, it’s the most traditional part of Turkey, and there were just too many men around - women were kept at home.

After trying to fit the east into three weeks, we were stuffed - moving too fast.

Entering Georgia was a welcome, dramatic change, evident by the first Georgian we met - a woman with a job. The relief spread from there: women freely walking on the streets, flirting with boys on the beach, drinking alcohol. We chilled on the Black Sea coast seeing lots of things to laugh / cry at, but I'll get to that next time.