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South Eastern Anatolia

TURKEY | Wednesday, 28 December 2011 | Views [478]

By this stage of the trip we were counting down the bus trips left. It was our second overnight bus trip in a week and we really weren’t looking forward to it. The Turkish buses weren’t quite up to the standard of South American buses ie no lazy boy chairs, no wine and no bingo! I found it impossible to get comfortable and sleep while Dusk just doesn’t like bus trips. So by the time we arrived in Kahta we were pretty shattered and easy fodder for the touts and before we had even got our bags we had given in and were climbing into a van with a vague promise of a hotel room and tour to Mt Nemrut. We were taken to a smelly office and served the necessary cay (tea) and after some time we found out the hotel was full so we decided to leave, at which point our tout quickly took us to his other cousins hotel. It turned out to be not too bad and we managed to get a few hours sleep ahead of our afternoon tour to Nemrut.


We were joined on our Nemrut tour by a Dutch guy we met on the overnight bus trip and three Turkish students who were constantly late getting back to the mini bus after stops. Our guide (who was also the tout from the bus stop) had bloodshot eyes and looked even more tired than us. It turned out he was also a fire man and had been up all night fighting grass fires. The tour itself was pretty relaxed with a few minor stops along the way before we wound our way up the mountain side to the summit of Nemrut for sunset. From a distance the peak of the mountain looks unusually angular and when you arrive you see that it is in fact a large pyramid of loose rock. Surrounding the pyramid are statues (some probably 10 m high) in various states of ruin. Along with the view of the surrounding hills and a good sunset it’s a very cool place to visit.


Next stop was Urfa. After a fairly uncomfortable, hot, smelly and at times dangerous mini bus trip we were dumped out on a busy roundabout with only a vague idea of where we were and an even vaguer idea of how to get to our hostel. Street names and numbers are mostly non existent. We headed off toward the centre of town and eventually found our hostel with the help of a barber and some school kids. The 40 degree heat meant we basically relaxed in our rooms air conditioning for the rest of the afternoon and ate baklava. We headed out in the evening to see the main gardens with its mosques and decorative pools which were all quite nice. At the carp pool some guy began talking to us in English (which was getting a bit rare) and we ended up having a cup of cay with him and he told us about some things to do and see. We were a bit weary as we thought he would at the very least try to sell us something but seemed genuinely just to want to make sure we had a good time in his city. The bazaar was the highlight of Urfa. It is very much a working bazaar with metal smiths, tailors and other tradesmen still working and making things in the alleyways. We spent a morning wandering in and out of it but only bought scarves and some soap.


We were now well into South Eastern Anatolia. This area has had a few troubles in the past with the PKK (Kurdish party) fighting the Turkish government. In the past few weeks we had been reading the travel advisories and watching the news for any sign of trouble in the area. At one point walking down the street in Istanbul we saw a news flash on a TV in a restaurant showing an explosion in Urfa but couldn’t understand what it was saying. The waiter explained it as “like a bomb - but not a bomb”, it turned out a petrol station had caught fire. We decided it all seemed pretty quiet on the fighting front and there wasn’t too much to worry about but on arriving in SEA we heard that the Kurdish fighters had killed a group of Turkish soldiers which made us a bit nervous but in the end we didn’t feel unsafe at any point and all seemed pretty normal.


Our guidebook and the internet recommended a trip to Harran (one of the oldest continually occupied spots in the world) to see the unusual style of houses there, so we hired a driver/guide to head south to Harran for the afternoon. Being near the Syrian border it had a bit of a middle east feel to it with camels walking the streets and men in long white robes but otherwise it is a pretty run down dump of a town and the houses were mildly interesting at best. The guide had brought his young grandson along for the trip who was really naughty, but the guide just let him get away with it. On the return drive the boy was jumping all around the car and up and down on the front seat next to the open window but the guide didn’t like telling him off because it made him upset. Seemed a bit of a paradox that he liked his grandson so much he didn’t want to hurt his feelings to the point where he ignored the kids basic safety.


Our last bus trip! This time only a few hours to Diyarbakir. The reason for heading to Diyarbakir was to see the town walls made of basalt blocks and because there were reasonably cheap flights back to Istanbul from there. Unfortunately Dusk started to feel unwell and spent most of her time at the hotel. I headed out to wander around town. Being one of very few foreigners around I seemed to make a lot of friends and drank a bit too much pistachio coffee and cay and by the end of the day was also feeling a bit unwell. Diyarbakir would probably be a much more touristy place if it was a bit further west and didn’t have a reputation as a hot spot for fighting between the PPK and Turkish army. The walls (second biggest fortified walls after the Great Wall) are quite impressive if a bit run down and the town has several neat buildings made of alternating layered black and white rock. It also has a couple of impressive caravanasarei (buildings with a large internal courtyard surrounded by stalls and restaurants looking down from balconies above) that were used in the times of the silk route as trading posts. The flight back to Istanbul was fairly uninteresting apart from the woman wearing full burkas with cowboy hats!?


Our last night in Turkey, Dusk still wasn’t feeling too well and not interested in dinner. I headed out to find something to eat but really didn’t feel like going to a restaurant alone. I decided to have a random dinner from what I could find from the street vendors, sit down in the park by the Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque and watch the tourists and locals as they bustled about. Dinner turned out to be not that good. A hungry looking skinny stray cat turned its nose up at the remains of my doner kebab, the corn on the cob was super salty and tough, the sticky Turkish ice cream got a bit sickly but the cay (which I had developed a taste for in Turkey) was good and even though the food was bad it was quite nice just chilling out in the evening surrounded by amazing buildings while everyone bustled about. A pretty neat end to our time in Turkey – for one of us at least. 

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