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Tonielle's European Adventure "It's always better on holiday, so much better on holiday. That's why we only work when... we need the money." - Franz Ferdinand

Lightning Clouds & Midget Porters

TURKEY | Friday, 20 November 2009 | Views [1152] | Comments [1]

East Turkey

So after an amazing night bus (note the sarcasm), Justin and I arrived in Malayta (or more like were dumped at the side of a main road) at seven in the morning. After finding some breakfast, we followed the “Tourism Info” signs through town, which by chance took us exactly where we wanted to be! We had a mission to accomplish that day – to find the tourist guru that lived in the town’s fun-park to organize a cheap tour up to Mount Nemrut for that afternoon. How do we find him? Easy, he’s the 80s looking man with the long, grey, combed-over hair wearing bell-bottomed jeans!

Talking to the guru, he suggested that it probably wasn’t a good idea to climb the mountain at the moment, the weather had been really bad, but we could still do it if we wanted to. Of course we went against our better judgment and decided that we’d just spent seven hours on a bus to get here, so we were gunna climb the damn mountain! The bus up to Mount Nemrut didn’t leave until lunch-time, so we walked around town, found the bazaar and bought some dried apricots – Malatya is famous for them!

The bus from Malatya was a good three hours long - along windy, wet and muddy mountain roads – that Justin had the pleasure of watching and cringing at (I was trying to sleep) and we arrived in our hotel – only 2km from the summit. The hotel was freezing, but we were soon invited upstairs where there were copious amounts of tea and a warm fire. They decided that the conditions were too bad for us to attempt to the top that afternoon, so after dinner we relaxed next to the fire for the evening and had an early night (no shower however because the hotel ran off solar heating, and no sun for the last few days meant no hot water!).

Up bright and early the next morning to tackle the mountain, it wasn’t raining which was a good sign, but the thick fog wasn’t good. We rugged up in all our warm gear (not really owning much, I had to borrow a think jumper from Justin) and off we went.

The first kilometer up wasn’t bad – thick fog, but that was ok (this is when I took my one and only photo), but then the wind really picked up, and then the rain started. Ok, we were expecting this, but hail, we weren’t expecting. It was probably only the size of a pin-head, but it bloody hurt when it hit your face and hands! We’re still climbing, and I couldn’t see much except where I was putting my feet, and the occasional glance ahead to make sure I was keeping up with the boys. It’s a struggle, but we finally made it, to the summit, and the ancient monuments.

Now, the reason why we were putting ourselves through all that was to see the two thousand year old memorial sanctuary built on top, by an odd, self-loving, self-proclaimed king. On the top of Mount Nemrut, was an artificial summit (made by a hill of limestone), which is surrounded by giant statues of gods, and one of the king himself. Most of it still remains, with the statues now sitting headless – their heads scattered around below. It was amazing to see (I’m sure even more amazing if we could have seen it without the torrential rain, hail and wind, and the view is supposed to be spectacular). After walking around and taking it in for as long as we dared, we started our decent.

By this time the weather had gotten even worse (if that was possible), and the thunder and lighting had started. Lighting struck near where we were, hit something, and for a second all we could see around us was red! That’s when we realized that we were actually IN the storm cloud and that we’d better get back quick-smart. We all started running down the hill – which is a surprisingly hard task to do when you are soaked to the bone in skinny jeans (which don’t allow for much movement) and the rubber shoes that you borrowed are full with water!

The two kilometers that took an hour to climb up, probably only took us 20 minutes to get back down, with the lightning still going off all around us. What a relief it was to arrive back inside the hotel and start peeling off the wet layers of clothing. I was wearing two long shirts, a thick jumper and a ‘shower proof’ jacket and I was soaked right through. The worst part was – no hot shower! So after toweling off and putting on any other warm, dry clothes that we owned, Justin and I went upstairs to huddle around the fire to try to warm up again.

After we could feel our fingers and toes again, I had patched up the giant blisters that had formed on my heels, and we had thrown all our wet clothes into giant plastic bags, we were ready to face the bus ride back down the mountain. We were a sight to be seen – Justin wearing a pair of pants generously given to him by one of the hotel men and socks with sandals (his only pair of pants and shoes had gotten soaked), and me hobbling around wearing trackie-pants and a “drowned rat” style hair-do.

By the time we’d gotten back into Malatya, and onto a bus to Diyarbakir, we were exhausted. It was a crazy adventure, which turned out to be more about the journey rather than the destination, but was well worth it… what’s a bit of rain anyway?? ☺

The next day was spent exploring the old-town area of Diyarbakir, a city in eastern Turkey. What I liked about Diyarbakir was that it really felt that we were observing what life in Turkey was really like. No tourists (we were the only foreigners that we saw), no souvenir shops and no one that could speak English, it was just normal life. There were men pulling carts behind them pilled high with tobacco, kids playing in the cobble-stoned streets, and old women wearing their head scarves staring at us as we walked past. It was the first part of Turkey I had been in where I was the only woman without a headscarf on.

We visited one of the oldest Catholic churches in Turkey, built around 400AD. It was a small, hidden away building that was quite beautiful inside, with amazing paintings in a crude, old style that I had never seen church paintings in before. The other highlight of Diyarbakir was the fortress wall that still completely surrounded the old town part of the city. It was still in great condition, with only some parts of it starting to crumble away. The city was also the poorest part of Turkey I had seen, and you could tell that homeless people lived inside parts of the wall.

That afternoon, Justin and I were on the same bus, but with different final destinations. About half way into the trip, our bus was pulled over by a roadside army to be checked. Our passports and everyone else’s identity cards were taken and checked through (we’re pretty sure they were scanned through a computer in their car) and the luggage holds were searched. We’re pretty sure they were just doing a routine spot search, and it seemed nothing was found, so after half an hour we were on our way again. The country has a mandatory two-year military service for all men, so there is always random military men with machine guns around the place, often doing the most menial of jobs.

I said goodbye to Justin when the bus arrived at Sanliurfa, and continued on to Gaziantep. I didn’t arrive until night-time (which is always the worst) and after talking to the men behind the desk at the bus station, one of them offered me a ride into town for 10lira ($7) so I gave him the name of the hotel I was aiming for, and off we went. It was a good 20min trip into the city, and there were two of them in the car, trying to talk to me (even though they knew no English) and I gathered that the young one was trying to pick me up, so I had to be careful what I was saying yes and no to!

They dropped me off at the hotel, and as I made my way in, I realized that this was probably the wrong place, because it looked way too ritzy for my budget! After asking for a room, my fears were confirmed - he was asking for 60lira a night ($50). After trying to explain that that was too expensive, and realizing that this was the wrong hotel with a similar name to the one I was looking for, I showed him my diary with the hotel name and 35lira written next to it. After contemplating for a minute, he said 35lira was ok! Stoked! The porter (he was a midget!) showed me up to my room, which was the nicest room I’d ever stayed in. Double bed, ensuite, tv, I was very happy. When I headed downstairs for dinner, they directed me to the hotel restaurant, which was included in the price, and I ate alone in this huge dining room with a man playing traditional Turkish music with a disco ball going off over his head – it was pretty funny.

The next morning, after discovering that the train I wanted back to Istanbul didn’t exist, I booked a night train for that evening, and headed into town to check out the history museum. It was a great museum with lots of mosaics from Greek ruins around the south-east of Turkey all perfectly restored. I spent a bit of time there, and then headed back to the hotel to take advantage of the room and the late checkout time. I pigged out on the best Baklava I’d ever tasted (Gaziantep is where it first came from) and then jumped on my night bus.

Now, in the past, every bus I’ve caught in Turkey stops every two hours, and at meal-times for at least half an hour – this bus didn’t make its first stop till midnight – six hours after it left! I hadn’t had dinner assuming it would stop for that, so by 10 o’clock, I had resigned to the fact that maybe the bus was just driving on for 14 hours until we got back to Istanbul! I got maybe four hours sleep for the whole trip (the beauty of night buses), and got into Sultanahmet (old part of Turkey) around 10am. I didn’t know where I was staying – I was meeting up with Rob that afternoon, a mate I’d met in Selçuk – so I made my way to Bahaus Hostel (where I stayed last time I was in town), and used the fact that the guys that ran it were so excited to see me again, to use their internet.

I spent two more days in Istanbul, walking around town, catching up with Rob, and getting some more bargains at the Grand Bazaar for the cold weather that I was gunna have to get used to. Friday night a little group of us hit up Taxim Square (the nightlife part of town), going out for a cheap dinner and then finding small bars for beers, and strong vodkas (for me). The area was packed, thousands of people trying to wander through the small back streets. It was a great night to finish off my time in Turkey.

Photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2021492&id=219300161&l=82825522ac

Tags: diyarbakir, gaziantep, malayta, mount nemrut



Thinking of you today Tonielle

  Lynn Krisanski Nov 22, 2009 9:04 PM



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