contains only one small relevant referance to a toilet
2/8/10 - 6/8/10 28 °C
I forgot to tell you the most important part of my stay in Riza. Ever since getting to Turkey I've been dying to play Backgammon with one of the showy, "slap the pieces down as hard as you can" men. Women don't play - at least in public, so it took a while to get a game. The chance finally came in a cafe where one of the showiest players noticed me watching and patronisingly offered to play me - big mistake. 5 embarrisingly thrashed games later he gave up and we left before his pride got the better of him! I tried to be as modest and lady-like as I could but inside I was dancing around and sticking my toungue out at him!
We left humid Riza and caught a Dolmus bus to the mountains. We'd heard that the village we were going to was very beautiful. After following the Black Sea Coast we climbed quickly into the Kackar Mountains and arrived a what looked like another back-packer's paradise, with an internet cafe and cafe in the square, on the side of a mountain. However, it son became obvious that this was a tourist spot for Turkish holidaymakers.
It's funny that mountain places always remind me of Switzerland - even though I've never actualy been there. There were a lot of wooden houses built along the hill-side, some of which had hand turned lifts to take the baggage up. The scenery certainly looked Alpine and there was the constant sound of waterfalls and a fast-flowing river.
We managed to find a great place - pretty basic, but cheap and run by a friendly, quirky woman. A small mix-up with the room led to an English speaking man to be found and immediately broke the ice and led to much hugging and meeting the other guests and extended family. Later in the week one of the women called me over and stroked my arms while simultaneously fanning the flies away from me and feeding me peeled pears! We were right next to the hot springs hammam - which made up for the shared dilapidated squat toilet and cold water sink. It was even closer to the Mosque- infact joined on to it.
Before I left Englad I listened to a radio programme about tunes and music that had the most effect on the human brain. About 3rd on the list was the call to prayer. The sound of this has always had unexplained effect on me. Not religious and not usually evocative of any particular place, but something inside me stirs when I hear the beautiful melodic call. Not this one! It was the only one (including the wobbly tape recording in Sinai) that had no effect on me as it sounded completely different to any I'd heard before and at 5 in the morning sounded even worse.
It was great fun watching the Turkish holidaying. There was even more eating going on than usual. The Turkish seem to enjoy places by eating in them - families with big picnics and eating out is a matter of course for even poorish people. This ofcourse strikes a chird close to my heart, but even I was out-eaten by the Turkish tourists. At least I walked up the mountain and then ate loads! They just seem to drive around from one eating place to another and then spent the evening eating and drinking. There were the Turkish equivalent of "Kiss-me-quick" hats. The women all wore ethnic scarves with dangly bits and the men wore cowboy hats. At first I kept thinking that the Istanbul tourist were foreigners they were much lighter skinned and dressed so differently from the Turkish people we had got used to.
The local people had a definate hardy mountan look about them and obviously loved their home. One teenage girl (one of the few English speakers we came across) told me happily " I was born here and I will die here one day." One of the things they were proud of was the traditional music and dance called the "Huron". This was the attraction of the evening as a piper arrived with a few local people and started it up. It sounded very much like Breton music to me and the dance looked the same, with people holding hands and dancing in a circle with a few shouts thrown in - great stuff! Soon a huge group of holidaymakers were joining in.
The thermal baths were a fantastic experience, a sort of cross between a Hammam and swimming pool. The men and womens sections were, ofcourse, totally separate. Like a hammam this place was seen as a great local social opportunity. It seemed strange to see the women stripped of their scarves and baggy clothing. It was obvious I was a foreigner as I had a swimming costume on instead of the strange combination of cloths they used, though later some Istanbul women arrived with their brazen swimming costumes and brown shoulders! It was a bit odd at first to be alone amongst the chatter that I couldn't understand; here everyone seemed to have a friend to wash their back, but the heat of the place soon relaxed me and I just sat back and enjoyed watching everyone.
After the woman's entrance you went into the changing room, similar to at a swimming pool, then there was the washing room. This was marble tiled and had marble sinks and taps fixed around the marble seating area. The thermal spring water that came out was pretty hot and there were bowls around for pouring it over you. Then you just sat there and washed. And washed. You could employ a proffesional washer if you wanted. There was one women who did and she was washed everywhere for about 20 minutes - I didn't think it was possible to wash for that long! Then you go in the thermal pool for as ong as you can bear, come out and wash, have a cold shower go back in wash for a bit more etc etc. All I can say is I felt pretty exotic as I sat there scrubbing with my jaunty pink and black polka dot Wilkinson's exfoliator mitt. The first ever one in Ayder!
From Ayder to the border was a shortish trip. We changed buses and found ourselves very quickly in one bound for Batumi, the first major town in Georgia. The bus dropped us off all at the border, apparently to pick us up at the other side. There was a sudden rush for the first part and we all queued and pushed and queued in the heat. All of a sudden everyone looked and sounded very different and slightly dodgy! We went through various processes with officials sitting in air-conditioned kiosks while we all sweated outside. It was all slightly confusing and we were questioned about our stay very politely by the Turkish officials. We eventually got through and after waiting about an hour for our bus, realised it hadn't waited for us!
The change across the border was immediate - the signs, the people, the food, the ex-soviet feel was all slightly unearving. We had been told that very few people spoke English in Georgia and that it was not always a safe place. When I was travelling before I got used to the people in one country telling me that the next one wasn't a good place to go, but its always exciting and a bit strange to go into a new country.
We got on the first mashroutka (transit mini-bus that goes from a set place to another, when its full - and I mean full!) to Batumi. As we sat down a girl leaned across and said "Welcome to Georgia, I hope you enjoy your stay in our beautiful country." Then chatted in English until she got off with her mother after a few miles. The mother said "I will pay your fares for you as a welcome gift" and would accept no argument. The bus travelled through some beautiful and dilapidted soviet style small towns and we got off at a confusingly busy bus station, which was decorated by a sleeping drunk man lying in the entrance.