A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

riza to georgian border

contains only one small relevant referance to a toilet

sunny 28 °C
View Mıddle East and Caucusus on sue deegan's travel map.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by sue deegan 05:44 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Kayseri to Rize

fairy land and beyond

sunny 37 °C
View Mıddle East and Caucusus on sue deegan's travel map.

We arrived in Goreme with very little problem and I could see why so many people go there. Yes, it was a backpackers Mecca and it was inceredibly toursistic, but it did it with such good grace and the town stunning. There will be photos shortly, but this is the first chance for internet in days and soon want to at least be in the same country as my blog!

The town is very old and the old part consists of strange rock formations which look like fairy chimmnies - there is no other description possible and these fairy chimmneys were turned into houses.

Fairy Chimney House, Goreme

Fairy Chimney House, Goreme

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The countryside all around is scattered with these formations, a lot of them still houses but most abandoned. There are valleys all around the town and its possible to walk along them yourselfor with guides. Ofcourse I did what I promised myself I wouldn't do (because of the 37 degree heat - dry so a lot more comfortable but still very intense) and set out to on a walk in the late morning along an unknown route. It was beautiful with shady groves and lots of fair chimneys along the way but the way back was very hot and exposed.

CANYON GOREME

CANYON GOREME

Later that day I had my only case of sunburn and had to hide from the sun. The hostel we are in has a small swimming pool! And it still only costed about 6 pounds a night! Unfortunately the food cost a lot all over the town, which seems to be the way - when the food is cheap the accomadation costs more and visa versa. It was intresting to see that the town was run mainly by men and younger, unmarried women and the married women nearly all kept a very low profile.

inside fairy chimney

inside fairy chimney

balloon over goreme

balloon over goreme

It was very tempting to stay for longer there, but we were concious that our visas for Azerbaijan were limited to the end of September and moved on.

The next town we went to was called Sivas and although it was pleasant, it was just a stopping place on our trip back up towards the Black Sea Coast (which we had intended to travel along). It was an 6 hour bus trip away. Those who are squeamish might want to stop at this point as I have to briefly discuss my bowels - it is pertinent to the trip and I do want to give an idea of what becomes the most important things when you are travelling. Although I pride myself on being able to eat and drink anything when I'm travelling, I do get irritable bowels and on this trip they suddenly became downright furious. After about half an hour of being doubled with cramps I had to get the bus to stop - luckily at a petrol station and with the whole bus watching, ran to the toilet. I sat very still for the rest of the trip.

The next day was meant to be a 12 hour journey (although it turned out to be 15!) and I was scared! Obviously my bowels had decided that bus journeys were the time to have fun with me. I'd brought some emergency tablets with me but they had run out and the local chemist only had something totally different, which they insisted would work but I had never heard of before, so I decided to risk the trip. Dressed in 2 pairs of pants padded with sanitary towels and a pair of leggings under my clothes - still in 37 degrees heat - I waddled onto the bus carefully. Well the tablets did work you'll be pleased to hear, but I sat very quietly for a long time!

INTERESTING THINGS SEEN (MAINLY) ON TURKISH BUS JOURNEYS

  • The roofs on nearly all the houses have a large water tank connected to a solar panel and a sattelite dish on the side.
  • Lots of fields with minature combine harvesters - very old and like dolls ones.
  • 2 very small boys driving a small red tractor.
  • Real haystacks in a haystack shape
  • An open box van with a new fridgefreezer on the back being held onto by a man standing next to it with a broken arm goingpretty fast on a main road.
  • tea bushes growing on roadsides.
  • Blocks of flats with a built-in kebab oven on each balcony.
  • 2 medium boys driving cars to their father's car wash in a busy city street.
  • A wedding party going around town beeping and then everyone stopping at the photography shop to have their photos taken.
  • Groups of men and children swimming with fully clothed women looking on.

Having decided never to arrive late at night again, we got to Riza on the Black Sea Coast at about 4 in the morning! Luckily we found somewhere quite quickly and then changed to somewhere cheaper the next day. The weather had become very humid again by the sea. This is the main tea growing area of Turkey and it was everywhere - it also tasted pretty good. Not that many foreign tourist travel in this area and people generally don't speak Englsih so our Turkish - or lack of it was severely tested. It was pleasant by the sea but it was walled off aand there was definately no swimming here, especially for women, which seemed quite a shame. I longed to be out of the city and Rob wanted to do some white water rafter and so we headed off for the kackar mountains close to the border with georgia>

Posted by sue deegan 23:34 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

ıstanbul to kayserı

scarf style of the muslım world - well some of them

sunny 38 °C
View Mıddle East and Caucusus on sue deegan's travel map.

As expected´ı´m days late in wrıtıng thıs. It´s also on a Turkish keyboard so sometımes ıt´too much trouble to work out the punctuatıon etc. just excuse ıt.

I´m actually ın the east of the Black Sea Coast at the moment but fırst to catch up a bıt - I wont do ıt all at once so you´re spared that.

Been having a bıt of a problem wıth Ethnıc Eatıng - as ın I have to try all the dıfferent type of food that are ın any way dıfferent from English - even the Kebebs aren´t the same. Need the odd day on fruıt and veg to counteract ıt or my clothes wıll be too tıght.

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I found the mıxture of European and mıddle Eastern culture fascınatıng although talkıng to a couple of women made me realıse that although cıty lıfe there ıs sımılar to ours- there ıs stıll a lot of repressıon of women goıng on and apparently some ´honour´kıllıngs happennıng wıth some of the more conservatıve people who come to Istanbul from the country.

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One evenıng we came across some free entertaınment ın a park ın the Old Cıty area. I sort of hoped ıt would be the whırlıng Dervıshes but ıt turned out to be a very loud and exotıc mılıtary band. It was quıte fun at fırst and you could ımaginme the Ottomans scarıng away the enemy no trouble - there were drums and waılıng horns and brıght red unıforms. After a while the novelty wore off and I looked around the mıxed audıence - mostly Turks- a lot of them were very trendy and cosmospolıtan lookıng but they all had a very patrıotıc look and I wouldn´t have wanted to have got on the wrong sıde of any of them - I even saw a chıld beıng told off for beıng too noısy whıch ıs very unusual!

I had heard of thıs sıde of the Turkısh people before ın that they often didn´t questıon their history too much - I once met a Turkısh man ın Iran who claımed that the ethnıc cleansıng of the Armenıans didn't really happen but that they all got very depressed and commıtted suıcıde!

When I asked the very arty and modern girl workıng at the Hostel about the mılıtary band she got the same look ın her eye and told me how much she loved that band as ıt remınded her of her chıldhood.

That saıd the Turkısh people constantly surprıse me by theır easıness and lack of mıddle Eastern hot-bloodedness whıch has made travellıng here so much easıer. They have maınly shown themselves to be a gentle and kind people - once you accept the macho and patrıotıc elements.

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When we got bored wıth travellıng to Europe and back to Asıa all the tıme we decıded to change our plans - well what we called plans and take the overnıght traın to Ankara.

Luckıly the statıon was on the Asıan sıde but we stupıdly set out to walk as a thunder and lıghtnıng storm hıt Istanbul - ofcourse ıt stopeed shortly after we arrıved lıke drowned rats at the satıon.

The traın was great and we had a few hours to spend ın Ankara- whıch was about 10 deg hotter than Istanbul but not as humıd so ıt was stıll bearable. We walked up a bıg hıll to the Cıtadel ın the old part of the cıty. I expected just a few old walls etc but ıt was pretty bıg and there was a whole area of people lıvıng ın some pretty old and delapıdated houses. At fırst they ıgnored us or trıed to sell stuff but then we stopped ın a small shop and bought some bread and cheese. They were so happy that I trıed to do ıt all ın Turkısh and there was a bıt of jokıng about the prıces - whıch were less than a quater of the Istanbul prices so I got a bıt confused. When we sat outsıde and ate the food the atmosphere had totally changed - people smıled at us and we offered to share our food - whıch is the way of most Muslim people and they smıled and refused. A few minutes later a boy was sent out of one of the houses wıth tea and hot bread for us and I remembered why I love travellıng so much - free food obvıously!

I'd heard that some Turkısh traıns were slow and thıs was brought home to us when we arrıved 3 hours late ın Kayseri at 3 ın the mornıng. Thıs is where I wonder about my sanıty because ınstead of spendıng a small amount on a taxı we walked for 40 mınutes wıth our bags - duh. Next tıme I'm makıng life easier for myself! Thıs hotel was defınately ın the style of cheap Egyptıan Hotels wıth very smelly squat toilets but never mınd because we got up and made our way to the bus statıon to get a bus to faıry land - whıch I'll tell you about next tıme.

Scarf styles of some of the Muslım World

Egypt
Caıro - the women here wear theır scarves tıghtly pinned round theır faces but usually have a double colour co-ordınated thıng goıng on.
Sıwa - thıs ıs ın the very west and the women ın thıs remote desert oasıs mainly stay ın theır houses but when they go out they cover theır whole face with a black guaze and wrap an embroıded cloth around them. They usually have a small boy drivıng them ın a donkey and cart. The cloths are grew and they look a bıt like an embroıded sack of potatoes.

Tunısia
The women here let theır scarves hang loose but they hold on to them - wıth theır teeth ıf theır hands are busy.

Iran
Its the law to cover your haır totally and your neck Some women just do that but some add on a black wrappıng called a Chador - Persian for tent. I had to wear one of these when I look round a mosque but the language that came out of me wasn' very holy. The women wear so much ın the ıntense summer heat and manage to look quıte cool - whıch they assured me they weren't.
However ın Tehran the wealthıer gırls try to adapt the Hıjab (modest clothıng) lıke I trıed to adapt my school unıform. They all wore huge amounts of make-up and tıght clothıng and the scarves were defınately showıng haır. I was convınced that some of them tıed theır scarves ın a way that made them fall off when they were talkıng to a boy!

Morrocco
Can't remember the scarves as I was totally fascınated by the leopard prınt Jellabas. Sadly they were made of nylon or luckıly as would have had to buy one!

Turkey
So far have seen an ımpressıve peaked scarf thıng goıng on. I thınk the bıgger peaks must be pınned to somethıng below. I've also notıced that the bıgger the veranda on the scarf the more horrıble the pattern ıts made of.

Lots of love to you all
xxxx

Posted by sue deegan 07:32 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Gettıng used to ıt all again

10 reasons I know I've just started travellıng.

sunny 28 °C
View Mıddle East and Caucusus on sue deegan's travel map.

Hi Everyone

Well I finally got away. At times it felt like I would be preparing for this trip for ever. But to be honest we are totally unprepared in a planning sort of way, which suits us both but worries some people here!

We spent the first night in Riga. The arrival was a bit challenging as they didn't tell us that our baggage would be sent into storage and we sadly waited at the conveyor belt as everyone else collected their stuff. Eventually we realised that it wasn't coming and waited in a slow line of baggage complaints. I didn't panic, but felt sad that my new rucksack and hanging wash bag and carefully chosen travel items might not be used in their full glory, and even wondered if it was an extra lesson in non-attachment to material things, as if packing up my bus and office hadn't been enough.

Life in Latvia is a lot slower and more relaxed than England - as I realised in that line waiting! We caught the local bus into Riga, where I realised that they also had a relaxed attitude towards paying fares, passing money and tickets down the crowded bus.

Riga is a nice mixture of Soviet and European and I suppose Baltic - Scandinavian. It's pretty quiet with wide streets and a mixture of greenery and dilapidation.

Managed to speak a little Russian, please understand that when I say little, I really mean minute.

I hated Istanbul airport and was a bit worried I might feel the same about the city, but not at all - it really is a fantastic place to come to. We are staying here till Monday night, when we get the sleeper train to Ankara and on to see fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.

I've got a chest infection still from England and as we are staying in a really nice hostel on the Asian side, which is no more Asian than the European side, we decided to take it easy and do touristy stuff in Istanbul, which as I will keep telling you I really like and would recommend everyone to come to.

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It is definitely Middle Eastern, but also European and also very modern but with old traditional bits. There are lots of places like that, but Istanbul manages to do it with style in a very comfortable way. The area we are staying in is in a fairly trendy sort of area where there are organic shops mixed in with the local shops and market and to get to the old part of Istanbul involves walking down to the port, eating freshly caught and cooked fish and catching a ferry, which is all great fun, though I imagine if you have to go to work there on winter mornings it might not be so good.

crossing_t..tinents.jpg

More about Turkey coming soon, I hope I like the rest of the country as much as here.

]10 ways I know I've just started travelling again

1. My miniature playing cards are still new and far too slidey.
2. I still get ridiculously pleased with myself if I manage to buy something in Turkish, which might involve only 2 words still.
3. My travel wash bag still impresses me and the plastic compartments are still clean and see through.
4. Hand washing clothes with my special travel wash is still fun.
5. The basic hostels seem luxurious, with hot water, showers and electricity.
6. Temperatures of under 30 deg C seem hot.
7. Still sometimes forget not to put toilet paper in the toilet.
8. People still manage to tell me their life histories- in bad English.
9. I keep trying to communicate with people in random languages, not Turkish. Mainly Arabic, but the odd word of any language I have the slightest knowledge of, and remember I mean slight!
10. Get the occasional phone call or text from people who don't know I'm away/

Haven't taken photos yet, but bad wobbly videos of touristy stuff, which I"ll try and put up another time.

Posted by sue deegan 02:01 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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