Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Some disordered comments on Turkey
Previously, I mentioned the unusual toilet in a restaurant in Istanbul that was nothing more than a hole in the floor. You have privacy since they are enclosed cubicles but they are very different from the ones back home. It turns out that they are everywhere.
On our long, overnight, bus ride from Ürgüp to Kusadasi, our modern Mercedes-Benz bus stopped several times for a washroom and quick, snack break. When the bus pulled into one of these "service centres" the bus windows were thoroughly washed while the driver and passengers took a break, smoked, ate or visited the washroom. (It seems that even ultra-modern buses don't have toilets.) These breaks usually lasted a half hour. On one break I had to use the toilet and payed the .75 Turkish Lira service charge. When I was finished I looked around and saw the women's toilet and, to my surprise, I noticed that there was a prayer room on one side. Why would there be a prayer room in the toilet area? It seemed very odd, even inappropriate, but then I guessed that since practising Muslims wash their face, feet and hands before they pray this was probably convenient.
I should mention that even though the bus stopped at service centres, drinks and snacks were offered for free on the bus. It was part of the ticket price. I got some water, cola and a cake-like snack. The bus had video monitors and food trays, very much like an air plane. I have seen nothing like it in Canada.
I had no idea where Kusadasi was and I was getting irritable since I didn't manage to sleep on the bus. When would we get there? What if I fell asleep and missed the place? And why are we going there instead of Selçuk , which is next to Ephesus?
The young man who served the drinks and snacks indicated that we would stay on the bus until we got to Kusadasi but when we got to Aydin we were asked to transfer to a local bus to finish the trip.
After a couple of hours we arrived at the Kusadasi bus station, which was much later than we expected and our driver was not there. We must have looked lost and the only bus driver there asked what we were looking for and Wayne started to tell him we were part of a tour and that someone was supposed to pick us up. The bus driver really didn't speak English and Wayne doesn't speak Turkish but the driver took our itinerary and went to the ticket office. After a couple of minutes a man from the ticket office came over and indicated that we sit and said "five minutes." Sure enough, in about five minutes a mini-truck shows up, the driver looks around and, not seeing two men "together," drives away. (Wayne took half a minute to get a snack from a nearby food stand.) In about 20 minutes the young guy in the same truck shows up again and picks us up and takes us to Ephesus and we join the tour.
I was really impressed by the original bus driver who asked us what we were looking for and the ticket office staff who made the phone calls to straighten things up. They didn't have to do any of that. And they didn't charge any money. I remember from my first trip to Istanbul four years ago that Turks are very friendly. Now I know they are incredibly helpful, too. I don't think most Canadians would be that friendly and helpful to total strangers. There's something very special about this place!
Our trip to Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale, and the hot air balloon ride were exceptional. Wayne posted many pictures on this Blog and the links to Wikipedia can give you more information about these incredible sites if you are interested.
Turkey is a very large country and the geography, vegetation and agriculture are diverse. This time of year, in south-western Turkey, the roses are in bloom. The tall irises are almost finished and there are some really beautiful, purple, cascading ground covers and succulents with larger flowers everywhere, especially in the raised medians along the highways. The palm trees are tall.
On our way back from Pamukkale we stopped for a toilet break and to sip some çay. On my way to the toiled I stopped to look at an unusual red flower. Our tour guide was behind me and he said it was a pomegranate flower.
I have not seen any fig trees before this trip and I was surprised to see some growing by the roadside. The valley near here is very fertile and there are fig, olive and orange groves everywhere. Near Atça, there are strawberry fields forever. (Sound like a song, eh?)
In Istanbul we decided to take a tour of the places we visited rather than making the arrangements ourselves. I think it was a good decision. Along the way we met people from all over the world. We met people from Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Korea, etc.
At least twice we were asked if we were Americans. I answered, "better." Both times the persons hesitantly asked "Canadian?" So there you go... But I'm concerned that Harper will ruin these nice little vignettes that we can play in other countries.
Parts of Turkey seem like the first, second and third world at the same time. There are some very fancy, expensive cars but you can also see a few wagons pulled by horses. There are roads with huge potholes and there are controlled access expressways. In Aydin, I saw pedestrian overpasses in the heart of the city. I didn't expect to see the covered escalators that took pedestrians up and down.
My senses are overwhelmed. And that's not a complaint! The sights, sounds, tastes and smells are a feast for the soul.
More later, if I can get my act together.....