Saturday, August 14, 2010

Adopted by Boat Crew

It was time to leave the very very hot southeast and go to far eastern and cooler Van. We returned to our breakfast place for an amazing breakfast before finding a bus to the bus station and bording the Best Van Tur bus. Although we were told the trip would only take 4 hours, it actually took about 5.5 We encountered a rockslide, tons of road construction and then a Kurdish demonstration that took the form of a parade of cars, filling the main street of a small town. Finally, we entered Tatvan, to be told that we would not be taken past the ferry boat terminal as promised, but instead be left somewhere in the middle of town. Very grumpy we took a taxi to the ferry terminal at the edge of lake Van to see if there would be a boat going accross. When we got there, we were told that there would definetly be a boat at some time, but it could be in one hour at 5:30, or it could be as late as 9 or 10. The trip would be 4 hours, and it was only 5TL. We decided to wait. The reason for the unclear time of departure, we found out was that we were waiting for the transasya express, the 3 day train from Istanbul to Tehran. Whenever the train turned up, it would be loaded on the boat and we would leave. Indeed, the boat had been lined up so well that the train tracks that ended on the bank now lined up with the train tracks on the boat (!) so the train would be able drive straight onto the boat.

Having had no idea what time the boat would leave we had rushed from the center without eating, and had not eating anything since breakfast. Asking one of the captains, a man with glasses and a plad shirt if there was time to go back into town, he said maybe or maybe not, but the iskele bufe should have food. After asking them and scolding them for not having anything he invited us onto the boat for food. We walked along the traintracks on the boat and back to a table in the back with a couple of chairs and a bench. We took a peek in the kitchen where the chef was chopping up an enormous piece of meat. The captain, whose name we found out was Atila told us to sit, the food would be ready in 10 minutes. While that seemed unlikely we sat down. A few of the other guys came over too. To avoid too much male attention since we didn't know how long we would be waiting, I pretended to only speak a little bit of Turkish. The captain's english was fairly good though and we had a broken english conversation. He told us that 25 people work on the boat and he was one of the three captains. He was in charge of stowage - unloading and loading the boat. There were also engineers and and machinists. The cook was also the ticket taker. He brought out three rolls of cookies, and then went to get us tea from the guys at the other table. We told the guys that had come to sit down with us and they asked how many children we had. Insallah I replied - If god wills it - which is always a satisfactory reply to that question.

The food was not going to be ready, and after learning that the boat went twice a day, that it took cars as well as trains, and other things, we excused ourselves to go take some photos. Once around the corner out of earshot I started calling hotels in Van to make sure we would have a place to stay when we got in at midnight or later. We took some photos, then returned to the iskele where we sat, and played many games of uno. At long last, although it was really only about an hour, we heard a train whistle, and it was one of the most exciting things I've heard in a while. We immediatly jumped up, but a guy told us the train wouldn't arrive for another half an hour. And then, suddenly the train had arrived and many many iranians were flooding off it with all their stuff and rushing to the boat. We were taking photos until we realized that we too needed to get our stuff on the boat before there were no more seats. We abruptly got our stuff and left, realizing on the way we had probobly missed our chance for food.

We threw our bags on some seats in the main cabin, watched two of the train cars get loaded onto the boat and then went to the bufe to get some toast and drinks. Sitting on the rather full top deck we ate and watched the boat as it pulled away from shore. The view was fantastic and the weather was no hot. After some photos and a bit of exploring by Mark, captain Atila found us. He first took us to get our tickets, something we hadn't figured out where to do yet, then took us upstairs into the crew's area, where one man was eating dinner. He insisted that we sit, than put large bowls of kuru fasulye (beans) in front of us, along with cacik, rice and a whole loaf of bread. It was fantastic. He told us that he had already eaten, but had only eaten cacik because he was on a diet. I noticed the wedding ring on his finger and asked about his family. His family lives in Tatvan and he has a 16 year old son that will finish high school next year, and an 8 year old son with downs syndrome. He told us that he's on the boat for 9 days and only gets 1 day off after that. Not good for seeing his family. But he does make 3,000TL a month, which is good money considering the minimum wage is 630 TL a month. He is from Antalya, and after highschool did an internship before he got his job.

After I finished my first bowl of kuru fasulye, and tried to indicate I was full by patting my stomach, the captain insisted upon filling it. We were not allowed to help clean up, but then moved to the other table to eat watermelon. I ended up saying Mark had a watermelon allergy so the guy wouldn't be offended by his not eating it. We also took out our remaining pistacios from gaziantep, and insisted upon leaving them in the crew area for the other guys to eat.

After sitting and talking until the point that my fakely bad turkish would allow no more, and declining a nap in the captain's cabin we got a quick glimse of the engine rooms before going up on deck. The deck was like a massive party. People were dancing and singing. Others were playing cards. Others, too tired, were just sitting or sleeping. The captain told us that the train after Van would be an Iranian train, and all the women would have to cover up after leaving the boat. He said that going the opposite direction the women get on the boat, and start to take off layers of clothes. So this was their last partying for a while. We started to play uno, and soon the captain had come over, as had a bunch of Iranian guys. After playing a few games, we invited the captain to play. He played one hand, and seemed to be catching on, but decided one was enough. Next, an iranian guy with fairly good english took a turn. Other guys were standing around trying to help him as we explained the rules. One guy in particular seemed to understand, and wanted to know how many cards there where, so he could see if that was possible. But when I said I didn't know, he told us it was boring, and decided he didn't want to play when we invited him. After a while our crowd faded.

Soon the captain returned and told us he wanted to show us the navigation room. We abandoned uno and went to look. At this point the captain realized that I was understanding too much not to know Turkish and told me so. One guy was steering, and another of the three captains (who had taken the pickle from Mark's toast with wink and eaten it) were in the room. We were shown the radar with the map of where we were going, the compass, and other important stuff. We were once again asked if we had children. The other captain told us he had three but wanted five. We walked out to the front where we could see an incredible amount of stars and the milky way, as well as the last captain sleeping on the ground.

We returned to the deck, which was slowly emptying of people. Eventually Mark went down to get my hoodie and camping pad to sit on. It got cold enough that even he had to get his sweater. When it was finally too cold we sleepily returned to the main cabin for the last few minutes, and after we docked left the boat.

One of the crew was ofloading his pickup truck, and after seeing that there were no taxis the captain told the guy that he should take us into town. He agreed, and after the offloaded a massive harvester, we put our bags in the back, and got a lift. He left us off at a traffic circle, which turned out not to be the one on our map. So we got a taxi, and turned up at our hotel at midnight completely exhausted and happy to be there.

And thus it was we were adopted again.

Closed Due to Fallen Rock

We took daytrips from Diyarbakir the next two days, enjoying the fact that we didn't have to take our big packs with us and find a new hotel. I had always heard about Mardin, and so the next day we were up early and to the minibus area. The minibuses go when they are full, and in this case ours was quite full. One mother had gotten two seats - for her and her three children. Other mothers had children up to what looked like age 12 on their laps. I understand having children perhaps up to five on one's lap, but beyond that it gets silly. That, and the kids are not protected by the minibuses insurance. And three kids in one seat is just insane. There was a long discussion between the driver and one mother, which only ended when one of the girls in question told them to stop it. Before the end of the trip, one girl, who was finally old enough (about 15) to get her own seat went through her entire English repetoire with us, which took a maximum of five minutes.

The old city of Mardin is built on a hill, with the new city sprawling below. We got off the bus on the main street, which runs along the hill about halfway up. After walking a bit, Mark looked through a doorway, and discovered a view, as well as a cafe looking out at that view, so we stopped for a coffee, feeling a bit out of place to be sitting and looking at the view instead of staring at the screen of a laptop.

We visited the very impressive Sultan Isa Medresesi, the gorgeous post office, and attempted to see the Forty Martyrs Church, but true to form it was closed to renovation. I did get us in to look at the inside, but it was covered in wooden scafolding and dust. The buildings in old mardin, or the old ones at least are made of a honey colored stone, and many have amazing carvings and elaborate decoration.

After our wandering we went to the Cercis Murat Konagi resturant for my belated birthday lunch out (thank you Mike and Marie Riddle!). It comes very highly recommended by the lonely planet, a place where the women of Mardin do all the cooking. The building is amazing - an old christian courtyard house that has been redone. Our waiter was a flamingly flamboyant gay guy in a pink shirt. He insisted on explaining the very complicated menu in English, although had he done it in Turkish I would have understood better. We ended up getting some icli kofte, a very impressive platter with small amounts of mezze in metal ladels, and a stew with plums, lots of pits, chick peas and lamb. It was all really good and a bit amusing.

After managing to get out of our chairs, we walked through the baazar area. Because there are lots of steps going down the hill, cars can only use the main street, and don't enter the baazar. And so we saw donkeys. And guys making saddles and one rolling black stuff onto what looked like wax paper. He explained what he was doing, but I managed to not understand a word. We made our way down to the bottom of the hill through the maze of streets. At one point we passed a boy crouched down. Instead of saying hi and then asking for money he worlessly handed us both cucumbers, something that's never happened to me before.

At the bottom of the hill we gazed up at the city, and then made our way to the bit hotel, which is a very faded four stars, and where the amazing view of the city that is on all the postcards was supposed to be found. The view was amazing, and the drinks horribly expensive. After taking many photos, we caught the bus back home, exhausted by the time we got there.

Our second daytrip was to Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf was the one of the few places I really really wanted to go to on the trip. Perhaps the one I wanted to see the most. I had no idea what it was that was there, only that it was supposed to be amazing, is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is supposed to be flooded when the planned dam on the Tigres is built as part of the GAP project. So we needed to see it soon, before it was flooded.

To get to Hasankeyf we took a minibus to Batman (yes, there is a town named Batman!) and then changed to another that would pass Hasankeyf. The bus went along the river before crossing it at a bridge, where we got off. We immediatly walked back accross the bridge for views back across the village. From there we could see the massive pillars that remain from a much earlier bridge, as well as the castle, caves and village. We also passed a large number of goats using every inch of shade under the few trees to sleep.

Back on the other side of the bridge we stoped in a corner store to get water, and were told that the site was closed as a rock fell and killed a six year old. We were a little shocked, and wandered on until we were overwhelmed by a familiar scent - gozleme! and had to stop and eat some. Across the street was a little office with the photo of a very pretty blue bird. We stoped in to ask where we could find the bird, and the man, telling us he was working against the dam said it would be very hard to find and the site was closed, but he could recommend an alternate route for us. Walking with him a little farther down the road we came to a gate. We could go no further. We were shocked. Every bit of the old village, caves and castle was closed. And it wasn't just a rock that fell, but part of a cliff, a massive piece of rock. We were very dissapointed. We had gotten to the place before it flooded, but a month too late to explore.

The guy told us that we could go up and around and get a view into the valley, and then up and around again to have a look at the caves around the back. Figuring it was better than nothing, we took his advice. The first view was very nice, and we were trailed by a purple shadow, maybe 10 years old, who never said a word. Up and around again we climbed on the roof of a cave goatshed to get an even better view. There was a house behind us and all the children peeked out, put underwear on the baby, and then brought him out and begged for a photo. So Mark took one.

We walked a bit through the valley behind, but a little paranoid about more falling rock, and also a bit hot didn't walk too far. I had been very excited about eating at one of the platforms over the river while dangling my feet in the water, but the road down to these had been closed off along with everything else, and this was not to be. Instead we ate at a resturant with a balcony over the river, and a view of the bridge. But it was a view over the Tigres river, and we had some very lovely fish.

Exploring the village a little more we found that the cave cafe we wanted to visit was also in the closed zone, but there was a garden resturant, that at first seemed nice, but got less so as they started watering the plants and it got muddy and soaked the bottom of my backpack. After visiting the mosque we decided that we had seen all that was left to see, and it was time to go. It is quite an amazing place, and even though it was closed, I'm very happy to have gotten there before the water reached the window at the top of the minaret. At least the stork's nest on the top would remain out of the water.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Big Stone Heads

We left early from Urfa the next morning, catching a bus to Kahta. We got to the otogar, and took a minibus that was supposed to go straight to Kahta. Except that it only went to Adiyiman, and when we got there we were told we had to wait for the next vehicle. So grumpily we sat and waited and I drank tea. The next bus had some dutch people in it - the first westerners we had been in transport with in a very long while. A bit later a Spanish guy got on. He too was planning to go to Kahta. And the reason one goes to Kahta? To visit the giant stone heads at the top of Mt. Nemrut (Nemrut Dağı). Arriving at 1:30 at the hotel recommended
to the Spanish guy, we were just in time to book onto the tour leaving at 2, dump our stuff in the room (no AC) that we had just gotten, change our shoes, and grab some lunch before getting on the bus.

There were six of us on the bus - the three of us and three koreans. Our driver knew barely any English, and Mark and I were sitting up front to avoid me getting carsick, and so I once again slid into the role of translator. Our first stop was a burial mound, the Karakuş tümülüs. Surrounding the mound are three pillars with statues. One was an eagle and one a lion. The are very large and impressive. After walking around the mound we once more got into the van, to stop a little farther on at the Cendere bridge which was built in honor of the Roman emporer Septimus Severous. On one side of the bridge we saw a large group of people dancing to a loud drum, and others picnicing and swimming. As it was Sunday everyone had left the heat of the town to find some cool. Next came the very cool but disappointing new fortress, disappointing because it had been closed to visitors for 10 years. After wandering up to it, and taking photos we returned to the cafe accross the street where our guide was lounging and used the opportunity to drink lots of water. The temperature was somewhere up above 100.

Next came the selcuk bridge, which, although there has been a new bridge built, is still used by cars. We walked across the bridge, then walked down to the stream running underneath it where we waded accross. And the guys stripped down to their shorts/underwear and went swimming. But because it was eastern turkey only the guys got to swim, and I had to stand there in the sun and got harrased by a guy. I was a bit jealous, and very glad that I had Mark along for the journey, as this was one of the few times I got harrased.

Our last stop before the summit was Arsemia, which was the summer capital of the Commagene kingdom. We saw several friezes with greek carved into the back, one tunnel that was blocked off and another that extended down for some 158 meters. I went in maybe 30. Mark went until it ended and emerged later very dirty and happy. We walked up to the top to see the view, and then came back down to find our guide.

And then it was time for the big heads! The sun was getting low in the sky as we headed to Mt. Nemrut, but our guide assured us that there would be enough light. The road was much better than the lonely planet indicated - the guide said it had been repaved a few years back. We were left at the parking lot, and along with everyone else, started walking up to the top of the mountain. The top 50 meters of the mountain was created by the same guy who ordered the big heads. They used rock chippings from that and other things to make a huge cone on top of the mountain. It's incredible. Although the temperature was a little cooler, the hike to the top was still a bit of a hike. We first went to the eastern side. The bodies of the heads are in their original location, but the heads have fallen or been taken off and are sitting on the ground. They are absolutely incredible. The western terrace heads are even more amazing, although the bodies are no longer standing. We took lots of photos, and then sat, eating our antep fistik, and watching the sun set. It was magical. And then a guy blew a whistle and told everyone it was time to get off the mountain. So slowly slowly we did.

The way back was much longer, but it was on a bigger road. Back at the hotel we had a mediocre dinner, and then the worst night ever as we tossed and turned in our 90 degree room. The fan seemed to blow hotter air than what was coming in the windows. We ended up sleeping with wet towels for pillows as they cooled us down a bit. It was horrible.

The next morning we caught an early dolmus to Siverek. The old road to Diyarbakir, our final destination for the day, had been flooded by the making of the Ataturk Dam, and so now the dolmus goes on a very small and rickity ferry for about 20 minutes accross the lake. The dolmus was so full and people had so much luggage ours had been tied to the top. In Siverek we caught the next dolmus to Diyarbakir, and from the minibus terminal had to take another bus into town. We were staying in the old town, which is surrounded by massive intact basalt walls. There only seem to be two roads in the old city that buses go on, and so we had to walk a bit to the hotel area. The first we tried was horribly expensive. The next expensive. And the third one, as luck always seems to have it, was just right (okay, it could have been cheaper, but it was about average). We immediatly left to get food around the corner and then came back to our lovely airconditioned room to have a nap. Mark was exhausted as he hadn't slept the night before at all. Two hours in the cool and dark later we emerged to try to find dinner. Diyarbakir seems to have few resturants, and the ones it has are all kebab places. We walked on and on and then found a small shop that said it only had breakfast. And so we went in. And what an absolutely amazing breakfast it was. So amazing I am going to detail all of it. We had kavurma eggs - eggs slow cooked with lamb meat and spices (Mark is contemplating marrying the man, his eggs are so good), sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, olives, crumbly cheese with butter on top, homemade yogurt, fresh blackberries, van style herb cheese, white cheese, kasar cheese, a small plate with sliced banana and fig with kaymak (like clotted cream), honey and walnuts on it - the food of the gods we decided, and lots of bread straight from the bakery. And tea, water and fresh orange juice. It was the best Turkish breakfast I have ever had in my life.

After a night in the airconditioning we felt much better, and after eating the hotel breakfast, which had great honey, but was otherwise disappointing after our amazing breakfast of the night before, we went out to explore Diyarbakir. Diyarbakir gets a bad reputation, mostly because it's the Kurdish capital, and so has seen a lot of violence. But everything was calm when we got there. We had absurd numbers of kids saying hi to us, and then many of them asking us for money. We either said no, or Mark asked them for money.

We first visited the walls of the city, at the opposite end from our hotel. We walked all the way down the main street, and found ourselves in a park. The walls were cool, or should I say very very hot. We had a nice view of the area outside the walls, and people on the roofs of houses outside waved to us. As someone afraid of heights though, walking on a narrow section of city wall sometimes unnerves me a bit. After returning to the ground we walked through many narrow and twisting streets to the Church of the Virgin Mary. It was supposed to be closed for lunch, and when three kids answered the door they told us it was indeed closed. But Mark looked very sad and told them we had come all the way from Australia, and the little boy let us in. A man showed us around the church. It was incredible. It's a Syrian Orthadox Church, and they speak Syriani. Next we visited the Behram Pasa Cami. When we went in a kid ran in in front of us and turned on all the lights. He proceeded to give us a tour, taking us up to the balconies so we could get a good look over the mosque. It was beautiful, both the inside and the black and white striped stone outside. When some other kids arrived and told us to keep going so we could see the roof, the kid in charge told us not to and so we didn't. At the end I was sure he was going to ask for money, but instead he asked us to put some money in the collection box. He must have only been about 9 or 10, but he was taking his job very seriously.

After discovering a closed house museum and that it was call to prayer time, we decided that it was lunch time. We walked back down the main street, stopping in the cheese market to buy some Diyarbakir cheese in a small flat disc. It was so salty and curdy it seemed it couldn't possibly melt in the heat. We also got some peaches and bread and returned to the park along the walls for our picnic. It was a lovely picnic. And then it was time for more old buildings. We found the Chaldean church was open, so we had a look inside. The courtyard is incredible. The other house museum was very closed and banging on the door many times yielded no results. So we walked north to the citadel. No one seemed to know where it was. Inside was a very non-exciting mosque, and the poorest part of the city we had seen so far. We walked a bit of the wall, but couldn't see the promised roman bridge with 10 arches, and I was feeling a bit sick from the heat so we returned to the airconditioning for a bit.

Later it was still hot, as we made our way to the ulu cami, and then discovered the first house museum we had visited was now open. It had some amazing white stenciling on the black basalt walls of the courtyard. The insides of the rooms had not very exciting displays with wierd manakins. Walking back we went past the han we kept meaning to investigate and noticed that right in the entryway was a sign advertising manti and icli kofte. We went in immediatly. The food was amazing, the guys seemed very amused to have us there and we left very full and happy.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sacred Fat Fish

We left Antakya after breakfast the next morning. Erdem insisted upon walking us to the otogar even though we knew the way. After the guy there sold us our tickets he called the bus driver, telling him to come pick up the tourists. The minibus showed up, picked us up, and took us to the minibus terminal where we waited for more people. There were only a few other people on board by the time we left, and in hopes of picking up more people, spent over half an hour crawling out of Antakya, honking at all the people walking by the side of the road, as if this would make them realize that they suddenly had a very strong need to go to Gaziantep, or Antep for short. No one had an instant change of heart though and finally we started to go at a normal speed. The airconditioning barly worked, and gave up completely halfway through the journey. And the host guy kept yelling into his phone, sometimes in Turkish, and sometimes in Arabic or Kurdish or possibly both. He also elbowed Mark in the head. Then, unfortunatly it was his turn to drive, and he continued screaming down his phone and passing people as Mark and I sat there a bit scared. It was the worst ride of the trip so far, and then the driver couldn't even drive us into the otogar to let us out properly. We then took a very scenic drive on a city bus, which did eventually lead us into the center of Antep. We went into the Güllüoğlu hotel, which is above the güllüoğlu baklava shop and asked for a room and then looked pitiful and asked for a student discount. The cut 10TL off the price so we decided to stay.

Starving, Mark took the bags up for the room and we immediatly left to find some food. We got some food around the corner, but after eating it realized we were still hungry. Walking around the area Mark got a liver sandwich from a street vendor and I got some very yummy banana milk. And then we went up into our nice airconditioned room, and slept in cool bliss.

The next day we woke up to find that Mark's liver sandwich might not have been the best thing to eat. After breakfast we went to the train station to find a nice, but completely clueless guy behind the desk. He thought he could make us a reservation for the Ankara-Istanbul train, but had no idea there was a train from Kars to Kayseri and told us to call that office. After he suceeded in making the first reservation, which took a great deal of fiddling with the computer on his part, he realized that he could do the same thing for the second ticket. The first two days we asked for were full, but in the end we left the slightly more confident man with two sets of train tickets.

The train tickets too all our remaining money, and so we had to walk past the museum, back to the center and take out money before returning to the museum. Which was closed for lunch when we got there. We spent nearly an hour reading in the gift shop/cafe waiting for it to open. The museum is amazing, incredible, beyond words. The site of Zeugma has been partly flooded by the GAP project, and so the museum did a large number of rescue excavations and moved the incredible mosaics to the museum. There's a model of what they looked like in the site, and it must have been wonderful to see them there. The mosaics are mostly intact and phenominal. The biggest was about 20ftx12ft and completely intact. Words don't do it justice, I shall post photos soon.

After the museum we walked up to the castle, decided it was too hot to climb up to it, and instead went around the side of it and through the market. The focus of the market is copper and tin work. There were a few guys sitting around, etching pieces, and another couple polishing. Good thing I have no space in my bag, because I wanted to buy a number of things. After wandering through the market we found the famous Imam Çadas resturant and baklava shop. They claim to have the best baklava in Turkey. Antep is famous for it's pistachios, so all the baklava is pistachio baklava. The ayran (yogurt drink) came in large tin bowls with a spoon like ladle for drinking. We had lahmacun and then very amazing baklava, but I still maintain that mom makes the best baklava in the world.

We couldn't leave Antep without buying what Mark declared were the best pistachios he had ever eaten. Those purchased we got our stuff, and took a less round about bus to the otogar. Entering, there were two companies going to Şanliurfa, one on each side of the entrence to the platforms. We were going to the left, when all the guys on the right started gesturing madly to us. So we went to them. They had a large bus showing on their tv monitor and told us it was leaving immediatly. It left another 15 minutes later, but that's pretty immediate for Turkey.

The bus ride was lovely, cool, short and direct. Sadly, the Urfa otogar is also about 6km out of town. A guy that was talking to the driver told us that he would take us to the center as he was also going there. Looking at eachother we agreed. He told us about the things we were passing and in a friendly Turkish way asked too many questions about where we were going. I told him we were going to look around, and so he insisted upon letting us out in the area where all the tourist stuff was, even though we wanted to get out half a mile before. He handed a package in a black plastic bag to a guy, and we said goodbye and left. We walked back to our hotel, which turned out to be shorter on foot than in a car. The hotel was on a back street, had airconditioning (good as it was 110 F or 43 C), and was cheap. The walls were so think though that we could feel the heat radiating out of them as the airconditioning tried to cool the place down. Leaving the hotel we discovered that the entire town seemed to shut down at 8pm. There was nothing open for dinner, or nothing open that had içli kofte. We ended up sharing a medeocre kebab outside, and then, still hungry walked back to the area where we were earlier and had a toast and slushie before returning to the airconditioning. Next time I visit southeastern Turkey it will be in April or October!

Urfa is said to be the place where Abraham was born, and where he was put on a pire to burn. Except that he got knocked off and was saved and the coals from the fire fell in a pool and turned into fish. Today, a part of Urfa is a park with the sacred lake of fish, numerous mosques, and the cave where Abraham spent the first seven years of his life in hiding. It's a lovely place. We first went to the lake of sacred fish. Sacred and very fat fish. All the visiting pilgrims want to feed the fish and make a wish, and so when you stand next to the pool and raise your arm, all the fish rush over, even if there isn't actually any food in your hand. It's also forbidden to feed the fish, so the pool is very full, and fish that have escaped the pool wind up all over town in various waterways.

Next we visited a couple of mosques and then the cave where Abraham was born. There are seperate entrences for men and women. The women's entrance was quite full and had women crowding around the two fountains, pushing a bit, and filling up large numbers of bottles full of the water which is supposed to have healing properties. I got a glimpse of the cave and then left.

We walked up almost to the castle to have lunch at the cift magra (double cave) resturant. It is, as the name suggests, in a cave, and it was amazingly cool inside. We sat on benches covered with cusions at the back of the cave to eat. We both had içli kofte - spiced ground meat wrapped in a bulgur wheat dough and then fried and cacık - a yogurt and cucumber salad. It was quite delicious and we followed it up with tea and then Mark followed up his tea with a coffee, which we then both followed up with a walk through the heat and a visit to the internet cafe.

Walking through the park we had found several cafes surrounding small fountains, and one of them had nargile (water pipe). Finding a seat next to the fountain Mark smoked his nargile, and I caught up in my journal. The area is without a doubt the nicest park I've been to in Turkey. After leaving the park we went for a walk in the baazar and got lost in the backstreets of Urfa. After our first pass of the baazar we hadn't found the sites listed on the map, so we dove back in. We found the covered bedestan selling lots of scarves, and then stumbled out into a beautiful two level han where lots of people (mostly old men, but one family) sat around drinking tea and playing backgammon. Inspired, we sat down for a tea too. On our way back through the bedestan I stopped to look at scarves at a stall with three women dressed in a traditional style. A lavender colored scarf with white emrodery seems to be the typical thing here, so I stopped to look. The vendor wanted to put it on me, but instead I asked one of the women. She took a black and white silk scarf and wrapped it tightly around my head a couple times and did a fancy tucking in thing, then loosly wrapped the lavender scarf around my head. She was also wearing a very sparly overcoat in purple and gold. Mark looked at a scarf too and the guy tied it on for him. Deciding we hadn't bought anything really touristy on the trip we decided to buy them.

Leaving the baazar we had to return back to the center of town to find money and visit our hotel and then walk all the way back down to a resturant with a terrace we had spotted. We had Urfa kebab for dinner - a must when in Urfa, right? It was lovely and much more spicy than the Istanbul stuff. Despite all the warnings of Urfa as a very conservative town, we found ourselves very welcome there, and I think it's my favorite place in the southeast.