Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Diyarbakır - Go!

Diyarbakır has a scary reputation for crime and terrorism but I think that's outdated.  It is one of the principal cities in mostly Kurdish Southeastern Turkey.  It is full of life and the people are great.  I highly recommend going.  The guidebooks warn you about the obnoxious street kids that will hound you for money, pick your pocket, and even throw rocks at you and try and open your backpack.  I did run into these kids but all they did was ask me for money and follow me for a bit.

The city is surrounded by ancient walls dating from the Roman empire.  The walls, like lots of other buildings in the city, are made from gray basalt.

Part of the city walls

One of the square minarets you see around this area.

In the city center, the other side of the street from the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque)

After I arrived and got checked into a hotel, I headed for the center of the city.  Right in the center is the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque).  Off of the main roads, the city center is full of narrow alleys.  If not for GPS, it would be easy to get lost in there.

Outside of the Uli Cami.  People sit around in the square, talk, and drink tea.

Detail on the Ulu Cami.

Inside the walls of the Ulu Cami.

Inside the walls of the Ulu Cami.

Inside the walls of the Ulu Cami.

One of many Kurdistan t-shirts for sale in town.

One of the first sights I ran across was the four legged minaret (Dört Ayaklı Minare) which is currently surrounded by scaffolding.  Right next to there is a tea/coffee shop where I stopped after the owner welcomed me in.  He made a Kurdish coffee for me.  It's sort of like Turkish coffee, except that it has pistachio and a little milk - good!  As I was having this coffee, the Germans who I traveled with from Göreme stopped by because they were going to stay the night there (the tea shop has rooms too, apparently).  There was also another American there who lives in Scotland, was traveling in the area, and had been to Iran.

The four legged minaret

At the tea/coffee shop.  Barış, the owner, is second from the left.

I ate at this place.  They seem to only serve one thing per day.  When I went, they had some sort of eggplant stuffed with meat (lamb I think), rice, and some kind of cold yogurt soup with barley and chickpeas in it.  In this part of Turkey they seem to drink tap water instead of bottled water.  I went ahead and drank the tap water they had in a jug - no ill effects.

The back streets are a maze of markets and workshops.  In some areas they seem to be mostly selling shoes and clothes.  There are butchers, seafood stalls, and vegetables.  In other areas they are making and selling cheese and yogurt, with people walking right past the big pots of fermenting yogurt.  Then there are alleys where they have mostly blacksmith shops and tinsmith shops.

This is Hasan Paşa Hanı, a popular place to have a tea or coffee.

Sheep heads?

A church

One of the streets with blacksmith shops

Sülüklü Han - another popular place (in one of the alleys).

A blacksmith at work

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Göreme To Diyarbakır

I told the guy at the Chelebi Cave Hotel in Göreme that I needed to get to Kayseri, to get my train to Diyarbakır.  He said that I should take a local bus to Avanos, a nearby town, and then get a bus to Kayseri from the bus station there.  He said the local bus was probably only 5 or 10 minutes away so he took me down to the bus stop on his scooter.

On the bus from Sivas a few nights before we stopped in Avanos, so I remembered what the bus station looked like.  I kept looking for it but I didn't see it.  Oskar and Julia, a German couple from Berlin, had also been waiting with me at the bus stop in who had also been at the bus stop in Göreme.  As we were going through Avanos, Oskar asked the driver when we were going to come to the bus station and it turned out we had already passed it.  So we got off and walked to the bus station in Avanos.  It turned out that Oskar, Julia and I were all going to the train station in Kayseri to get the same train to Diyarbakır.

After arriving in Kayseri we boarded a "servis", which is a type of bus that the bus companies provide for free to shuttle people from the bus station to nearby points.  The driver of this servis told us that it went near to the train station.  Not very near, as it turned out.  We, with the help of a guy from Istanbul who was also trying to get to the train station, kept stopping people to ask them directions to the station.  We eventually found it, about half an hour before the train.  Oskar and Julia did not have tickets yet.  The line in the station to buy tickets was very long and not moving fast.  I figured they were not going to make it in time, but they eventually got their tickets and they wound up in the compartment next to mine.

Once we made it to Diyarbakır the three of us walked into the city together and got some tea.  The tea shop owner was very nice and gave us some sort of bread to eat with our tea. 

Oskar and Julia were talking about going to Georgia and maybe Armenia, so I gave them my Lonely Planet book for Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.  I'm not going to be needing it any more and if I go to any of those places again, I will need a new one anyway.  And it's one less thing to carry.  They had not yet decided if they were going to spend the night here, but I am set on spending  a couple of nights here.  So I left them there and went to look for a hotel, which I found with very little effort.
The countryside this morning, from the train.

The train was nice and modern.


The tea guy, Oskar, and Julia.


I got to Göreme last Sunday night early in the evening.  Although Göreme is always swarming with tourists, and at least half the people you will run into if you go anywhere are tourists, I still love it and I highly recommend it.  It's a very laid back place.  You can get a very nice hotel room, possibly even one in a cave, for about 75TL breakfast included.  Prices for food run a little bit more than average for Turkey, and with one notable exception the quality is pretty average, but there are much better things to than eat in and around Göreme.

Neither of the two hotels that I had emailed before about booking a room had responded.  So the first thing I did on arrival was to go to a cafe that had internet, order a tea, and get in the internet.  I cached a map of the area on my iPhone and looked up places on my computer.  I went to the first place on my list, the Travelers Cave Pension, and they had a nice room but only for two nights (I was staying three).  So I took it.  The next day I went and found a room for the third night at the Chelebi Cave Hotel which was only slightly more per night, but both the breakfast and the room were much nicer.

At breakfast at the first place I stayed.

At breakfast at the first place I stayed.
In the center of town.

The bus station.

In the center of town

They get lots of Asian visitors.

I've been to Göreme twice before, and both times I went to the Göreme Open Air Museum.  This time I decided to skip the Open Air Museum and just take walks in the countryside around Göreme.  The first day after arriving I walked up toward the Open Air Museum, not far, maybe 1km, and just started following trails among the hoodoos.

Outside a pottery workshop

Aliens outside a pottery workshop

Outside the pottery workshop

The next day, I took a walk to another village, Çavuşin, which is about 3km away from Göreme.  They have a few hotels there but it's far less touristy than Göreme.  I think I would rather stay in Göreme than in Çavuşin though.

The Travelers Cave Pension, where I stayed the first two nights, is right across from a restaurant called Top Deck that I had heard good things about.  So I went there.  If you go to Göreme it's a must visit.  On my previous trip there I tried to go but they were fully booked and I did not have a reservation.  Another advantage of going in the off season is that it's easier to get into places like this.

After checking out yesterday morning from the place I stayed on my last night, I took a walk out of Göreme to Pigeon Valley.  It's called Pigeon Valley because they raise a lot of pigeons in the area and use the droppings for fertilizer.  Those little tiny holes you see in a lot of the hoodoos are pigeon houses.  If I had kept following the trail in Pigeon Valley it would have eventually taken me to the village of Uçhisar, but I did not have shoes suitable for going up and down the steep hills on that trail.

I found some bee hives while walking around back there.  The cherry trees near the bee hives were full of honeybees.  Also I came across a tea garden along the trail.  The guy who has the tea garden is also farming on the same property.  He told me he grows potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.