Despite all of this we made it through Gaziantep, Diyakabir and Erzurum
. The Kurdish influence on some of these cities is pretty evident in looking into everyday life. There were a few interesting incidents along the way with us sitting in Gaziantep’s’ main square, amongst the locals sipping "Cay" – the locally known tea, when my attention turned to an “altercation” between a group of men and a women. Next thing, a bloke who looked in his 60’s jumped on the back of a woman who was of similar age and starting punching. At this point I started to scream and point and then a whole frenzy of fighting took place. The police arrived looking uncannily like Mr Chips on their motorbikes and bundled both parties into the back of a Police van! All very bizarre and something I don’t want to see repeated! Gaziantep is a great laid back place (previous details discounted) where the people are very friendly and hospitable. The locals usually insisting that we didn’t pay for our tea, despite us protesting. The local kids probably not seeing many tourists as it doesn’t have the same attractions as Bodrum, yet they seemed fascinated by us, eventually you got used to the pointed fingers, the nudges and the giggles... and their wonderful attempts at making conversation with you. The main claim to fame and Gaziantep’s headline attraction is regarded as the finest collection of Roman Mosaics yet discovered. With the bill topped by the “Gypsy Girl” mosaic (see photo below) which is one of those things we have found ourselves subconsciously seeing from time to time over the years but up until now, not realising where the original was exhibited
. A pleasant surprise given the need to somewhat extend our visit to Gaziantep.
In Diyakabir travelling on a local bus, passing one of the enormous cemeteries we saw what Tim viewed as ‘free enterprise’ at its best. A couple of blokes had set up a stall selling the usual cold drinks etc but more creatively a whole range of coffins, all shapes and sizes on display for you (or perhaps your nearest and dearest) to choose as you walk in!
With body mass dwindling we have crossed the border into Georgia, a wonderful place.... the whitest legs in the world have been exposed! The Middle East has been great, with a mix of old and new but almost always culturally conservative. However to arrive in Georgia has been for me somewhat of a welcome relief, at last the shorts and the whitest legs south of New Brighton have been revealed! The first thing that Tim announced to me when we crossed the border was he hadn’t seen so many “knees” – girls wearing western clothes!!! We chose Batumi as it is classed as the Georgia’s summer holiday capital. We decided we could chill out for a couple of days dipping our toes in the Black Sea before having our next beach break in South East Asia in some four months time! The border crossing was a breeze with the immigration officers some of the most friendly we have ever encountered.
Batumi itself doesn’t have the mega tourist attractions we have ticked off, however a wonderful mix of relaxed and friendly people, soaking up the sun – bringing their families out about 5pm to enjoy the last few hours of sunshine on the beach. The promenade had a few mega clubs which crank up about midnight, the other tourist attraction being the dancing water fountains that came alive at 10pm. All in all Batumi really was ‘just what the doctor ordered’ to get ourselves back on the travelling trail refreshed! Tbilisi being the next stop on the road for us.
We left Aleppo and started tracking through Eastern Turkey, we had planned to spend a couple of nights in each place – or that was the plan...... Let's just say that we had our first attack of the severe travellers tum, I am sure we can all think up other words to describe it, but this is the only 'travel blog friendly’ way of putting it. For those of you who want to guess, yes it wasn’t me who suffered, although sitting in a £20 room with a TV the size of a cereal packet when the World Cup is on wasn’t our idea of travelling! Given the state of Tim’s system, the few options of entertainment were limited to anywhere a toilet was a minutes sprint away! Therefore, one of the ideas we hit on was to sit through Robin Hood, which was the only film in town on in English. Felt like home from home with a massive screen and only 3 rows of seats, with an intermission. Needless to say we gave the women selling ice creams a wide berth!