Thinking of Gazientep?.....Don't

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  , Gaziantep,
Thursday, June 30, 2011

Again.......this blog is being delivered by my ghost easy to have staff!!!!
I have to take some time to reflect on our month in Turkey and what I learned...ok, maybe not learned - what I saw......a culture of incredible contrasts;  I want to make some notes to remember - it really was that interesting.  Now that my buddy has moved on, I will have to do my own writing again........ahhh.
And for any travellers thinking of Gazientep - don't believe them when they say the mosaic museum is open - there are press releases reporting it open in 2009, 2010 and for sure, for sure, open as of the first week of June 2011.....just another lie.  It is not open and has no opening date set....ahhhhh......Turkey!!!!!

Jan's take on Gazientep:  the pictures are mine.

Deb & I were at a bit of a loss for what to see and do after Cappadocia. I had my flight booked to Indonesia so we had a deadline, it was too little time to try to visit another country and it just felt like too much time to stay in Turkey.  Limited financially and geographically, we decided to stay in Turkey but to visit an area close to the Syrian border to see if things changed away from the more touristy route. We were off to Gaziantep, known to be home of the best baklava and the world’s biggest mosaics. Okay, let’s see what we find.

The bus trip got our hopes up as we passed some of the most beautiful scenery. Big mountains, green, green forests, this was all looking very promising. But the mountains flattened out, the green turned to brown and a very big city loomed ahead. Gaziantep is business central and we were there to spend four days. *sigh* Not what we were hoping for but baklava, mosaics, and local life… this could be good.

Yeah, it wasn’t. A modern city with a GREAT old market that we wandered through where you could see them hand making lots of tin and copper pots, jewelry, and other bits and bobs, cobblers cutting out really interesting leather shoes, and lots and lots of local spices, foods, and souvenir trinkets but c’est tout.    For us market mamas, it was perfect, but after one round of nosing around, that was about it. MUCH searching led us to a tourist information building and the lady who we chatted with tried to turn us on to several unimpressive museums without success. She told us that the mosaic museum we came to see is under construction and closed (disappointed but not surprised), there are no live whirling dervish performances only a small museum of their culture (of course), and the castle / fortress in the centre of the city was THE major tourist attraction. *sigh* She loaded us up with books though. Gaziantep really doesn’t have much to offer but they’ve printed novel sized brochures on the little there is to see. “A” for effort, “F” for effect.

So we saw the little there was to see and tried really hard to find some happy people. Active big city, people were marginally more friendly, but yeah, not so much to report.  Some really good people-watching spots that again just confirmed our suspicions of generally unhappy people.  And to add to the ugh factor, Deb got sick at this point as well. All in all, the timing was actually perfect because she could stay in bed and take care of herself while not feeling that she was missing out on exploring any once-in-a-lifetime must-sees. I checked out the town a bit more, reported back to her, and yep, we were good to hang out and catch up our photos and blogging. Flights booked back to Istanbul and we’re almost done with Turkey. Count down is on.

Our second round in Istanbul, back to where it all began. The two guys running our hostel were two of the most socially inept, living in mom’s basement playing Dungeons & Dragons WEIRDOS ever. Each person that we met who checked into the hostel would eventually ask, “What’s up with the hostel guys?” Just rude. If you tried to talk to them, they kept their eyes on their computer screen and would mumble a few incomprehensible words until you gave up and walked away. They refused to acknowledge new arrivals and when people finally got frustrated by just standing around and insisted that they look up from the computer to check them in, they did so with a gigantic sigh, eyes rolling, and enormous effort. This is your JOB dude! What the hell is wrong with you people?!?

Oh we were done, done, done with this country. A few more explorations around Istanbul and as was the case our first time around, there were more happier people to be found so we soaked up the street and market hospitality like a dead man in the desert. Anyone who smiled or talked to us drew us in like moths to a flame. We were putty in their hands. You smiled! Wow! We should have stayed in Istanbul. Not Asian or African hospitality mind you, but we took what we could get after a month of miserable. It’s almost flight time.

After lots of packing and repacking, Deb analyzing and prioritizing my possessions for me, and some slight anxiety, I was packed and ready to hit the road for Indo. Deb changed her flight back to Spain to leave the same day as me as high season had arrived and travel was now insanely expensive plus, we needed to leave Turkey before someone was going to get a karate chop to the nose. It was really that bad.

Airport scene, lots more rude, dismissive people so yep, let’s get on our planes. Tears of desperation as I said goodbye to Deb who left shortly before I did and then it was my turn. Sitting at my gate surrounded by Asians, I felt the tension ease and the casual and smiley interactions between people lift any lingering doubts of my new ventures to Indonesia. My decision to teach in Asia over the Middle East was confirmed. I knew I was heading in the right direction.

Four months ago my life was turned upside down by an email. No job in Ghana, figure something else out. I visited areas I'd never considered seeing; fell in love with some and learned a lot from others. I’m thankful that I chose to visit the Middle East before accepting a teaching position there as it influenced my decisions enormously but it’s an area I’d still like to travel more. Live there, doubt it, explore, absolutely. I was able to reconnect with a friend who keeps my head on straight and shares my passions, something that I can’t place a value on. And I found my way back to an area that I had previously called home. I think Indo will be challenging and fascinating and overwhelming and adventuresome. I think it was the right decision. Whatever happens, as always, there will be good stories to tell, I’m sure.

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