Coastal caravan

Trip Start Nov 03, 2004
Trip End Nov 23, 2006

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Antakya is the Antioch of Acts. It became the glittering capital of
Roman Asia. When we arrived it was dreary, huddled under lowering
cloud, awnings dripping dismally on pedestrians sloshing along water-
logged broken paving. The Orontes River was a broad, muddy drain.
On the other side of the drain, in an unimposing building, is one of
the finest collections of mosaics in the world (with stuff lying
around, untended, outside that Auckland Museum's curator would
probably sell his soul for).

The glory of Rome is laid out on the walls - an exhibition of the
wealth of its rulers and the art and mastery of its craftsmen.
Cupid flits amid entwining vines, Pan pipes amongst dappled
woodlands, Narcissus stares dreamily at himself, Diana hunts
graceful gazelle, Neptune capers (again) with sea nymphs, Orphesus
serenades the little critters. There are all manner of beautifully
rendered animals, fruit and fish. There are some triffids and a
duck. It's all intricately, exquisitely executed with formless
smashed up chunks of rock. Like the work of the Impressionist
painters you marvel that the perspective of the craftsman and the
viewer can be reconciled.

They also have a small collection of delicate bronzes and the tiny
carved cylinder seals I love so much. Standing on one end they
resemble a carved bead but rolled across soft wax or a clay tablet
they leave a complex pictogram identifying the sealer. If you were
choosing the mark by which the world knew you, would you choose "man
throttles ostrich"?

After the usual unseemly scrabble by the bus touts the next morning
we traveled, via all points and all likely roadside punters, to
Adana*. Adana has a kebab named after it (chilli mince skewers - we
forgot to try them). It has a massive modern mosque in the mode of
Sultan Ahmet, built by a (very) rich local hotel magnate. Our hotel
put green lightbulbs in the bedside lamps and, finally (because I'm
tired), forced the question, "If you have to leave your lighted
cigarette on the toilet seat, what are you in the bathroom for?"**.
It has food poisoning inducing food.

The next morning, having collected our car from the hidden rental
agency, we set out for Alanya. We traveled along the cliff road.
Here the land is a tumble of nutmeg coloured rocks rolling down to
the sea. The rock is slowly shattering under the roots of shaggy
pines. It's shady, resinous and postcard pretty. Where enough soil
has been clawed from the stone plastic greenhouses of bananas
sprout. On the steep rock faces haughty goats and bemused sheep
forage. Occasionally you see a solitary cow tended by a gaggle of
headscarved grandmothers in baggy floral pants combining
shepherding, childcare and gossip. Half-hearted attempts to sell us
bags of strange fruit (furry, green, a cross between an apple and an
apricot which someone tells me are unripe almonds) are made by
roadside vendors but unlike the Moroccans no one is committed enough
to hurl themselves in front of the car or lurk unseen behind bushes
to leap upon you unsuspecting.

We lunched at Mamure Kalesi, an 11th century crusader castle.
They've built a mosque inside the walls. As we arrived, so did the
muezzin. With about thirty seconds to the call to prayer, he tore
through the overgrown courtyard on his moped scattering crusader
rubble in his wake, to press the play button on the minaret

Nothing much remains of the interior structure of the castle but you
can scale the defensive towers and, for those not worried by a bit
of scrambling over crumbling outside parts of the battlements, walk
the whole perimeter catwalk. Ghosts of Ottomans past probably
watched us scrambling and delving into holes in the wall and
wondered, "It's a good castle. We took good care of it, but what
are they doing poking around in the latrines?". Tortoises like the

We gave the ticket lady a lift into Anamur. Every day the poor
girl, speaking only Turkish, has to find a tourist, with a car and
some generosity, sentient enough to understand by mostly gestures
that she needs a lift home.

Alanya is a beach resort. It's not much of a beach but that doesn't
matter - the strip has been constructed to completely ignore it.
Ranks of identical poured concrete multi-storey blocks stare into
the back of each other. None have a view of the beach but they're
all in walking distance of the pool. You can identify the
delineation of one resort from another by the change in tawdry
colour schemes and perhaps the decrease of giant plaster cupids on
the fence in preference for light-up plastic palm trees. They
rejoice in names like "Starlice" and "Pegasos".

Once you get into downtown the harbour is quite pretty and there are
shady (real) palms and cafés. People are relaxed and friendly
because the real business of the tourist session hasn't begun yet -
you're the practice run.

We really do like Turkey but some of it's really silly and they gave
me food poisoning. We successively (and expensively) crossed back
into Syria a few days ago. Both well, finally.
Love, D&H

* Along the road from Adana we noticed: Turkey stands poised, some
minor human rights issues aside, to enter the European Union.
They've been ready since Ataturk. Their membership will be the
culmination of his dream that Turkey be accepted into it's rightful
place in the Western world. During his presidency he decreed that,
henceforth, Arabic script would no longer be used as it made Turks
unintelligible to Europeans, with whom they were one; he outlawed
the fez as making Turks look like Middle Eastern hicks. Wonder if
they realise that, along with all the benefits of EU membership,
they're going to be required to prohibit their dark, Satanic oil
refineries and cement plants puffing evil black pollutants and most
of their vehicles are about to become illegal? Oh, and wonder how
labour laws and health and safety regulations will go down?

** Which leads to all the other bathroom questions: why can't we
have a shower curtain apart from the one acting as the toilet door;
why can we only have one towel; must the shower head fall on you
without provocation; why is it so hard to marry up the colour of the
tap with the temperature of the water coming out of the faucet; why
can't the drain go in the lowest part of the floor; why can't a
flush system be designed that doesn't lift the lid off the cistern
and which actually automatically stops water running down the back
of the toilet; why isn't the toilet ever actually bolted to the
floor; why is the toilet seat only ever held in by one screw; where
do all the plugs go; why does the shower head spray water in every
direction except down; is running an electrical current through
water then dropping it on someone's head a good idea; if it is, why
can't the earth be connected; and if we can fix practically all the
problems with duct tape, why can't you?

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