Malatya, A Nice Place, I'm Pretty Sure

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Malatya Province,
Monday, June 29, 2009

Despite my kranky feelings and attitude in and for Adana I did stay around long enough in the morning to visit the Ethnographic Museum, sweaty walk that it was. And, I have to admit, they have some nice things on display. They being the three guys who seemed somewhat nonplussed that someone actually walked into the place.

I went because in my hotel room a regional travel brochure pictured this Hittite fellow riding on a cart. I'm not so sure that was the way it originally was, since the stones were of different materials and colors. Any explanations were only in Turkish (and Hittite, I'd guess).

Otherwise, there was this little Roman bronze, about 5 inches high that I rather fancied.

Then, walking back to the hotel to collect my gear I finally took a couple of photos of the litter that seems to coat so many of the streets of Turkish towns and litters the highways and scenic by ways. It's one of the depressing features of Turkey. For the most part, I think, I've withheld my negative attitudes toward Turkey. But they've always been bubbling away. But here, I'll let someone else speak for me. I'm not the only one. This (edited by me) observation pretty much coincides with my own. It appears in an anthology of writings, Turkish Coast Through Writer's Eyes. It is part of something larger by an Australian writer, Nancy Phelan. And her observations were made in the early 1960s. God, what would she have to say now!?

   The Turks don't seem to have the same touch with sea towns [or any other, I would add] as Spaniards, Italians, Greeks and Provencals. Here, on this southern coast, no one has bothered at all to make the best of the exquisite settings. The locals look at the blue mountains behind, the silky bay before them and say, 'çok güzel', but they make no effort to enjoy them in aesthetic or even comfortable conditions....
   I am sure the Turks really love their beautiful country and would kill or die for it without hesitation, but in some ways their love resembles that of a man for his old mum or his faithful doormat wife; a constant unchanging fundamental emotion that never bothers about compliments, birthdays or othr trifles that make life so pleasant. With the Turks it takes the form of complete neglect of appearance. Beautiful places lie covered with garbage and dirt, and new buildings are usually hideous and unsuitable, giving the impression that no one cares enough to co-ordinate them. People just run up any old thing anywhere they like, as they do in Australia, where the same lavishness of large-scale beauty is regarded in the same off-hand way, or taken as a challenge to man's ingenuity to spoil it.

So it goes with virtually all of Anatolia, a beautiful geography. But wherever the Turks set upon it it gets to be a sorry sight. I believe I have read in the past--or maybe it's my own theory (probably not) that the Turks were nomadic peoples and therefore never just never developed a "sense of place," as other indigenous peoples have.

But, not wanting to leave a negative impression, I want to repeat that the Turkish people can be perhaps the kindliest and friendliest people on earth. So, from another writer--a famous one in these parts--Mary Lee Settle, this quote:

I found there the greatest capacity for friendship I have ever known. It was in the genes of the Turkish people, so deep and so beyond individual choice that I have wondered ever since about its sources.

Now, back to the traveling. After the museum visit I returned to the hotel, collected my bags and soon caught a free (hot stuffed) mini-but to the bus station (otogar). There, I was on a bus for Malatya in about 15 minutes.

I was assigned to seat 47, technically the middle seat of the 5-seat back row. But there was only one fellow in the row, so I took the left window seat. Later, after a rest stop I got on to find a fellow in "my" seat. Well, I tried to argue with him--even though his ticket said 46. He called the attendant. The attendant ruled in my favor. The fellow was most gracious about it, even speaking some to me in English further along the way. A handsome but gruff looking fellow, he was apparently a building contractor. (As for "gruff looking, it goes  along with one of my imagined tourist slogans: "Turkey, where shaving is not a daily ritual.")

Once out east of Antalya and the depressing mob of concrete apartment blocks, the scenery becomes quite beautiful and interesting. First there are the farm fields (wheat, I think, golden now), then mountains. It is very nice and interesting scenery as the way winds northeast to Malatya.

In Malatya I soon caught a city  bus into  the center, asking the driver to let me off at the İönü statue. He did better than that. Passing the statue, and continuing up a side street, he stopped in the middle and signaled for me to get off. But he wouldn't open the middle door where I was with my luggage. He motioned me to the front. He then, smiling, pointed out his window to a shaggy fellow sitting by. Perplexed, I got off; and by that time the fellow was at my side, introducing himself in English as Kemal, of the Tourist Office.

We agreed to met again later ("I'm here every time"), as all I wanted to do was get to a hotel and have a shower. Kemal pointed the way.

I then determined that I had a cold, and decided to just lounge about my still very warm hotel room for the next two days in an attempt to rest and recover. Fortunately the next day was Sunday, and the hotel has a pretty robust wireless (or wi-fi) system. So with iTunes it was almost like a Sunday at home, listening to the NPR stream.

Unfortunately, I have not, therefore, gone out to explore Malatya. I'm not feeling the  best--though better--and it is still pretty hot, though not humid. I'm sorry about this, as Malatya seems (at the core) a very nice town.

It is the birthplace of two of Turkey's presidents, İsmet İnönü and Türgüt Ozel. But also of the guy who shot the Pope, Ağa, I think.

Of İnönü, he was Atatürk's vice president, after being one of his best generals in the war of independence. He negotiated the Treaty of Laussane following the First World War and the war for Turkish independence, stubbornly an to Turkey's great advantage. Quite a man himself, I think.

But, after two days of R&R (and "cabin fever") it was time to move on.

This is my fourth time in Turkey. In total I've spent about two years in Turkey over the years. The first time, when Anatolia and its history captured my attention, 1970. Then not until 2002, 2006, and now, 2008-9. I have been almost everywhere. But not quite. That is an endless quest. Yet there are some biggie standards that I have yet to visit, and in this last month I'm trying to add some of them to my experience.

Nemrut Dağı is one of them. That is the mountain-top where there are the crumbly statue remnants that often characterize travel sights in Turkey. The site is located in an isolated national park, and therefore is not of easy access to single, nomadic travelers like myself. However, my readings said that the tourist office on Malatya offered reasonable package tours to Nemrut Dağı. And, that seemed to be the best option for me. Back to Kemal. . . .

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