After Kurdistan trip
Greetings from Aydin Turkey,
Farmers markets are so colorful a photographer can spend endless hours considering, framing, shooting and discussing what he is doing with everyone curious about his activities and equipment. I say discussing advisedly because little conversation as such actually takes place. I speak mainly English and they speak mostly Turkish, but that doesn't stop us from exchanging ideas! On more than one occasion following a long exasperated speech in Turkish I'll raise my hand like a policeman stopping traffic and then point my index finger to the sky and then with the other hand point at that raised finger and announce: "Turkish!, English!, Kurdish!" Most people with a little patience eventually get the idea and switch to gestures instead of trying to make the "dumb foreigner" understand their urgent speeches delivered with ever increasing intensity. I always enjoy the unexpected encounters in situations like an outdoors market. People devise the most remarkable and varied ways to make a living. In a large market like the one here in Aydin on Sundays the possibilities are endless.
Leaving at 13:15 I arrived in the town of Aydin (pronounced: "EYE din") four hours north of Fethiye, chosen mostly because it is famous for figs! I love dried figs (Kuru Incir in Turkish.) and figured the world capital for the fruit would be a good place to get my fill. Ironically, neither of the two hotels I've tried have offered them as a part of their breakfast selection! But, the gift shops, grocery stores and snack shops around the bus station overflow with the local producers' harvest. In fact, practically any shop I enter is likely to have figs for sale: "Want a bag of figs with that new suit?" You get the idea; fancy figs are everywhere. Of course, this is winter and the trees have all gone dormant, so there are no fresh figs.
Halva at breakfast is common, however. I've always thought of it as a confection, but it adds a pleasant perk to more bland breakfast items. While I'm on the subject of food, chewy ice cream made with a Turkish Delight recipe is a surprising variation from what I'm used to. Most ice-cream just melts in your mouth from the heat of your body, but Turkish ice-cream must be chewed like soft Gummy Bears. The recipe produces an incredibly rich creamy experience unlike anything I've experienced before. As I frequently look for something familiar when a quick energy boost is needed, one of the American fast food joints easily meets the requirements and the people working there usually are happy to see an American. However, the Mac Donald's staff I encountered in the store next to the Aydin traffic circle near the hotel did not speak English and were short tempered with those of us who did.
But, again I jump ahead of my story which begins back in Fethiye where several bus companies offered service north toward Istanbul. Like bazaar barkers, the bus company touts good naturedly try to persuade would be passengers their company offered the best value. As my first visit to the bus station only required information on schedules and fares, I cooperated with the company touts and listened to their animated pitches. Good thing too, because I learned one company in addition to being competitive on all other accounts, also offered WiFi and USB phone battery charging capabilities and big comfy executive style, three across lounge seats clearly superior to the other company offerings. The Pamukkale buses are newer and more feature rich than their competitors in this part of Turkey, so I booked my two seats... and got a discount for the second "bag seat" without making a fuss. As I took photos of the bus I'd be using, the very friendly ticket agent jumped in front of the camera and insisted I also take his picture... and tell his boss how helpful he had been. Kenan Koyar, the Pamukkale English speaking bus agent in Fethiye walked me onto one of the buses and demonstrated the on board WiFi. He made such a good case for his company; I chose his service to Aydin.
Overhead baggage racks usually are pitifully small on long haul buses, but not on the newer vehicles operated by Pamukkale. After I boarded with my two seat tickets I discovered long stretches of the baggage racks had enough space for a normal airline carry-on bag, not enough for everyone, but at least for a half dozen bags.
The bus arrived in Aydin at dusk, leaving very little daylight for my first night hotel search. Fortunately, the bus terminal is located about a block from the main shopping boulevard running through the central part of the city. After a half hour scouting the area I discovered the modest, but very conveniently located 60TL (about $34) Hotel Ozlu and decided to compromise on the quality issue for this first night. Surprisingly tired after only four hours of sitting on the bus, I limited my post check-in hike to a half hour. The next morning after a meager Turkish breakfast served by the hotel, I started my search in earnest and found the Aydin Park Otel not more than a half block from the bus station where I'd arrived the night before. At 90TL or $50 it is an exceptional value with friendly staff, a substantial breakfast buffet with real brewed coffee, modern furnishings, high tech bathroom gadgetry and very conveniently located near the main bus station. I spent a total of seven days in this comfortable, excellent value hotel and would recommend it to almost anyone arriving or leaving on a bus.
During my first day away from the room someone tripped three intrusion detection traps I'd set up on my shaving kit case during the several hours period when the room was being serviced. In other words, someone rifled my toiletries bag... looking for what? Money, drugs, what? Am I sure? Absolutely! Someone rifling my belongings is always a red flag security might be lax in a hotel.
I started paying more attention to security after noting the in-room safety box locked open with an unknown code. On reporting the problem to the receptionist, she called a male colleague responsible for hotel guest security who reminded her of the master unlock code for all hotel room safes and she just wrote it down for me, instructing me how to use it. My first thought was the master code only worked until the guest entered his own secret code, so I tried it after I'd set mine... and the safe opened! That means anyone with the master code can unlock any guest's safe. Of course, you must have that master code, but if so easily given to me, others in the hotel likely have it as well. The hotel is in need of a serious security review and prospective guests might want to take these observations into account before choosing to stay in this hotel.
During breakfast I kept hearing a strange whistling noise, sometime sounding like the siren of an emergency vehicle. When asked, one of the staff nodded knowingly and replied: "I do." which meant nothing to me. As it turns out, there is a "pet" parrot living in a cage down in the lobby bar area one floor below the dining room balcony with an open space connecting the two floors. His friends call him "Eye Dew".
During my last afternoon in the hotel I found the hotel Internet terminal located in the lobby bar area and hunkered down for some serious work. After I'd been working for about an hour with the screeching and whistling providing an irritating serenade, that bird some how managed to get out of its cage and flew over to where I was busy at the keyboard. Perching on the edge of the terminal desk, he started pecking away at first the mouse and then the keyboard, slowly coming closer to my fingers! For all the world it looked to me like it wanted attention. The bird's beak looks like it could do some serious damage to tender human skin. They have a reputation for cracking hard nuts with them! So I called the barman on duty who worked for twenty minutes off and on trying to coax the creature back into its cage... without success. Finally exasperated, he moved the cage to an entirely different part of the hotel and the parrot followed.
I took many city bus rides around town and one thing became obvious: the city landscaping department likes orange trees. Orange trees full of fruit line most of the streets in Aydin. When I asked residents: "Who cares for the trees and harvests the fruit?" a common answer emerged: "Whoever lives closest to the tree!"
The hotel's Internet server blocked my Istanbul 2012 page and substituted a warning banner for its contents. While in the hotel I couldn't escape the cached warning flag, but users elsewhere had no problem including those in other Aydin locations away from the hotel. In the process of trying to eliminate the problem, I messed up the site's navigation and had a difficult, lengthy time getting it put back together.
City buses run all over the city anywhere people need to go. I took the number 5 bus that went from a big high rise housing development with apartment buildings in the north of the city to a similar remote development south-west of the city out in the rural areas. Every building had huge clusters of solar water heaters on the roof and so many satellite antennas they looked like communications towers.
The traffic circle at the southern end of the main downtown shopping street is the location of a massive, photogenic four sided monument honoring important events in the city's history. Passing it on any of my walks without snapping yet another photo proved impossible. I had the same problem with the fig tree sculpture.
Some other oddities noticed in this part of Turkey are the lack of barking dogs downtown, just like in Fethiye. Also, ambulance drivers must compete with other drivers who think the sirens mean they are supposed to go faster, not get out of the way. As far as I know, this part of the country is not subject to flooding, but I saw above ground tombs in a cemetery like those common in New Orleans.
I am ready to head north into Eastern Europe, so will start making plans to leave Turkey. My next stop will be a return trip to Istanbul where Iíll discover transportation possibilities into Bulgaria and beyond. I made it into Iraq and managed to wrap some interesting parts of Turkey around it. Thatís all for now.
Fred L Bellomy
Prescript: Aydin Turkey 31