Goreme, October 18th

Yet another thing I forgot to mention in the last post (I need to take some ginko. Or stop siphoning off my brain cells with Reki). When we fled Topkapi palace we noticed a crowd of people standing with their assorted video cameras and shmancy digital cameras aimed at the lawn. The entertainment was a stray dog with an obvious and urgent desire to play with stray cat. I love how dogs are completely oblivious to the signals cats exude. This one was no different, wagging his tail with excitement and yelping cheerily. The cat on the other hand seemed to be in great discomfort at the mere sight of this canine imbecile (cute imbecile, but imbecile none the less). Her back was arched and almost every fiber of fur standing on end as though she could escape him piece by piece. She was hissing and showing off her fangs and he would responding by eeking another high pitched yelp.
Finally she turned tightly as though on a pin and ran. The dog followed her, bounding and barking. Right in their path was a maintenance man sweeping up discarded tickets (the art of scrapbooking is, apparently, dead). He froze, as well he might. I'm sure from his view it was a terrifying prospect: a stray cat with every pointy appendage extended and prepared to cause considerable pain and a rather large, slobbery dog right behind her. At the last moment the cat veered off to the right and scampered up a tree, to the dog's considerable dissapointment.
Last night, after the kebaps described and the near miss of a riot, Kirsty and I lugged our bags to a ferry station and sat in the terminus, structured like a very large, sheltered bus stop. Kirsty stopped at the little service kiosk and asked,
"Does the ferry go to Hydarpashi train station?"
The guard looked at her with great confusion (this was somewhat typical when we tried to speak Turkish) and answered, "No Hydarpashi station." My heart seized.
"It's HydarpashA!" and he chuckled at our ashen faces regaining colour.
We sat on a bench, my feet pressed against my bag and hugging my backpack. Milling around us were three Turks, all clearly dying for a cigarette. Half an hour later there were approximately 75 Turks in the ferry terminal with more steadily streaming in. It was astonishing. They just appeared so slowly and so quitely that I only noticed when I stopped dozing on my backpack, wakened by the congested hoot of the ferry itself.
When the ferry docked a similar mass flood of people exited. 20 minutes passed and they were still walking off the decks of the ferry. Kirsty and I heaved ourselves and our bags to a standing position and began to sluggishly move forward. For the amount of people that were trying to get on that ferry no one pushed, no one jostled, no one anxiously cut in line. They gave us all a wide berth with this weird sense of calm and confidence that they would make it onto the ferry.
No where else have I experienced that.
Once we settled ourselves onto a bench with a good view of the doorway I started to watch the Turks make themselves comfortable on their commute. They all seemed to have this ritual involving nicotine and tea. One Turk that especially caught my eye was a dark brooding young man, who sat outside our window on deck, a glass of tea in one hand which he drank as though it were the first refreshing thing he'd had all day and then inhaled heavily from his cigarette. Those restoratives within him, he ruffled his black hair looking stressed, but also anticipating the relaxation that would result from his commute home, and stared at the river.
Hydarpasha station was the first stop on the ferry route. Kirsty pointed to the dock and asked a man in the cabin, "Hydarpasha?"
He nodded, "yes, this is Hydarpasha," he replied. And then bent down to help me carry my bag into the station.
We found our train, identified by the large flock of Japanese tourists, strung with heavy cameras and sun hats. Next to them was an equally large pile of plastic suitcases. I did not envy the porter who had to help them with getting on the train.Kirsty and I quickly located our cabin and settled in for the night.
For me, nothing is better than traveling by train. There is something very old-world about it, something very relaxing, and almost luxurious. This may be because it's so damned expensive in America. To me, that is a sign of a country's failing.
I slept all the way to Ankara, although Kirsty wasn't so fortunate. We arrived at dawn and saw the capital city through the windows of our taxi to the megalithic bus station.
Forget trains, forget planes. It is truly the automobile that the Turk prefers. Turks migrate around their huge country in large autobuses and they are nothing like our grimy Greyhounds. For our four hour bus from Ankara to Nevshehir, we reclined in a mercedes bus with comfortable seating, foot rests and a beverage service every half hour.
The only thing lacking was air conditioning and/or any form of ventilation. I passed out asleep on the bus almost as soon as it pulled out from its parking berth. Nearly three hours later I was in a semi-unconscious state that is best described as a heat coma, though to the untrained eye, I may have still been asleep. When I finally struggled awake it was to Kirsty's sweaty and flushed face, and a window that positively radiated heat from the abundant sunshine. My eyes focused on the clock/thermometer on the bus. It gave the tempertaure as 25c. For you Imperialists, that's 77F.
Kirsty rolled her head in my direction and eyed me with heat exhaustion. "It's like a sweat lodge in here," she said.
I nodded. "Any moment now we'll meet our Spirit Maker and know our Spirit Names."
She chuckled. "What's my spirit name?"
"Uh," I thought hard and then her stomach gave an ominous gurgle. "She Who Must Not Eat Cheese."
She laughed. "That's good. Um, let me see, for you.... She Who Devours Cucumber."
At that point our steward, uniformed in a button shirt, black pants, vest and bow tie, wandered the aisle offering water and cups. We eagerly accepted, downing the warm water in seconds. Around us other Turks were wilting like lillies in a hot, airless car (which, actually, is what we were in). They pulled at the collars of the sweaters, fanned themselves and fiddled, inaffectively with the air vent nozzles. Kirsty had this pale, glossy look of one suffering from fever. I think I just looked stoned, which is how I felt.
At last the bus pulled into Nevshehir and opened the door. The only thing that prevented us from stampeding into the open air was the fact that we were all seeing spots as soon as we stood up. We, along with a quartet of Koreans were told to change busses to get to Goreme. So we disembarked, got our bags and then were coralled into a tourist office by a very friendly and eager Turk.
"Yes please, my friend will be here in a few minutes with the bus. He is just getting fuel now," the Turk chattered to us. I plopped onto his sofa and let the cooler air seep into my brain.
"But, do you have a tour booked for Goreme? Or a hot air balloon ride? Do you know where you're staying?" he asked us. Kirsty and I did have a hotel booked already. So the Turk promptly ignored us and focused on the Koreans. He offered them tours around "rose walley," hot air balloon rides, all for "special price." Two of the Koreans spoke English, two of the did not, all four of them just stared blankly at him, nodding intermittently with fast waning patience.
Kirsty, on the other hand, had reached the end of her rope as soon as stepped into his office. She walked outside and asked when the bus to Goreme was coming. Apparently she had been told there was no bus to Goreme.
In effect, we were this guy's hostages. Fortunately, his friend was real, and he had really been getting gas, and now was here to drive us to Goreme, a half hour away. We loaded into his van, faces pressed against the open windows and hurtled down the road.
15 minutes into the ride we caught our first glimpse of Cappadocian landscape. It was amazing. It was unearthly, it was almost lunar and yet somehow... a strange sense of de ja vu (don't ask). Around the bend of the road fairy chimneys sprung into view, jutting straight from the earth to form conical features punched through with windows and doors. It seemed as though every one of them must be Ali Baba's cave of wonders, or Scheherazade's den where the Sultan lounged hearing her stories. And these chimeny's were everywhere. The Korean teenager became so excited on our first glimps she seized her father's arm.
The minibus stopped at a hotel named "Fairy dreams," and our hopeful tour guide looked at us and said, "maybe you like to see this hotel? It's very nice, run by my friend." Mercifully this invitation did not extend to Kirsty and I, since we had reservations. But the two English speaking Koreans obliged, leaving the father in the van.
While we waited, the Korean man shfted in his seat and glanced side-long at us. Then with obvious good-humour and friendliness, he began speaking to us in Korean.
"I'm sorry, we only speak English," we said. I'm sure our words were just as incomprehensible to him as his were to us. But he nodded, thoughtfully and tried again. Within his words I heard "England?"
"No," I replied and pointed to Kirsty. "Canada."
"Vancouver," Kirsty gave a weak smile.
There were some more noises in Korean and then a mangled version of British Columbia.
"Yes, British Columbia."
More noises in Korean. We stared blankly at him once more. I mean, even his body language wasn't giving me any hints. Relief completely swept me once his family came back and we drove to the main town square.
From the square Kirsty and I got into a taxi and gave the address of the Fairy Chimney Inn, our hotel. It seemed like our driver approved of the address and began zooming up and around the narrow twisty streets of Goreme. I feel Cappadocian drivers must need an intensified training course to cope with their twisty roads that are hemmed in only by abyssmal heights to fall down. Either that or it works on a survival of the fittest model. As he downshifted our driver pointed out local points of interest to us; the house were he lived as a boy, the house where he ws born, things of that nature. As we neared the hotel he began offering us tours of the region. "$120 US." he said, his voice extremely celebratory. "For you special price."
"Um..." we stalled, thinking fast as to how we could let him down without pissing him off (though I suspect it would take a lot to piss of a Turk). He screeched to a halt in front of a gate saying Fairy Chimney Inn and hauled out our bags. As Kirsty fished out 5Lira, he fished out a business card and handed it me, repeating his previous offer. "Very good tour," he said. "One thousand and twenty U.S. dollars."
"OK," we said, delighted to be presented with a legitimate reason for refusal, and turned to the gate. When we dissapeared within the courtyard he realized his mistake and called after us, "No! I mean one hundred and twenty! One HUNDRED!"
Fruit and Vegetable servings: 0. But then again, the only thing I had eaten the entire day was.... nothing, actually.


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