Finally, a week late, here is a run-down of my Kurban Bayrami trip.
On Friday the 30th Sevil dropped me off at the Mersin Otogar (bus station). There, after 7pm, I caught the Yeni Adana bus to Denizli (30,000,000 TL). Also on the bus were AIESEC trainees Fabian (Germany), Magda (Poland), Maria (Portugal) and Alejandro (Mexico). They had boarded in Adana. 12 hours after Mersin we arrived in Denizli. At Denizli Otogar we took a dolmus (minibus) to Pamukkale for the mineral terraces and the ruins of Hierapolis. The weather was overcast but bearable.
In our 1 day and night in Pamukkale we:
-Visited Mustafa’s restaurant for breakfast and dinner. Mustafa is a character and told many stories. The one about the Japanese backpacker was particularly funny. The food and drinks are good and reasonably priced and one has to like the larger than life Mustafa.
-Walked around the white and off-white terraces of Pamukkale and the Roman ruins. During the day to 7 dogs followed us everywhere we went.
-Stayed at Meltem Guest House. In the evening we played the name game where everyone has a name stuck on their forehead that they don’t know and each person has to ask questions to find out who they are. ‘Stuart Little’ and ‘The Dalai Lama’ were particularly difficult for some people. That evening I started to feel sick.
On Saturday morning the others left to catch the train to Selcuk. I stayed back a few hours as I had a wonderful case of food poisoning. The toilet and Imodium became my temporary friends. This was my first case of food poisoning since 2002. I thought my body had adjusted to Turkey’s nuances. I do not know what caused the poisoning. I am almost certain it was the food from Mustafa’s as I shared the same plate with Fabian and he was perfectly fine.
Sunday was the first day of Bayram and the dolmuses were scarce. After a significant wait I finally caught one back to Denizli. There I took a Pamukkale bus company bus to Selcuk for Ephesus. On the dolmus and bus I observed many sheep and a few cattle in the various stages of butchering in people’s yards. This was particularly prevalent in the bushes.
At Selcuk Otogar a policeman and another man kindly helped ring Jimmy’s Place (the Artemis Guest House) who picked me up. Their website is very informative and practical for people wanting to visit Turkey. I found the section on hamams particularly interesting. A short time after arriving in my room, the AIESEC trainees knocked on my door. Reluctantly (I did not have great energy from the sickness) I went out for a walk with them around closed castle. Jen, the Australian working at Jimmy’s Place also came. Prior to traveling around Europe Jen was working backstage in Sydney. She was the first person, possibly ever, in Turkey to recognize my Port Adelaide Power scarf. One of the directors she worked with in Sydney was a big Port fan.
From the castle we managed to find ourselves inside one the outdoor museums. The security guard allowed us to exit the entrance without any damage caused, financial or otherwise. That evening at Jimmy’s Place, for the first time in 24 hours, I felt okay enough to eat (grilled vegetables – actually were fried). The movie after dinner was ‘The Full Monty’.
The next morning I relaxed in Jimmy’s Place whilst my companions looked around Ephesus. I had visited Ephesus previously and did not believe my physical condition nor the 15,000,000 TL entrance fee warranted a return that day. At the guesthouse an Irishman and a New Zealander couple provided good company throughout my stay.
In the late afternoon the trainees and I caught the train to Izmir on the second attempt. The first time we visited the train station we were told the train was delayed. The train, when it eventually came, was crowded with people traveling for bayram. A young girl entertained Maria and Magda – even giving hair clips as gifts. The novelty of foreigners will last for a long time.
At Basmane train station we met Roberto, another Mexican trainee. He was generous enough to let us stay at his place. He also had instant gas hot water for the shower!!!! Made a great change from my hot water system. As a city on the Aegean, the architecture and people are different to Mersin. This was very noticeable. The old buildings are Greek influenced. Up until the early 20th century Izmir was very cosmopolitan.
Also in Izmir:
-We paid a few visits to Dijana (Croatia) and Edmund’s (New Zealand) flat in the center. Ed has had interesting experiences as a Chinese-descent English teacher in Turkey. He does not fit the stereotype Turkish people hold of native English speakers. Dijana grew up in the Bosnian area of the Former Yugoslavia but now lives in Split and regards herself as Croatian. I found her experiences living in such a dynamic area very interesting.
-We walked along the waterfront boulevard where there are many bars.
-Most of the bazaar shops were closed for bayram.
-Fabian left the group to visit the beaches and other places on the coast. Typical German 🙂
-To her great delight, Magda found another Polish speaker, a Turk, on a bus to Berto’s place. She was so excited to practice her Polish again.
-On my last night at Berto’s place we played cards until 4 in the morning. One card game was particularly enjoyable. I think it was called cheat. It was only on my last evening that I felt %100 recovered from the food poisoning.
-On Wednesday we bussed it to Blanco’s place in another part of Izmir. Blanco is a Mexican expatriate. From her place we hurried to the ferry terminal to head back to the center of Izmir. After the ferry we sat on the park bench watching the sunset across the bay – super!
-That night I left Izmir on the 7:00 pm bus to Mersin.
I managed to have one good night’s sleep before Ali, Maria and Magda arrived in Mersin from Izmir on the Friday morning. For lunch we ate tantuni and kunefe. Dinner was communal-made macaronia with cheese and sucuk (spiced sausage). Kerem came later in the evening and he was good enough to drive us to the coastal boulevard.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I loved my time with Fabs, Ali, Maria, Magda and supporting crew.