Eleven Thousand Years in the Making
Posted: Sep 5, 2003 2:58:13 PM
Yesterday I had my first attack of homesickness, and although it wasn't a major one I was worried that it was triggered primarily by a (relatively minor) setback on the road to Catal Hoyuk. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
About a week ago I set out on the Fez Bus, which is a hop-on hop-off network that takes people around western Turkey. It is populated primarily by Australians and New Zealanders, which is a relief in some ways, as it's always nice to be able to just casually converse with someone from time to time. I have met several people that I would now consider friends (so hopefully they'll post something here to let me know they're still alive!).
I'll be meeting up with two of these friends again in Istanbul: Melinda, a lawyer from Christchurch on a huge nine month tour of the more dangerous parts of the world (ask her about South American roads); and Mahmut, our offsider (on-bus travel co-ordinator), a great guy that we managed to talk into going paragliding with us before he scarpered off for a wedding in eastern Turkey.
So with these and other friends in tow I've been to the following:
The ruins of Pergamum
The ruins of Ephesus
That last was very interesting - not only did we get to see the eternal flames of Chimaera (gas pockets in the mountain ensure a perpetual supply of natural gas to fuel these campfire-sized blazes coming straight out of the rock near your feet) but I also stayed in a proper treehouse that is rather famous on the backpacker circuit.
Yesterday I hopped off the Fez bus to do some independent exploration in Konya. Konya is not famous on the backpacker circuit; in fact, I was the first person to jump off the Fez bus in Konya this year. This city (the fifth largest in Turkey) is the religious capital of Turkey, home to the Whirling Dervishes and their inspiration, the poet Mevlana (who is buried in the centre of town). It is one of the more conservative places in Turkey, and the lack of bars and watering holes appears to have kept most of the backpackers away.
I came to Konya to find a way to Catal Hoyuk, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The oldest parts of it are a whopping 11,000 years old, making it the first city, well, ever. It is about 60km out of town, so I was planning to find a bus to nearby Cumra and take a taxi the rest of the way. Dropped into the Tourist Information office, asked where to find a bus to Cumra. Nope, doesn't exist. It was about this point that the homesickness kicked in: there were very few English-speaking people around, and the one that did speak English was blatantly contradicting my best research. It is something quite unpleasant to feel such isolation, and having enjoyed the conversation on the Fez network so much I had forgotten how bad the lack could get.
I took an early night and resolved to try again in the morning, although at that point I just felt like hiding in the hotel all day, and not even the dubbed Popeye cartoons could cheer me up. Let me just say that where yesterday was awful today was awesome: not only have I been to Catal Hoyuk, but I have had engaging conversations with a carpet salesman (having visited a carpet-making place I caught him in one or two rather blatant lies regarding the quality of his carpets and so decided not to get one) and an English-language student (he had only been learning for seven months, but was very well spoken regardless). That's the main problem with people greeting you on the street: half are extremely friendly students of English looking for some practise, and the other half are trying to sell you something.
Regardless, I am now back in a top mood, and tomorrow I'll be going to the Mevlana Museum and then back on a bus to Goreme in Cappadocia. The next report will probably come some time after I get back to Istanbul, and I should have lots more to say.
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