June 3, 2013 by brasiersarah
These were our next Couch Surfing hosts, we say hosts because one accepted our request, another cooked us dinner and the last guy we actually ended up staying at his place. Funnily enough the guy’s place who we stayed at for a few days didn’t speak much English, lovely bloke, and never the less we managed to have quite interesting conversations with him via google translate.Drinking stolen çay, and eating Baklava. It’s called stolen çay because it is smuggled over the border mostly from Syria. Why the hell you need to smuggle tea is totally beyond me, but hey each to their own……..I guess.I don’t know if you have been following this blog regularly but the last place we were in was Ayder. Overnight our environment changed completely as if we had gone to another planet. A beauty that lies between the thousand year old bricks that shape the town with history wedged into every nook awaiting to be discovered.A small town that was a cluster of churches and mosques but was seemingly harmonic, I have never seen such an impressing display of religions getting along. We just stopped into this mans shop for one çay and he took it upon himself to take us on a walk to the best cafe in town. Not a lick of english was spoken between us but for some reason he took us under his wing to an awesome place. This was another example of how wonderful the Turkish people are, my hat goes off to them. He accompanied us for lunch ordering something delicious speaking a bit of Turkish throughout the meal and doing insistent body language suggesting that he wanted us to eat more…. as all Turkish do. It was a lovely exchange without many words.One thing I noticed and loved about our new little lunch friend was that when we were climbing the stairs up to the balcony where we had lunch he reached over to one of the roses near the stairs and actually stopped to smell it. I don’t know if they have the same saying in Turkey but I think it is the first time I have seen somebody embody the saying “stop and smell the roses”. He was such a nice, serene being and I feel lucky to have had the pleasure of his presence that day. This man was carrying what I believe is dust in the form of water. Scientifically not possible I know, but if you imagine a cloud full of dust in your mouth as you drink water your unlucky enough to experience what we did. I really only drank it because I wanted a picture of what it was dispensed from, as pictured above – the jet pack come thermos pack thing on this guy’s back.So we paid about $5 to get into the museum in Mardin and spent about half the time pissing ourselves over these chickens. Really how would these things survive in the wild? I am of the belief some animals only exist because we choose them to be. These are some of those animals. Purely for our amusement, and they serve their purpose very well, we were more than amused. The view from our local cafe over looked the flat grassy farmlands of Eastern Anatolia and beyond that Syria.My dad always said that anything golden brown has to be bad for you. This right here is the king of all things bad for you, and it’s sooooooo good. Thin noodle pastry is held together by a gooey cheese centre, then this eatable heart attack is pan fried in sweet sweet syrup. As per everything in Turkey pistachios are crushed and sprinkled over the top and if you ask for it you get a dollop of ice cream. Perfectly accompanied, as always by a çay.This was the local parrot in the Kunefe restaurant and would say good bye to you.And the nice blokes at the restaurant that taught him his party trick.I don’t know why I look like a pirate but I do. This is Hasankeyf, a vast network of caves embedded into the surrounding cliffs. Soon to be put under water from an initiative by the government to build a dam here. Its a sad day when you see so much history and knowledge being drowned out by the cries of money. Built into the cliff face was a castle fashioned by the Romans around 1800BC, to be used as a strong point for the surrounding region. Because of its location near the Middle East and Europe trade soon became a thriving industry in Hassankyfe. This fortress passed through more hands than Taylor Swift, from the Romans to the Mongolians you name it they where there. This was the man we hope made Sarah’s beautiful Kilim and not some 5 year old Chinese boy. Seemed legit, they say that in the off season when there are no tourists around they spend their winter sitting at their looms making Kilims. The Mor Gabriel Monastery was founded in 397 and still to this day is teaching children and housing people of the faith. Before we arrived a free thinking friend we met in the tourist office told us that before it was built up into a Christian Monastery it was the site of a simple sun temple. I don’t know much about it, but my instincts tell me it was to house those people that worshipped the sun. A religious group that praised nature and wanted something a little more concrete than the stories that were and still are flying around about faith. So when Sarah approached our very devout tour guide about this theory he quickly dashed, describing the theory of it previously being the site of a sun temple as (and I quote) “bullshit”. And that was it. We were then escorted briskly around the temple in about 10 minutes and shouted at if Sarah ran off anywhere interesting to take pictures. It always amuses me how quickly some people of faith brush off other beliefs. I mean if in your head you knew what you believed in was real and that your religion was the one and only why would you worry about the others? I think it comes back to fear, that fear of someone challenging something you believe in and if you think there is a chance they are right then you have a problem with it. I don’t know what I believe in yet but I know what I don’t believe in and it doesn’t bother me that other people may follow something that I don’t agree with. I count that as confidence for the things I believe, to be able to accept other people values that challenge yours but in your heart know that you are right.Despite our less than friendly tour guide, it was a beautiful place, I would have loved to have had time to explore it without an escort. The cool getaway in the middle of the desert. We were lucky enough to have good weather but apparently in that region it can get upwards of 40˚C in summer and I cant imagine the relief you would feel coming here after a day like that. The Syrian border, a pretty much non event but it was cool never the less. The only thing separating the two countries was a guard post every 200m or so and a pretty casual bared wire fence. This is said to be an underground storage area built around 600AD. As you can see it could hold a massive volume and assuming there was no forklifts built by the Romans I’m assuming it was a water storage point. Our last stop on the tour of the areas around Mardin was an ancient town built between 491-518. A fairly simple town but beautiful never the less. We were really glad we had made our way to Mardin, as out of the way as it was. Eren (mate from Istanbul) was solely responsible for our visit to Mardin, without him we would have over looked that whole area and I’m so glad we didn’t. It was a completely different scene to the Turkey we had and were about to experience. An epic congregation of religion, culture and race all in one town a not to be missed spec on Turkeys tourist radar. Thank you Eren.