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I am getting organised! Collating my travel notes and showing them the light of day on here. To that effect, I’ll be using ‘travel notes’ in the title so I don’t appear to be in many places at once 🙂

Touring the South East

Touring the South East

Road trips – I love them. My perfect road trip would be one where you know where you are going but you take the most leisurely and interesting route to it and, indulge yourself in any little detour that takes your fancy along the way. Stopping over in twee little guesthouses that really represent the area and feasting on whatever the locals eat. That’s the ideal.  So far, the reality has been somewhat different

Travelling companionsI’m sitting in the back of a Vito squashed in a seat next to Dursın (my mother in-law). She, in turn is squashed in next to Nine (grandmother). Opposite us and taking up two full seats is Enese (Murat’s step mum) and one of her skinny daughters, Enesi who is eight. The reason we are all squashed is because we are surrounded by Enese’s luggage. This consists of; blankets, pillows, black rubbish sacks (full of god knows what), the entire contents of her kitchen and everything necessary to drink cay; Tulip shaped glasses, large tray, sugar bowl, sugar spoon, cay spoons, container of sugar, container of çay, çay danlık (dual teapot) etc…

This we have to grin and bear for 16 hours or thereabouts, on our road trip to Sanliurfa, also known as The City of Prophets.

It is with much trepidation that we mention a trip to Urfa around the village. One sniff of a spare seat and it is snapped up before you can say, well, ‘spare seat’.  As we have upgraded the Caddy to a Vito, we now have a large capacity vehicle that is equivalent to the later day donkey…It can carry everything. I can almost hear the village minds ticking away, counting its capacity for sacks of çay & bulgur wheat to be brought back by us. This trip, that was originally planned for four, has been hijacked by my Father in law Nedim, who brings along his second wife and a daughter. Nedim of course, gets to ride up front with Murat. It’s a man thing.

Not only are we squashed but we are travelling through the night, something I really dislike. Not my in-laws though, they don’t like to take in the view, they just want to get there. My life is made easier by a bit of kit that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Plug that into the laptop and voilà, something to take my mind off it all.

We left the village at 8pm but It’s now midnight and conversation is replaced with yawns. Heads start to droop forward and we all try to get comfortable. Enese starts rummaging around in a black sack. Out comes a pillow and a blanket which she places on the floor in front of her. This forces myself and Dursin to pull our legs back in from the floor space. Down goes young Enesi, in her little bed. More bag rifling and out comes extra pillows and blankets which Enese arranges on the two seats and proceeds to lay across. She slides off her green and cream headscarf, wiggles her orange sock encased feet and settles down to slumber. I am livid. I can live without the space myself but, I am not a happy bunny that Enese has not given thought to eighty something Nine, who sits upright and squashed against the door at the end of our row. I am sorely tempted to spill my water all over the now sleeping Enese, accidentally of course.

I drift in and out of a fitful sleep. It’s one of those where your head lolls forward and makes your neck ache. It’s the middle of the night, its bloody freezing and I didn’t have the good sense to bring a blanket. Grateful for small mercies however, I have worn the correct clothes for such an occasion and have leggings under my skirt, several respectable layers up top and a headscarf.

Around 6am and the sun is making an appearance. Out of my window, a huge ball of crimson fire that is creeping slowly up in-between a minaret and the dome of a whitewashed Konya mosque. Us weary travelers are in need of a pit stop. I am hoping we don’t have to go much further in search of a lokanta (cafe/restaurant/canteen) with a ‘family’ dining room as some along these roads are still segregated. Fortunately we chance upon one of the large canteen type and Mu pulls into the car park. Nine is horrified and takes much persuading to get out of the car. She just wants to get to Urfa as quickly as possible and if that means bursting her bladder then so be it. She doesn’t like cars much, doesn’t trust them. She gets in them, closes her eyes, counts the beads on her tespi (prayer beads) and says silent prayer for the duration. She is of a different time. After coercing her out of the car with promises of hot soup and threats of leaving her on her own in this modern contraption, we head into the lokanta. I make use of the facilities at 1tl a go, then take a napkin and a squirt of lemon cologne from the attendant which I use on my hands before cupping them to my nose for an invigorating sniff. Time for soup.  I opt for Ezo Gelin (lentil and mint) and note that most of the others have beyin or işkembe (brain and tripe) which makes me shudder.

Bridge at Seker Pinari

Bridge at Seker Pinari

Feeling much more alert, we arrange ourselves in the car. Still in the back, still surrounded by bags but, the bedding gets packed away and we have a place for our legs again. It’s warm now and the sun is shining. We cruise along, happily listening to Kurdish folk music without incident, until around 10am when Murat decides on another pit stop. He pulls into a car-park at a place called Şeker Pinari. This stop is greeted by shouts from Nine; ‘nor nor’ she says as she grabs onto the seat with her hands and tries to grip the floor with her sandals. I can’t help laughing.

This is obviously a much used pit stop. It has the usual toilet and restaurant facilities but also a shop filled with tourist paraphernalia and sitting outside are two black leather massage chairs. I am still chucking from the Nine incident and am suddenly struck by an idea. I tell Murat and he gets into position then, I call Nine over, telling her to sit and rest until we are ready to leave.Nine's massage chair Nine starts to sit, I make sure my camera is ready, Murat leans in from behind the chair and pops 1 lira into the slot….. Nothing happens?

Just then Nedim comes out of the restaurant and says there is no fresh tea as the electric is off. Our dastardly plan is foiled and Nine is none the wiser.

On the road again and Enese is rifling in the bags. Out comes a huge bag of mandarins, followed by a bag of Klor. It is then I decide to forgive her for her selfish sleep arrangements of the previous night. Now I am not a huge fan of the dry Turkish biscuits but Klor is the exception. Made with flour, oil, yoghut and flavored with aniseed, these large triangle-shaped delights are moist and scrumptious. Combine a bit of biscuit with a segment of mandarin and you have a delightful pop of taste and texture that is both refreshing and satisfying. I sit back, contentedly munching and looking forward to free space when Nedim, Enese and Enesi get out of the car at Gazientepe which, is just another 20 minutes or so away. Gazientepe comes and goes. Somewhere along the way, plans have changed and everyone is going to Urfa. I’m not really surprised as this seems to be the norm.

Since the mandarins and klor repast, young Enesi has decided that I am the best thing since sliced bread. Every few minutes she will fling herself at me, smother me in kisses and wriggle around on my lap while saying ‘Kym abla’ this and ‘Kym abla’ that. Dursin reacts to this by tutting a bit at first. Then she emits an ‘’ooof ya’ followed by a ‘birak’ and an ‘otur’ and finally she grabs Enese by the arm, pulls her off me and plonks her on top of her mother who is again sprawled out on the two seats like the Queen of Sheba. Everyone is clearly weary and grumpy.

Finally Urfa appears in the distance and again I feel like I am heading into Beirut. From here there is no sight of the beautiful Balıklıgol, Sanliurfano hint of the greenery and scenery contained within railings and walls.

All you can see on approach is a mass of dirty sand colored buildings that sit in ugly heaps. I am no longer fooled however as I know this to be an evocative city with vibrant scenes and colors alongside great history and architecture.

We dispose of everyone at various relatives’ houses around the city before pulling up outside cousin Mehmet’s house. This time around I have agreed to forgo the hotel sand stay with family but it’s ok as we are actually staying in cousin Mesa’s flat that is downstairs from the family home and she is moving upstairs for the duration of our stay. I also happen to know Meesa has a proper bed! We dump our bags off in the flat then climb the five flights of stairs to Ide and Haci Amca’s house. Everyone is excited to see us and there is lots of hugging and kissing before we all sit down for çay. How would we function without cay eh?

It’s been a long journey but we now have a week or so to chill and roam around before we have to make the return journey. I won’t think about that for the minute!