After a day of non-shopping and unwanted religious experiences, I had expected to be in a bad mood. I felt the mood nudge me, let it roam around my head for a bit and then decided it was a wasted energy and would do me no good here, so I let it go.
Dinner was a “firin tepsi” aka oven tray. This consists of just aubergines, peppers and tomatoes that are somewhere between ‘drizzled’ & ‘drenched’ in oil, sprinkled with salt and sent to the bakers for a quick blast in the furnace. As well as being economical, it is surprisingly delicious. We eat on the balcony, tearing chunks from our hot flatbreads to make mini wraps, as we chat about the day’s events. The sun has returned to the other side of the world and every now and then, we are kissed by the occasional breeze. I say kissed, as when this happens, people stop talking. Some close their eyes and all have a look of pure joy on their faces at the cooling sensation. It is blissful, albeit short lived.
After dinner I ask Haci Amca when we can go to Gobeklitepe. He tells me tomorrow, after breakfast. Had I let the bad mood take hold earlier, it would have been killed stone dead by this piece of news.
The night is uneventful. It’s the usual sitting around, drinking cay, smoking in the kitchen with chatterbox Miesa, hard faced Ayse and gorgeous Havva, while syrupy sweet Tuba is in and out cleaning and making tea.
There is definitely something going on with Miesa and I suspect Ayse too. I will get to the bottom of it when I can get a word in edgeways with Miesa and I’ve thawed Ayse out with a kind word and a smile or two.
Again we sleep with the Klima on full blast and I find myself awake around 3am, cold with just a sheet for cover. I go in search of a blanket but can find none and as I don’t want to root through cupboards, I take a skirt from my suitcase and cover my shoulders in that. I am again up at 7am, perform my new morning routine of chucking a bucket of water over my head and have a quick check of the internet before getting dressed.
My attractive ensemble for the day is a floor length halter neck dress that is now too big for me, covered by a white long sleeved tunic, also too big but both made of breathable cotton. I look like an elephant. I don’t care.
The household stirs, breakfast is done and dusted and we are on the road; me, Dursun, Ide, Selim and Haci Amca driving. We nearly crash, but only twice…..did I mention the cataracts?
Gobeklitepe is a mere 15 km from the house and we are soon taking a left turn to follow the dusty road that leads to this magnificent discovery. I bounce along in the back seat as Haci Amca swerves to avoid potholes without much success. Ahead the barren landscape goes on for miles; a line of flat sand coloured earth broken by hills and the occasional clump of stones. As we follow the curving road, I get a glimpse of white up ahead before we round a corner and it disappears. My brain slowly recovers the image and I realise to my horror that I have seen a coach; maybe more than one.
As we pull up to the site, there is not just one but three coaches and a Jandarme wagon. Two Jandarme polis men lean casually against the van, fake Ray bans covering their eyes under their regulation caps, guns slung over their shoulders as they watch us pass.
I am not the happiest of bunnies. I admit I have no right feeling possessive over this site but that doesn’t change the way I feel. The last time I was here, when this ancient marvel was practically unheard of, I had the site to myself. Now the world is in the know, a long line of male Turkish tourists are up ahead and stepping onto the wooden pathway that winds around the site from above. It’s like coming home to find somebody in your house.
We pass the tin hut by the entrance where a few men sit under corrugated Iron drinking cay. A table has been placed outside with a few guidebooks and a couple of cheap and tacky ornaments depicting the stone circle. Even though I don’t particularly want to share, I silently hope the powers that be can ‘up’ their sales pitch by September when, by all accounts, the world’s press will descend on the site.
Haci Amca has not seen the site before. He walks past the line of tourists that are now in various clumps around the path, some listening to the ‘guide’ and some taking photos of the stones. Over the bridge he goes, hands behind his back, tespi flicking between his fingers as he glances down at the monoliths. Ide and Dursun follow, have a quick look, pose for a photo and join Haci Amca back at the entrance where he has found a stool to sit on and wait.
At this point, I wish Miese were here with me. I could use her pointy elbows to dig these tourists in the ribs and move them on; such is my frustration at having to wait behind them. They line the fence intermittently, glancing down at the stones, exclaiming sentences like ‘oyle mı’ (really? Well I never) and some listen to the guide who tells them there has been no evidence of agriculture found and nothing that would have been green here. If that’s true, then there goes the Garden of Eden theory.
Eventually, the crowd thins a bit. I set about with my camera and give Selim my phone, asking him to make a video. It is difficult trying to absorb the feel of the site with a lot of people around but, even if it were empty it would still be difficult as here, I can’t touch. I am used to going around Turkey and giving it a feel. Security seems relaxed at most sites and more often than not we are travelling in winter when Security is, well, pretty much non-existent. Here at Gobeklitepe, the site is below me and out of reach.
Over the past four years since I was last here, the stones have doubled in size as the excavations have continued. Carvings of storks, boars, scorpions and snakes are now seeing the light of day after 12,000 years. The solo fox I saw in 2009 has been joined by its brothers, their long tails accentuated by the hunter gatherer artist. One stone I captured the last time has changed quite a bit. It is now another two feet above ground and beneath the original group of small creatures that look like baby dinosaurs, there is now a wild boar, its tusks clearly defined and underneath that, the head of another unidentified animal pokes out.
Most exciting of all, for me, is the man. He stands upright, supported by wood and steel. At his sides, his arms and elbows bend, hands resting above an ornately carved belt and under that? I guess this will depend on your imagination. Carved below the belt are the dangly bits! These could indeed be interpreted as the male brain or, more likely I think, a foxes pelt, placed to protect dignity, sporran fashion. Here is a photo. Make your own conclusion.
I was hoping the archaeological team would be here as I had planned to offer them my services as a tea maker for a day, just so that I could get closer to the stones. Sadly, that wasn’t meant to be as there is no sign of them. Maybe next time…..
As we leave the site, a new group of tourists are walking toward us. I scowl.
If your interest in this site goes further than my neophyte views, there is an excellent paper, written by Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt here: Gobeklitepe Report
Before going home, we pay a visit to Fatma; another of Haci Amca’s daughters and one of my favourites. It is her husband that manages the Beyzade Konak Hotel where we stayed in 2008. Within five minutes of stepping in her door, Haci Amca is asleep on the sofa, Selim is laid out on the other one and Ide is lying on the floor with a cushion under her head. People really do love to sleep here. I can see where Murat gets his daily nap habits from.
Fatma makes tea and brings fresh simits in on a tray. We eat these with salty black olives, cheese and jam as we chat about our morning. It’s a bit pointless trying to explain the importance of Gobeklitepe to my relies. They don’t really get it. “It’s just stone Kym” they say “You can find stones anywhere”. “What about the rock in the cave of Abraham then? It’s just rock.” That’s what I’d like to say, but I don’t as I really don’t want them coming over all Allah on me.
Here is the video. Sadly Selim held the phone vertically but, he has not done a bad job and you can still see it all.