By a stroke of luck, Murat and I have stumbled upon some spare time to ourselves. Knowing my passion for relics, he decides on a jaunt to Eski Halfeti. It’s one I’ve not heard of and so I get in the car with a smile and pray that it’s interesting.
Eski Halfeti, he tells me, is the birthplace of Abdullah Ocalan, the infamous founder of the PKK. Hmmmmmmmm, there better be more to it than that.
The drive through barren landscapes is short and around twenty minutes later we come across a sign for the village. As we round the corner, we are met with a picture postcard view of a lakeside valley encased by mountains.
After parking the car and finding the loos, we are approached by one of the boat touts. Would we like a trip on the lake? Of course we would. It’s just the two of us and our captain that set sail from the tiny harbour on this bright winters day. Leaving the shoreline we head up the middle of the lake, in the shadow of the mountains, toward the ravine in the distance. It reminds me of watching Jason and the Argonauts at the pictures. As we get closer, I can make out the remains of a castle and ask rather excitedly what it is. Our captain tells us it’s “Rumkale” Roman Castle.
We sail underneath the crumbling stone walls, past the arrow slits and towers of this ancient fortress, and I wonder if the ghosts of Roman Centurions watch us from their posts? Our captain takes us all around the foot of the mountain on which the castle sits but, it’s not possible to get out and explore. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement, but I do get some wonderful photos which goes some way towards appeasing me. As we cruise over the other side of the lake, clouds obscure the sun, casting dark shadows across the sunken village of Batikoy. Most of the small villages that lie within the towns borders were sunk by the Birecik Damn in the 90’s.
These Lego shaped houses hug the edge of a mountain and face the minaret of the sunken village mosque. Their windows are glassless and their doors were long ago torn from their hinges; to me, they still look in a state of shock. There is beauty in disrepair however; man made soon becomes a mantle for Mother Nature as she is far more brutal at repossession than any mortgage lender.
As cracks appear, they are filled with streaks of green as new life takes hold and this village plays host to a whole new species of family.
I have been very active with the camera and while taking shots from the boat, noticed a film crew through the lens? We find out what that’s all about when we leave the boat and wander the streets. I can pretty much guarantee that wives and girlfriends of Turkish men will know the following words: ‘Kurtlar Vadisi’ (Valley of the Wolves)…..It’s a TV show about secret agent “Polat” and the Turkish Mafia and its aired on Thursday nights. I am a Kurtlar Vadisi widow, along with millions of others I’m sure. Now it appears the TV crew are here, using the streets as a film set.
Turning to Murat I say
“Canim, why don’t you stand in the background” thinking he would be excited to be in his favourite show. This is when I find out that my husband is a snob…..
“It’s Kurtlar Vardisi Puşu” he says, “not the real one”…. Well I do beg your pardon!
With rumbling bellies we sit down at one of the podium restaurants and order the fish speciality. Şabut, the name of the fish pulled from these very waters they say. Along comes a plate of olives, a salad, some flat bread and then our main plates, filled with reddy, orangey, chunks of ‘fish’ and something that looks like a cross between Russian Salad and Haydari. The setting is wonderful and I think we both focus on that as we attempt to chew this fish with the strange texture. You can hear forks scrapping as we push it around our plates, trying to hide it under the odd bit of lettuce. Fortunately, the rest of the meal is delicious and it fortifies us for the remainder of the afternoon.
From the boat, we had spied a derelict mosque with admirable arches and decided that it needed further exploring. Finding it toward the other end of the village, we mooch around inside and take some time to just be alone in the silence. The windows act like picture frames to the lake and mountain scene outside. Beautiful stone columns support arch after arch as they trail along the ceiling separately and yet appear as one. This mosque is a wonderful work of architecture.
Murat finds the Imams staircase and we both clamber to the top to take a peep at the view. It is, of course, magnificent.