Tomorrow, we get on a bus that will take us from Gaziantep to Kayseri. It’s an eight-hour ride and will land us in Kayseri after the last bus of the evening departs to the smaller city of Urgup, which we need to get to in order to hop a dolmus to Ortahisar.
Wise parents eat the cost and book a hotel room for Kayseri, right? With the thought that we all can regroup and get ourselves to Urgup and then Ortahisar the next day? Even though Kayseri is only an hour from our house?
Glad you agree it was a good choice. Because we already booked it.
This has been a really terrific January getaway, and even more so, it’s been instrumental to our gaining a larger sense of Turkey–a place that, in some ways, has very few options, but in other ways, is proving to be amazingly diverse. I’d say our favorite parts these last nine days have been the kid-friendly areas, something we’ve really missed in Cappadocia. In each of the four cities we’ve stayed in, Adana, Iskenderun, Antakya, and Gaziantep, we’ve had lovely times walking in parks, playing on playgrounds, looking at ducks, working our way through the equipment at the ubiquitous “exercise areas” (the kids are getting on the high end, agewise, of hanging out at traditional playgrounds; sure, they still give them a shout and a slide, but pretty quickly, they’re finished. However, these exercise areas keep them quite busy, running from stationary bicycles to weight lifting bars to outdoor Nordic Track-type machines, often overlooking the sea).
As well, we’ve really enjoyed walking through, and collecting souvenirs from, the various bazaars. Other highlights have included Paco’s being an amazing little tugboat of a guy during the four days he had a fever of 102-103 degrees. He never looked glassy-eyed or vacant, had good energy, and pipped right along. We also loved trying a few new foods and plan to add the red pepper/walnut dip called Muhammara to our potluck dinner repertoire of offerings. I recommend you invite us.
The slideshow below contains images from our couple of days in Gaziantep, which is a city of over a million. It’s got a border crossing into Syria*, not to mention the fact that Syrians flood the mall here in Gaziantep for All the Best Shopping (much like people in Sheridan, Wyoming, did back in the 1980’s when the Rimrock Mall was built in Billings; wait. a. minute. There are still suspiciously high numbers of Wyoming plates in the Rimrock Mall parking lot. It would seem they just can’t get enough of The Cattle Company’s cheap pitchers of beer).
Er, as I was typing: so Gaziantep has a strong Syrian influence, with many of the signs written in both Turkish and Arabic. We have loved the mix of cultures, and we loved
the looming presence of the castle
the ethnographic museum (a traditional style Gaziantep house set up as it was in the 1920s and ’30s)
the noteworthy pistachios
the noteworthy baklava (while I swear I don’t need any dessert that hasn’t got chocolate in it, the baklava in this city made a liar out of me)
and the bazaar, a place that allowed us to watch multiple coppersmiths in action and sample another local “noteworthy”: Yemeni slippers. Having purchased mine only four hours ago, I’ve already had to announce that a runoff election was held, and my new red Yemeni slippers were voted Rulers of Planet Earth. Outside of the slippers, we enjoyed buying an “ebrik” to supplement one purchased in Adana; ebriks can be used for many things, from warming up milk for hot chocolate to melting butter for popcorn to making Turkish coffee. And Byron was finally able to use his birthday money from his parents after we wandered into a “sedef” shop and watched the lovely craftsman, Ahmet, demonstrate how he inlays mother-of-pearl and copper wire into wood. After only a few minutes in the shop, Byron had, after months of searching, found just the right backgammon set, so now I prepare for a lifetime of assuaging my sadness after continual defeat by stroking the wood and tracing the copper wiring, reminiscing about good times Before Game. We were so taken with Ahmet and his shop that, after looking around the city for another day, we had to go back and buy a tray from him, too. The minute he saw us in the doorway, he sent out for tea (of course!), and, in classic Turkish fashion, we all sat and sipped for half an hour, lurching through partially understood conversation, before letting him know why we were there. As soon as I pointed at the tray, the design of which Ahmet retired after making just the one, he asked if we would like our names etched on it with copper wire.
Even with our limited Turkish, we were able to shout “EVET!” and convey the exclamation point, too.
Based on Paco’s reactions as he watched that process of etching our names, we’re now readying ourselves to hunt down planks of wood, a strong whittling tool, and copper wire. As generally happens in the presence of wood, a whittling tool, and copper wire, he was inspired.
The only downer to our days in Gaziantep was that the famed mosaic museum here (said to outshine the better-known mosaic museum in Antakya) was closed, as all the mosaics are in transport to a brand-new museum space that is set to open in a few weeks. Le sigh. We does love us a good mosaic.
What other choice is there but to come back?
*(trust me, we considered a blip over the border into Syria, but the hassle involved just so we could say we’d done it was, ultimately, sooooo not going to be worth the time and money),