11.07.2017 - 11.07.2017
Day 48 Tuesday July 11 2017
Elbistan to Goreme / 326 km
- We have seen little of Elbistan. It's not mentioned in LP at all. We chose it as a place to overnight for logistical reasons. Nemrut Dagi to Goreme in one day is too far - even by AG's standards. When researching our trip, tensions in Turkey were on the increase because of Erdogan's barely disguised intentions of extending his authority and dismantling the secular nature of modern Turkish society. This is still happening and has already been commented on. But it seemed best to avoid an overnight in Kayseri, one of Turkey's most Islamic cities. So we found Elbistan and supposedly a hotel with 4 star comfort (probably self awarded ).
- One of the fascinating things about road travel is seeing at first hand how quickly scenery changes. Round a corner, over a hill, through a tunnel. In this case outside Elbistan the rapid transformation is from grain to fruit trees.
- Turkey's road infrastructure continues to impress. There is not a day when we do not encounter major road building projects.
- Out this far east in Turkey and driving our own truck, we are still very much a rarity, especially in places like Elazig, Tatvan and Elbistan. We are impressed by the willingness of locals to engage us in conversation ( if only through sign language) to help with directions, to offer us cups of Turkish tea at the first opportunity. Several times it has been made clear by individuals that they are Kurds rather than Turks.
- We hear a lot about Kurds in the British media - sometimes as victims, sometimes as perpetrators of violent atrocities and other times as allies in the fight against Isis in Syria & Iraq.
- There are obviously several simmering tensions in Turkish politics. SG does not believe the EU can seriously consider allowing Turkey membership whilst the current situation persists.
- 15-20% of the Turkish population are Kurds. It is estimated that between 25-35 million Kurds live in the combined areas of eastern Turkey, Iraq, Syria & Iran. They are an ethnic group ( 4th largest in the Middle East ) with no permanent status anywhere in the region.
- Remember the Treaty of Sevres 1920 mentioned with reference to the Armenia question? An allied attempt post World War 1 to sort out the problems of this region? The treaty that was going to return certain territory to Armenia, including access to the Black Sea? Well the same treaty made provision for a State of Kurds - a Kurdistan if you like.
- The treaty never happened - at least not in its entirety. The Kurds were never given territorial independence; they remain to this day stateless and an irritant in the nation states mentioned above, where they happen to reside.
- In Turkey there would appear to be great resentment by the Kurds towards their Turkish compatriotes. Post World War 1, having just perpetrated the first genocide of the 20C against its Armenian citizens, Turkey made harsh attempts to deny Kurds their ethnic identity. They were renamed Mountain Turks; Kurdish names were banned, as was the wearing of traditional Kurdish costume. The PKK was established in Turkey to politically represent the Kurds - it translates as the Kurdistan Workers Party and their reputation is mixed. A couple of days ago ( Day 45 ) we stopped at a war memorial honouring fallen Turkish soldiers, victims of an armed PKK ambush.
- It is claimed that since 1978 more than 40000 Turkish Kurds have perished in hostilities of one kind or another and many have been displaced. During the 1990's the PKK abandoned their demands for full national independence from Turkey. Since then their aim has been, and still is, cultural and political autonomy. They have yet to achieve their ambitions. In the meantime many young Kurds seek work abroad and people like the spice shopkeeper in Elbistan explains that he does not feel safe here as a Kurd - a place he has lived in for 40 years.
- Back to the road ahead. We have no sightseeing planned en route because once we arrive in Goreme there will be plenty to do.
- Kapadokia ( easier to say than Cappadocia ), a geological oddity in the midst of the Great Plains of Anatolya. Its lunarscape scenery is much used in Turkey's national tourist brochures. For good reason, because it is both bizarre & beautiful, especially in the mellow light of sunrise & sunset.
- Produced by volcano eruptions millions of years ago, people have long used the relatively soft stone to build their houses deep within the rock face of the volcanic pinnacles or underground. Even today many residents of the area have homes which incorporate a cave room. It is a sensible solution to the problem of comfortable living. In summer temperatures can exceed 40C and in winter can drop to -10C with snow cover. The temperature inside the cave room remains constant whatever the climate outside and minimises the need for air conditioning & heating. It's nature's ambient temperature and perfect for us delicate human beings.
- Since being added to the Unesco World Heritage list, no new cave houses can be built and restoration projects must be vetted & approved by the government. This can only be a good thing because Goreme village has long since disappeared. It is now a sizeable town. Albeit still captivating because of its troglodyte style architecture and surrounding clusters of volcanic pinnacles. They are variably described as fairy chimneys, mushrooms or something rather ruder. ( resembling as some do, to the male body part!). Tourism has boomed over recent decades and Goreme is full of cafes, bars, restaurants, and accommodation claiming to be 'cave hotels'.
- When choosing a place to stay you should do meticulous research and find a place to fit your particular criteria. We are staying in one of the original 'cave hotels' called the Kelebek. To find it is a challenge. The older part of town is a maze of streets & alleyways. But we are delighted with our choice - an elevated & quiet location with lots of shady nooks & crannies to sit and admire the scenery. A small dipping pool ( that SG immediately discounts as not worth getting her hair wet for) does not detract.
- The staff are very helpful. A dinner venue is recommended and arranged, balloon flight for the next morning booked, breakfast at the hotel's organic farm is reserved and our afternoon sightseeing discussed. There is no time for idling on our trips.
- We pass a couple of hours in the shade ( laundry chores, opportunity to catch up with emails after a couple of days of bad wifi connection etc ). Then, when the sun is marginally less intense, we venture out - we choose to do a hike through Güllüdere Valley, otherwise known as Rose Valley. It's an opportunity to get some exercise and admire Goreme's unique rock formations. Unexpectedly we have the trail to ourselves. The refreshment stops along the way are unmanned. A sure sign that tourism figures are down. Yes it's hot in July, but that would not normally deter the N European traveller.
- We get back just in time for sunset on the hotel terrace, sipping a glass of chilled wine. Bliss! Then we walk a very short distance to Seten for supper. After the dearth of good dining experiences in the last few days, it is wonderful to be sat in such relative refinement. But actually for all that, the meal is not as tasty as our culinary highlight in Turkey to date - Elbistan @ 5£ per head.