The South East; the story begins

I’ve already said that this blog will be a bit like tripping in the ‘Tardis’; time and space (and sometimes a few memories) warped as we zip backwards and forwards. Here we go on the first of those journeys; back two years to April 2009 . . .

So, here we are; April 1st and day 3 of this trip. We’ve arrived in Mardin, our base for the next couple of days. The town is quite a sight as you drive in perched, as it is, high on its pinnacle of rock (1325 mts) and crowned by its mighty fortress. The fortress would be a great place to view the surrounding countryside; except you can’t because the military use the place to keep an eye on us (and the Syrians who are just a few miles away!).

We’ve found one of those wonderful butik, as we say in Turkey, hotels; this one has also had Prince Charles as a guest but that hasn’t stopped the fixtures falling off the walls or the shower from flooding the toilet/bathroom! The building is a really nice restoration of a very typical Mardin stone house; all tunnels, arched ceilings and cast iron window grills. The porter is an enormously tall fellow whose “uniform” is the local men’s fashion – baggy trousers that friend Gordon once irreverently described as . . .  (nope, I’m not going there!), waistcoat with the whole topped off with one of those very Turkish peaked caps. And the place has wi-fi!

This evening we had an aimless wander about, as you do when you’re a tourist, “Ohhing” and “Ahhing” at the sights and views and attracting the attention of all the school kids who want to practice their English. Later, sitting in a tea garden taking in the

magical minaret

view towards Syria through the dust clouds and watching the antics of the Tumbler Pigeons and thousands of swallows as the sun set behind one of the most beautiful carved stone minarets you can imagine was memorable.

Janet’s just sent for the man to come and mop out the toilet!

Turkey is the Land of Unbelievable Coincidences, but let’s see if you can top this; on our wander about we were looking for a likely place to eat and there was another wonderful restoration that was a hotel that advertised its restaurant. We decided to give it a whirl and were led down steps and along (arched) passageways to the restaurant that was in what was probably the cellars of the old house – very tasteful, very nice! Our young waiter

who's following whom?

settled us in and then summoned his colleague who could speak English. He, of course, wanted to know where we came from, “Muğla” said we, “do you know it?” “Of course,” said he “where in Muğla?” “Near Ortaca, do you know Ortaca?” “Of course,” said he “I worked at the Ley Ley restaurant, do you know it?” Can you believe this? I’m not making it up! We’ve just traveled 1340 odd kilometers, picked a restaurant at random and the waiter (eventually) remembers me as the guy who spends 2/3rds of his life hunched over his computer using the Ley Ley Restaurant’s free wi-fi! Naughty weekend? Forget it!

Anyway, back to the bit about getting here; the first stage was to Alanya where we stayed in a modern hotel overlooking the harbour in the old part of town. Modern Alanya is ghastly but the old part around the castle is much more attractive. We had hoped to stay at a restoration up in the castle but that place wasn’t open and didn’t look as though it would. A great shame as it really is grand up there. Day two found us in Gaziantep having driven some of the finest coastal cum mountain roads in Turkey; the views were stunning! It made crawling along behind giant trucks a real pleasure. Eventually we forsook the normal roads for the motorway (the object being to get over here reasonably quickly and then do the meandering on the way back). For those of you not familiar with Turkish Otoyols let me tell you, they are fantastic! I mean really fantastic!They are engineering marvels of the highest order; they are cheap to use and they are largely empty – so empty that one

a crowded motorway in SW Turkey

wonders what induces anyone to continue building them. Be that as it may, they are a drivers delight although sharp wits and constant concentration are required. Why is that, I hear you ask, if they do be empty? Well, it goes like this; you are bombing along for mile after empty mile at a legal 120 or so kph. In the distance you perceive a couple of trucks, you move into the middle lane in good time. Just as you come up to the lumbering behemoths the back one pulls out, without warning, to overtake. Now, no truck driver in Turkey worth his salt is going to take up just one lane and no Turk with Istanbul number plates on his black Merc or BMW is going to drop his speed from 200+kph as he screams up the outside lane; these guys know that putting their headlights on clears any passage, they certainly cleared mine a few times I can tell you!

And so here we are, back where I started; tomorrow the pace of things moves down a gear or two. We will probably take a run over to Hasankeyf which is about two hours from here in a roughly Northeasterly direction and lies on the banks of the mighty Euphrates River – I’ll tell you about that another day.


One thing I can say about this “Butik Otel”, the bed is very nice; I’m not sure what Janet thinks yet, she’s still waiting for the warm water to come through for her shower! In the two previous places the beds were like lying on planks and watching me getting out of them in the morning was (Janet is happy this morning; she’s just done a rendition of “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life – de dum – de dum de dum de dum”) Geriatric Ward the Sequel!

Gaziantep old town is very nice and well worth a bit more time; the magnificent castle was closed because of the renovations which are on a vast scale and very well carried out. All around the castle the area has been restored (there’s still much to do) and little businesses

Usta Metal-Basher