I left Istanbul to head south and see more of Turkey. I flew to Denizli after negotiating public transport to the airport (I almost made it but then had a get a taxi for part of the way as I got lost!) to stay with a beautiful young woman I met in Rishikesh. Denizli is very different to Istanbul and although it is a large city, it feels regional as it is surrounded by mountains. My friend’s family live outside of the city in a large, modern apartment and although her parents don’t speak English, they were very friendly towards me. On the first night we went to a large family dinner in an outdoor restaurant which was arranged by my friend’s aunt after the Ramadan fasting. It was very cool being involved in this event with a Turkish family. There was a lot of interest in me especially by one young girl of 17. And also comments about my laughing…yet again. It is so interesting being the only non-Turkish, non-Muslim person again. Although, apparently I am now Muslim as a cousin of my friend told me to repeat her words and once I had done so she informed me that I was now a Muslim because I said the words (she didn’t speak English however my friend translated for her). So it appears that I am now Muslim…well at least until I move onto another country and adopt their religion (Catholicism in Croatia?).
Apparently my laughter was noticed by a number of people including the apartments’ security guard! There seems to be a common theme! My smiling and laughing was noticed in Istanbul as well and drew a lot of attention. I noticed in Istanbul that a lot of women, especially of a mature age, didn’t smile and looked downright miserable and when I mentioned this to my friend, she told me that this is the norm and that having someone around like me who was laughing a lot (and loudly as I do) is not common. She told me that she loved it and her mother and grandmother appeared to enjoy it as well laughing with (at?) me and made a comment that they would remember my visit because of my laughing! It was good to have a rest at my friend’s place as travelling definitely tires you out and her hospitality and warmth was awe inspiring and I will forever be grateful to her for looking after me so generously! Also the chance to wash my clothes in a washing machine after over 3 months of hand washing was pretty cool too. I stayed 3 nights and then got back into travelling mode again and headed off to Pamukkale for a couple of nights.
Pamukkale is a tourist town in a regional area not far from Denizli however due to Ramadan it was very quiet. The restaurants and tour agencies were desperate for my custom and very persistent. I went into one of the tour places to get a local map and this very fit, young, good looking Turkish man asked me to come out for dinner and drinks later. Like I said, they were a bit desperate! 😂😂😂. I decided against it and to not even start anything that I have no intention of finishing. I’ve already upset one Turkish man so I’m attempting not to leave a string of angry Turks as I think my behaviour confuses them. Happy, outgoing woman appears to mean an easy, loose woman in their eyes! That’s fine and I’m not changing but I’ll attempt to decrease the confusion for them by not taking up their offers of ‘dinner’!
Pamukkale is a fascinating place. The limestone mountain and pools are spectacular! Words are not enough to describe them and photos don’t do justice. I walked through the ruins too which were amazing. It was a lot of walking as the area where the Heiropolis city was is quite extensive. I’m not that interested in the details of history however walking through those ruins you could feel the history and I loved that. I swam in Cleopatra’s ancient thermal pool which was like a warm spa bath. The water came from the limestone however was clear and tasted sweet, but the pool was green. I noticed a remarkable improvement in my arm the next day which had still been painful. Maybe there is something to it? Maybe placebo? Who knows. I also sat in the limestone pools. I would highly recommend going to Pamukkale as it is absolutely beautiful however unless you want to paraglide and do a balloon ride, one full day is probably enough.
I caught a public bus to Denizli bus station which cost all of 4,5 Turkish lire ($1.08AUD) and found a bus going to Antalya 15 minutes later. I somehow managed to score a pretty nice hotel with a patio, lounge area and spa in the bedroom for around $40AUD a night which also had a private ‘beach’ and included a buffet breakfast. Compared to high class/cost hotels it probably was a little dated but I have stayed in very dodgy places while travelling and this place felt like heaven. I was only planning to stay for 3 nights however extended it to 5. I am very grateful to Ramadan as the usual cost is a lot higher but it was heavily discounted due to Ramadan and reverted back on 1 June which is when Ramadan finishes and I am checking out. I spent a lot of time on the ‘beach’ relaxing which was actually pretty nice except for the loud disco music which they played constantly (am I getting old?). One of the days, I decided to go on a 4WD mountain tour. It was pretty fun and involved multiple water fights between the vehicles and just having a bit of fun and some beautiful scenery.
When I was on the hotel ‘beach’ I was talking to a young Turkish woman from Istanbul who was having a few days break with her mum. We talked about men and women in Turkey and the way they act. When I mentioned how I’d noticed that women appeared to be unhappy she stated that everyone in Turkey is depressed. She said that the government has sold everything off, including telephone and electricity and public transport. I told her that Australia is the same. She said that there was an election in March but the current government has determined that it is invalid for no reason. I had already read that the Turkish government was concerned about losing the election and had the votes counted numerous times with the same outcome so it appears that democracy has been disregarded and this government has determined that as they lost the local election in Istanbul then that election outcome was invalid! They have set a date in June for another election which has attracted global, as well as local, criticism. I’m not necessarily an advocate for democracy as I don’t think everyone understands what they are voting for and are influenced incredibly by the media, however, Turkey is a democratic country and it appears that this fact has been ignored by the current government. Interesting days ahead for Turkey.
On my last day I decided to go by local bus to the ‘old town’ in Antalya which is about 5 kms west from my hotel. So off I go full of confidence that I won’t have a problem getting to my destination. I knew the bus number and basically where to get off. I had to purchase a temporary travel card but the machine wouldn’t accept paper money. It was ok as I ended up getting coins which worked but in the meantime missed my bus. Buy hey, this is the life of a traveller. However I did feel my anxiety rise. I then got on the bus and asked the driver to let me know when I get off. He appeared to indicate an affirmative response however when I asked again it was obvious that he didn’t speak English (which is perfectly fine) but was also not in the slightest bit interested in actually helping me. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I struggled not to burst into tears! Luckily a young woman told me that she would let me know when to get off the bus. So all good. Then when I walked down to the old town my camera wouldn’t work. The message stated that my battery was ‘exhausted’! (I know how it feels!). I have been having a few problems with the battery so decided that I needed to get a new one. I found a shopping centre and when I couldn’t find a store selling camera batteries there the info woman was very helpful and found an address of a camera shop for me to go to by taxi. I got to the place (the long way, which appears to be a common thing for taxi drivers to do with tourists) and they didn’t have the battery I needed, however the camera started working again! (go figure!). I started to feel that this was a bad day but had to pull myself up. Really? A few hiccups and I think it’s a bad day? Yes, the morning had its difficulties however there was a solution for each one and it didn’t impact on me except taking a bit of my time and about 23 liras (about $5.50AUD). So what? I think the big issue is that I am exhausted and a bit homesick and also a little lonely. I have been travelling for 3 1/2 months now and although some of the time has been restful, it has been pretty full on negotiating different countries and different languages and how am I getting there and where am I going to stay.
In some ways Turkey has been more challenging than India and Nepal as not many people speak English (which is perfectly fine as already stated) however, most Turkish people I have met so far have been incredibly helpful. I purposely chose non-English speaking countries to travel in so that I could experience different cultures and languages. Getting a general feel for people in different countries, and even different regions of different countries, and how to manage yourself, and communicate without taking it all too seriously can sometimes be tricky. People are a product of, not just their family upbringing, but also their culture and they act and react from that place. We all are. However at the end of the day we are all people with needs and frustrations. I think remembering that is essential to acceptance, appreciation and embracing difference especially when travelling.
I will be moving from Antalya today, which is a very liberal area where alcohol, short shorts, bikinis and loud disco music is totally acceptable and moving to Konya, which is well known for its conservatism. When I was looking for a hotel in Konya on one of the sites, one of the hotels was very clear that they won’t have alcohol on the property and that if a couple is booking, they need to show proof of marriage to be in the same room! I may have to work on toning it down there, not because I’m afraid of men’s responses, but because I do believe in being as culturally appropriate as possible. Anyway, we’ll see how this 6’1” loud, laughing, blonde, Aussie woman fares in, reportedly, the most conservative city in Turkey!