This morning as I walked out of Gaziantep, breathing exhaust fumes and trying not to get hit by cars, I thought, “Sometimes walking across a country is scut work.”
I briefly likened it to sitting in a cubicle answering emails. Then I thought, “Yeah, but the difference is I don’t mind this particular variety of scut work.”
Gaziantep’s old name is just "Antep," which means "pistachio."
Southeastern Turkey and Iran supply more than half of the world’s pistachioes.
On the walk out of Gaziantep this morning I was wondering where they grow all these pistachioes. "Duh," I realized after looking around me, "the trees are all around you."
One of the things I love about this area is that tahini (an oil made from pressed sesame seeds, I think) is so cheap you can get a big bowl of it and dunk your bread in it.
At most places in the US this little bowl of tahini would have set me back about US$6.00. Here it’s just a complimentary addition to breakfast.
Sunday and Monday I took a quick trip to Side (pronounced “see-day”) to visit my friend Anton Bogomolov.
Anton is a professional photographer from Russia. He was in Side for work. I wanted to remind him to keep thinking about walking Iran with me next year.
Side is a small town on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast near the city of Antalya. The drive from Mersin to Side is about 350 kilometers (220 miles). I had no idea what the road would be like. I assumed it would be smooth and wide, and that the bus would cover the distance in about 4 or 5 hours.
I was wrong. The trip took about 9 hours each way. In many places the road is a narrow ribbon carved into the side of the mountains a thousand feet above the sea. If a road like this were built in the United States I don’t think it would be opened to the public for two-way traffic.
It did, however, afford some amazing views of the sea, especially late in the day as the sun fell low…
Some parts of the journey were rainy, others were sunny. My favorite parts were the ones where the rain had broken just a few minutes before, like here…
I arrived in Side after dark. Arriving in a new town after dark is a little disorienting, but it was a beautiful night out. Below is a photo of the full moon rising over Side’s ancient theater…
Anton and I had dinner near the marina. We were sitting outside, and towards the end of dinner it started to rain, plus Anton needed to catch the last minibus to his hotel, so we cut dinner short.
During the night it rained cats and dogs. I thought for sure the roof over my head was going to cave in and I’d drown in a cascade of water. Everything was fine though, and the next morning the clouds were still there but the rain was gone. Before heading to the bus station I walked around the peninsula and took some photos…
I get a little confused in places like Side. Prices are in euros and dollars, so I don’t know how much anything costs. Menus are in German and English, so I don’t know what foods restaurants serve. People speak to me in German, so I don’t know what anyone’s saying. It’s like I’m in a foreign country or something.
Reminding Anton to think about Iran was the trip’s mission. The trip’s highlight, however, was the bus ride back to Mersin. I don’t think I’ve been on a bus ride that exciting since 1993, when I took a Chinese bus over some pretty bad-ass mountains from Chengdu to Ruili.
The driver from Mersin to Side was pretty cautious, but the driver back from Side to Mersin drove like he was in a rush. At least three people got sick, and the guy sitting next to me moaned occasionally and prayed to god for protection.
We were not using all of a one-lane road. It was a two-lane road…
After dark, on a straightaway where at a combined speed of 120 miles per hour (200 km/h) we passed an oncoming truck so closely the vehicles’ mirrors almost touched, I found myself thinking, “Don’t be scared, the Blue Angels do this all the time.”
Within moments I realized it was a little absurd to be comparing our experience to that of highly-trained elite show pilots.
At one point we were held up at the scene of an accident. A truck had gone off the road. The driver had, however, chosen an excellent place to do it, a location with a wide shoulder and plenty of trees to crash into. I found the fact that his left-side wheels were still on the pavement heartening. We almost had to go off the road ourselves to get around him.
There was one guy sitting across the aisle who slept through the whole ride. I don’t know how he did it. He dozed off minutes after getting on the bus, and woke up 7 hours later, when it was all over…
Hi Dad, here’s a geek video of banana greenhouses. This is on the Mediterranean coast, between Antalya and Mersin.
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