Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Village Life in Bogazkale

 Monday 25th July: Ankara to Bogazkale( Bo-haz-car-lay)
After farewelling the people at the hotel we went to collect the hire car, with some trepidation on everyone's part, as they drive on the RIGHT here, and the first part of the journey was through the busiest part of town. Armed with the combined knowledge from 6 of the drivers at Avis - and after Ewan and Erin pored over the map whilst I went off to check out Marks and Spencers! - we were brave enough to set off. Erin sat in the front ( to her dismay) and navigated, whilst I was on lookout duty in the back and we were both on KEEP RIGHT! duty. Despite the exemplary preparation, we did get a bit lost briefly but the greater achievement was to to negotiate around the crazy drivers - we finally breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the highway.
Turkish drivers are in a league of their own - they pull out into traffic, overtake on blind curves and don't stick to any lanes ( although admittedly many of the roads had none marked). I can see why the road toll here is so high! And that's the drivers! The pedestrians seem to care little for their lives and just step into the road without a thought. We had a small scrape with a truck which resulted in some blue paint on our new Ford Focus hire car, but it's a miracle that's all that happened.
Ewan did a great job ( too right ), although we think his spatial perception has gone a bit strange and he keeps going off the right of the right lane, over the edge of the road which is rather scary when you're the passenger. Erin decided she preferred the back seat for some reason!

The scenery was very different to flat Botswana: endless kilometres of hills and mountains with little vegetation - only pines and cypresses - and completely devoid of animals. Crops and market gardens were evident in the valleys but the hillsides were bare.
After a couple of hundred kms we arrived at Bogazkale, which is a tiny country town with geese, cows etc and lots of fields of wheat, sunflowers and unidentified crops.
It's claim to fame is it's proximity to Hattusas where there are very ancient ruins: so they're on the agenda for tomorrow. We warmed up by going to Yazilikaya to see some 13th century BC rock caves with carvings that were only discovered last century. It's amazing to look at work that was done so long ago!
Tuesday 26th July: Bogazkale
It's always the sign of a good holiday when you have no idea what the date or day is, and we certainly don't. After a good night's sleep only disturbed by tractors coming and going to the local Bar, and the call to prayer form the local mosque very early, we set off to Hattusas which is within walking distance.

Reconstruction of the city wall at Hattusas
There's a 6 km circuit and we walked the downhill section as it is very steep and dotted with many ruins. As we were wandering around the first set of Temples trying to make some sense of what we were seeing from the information boards ( not very helpful on detail ), and various brochures, books etc, we came across a Belgian couple who are the only other guests at the Hotel. They had a local with them who was very knowledgeable about the sites, whose father had lived in Belgium, so he'd offered to show them around. We tagged along and spent 3 hours with them. It was hot but nowhere near the 38 degrees that had been predicted - fortunately.
Hattusas was the capital of the Hittite empire which stretched form Syria to Europe from 1300-1600 BC. It was surrounded by 6 metre thick walls set in mountains so they could see who was coming - the views were stupendous! Part of the wall has been reconstructed to show what it would have been then. The guide made the whole thing come alive by turning rows of rocks, tunnels, mounds into rooms and a living city.  Given the age there was still a lot of detail left: for example he showed us where wooden doors had been suspended in stone lintels and the scrape marks on the stone floors where the doors had dragged. There were 7 ponds/reservoirs to store water for the 15000 inhabitants, and some of the huge clay pots to store food and water remain. Lots of the decorative stone carvings had been removed and we had seen some in the Museum in Ankara, but some remained - mostly gods and kings and lions. It was really fascinating but exhausting.

70 metre tunnel under the Sphinx Gate

By the time we finished we were all in need of sustenance so he took us to the tea house where we sat in the shade whilst the men of the village watched us drink our tea and gallons of water!
We had saved a couple of boiled eggs from breakfast and decided it was time to buy some bread and tomatoes and make lunch.

There is one bakery in this village and it has huge clouds of woodsmoke belching from the chimney. You pay 70 turkish cents for a loaf of white bread with a crisp crust and chewy centre freshly baked.( about 50 cents Australian ) and that is the only thing the baker sells. Everywhere you go you see people carrying bags with lots of loaves of bread as it is the staple diet across Turkey.
The tomatoes are heaven: big, juicy and lots of flavour not like the ones at home at all. We have them for every meal, and at breakfast they come with sliced cucumber.
We went to one of the many tiny shops in the village and bought a couple of tomatoes, a cucumber, a sweet pepper ( which was not a chilli as they are easily confused) and some grapes, all of which the 12 (?) year old shop keeper put into one plastic bag. Much to Ewan's amusement he weighed them all together on an old scale without any accurate weights and pronounced "4 Lira!" (about $2.40) which we were happy to pay. After some creative miming and pointing we managed to buy some tissues and water as well. One of the boy's mates could count in English which helped us sort out the cost.
We've also become addicted to sour cherry juice or soda as it is delightfully tangy and refreshing. Cherries are prolific here: we were standing under a cherry tree which was laden with cherries, which no-one seemed fussed about picking yet in Ankara the other day.
However the jam here is rather weird: they clearly don't like having the fruit in the jam so it appears like jelly. And today we had a new taste sensation: rose jam. It was like jelly turkish delight: fabulous!
Anyway, after lunch Erin and I collapsed and fell asleep. Ewan was keen to go to Alacahoyuk to see where a lot of the items we'd seen in the Museum in Ankara had come from. It didn't seem like a great offer to us so he went off with the local guy from this morning in the car as it is 36 kms away. It's just occurred to me that he may have needed us to navigate and yell " Stay right! ". We shall see when he returns!

Ewan enjoyed his visit although there were lots of reconstructions to compensate for the treasures that had been taken form the sight. On the way the guide received a message that several of his family members had been injured in an accident nearby so they went to see what they could do. It was a nasty collision between a tractor and a car, but the injured had been taken to hospital so they continued on their way. We will be looking out for tractors on the roads now, and there are plenty of them around here as they seem to be used to transport everything and everybody in this village.

I'm not sure whether it's us, but we seem destined to experience problems with various utilities: water and power in Botswana, and the same here.
Last night the power to the entire town went off for a few hours, fortunately before it got dark. This afternoon, just as I'd soaped myself in the shower the water went off and although it's now late at night, it hasn't returned. Erin had to rinse me off by throwing a large container of drinking water over me! The locals are sure it will be back on tomorrow but who knows!

From your half-clean and slightly soapy correspondent,

Don't worry: this was not us!!!

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