Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm in Turkey, in a city that classes itself as Kurdish after sleeping in a bus station and eating kebabs and soup. Turkey is different.

I was in Tbilisi which was nowhere near as good the second time mainly due to the fact that it was raining the whole time i was there. The previously sunny dusty streets were full of grime, shit and beggars. It was unreal just how much the weather had changed the place. I stayed in a guesthouse with a Polish guy who insisted that he didn't use toilet paper, a Canadian guy who looked liked Iggy Pop and acted accordingly, a middle aged American guy who'd been living and working in Georgia for over a year and complained about it non-stop and there was an old Georgian man who was in the military and wore a naval suit to work every morning making him look a little bit like Captain Birdseye. I got drunk.

And then i went to Batumi. Batumi lies on the Black Sea coast, west of Tbilisi by a few hours. The journey there was a classic Georgian travel experience. The minivan was mainly packed with bottles of Coca-Cola and the windscreen had the obligatory cracks caused by peoples heads or luggage hitting the windscreen from the inside or stones from the road kicking up and hitting the outside. The rearview mirror was almost completely obstructed by a small picture of Mary with baby Jesus. The driver drove so recklessly that i occasionally feared for my life. Perhaps i should thank Jesus that i still have it. We sped through Georgian villages weighed down by apples and fruits and populated by old men drinking tea and various sorts of animals (cows, ducks, pigs, dogs) invaded the road lined with derelict buildings or large farmhouses.

Batumi was crap. Don't ever go. Most of its pavements and roads were in the process of being dug up leaving piles of sand or rubble everywhere and random holes here and there. The only places to eat were cafes where fat women with as much facial hair as me would serve soup and bread and then look annoyed that they'd had to. For some reason there were more slot machines than Las Vegas, there were lots of beggars, it rained the whole time and there was a large power cut one night. Apparently in summer the beach is nice. I hope i never find out.

Leaving Batumi was equally annoying. I bought a bus ticket to Trabzon in Turkey that said we'd leave at ten thirty, the driver said eleven and we rolled out of town at midday. Not long after, we passed through the sketchy border post to Turkey (it seemed totally designed for trucks and not humans) and bombed down the sunny Black Sea coast on roads that Georgia dreams of to Trabzon.

Trabzon had a busy bustle and a lot of new money and people were enjoying spending it. Fashion shops hugged the pedestrian streets, there were cheap decent restaurants everywhere and people seemed happy and friendly. For some reason i wasn't expecting any of that. I was expecting anger, mayhem, dirt and a hint of danger but i have no idea why. I liked Trabzon.

I spent a morning at Sumela Monastery which clings impossibly to a shear cliff outside the city. It was mainly populated by Turkish students who were amazed at seeing two Korean girls. They all wanted their pictures taken with the two Asian people in a way that reminded me of Chinese people in China wanting their picture taken with Europeans or North Americans.

That night i had a ticket to a game of football between hometown Tranzonspor and Besiktas. I got to my seat behind the goal not far from the corner flag in one of the cheap seats and watched the crowd enter the large stadium covered on only one side. All the fans were men in Trabzonspors colours of dark purple and light blue. Seats were not used for sitting on but for standing on to get a better view. Fists clenched. Fingers pointing. Chants shouting. Warm angry breath. Cold evening air. It was a great atmosphere where fans in different parts of the ground, especially in the cheap seats behind the goals, would trade chants with each other from opposite sides of the large stadium. Some fans seemed less bothered about the football and more bothered about shouting and coordinatıng chants. It was a shame that Trabzonspor weren't very good. They were great at passing it about but as soon as it came to actually attacking and scoring they had few ideas. 0-0 at half time quickly became 1-0 to Besiktas with a screamer. A goal that sailed into the top corner. The chants went quiet. The voives angrier and more desperate and so too was Trabzonspors play. Besiktas scored another near the end to seal it and the fans wanted the blood of their underperforming players. It was a good job that high security fences and nets were in place or blood would have been duly sought and gained. Still, it could be worse; they could be fans of Ankaraspor who so far this season have a played eleven, lost eleven, scored none and conceded thirty three. Though i had neither the language skills nor the balls to communicate this to the exiting fans.

I got a night bus to Diyarbakir after i was told that it would reach Diyarbakir between 4am and 5am. The bus pulled into the station this morning at 2.30am. The station sits 14km outside the centre of town. I looked around the nearly empty station. Some people were waiting for late night buses, a shop was open, men chatted quietly, a woman sat typing on her laptop. Was this really Turkey? It all seemed so safe and clean and efficient. I figured i may as well save some cash and huddled onto a bench and slept for a few hours before getting a taxi into town this morning and finding a small crap hotel that's painted green and purple and then ate soup and a kebab.

I'll be here for a few days and then head west in search of more kebabs, carpets and, hopefully, the mild Turkish mayhem that i had imagined existed before i came here.

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