Urfa - Gaziantep

Thursday, 03 October 2019

We first visited Göbekli Tepe which is the archaeological site of a 12,000 year old temple on a hilltop (Göbek means “belly button” in case you are wondering).  A few years ago when we were in Malta we visited some temples that were 5,500 years old (comparable with Stonehenge at 5,000 years old).  The significant thing about Göbekli Tepe is that it pre-dates the start of agriculture (about 10,000) years, so it overturns the notion that agriculture and settlement gave rise to religion.

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We returned to town to visit the legendary Pool of Sacred Fish (Balıklıgöl) then on to the mosaic and archaeological museums.  The mosaics in the museum were not as “bright” as the ones we had seen in Sicily a few years ago (our best to date) but they were made with very fine stone pieces so the definition was extraordinary.  We motored through the archaeological museum pretty quickly – there are only so many stone adzes and broken pots one can take in but it was a very good display of all the findings from the areas flooded by the Ataturk dam (finished in 1990).

At the temple and again at the museum we crossed paths with Hasan, our first guide on this trip, who was now guiding a party of 3 Australian ladies from Byron Bay.

The drive to Gaziantep was not too long nor was it too hot in the Mercedes Tandoor but we still dropped off to sleep, waking fortuitously just as we passed Biricek dam, another large dam, with a good view form the road.

We are staying at another “hysteric” hotel, this time a group of four old town houses around a courtyard.  Our “suite” is very nice and is on two floors.  We have a lounge area and bathroom downstairs with a single bed and a huge king bed up in a large attic.  The steps up to the attic are so deep and steep that Cheryl had to come down backwards so she will be sleeping downstairs tonight and Clive upstairs.

We ate at a restaurant near the hotel on a mezze of traditional Gaziantep dishes followed by a short walk to a “famous” Gaziantep baklavari to round off the evening with a sugar infusion.  There is a saying in Gaziantep that “If the World was a house, Gaziantep would be its kitchen”.  We don’t know that we would go that far.  We’d go for Bologna rather than Gaziantep.

The night time trips down the stair-ladder called for a certain athletic prowess which was not easy in a sleepy state, but no harm came.


Friday, 04 October 2019

Breakfast was a bit rum.  It was supposed to start at 07:00 but even at 08:00 there wasn’t much out.  Never mind.  We got started with tea and gradually, bit by bit, more appeared.

Today is our last day on the road and we cannot say we are sorry.  It has been tiring. We are perhaps getting a bit too old for this lark.

We visited a small museum dedicated to Gaziantep cooking which wasn’t terribly interesting, then the copper and tinsmith’s bazaar where dozens of men were beating out the traditional copper pots and pans sitting on little stools.  Surely there must be machines that can do this more quickly and efficiently.  If you were in the market for buying a few copper pots, pans and serving dishes this was the place as prices were very reasonable.

Video below of a man attaching the spout to a teapot.

After a bit more wandering around and several stops for coffee, tea and baklava we headed for the Mosaic Museum which houses the mosaics from Zeugma which was inundated by the Birecik dam.  It is the largest mosaic museum in the world, containing 1450 m2 of mosaics.  It is a splendid collection.  We have to say that the Roman mosaics in the museum were the finest that we have ever seen and quite huge.  There was a second exhibition hall for Byzantine mosaics that were a few centuries younger than the Roman mosaics but had neither the brightness nor the artistic skill.  It was, like all the other museums in the East of Turkey, new and very well done.  Perhaps a wise move by the Turkish Government to spend money in the East to make the people proud of their history, attract tourists and settle down any discontent.

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We had a good but (for Turkey) an expensive lunch at a “master” kebab maker.  Our guide and driver were shocked at the prices as well.

Finally it was time to head for the airport and say goodbye to our guide Adem and our driver Orhan.  Both of them have been really excellent and have been very hospitable and welcoming of us in their homeland.  We have even learned a few words of Kurdish.

It was a long wait at the airport.  Gaziantep being the “pistachio” centre of Turkey, baklava making reigns supreme.  Just about everyone on our flight was carrying bags of the stuff from famous baklava makers.  We’re surprised the plane managed to take off given all the extra weight in “baklava”.

After a tedious but not too long flight we arrived back at Istanbul’s domestic airport which is out on the Asian side over the Bosphorus.  The pick-up arrangements at the airport were a bit muddled but it came good and we were away in 15 minutes.  The driver took us by a very circuitous route for the first part of the journey and we feared that he either had the wrong address for our destination or that we were being kidnapped for the harem (alright for Cheryl but you know what happens to males!).  after a while we got onto the main expressway and started to recognise landmarks.  It wasn’t a bad trip in as we were going against the majority of the traffic which was leaving Istanbul for the weekend.  We didn’t get to our hotel until about 22:00 so we were quite tired and slept well.


© Cheryl & Clive Miller 2019-20