So, where was I?
Right… we were leaving Aphrodisias, and I was giving Harun the option of camping at a place about 2k from the site, or driving all the way to Pamukkale (which was not really all that far – we could make it in time for dinner).
I was betting ’50-50′ (under normal conditions, I would have been betting ‘0’, but given that we had just been through a ‘foiled coup’ less than a week before we began our previously scheduled road trip, at its outset I had insisted on ‘No Improvised Sleeping Devices’. Regardless, Harun drove right past the campsite I’d read about without even so much as stealing a glance).
You see, despite a rather pleasant musical interlude we’d spent at an ‘official government campground” in Datça last year, and despite a cheap ‘establishment’ by the beach between Fethiye that we’d discovered the first time we did the drive between our place in Bodrum and ‘the family’ in Adana, Harun has little faith in campgrounds. He’d rather we just pick a spot and camp on our own, away from people (by the seaside, if possible). Since he is rather good at picking spots, I’ve learned to go along without much complaining. However, given ‘the circumstances’, I felt it necessary to bring up the fact that 2 strangers camped on the edge of the woods someplace might prompt a call to the jandarma, if not shotguns a la Deliverence.
Having thus chosen ‘Option No. 2’: Hotel in Pamukkale, I thought it might be a nice idea to stop for dinner at this great kebab joint in Denizli, just a half-hour from Pamukkale and the city at the center of the province where the famous ‘Cotton Castle’ (cotton: pamuk, castle: kale) travertine is located.
Unfortunately, although we’d been to this kebab joint twice, we knew neither its name nor its exact location, just that it was somewhere close to the bus station in the center of town, and since we’d found it so easily the second time, I figured we could find it easily the third. We did not.
Instead, we ran into a ‘Democracy Meeting’ (‘Demokrasi Mitingi‘ in Turkish, and in Turkish, ‘miting’ means ‘protest’, so in some sense, I guess, a ‘Demokrasi Mitingi‘ might be considered a ‘Democracy Protest’). If you’ve never heard of a ‘Democracy Meeting’, that’s okay, neither had I, nor had anyone else in Turkey that I know of, until just then, after the ‘foiled coup attempt’, when these meetings began springing up spontaneously all over city centers in Turkey – although ‘spontaneous’ really wouldn’t be the right word for them; they were more like ‘Thank-you-for-your-help-in-putting-down-the-coup Parties’ organized by various local administrations across the country. The one in Denizli featured a big tent with seating, music and lokma (fried dough), and on this hot, hot summer evening, it was just getting going as we walked from where we parked the car to where we thought ‘our’ kebab joint was.
In fact, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there was no kebab joint there. In fact, we couldn’t seem to find any kebab joint anyplace. Instead, the entire center of Denizli seemed to have been taken over by ‘cafes’ offering little more than tea and toast, and the temporary tent of the ‘Democracy Meeting’ – which I would have gladly joined if it had been offering something a little more substantial than lokma.
Thus, I would have to rate our stop in Denizli the first failure of our road trip. There was nothing to do but settle for ‘chain kebab’ (salty gunk at some less-than-famous franchised restaurant), make our way past the now-in-full-force ‘meeting’, get back in the car, and head towards Pamukkale – passing by, as (bad) luck would have it, Denizli’s best kebab restaurant on the way out of town.
So, I think this is the appropriate time to offer up another disclaimer: This travellogue will not necessarily provide you with names of or directions to anything. (I think I already brought up the lack of photos in in Part 2). This is not because I’m intentionally holding back; it’s because I forget. Like, for example, I forget the name of the pension we stayed at in Karahayıt.
Karahayıt is the laid-back town down the road from Pamukkale, which is usually not at all laid-back, but frantically full of tourists (although not this year). Instead of ‘tour-bus tourism’, Karahayıt tends to get a more ‘fambly-style’ (old lady?) ‘health-tourism’. The appeal is the sulphury-minerally red water that the various (and clearly) family-run establishments have piped into the rooms. In fact, we ended up in a room with a home-made bathtub (a half-wall built some ways away from a floor drain, which you stick a tall plastic pipe in when you want to fill up ‘the tub’). The water is steamy-hot and said to be good for sore bones and joints, and I would highly recommend it in the wintertime. We stayed at a place (I know I wrote down the name and phone number somewhere…) run by a little old lady whose younger family members were said to be busy running the souvenir shops and restaurants on Karahayıt’s main strip – which is easy to find, because it’s also Karahayıt’s only strip.
As soon as we settled down in our pension room, we wandered out to the strip ourselves, to mix with the other local tourists (no foreigners in sight) and mill about for awhile before heading back to our emphatically non-air-conditioned room. The next morning, we steamed ourselves in stinky red water before walking outside.
There was no one there.
Something was going on, you could just feel it in the hot-and-sticky air. There wasn’t enough milling about, enough touting for tourists. It appeared as if everyone had packed up and gone home overnight. It wasn’t until we sat down to what was to be the first of many unmemorable breakfasts over the next month (a sad thing, worth mentioning in a country with olives and figs growing all over the place, and during high-season for tomatos) that we learned that a state of emergency had been declared throughout Turkey.
Karahayıt ‘Town Center’
Suçıkan Waterfall (Dinar, Isparta)
A spontaneous stop (almost) on the way from Karahayıt to Eğırdir, this lovely waterfall has a nice shady restaurant at its base, along with free wi-fi (when it’s working) and a legend all its own. (Interestingly, the explanatory panels with the English translations of the Turkish offer more information than the originals, in a pattern that I began noticing as we stopped at various museums and ‘places-of-interest’, as the Turkish tended to gloss over unpleasant things like kings drowning children in rivers, flaying, and anything to do with sex – which kind of puts a damper on the original stories of the goings-on of the Gods of Olympus. Try search-engineing ‘Marsyus, Apollo, Meander River’ for more information.)
Nex Stop: Eğirdir