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Published: October 10th 2015
The first thing you see when entering Turkey from Iran is a duty free shop stocked with whisky, vodka, gin etc. This is a bit surprising as much of eastern Turkey seems to be as dry as Iran. Not one of the restaurants we've been in has served any alcohol, and no supermarkets or convenience store type shops sell any, not even beer.
We knew we were travelling again as soon as we got out of the immigration gates. Having found the dolmuş (mini bus) we then had to wait for it to fill up with passengers before the driver would leave. It must have been a slow afternoon as he struggled to find enough people, so after about 30 minutes he made an offer – if everybody paid one more lira each he'd leave, we all paid and off we went. Sitting next to us was an elderly but sprightly guy who struck up a conversation with us in English. He was a retired teacher from Tajikistan on his way to meet a fellow Tajik writer who lives in Varna, Bulgaria. We could tell he'd been a teacher as he spoke a lot and listened only a little.
According to my guide book Dogubeyazit is known as “Dog Biscuit”. We can agree with the first three and last two letters of this nickname but would replace the “Biscu” with “Sh”. The place is a dump, but more than that what really struck us was the lack of women. Walking along the main street we saw perhaps one girl or woman for every hundred or so men, all of the staff in our hotel were men, all of the shop staff were men, the waiters in the restaurant were all men. It can't be that there is a gender imbalance of these proportions so it must be some kind of social norm that keeps the women hidden away.
Our reason to stop here was the Ishak Pasha Palace which despite being over-renovated turned out to be a great way to spend a morning.
The newish looking otogar - despite the unusual spellings it's fairly easy to work out what some Turkish words mean, was a few km out of town – something we will learn is the annoying and inconvenient norm. Buses to our next stop, Erzurum, run frequently so we had to wait only about an
hour before we were on our way. During our wait we were once again given pause for thought and reasons to count our blessing – on two separate occasions big groups of what we think were Kurds were herded into the terminal off one bus and a few minutes later herded out again onto another. As they were mostly men – no surprise there, we guessed they were maybe being transported somewhere for work. Whatever the circumstances they looked poor and in need of a change of fortune. Lets hope they find it.
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