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Published: October 12th 2015
Getting off the bus at what is laughably called the Erzurum Otogar - it's a new building surrounded by fields next to a motorway that's as close to Erzurum as Nottingham Forest are to winning the Premier League, we were faced with a challenge. How to get into town ? Nobody spoke English, the taxi office was deserted, and despite my earlier comments re Turkish words the bus timetable made as much sense as I will once I manage to find those first elusive beers after a few alcohol free weeks. Luckily we spotted a battered old bright yellow Renault 12 taxi with an equally old driver lurking in the car park. We ran over and bagged him before anybody else could. He switched on the meter, when was the last time we were in a taxi that had a meter ? and set off at a surprising clip, but not as surprisingly fast as the meter turned over. It turns out Turkey has exceptionally high petrol prices which makes taxi fares eyewateringly expensive, but at least we got into town.
Erzurum had more women but threw up another social conundrum – men walking arm in arm. This part of
the world doesn't seem to be a hotbed of social liberalism so we've ruled out them being gay but haven't yet worked out what it is all about.
Last stop on our eastern Turkey wanderings is Malatya for Nemrut Dagi. We're probably a year late to visit as before you could wander freely among the statues but now it's being developed into a proper tourist attraction with a visitor centre, walkways and the statues all cordoned off behind ropes. It's being done very well but it was probably better before. This year has been slow for tourists in this part of Turkey and we're now out of season so for sunset – which didn't happen, well it did but we couldn't see it, we had the whole place to ourselves, but somewhat creepily a guy kept appearing from behind rocks and would then just sit around near where we were. Nemrut Dagi is 2000m up and the day was misty and cloudy which added to the atmosphere of the place so it was a little unnerving despite him wearing a badge that we think showed her worked there. The following morning as we arrived for sunrise our mate appeared
out of a cabin and walked up to the statues with us. Our expectations of being alone again were very wrong, there were hordes of German tourists – they really do get everywhere.
The work at Nemrut Dagi and Ishak Pasha, and the new bus stations were just part of the huge amount of development going on in eastern Turkey, we also saw many km's of new roads, new bridges, new apartment buildings, new railway lines, and a new stadium in Malatya. We don't know if it's part of a strategy to weaken support for the PKK Kurdish separatists, genuine investment to meet peoples' needs or of it's something else altogether but whatever it is it seems to be making a difference and is popular with quite a lot of the people we spoke to.
Next up Cappadocia.
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