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all seasons in one day

More lentil soup for brekkie and it was off to the Otogar in order to catch the minibus for Divrigi. I had decided there was no point in rushing for the moment and I dallied in getting there. It was just a small town surrounded by big mountains and served only by minor roads, and the only way back out seemed to be to double back to Sivas, a 3hr trip, or catch the passing night train at 0345am. I played it by ear, hopefully there would be an onward bus to Elazig or Erzincan. Climbing a high pass which led to a broad rolling plain of yellow brown grasslands it was not unlike the Highlands again and we had a midway stop at the unendearing town of Kangal which seemed to serve only as a truck stop and a source of the large breed of indiginous sheepdog which takes its name from the town. An oversize effigy of one adorned a roundabout on the way in, a town gone to the dogs alright. From Kangal the road deteriorated and it twisted and climbed as we entered real mountain country. It really did look just like the best of the Highlands now, devoid of any life bar the tussocky grass, and after views from the stunning Karasar Pass at 1950 metres we descended rather more quickly down switchbacks to Divrigi, an Anatolian Aviemore. This place was tiny and well out of the way, the soul reason for coming here being the contiguous Ulu Cami and Darussifa (Grand Mosque and Mental Hospital complex). It has a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list and must certainly be Turkey's least visited one. For once I'd managed to time it right or so I thought, it was Friday the moslem holy day and I expected the place to be busy with frequenting worshippers. It was only a minutes walk up the hill from the bus park and I soon arrived around 3pm to find it completely deserted. Locked up, no-one on the gate, not so much as a caretaker in sight. It wouldnt happen at the Tower of London I mused. Allegedly the interior was no great shakes though, it was the exterior artwork which had bagged this place its recognition so that was a certain compensation. The very intricately carved doorways were out of proportion to the building itself, similar but better preserved than the Seljuk examples in Sivas and though certainly nice I wondered if it had been worth the detour. I certainly had time to contemplate it as I waited until 0420 for the night train out to arrive. One of my original ideas had been to arrive on that train and get the next one out at the back of 9. I wasnt sure if that would have left me adequate time to do the place justice but clearly it would have been the better and cheaper option. Hindsight, if only you could save it up.

I killed the day by treating myself in the towns only (rather posh) restaurant where I ordered chips and winced whenupon I received more ketchup than potato. It took some explaining with the plate going back and forward a bit for them to accept that I therefore didnt want them after all. Though allergy is the same in any tongue, I made do with beef stew and a proferred magazine. The sharp suited owner thought he would impress me with the town's attempt at tourist marketing, the glossy brochure was full of cheesy photos, cheesier quotes, delightful spelling mistakes and a really bad translation. "Divrigi - The Pradise of History. My people and my country are always modest (sic!). Where is always a place of attraction, also win peoples hearts with their hot and sincere manners". It tried for all its worth in a swathe of bad grammar to tell you it was the 8th Wonder of the World, it wasnt even the 8th Wonder of Turkey. I saw out midnight at a net cafe where in fairness the boys tried to treat me to free coke, and then it was down to the station in the cold and dark. I was blessed with more free tea at a nearby petrol station and was surprised to find the station open and very warm, it wouldnt happen in Aviemore I'm sure. I paid my 3 quid for the 7 hour journey and was joined by a few old folk who looked like they'd missed the last departure for the 20th century, and contrastingly half a dozen chicks who looked like they were going out clubbing in the Anatolian wilderness at 4am, bizarre.

Posted by andyhay 23:00 Archived in Turkey

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