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Posted Wed, 25 Feb 2015 12:52:23 GMT Traveling Turkey

When I arrived in Istanbul, I had the feeling to arrive back in western culture, as it was a stark contrast to the south east of turkey. It felt like I arrived in the 4th culture on my trip after Georgia, Turkey and the kurdish regions of Turkey in the south east.

I used the first days to let some impressions sink in, to develop and select my pictures, and write down some of the experiences I had in the last weeks. I slowly arrived back in western culture: I went rock climbing, tried hot yoga and attented lots of parties, concerts and contemporary art exhibitions. I also enjoyed to be finally back in a more vegetarian friendly environment with a good selection of vegetarian/vegan restaurants and cafés.

Istanbul is a very clean city compared to other cities in turkey. There’s still trash on some street corners, but not big piles and it doesn’t smell very bad, and the air is breathable as there's not much smog.

  • Ferries near Eminonü

  • Very nice grafity in Kadiköy

The public transport in Istanbul is a bit messy as I expected it for such a enormous city. The only reliable ways of transportation are the (relatively new) metro and the ferries. Every other transportation which is street based has huge delays and sometimes never reaches its destination.

Because I spent on average 2 to 3 hours a day in public transport, I imagined it would be a good greeting for people from Istanbul, to make the gesture of holding on to a handlebar with one arm up :)

  • The historic tram in Taksim

  • Sultanahmet (blue mosque)

There's an uncountable amount of cafés, bars, clubs and little shops in Istanbul. Most of them are in houses where every story is used for another venue. Mostly a café or store at the ground floor, some restaurants and bars in the middle floors and a club or fancy restaurant at the top floor.

Similar shops are always next to each other, so I found streets where you could only find shops selling music instruments, leds, paintings, antik chairs or supplies for a chemical lab.

  • Trippy plastic trash in a passage

  • Lots of different chillies at the spice market

After being in the east for some time before coming to Istanbul, I could feel that the peace might be only temporary.

I met lots of artists, engineers and other kind of intellectuals who openly made plans to leave turkey or already married someone from Europe or North America so they have the possibility to escape.

They are escaping because of missing freedom, because of missing women rights and also to escape the mandatory military service, which you could otherwise only escape by paying 30.000TL(~11.000€).

They see future conflicts between the advocates and opponents of Erdoğan and his political ideas. After some talking I also saw a potential conflict between the kurdish people, who work as guest workers on the fields in the west, and the jobless Syrian refugees who might do that job for even less money. Last summer you could earn about 30TL(~11€) for one day of fieldwork as a guest worker.

  • No alcohol around mosques

  • Eminonü Bridge and Galata tower

Van and the train to Istanbul

Posted Sun, 22 Feb 2015 11:04:26 GMT Turkey Traveling "Kurdistan"

In Van I met Peter (our "host" from Trabzon) and we discovered Van together. I really enjoyed to be free from the hospitality, as I was never able to walk somewhere without my host taking care of me or helping me. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the hospitality, but it had some downsides. For example, I was always asked to sit down, as it is considered rude for the host to sit down first and my hosts always wanted to sit.

Van is famous for "Kahvaltı" and its cats. Kahvaltı is a buffet style breakfast with olives, tahin, honey, vegetables, cheeses and some egg dishes. The cats are famous because of their dichromatism: One green and one blue eye.

  • Van cat with dichromatism

  • A truck full of garlic ❤

I took a train from Tatvan to Ankara: Vangölü Express. It was one of the most beautiful train rides I ever did. It goes through gorgeous nature, mountains, lakes, little cracks and big rivers. Even though it has express in its name, it only goes about 40-50 km/h which makes it a very smooth and silent ride. It took me about 29 hours for the ~1000 km trip.

On the train I was staying in a four person courgette compartment together with a kurdish, a turkish and one iranian guy. The iranian guy was suffering from pain after a surgery to fix some problems with his spine. His spine was damaged from torture in Iran because he is member of the christian minority in Iran. He and his wife where on the way to the United Nations office in Ankara to go to some western country and start a new life.

We had a good time, laughed a lot and wondered why there's so much stupid people and idiots in the world who can't get along (we were two muslims, one christian and one atheist).

  • My train to Ankara

  • Sinan, crazy kurdish guy I met on the train

Erçiş and Deliçay

Posted Fri, 20 Feb 2015 10:04:26 GMT Turkey Traveling "Kurdistan"

I wanted to go to Van for some days, but couldn't find a host, as most students did have holidays and went to the west. But I got offered to go to Erciş, a city north of Van at Van Gölü (Van lake). The person who organized my stay, Hasan, and all my hosts there couldn’t speak english, so I communicated via a Facebook group chat with a girl who translated everything between me and Hasan.

At my first host in Erciş, Kardin (a cousin of Hasan), I stayed in a shared flat with three students who could talk maybe 10 words of english. We communicated with dictionaries, hands and foots. We even managed to play a nice round of Okey. The students didn't have warm water, so we went to a Hamam for taking a bath.

  • Lots of shoe cleaners

  • My hosts in Erciş were very clean

At the second day I met some more cousins and uncles of Hasan (he has 120 cousins) and we went to a small village called Deliçay. There I met more family members and I slept in a classic kurdish living room with lots of carpets and cushions and one coal oven in the center of the room.

I had dinner and breakfast with them and realized, that only men ate together. The women and girls were cooking, bringing the food and tea to the "table" and cleaned up afterwards. While we had dinner someone spilled his tea, a young girl came, cleaned up and brought a new tea for him.

I confronted the men with that realization and my opinion of it being very old fashioned behavior. They said they know how it is in the western world, but they don't see why they should change it. It's a lazy life for them at home. After getting huge amounts of children, the women stay at home their whole life anyways.

It was positiv though, that I could talk freely about it and they were very open for discussion. Sadly we couldn't really discuss it further as we had strong language barriers, there was only one person who could talk little english in the whole family.

  • The family who hosted me in Deliçay

  • Where's the food?

  • Girl cleaning after dinner

  • Living room converted into bedroom

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