Both of my roommates were in Ankara this morning, and I found myself left entirely to my own devices. Since I was responsible last night and did my laundry, I decided to blow off my other chores in favor of exploring the realm of local and city-to-city busses.
The city bus that runs by my apartment is the #2 bus. I often catch this bus on the East side of the street to get to the university, but the West side #2 was a complete mystery to me. So this morning I hopped on the West #2 bus to see where it might take me. We drove through the city, passing promising-looking restaurants, parks where only men sat at the tables, and numerous corner-shops filled with the same neon volleyballs, bags of sunflower seeds, and giant jugs of water. Every time the bus stopped, I looked to the opposite side of the street to ensure that the return-path was indeed available if I decided to abandon my mission. But I rode the city bus all the way to the main bus station on the outskirts of town where I arrived in Nevsehir eight days ago. When I first arrived in Nevsehir, I was quickly gathered by our university reps, and whisked off to Avanos, so I never actually made it inside the bus station. I decided to investigate.
I walked in past a cafe filled with people whose faces indicated they’d rather be someplace else to a small office whose sign read “Tourist Information.” Upon seeing the sign, I decided I was in no position to turn down information, so I sidled up to the office. Outside, two older gentleman where playing tawula. They welcomed me, offered me tea, and invited me to watch their game. The only people I’ve ever seen play tawula before were the other Fulbrighters during orientation. Watching these Turks play was an entirely different experience. These two men had been playing together for 15 years, and their game looked looked less like a game and more like a vigorous form of divination. The hands of both players were almost always in motion on the board; after one man rolled, the other swept up the dice and as the first moved his pieces, the other rolled and began his turn. They moved the checkers quickly but without exacting precision. They moved the checkers just close enough to the triangles that one might be able to cheat if the other was not diligent enough to notice (they were always diligent enough). When the dice proved unkind, there were cries of “Allah, Allah.” The dice, however, were far kinder to one man than the other. The man to my right was fighting a four-day loosing streak, which continued when he won one and lost four games. After the last game, he stormed off to buy the victor lunch.
Only one of the men spoke English, and as he played, we chatted. He showed me pictures of his grandchildren and told me his favorite tour to give is the underground city because he was born on the second floor of the city. He also told me that he learned Japanese to impress a woman, and now, he is able to give tours to Cappadocia’s numerous Japanese tourists. If you’re ever in Cappadocia and would like a tour of the underground city from one of its former residents, let me know.
Around noon, I made the return trip to the city on the #2, passing my apartment and heading to the university where I could catch a bus to elsewhere in Cappadocia. There was a bus to Avanos waiting for me when I arrived, so I jumped on and returned to my favorite Kebab restaurant in Avanos’ town square for lunch. After a delicious lunch, I walked to the bus stop and found a bus that I thought might be going to Goreme, a beautiful tourist town with fairy chimneys and an open-air museum. Through no fault of my own, I was correct, and I spent the afternoon wandering through some of the most beautiful and strangest terrain I’ve ever encountered.
I elected not to enter the open-air museum today because I knew I would lose track of time and fail to get back to the apartment in time to let my roommate back in after her return from Ankara (we currently only have two sets of keys for three people). After wandering around and enjoying the scenery, I came across a coffee shop I simply could not pass without patronizing:
I ordered a caramel iced coffee and received what I suspect was the pomegranate iced coffee (which is as bad as it sounds -but it did remind me of M.D.’s finding the pomegranate story, which made me far happier than a delicious caramel iced coffee ever could).
When I tried to board a bus back to Neveshir, the driver pointed me back across the street to the other bus stop, so when a bus sporting a “Nevsehir” sign in the front window pulled up at the stop I had been directed to, I boarded without thinking twice about it. I was a little surprised when 20 minutes later I was dumped off on the edge of Avanos. I asked the bus driver “Nevsehir?” and he pointed across the road to a fleet of stationary busses. A little miffed and somewhat suspicious, I decided to trudge back to the center of town where I knew I could board a bus back to Nevsehir. Thirty-two minutes later (not that I was counting), I was on a bus back home.