Before dinner two nights ago many of our Overseas Adventure Tours (OAT) travelers strolled through the streets and markets of Van (eastern Turkey, close to Iran). and a wonderful thing happened
But before I tell you what happened let's visit a Kurdish bakery and make bread.
First take rolled-out dough and place over giant oven mit.
It helps to have a friend.
Next--and this is the tricky part--pick up the "oven kit" and quickly slap the dough on the side of the vertical oven. It is essential to wear a heat-proof arm protector.
Wait until done--a minute or so.
Presto! a whole stack of baked flatbread!
We talked to a black market cigarette vendor. Much cheaper than regularly bought cigarettes because the vendor doesn't pay the cigarette taxes.
The warning says, "Smoking Kills" in a language that most Turks don't understand
Now a visit to the cheese and meat market
Below are chess curds and dry hard cheeses
Cheese with herbs
Lamb heads. The shop owner said that part of the eye is eaten, too
Sheep kidneys and other goodies
So, as we are strolling along I ask Nordan, our trip leader,"What do the people in Van think of Americans?" She said, "Why don't we ask them."
She approached three men at a sidewalk coffee shop (small tables and low stools sitting next to the road). As she approached one man left. She turned to me and said jokingly, "I guess they don't like Americans--one left" I retorted, "Only one out of three left; tow out of three people like Americans"
The men had asked if we wanted to join them for tea. I hesitated, as I had never seen a muslim woman drinking tea in a street coffee shop and I didn't want to offend. Nordan assured us that although a muslim man would not allow his wife to drink tea with strange men, we were not bound by theses rules.
So chairs swiftly appeared and 10 of us sat on the low stools and drank tea. A crowd of about 20 men gathered around to take in this unusual occurrence. We indicated to Nordan that they could ask us anything and we would answer; Nordan translated.
We learned that two of the men were brothers. One brother and another man ran a solar hot water business. They were concerned about their business, as the street was to be widened followed the earthquake of 2011 and final approval of the project was still pending. It seems that large areas of the city have been or are undergoing renovation, or rebuilding following the quake and the wheels of administration can move very slowly, whereever you live!
They asked why we had decided to visit eastern Turkey and their city of Van. We mentioned the ancient scared sites and everyone local person starting talking at once, naming their favorite place. You could tell they had such pride in "their" ancient wonders! I fully understood as I consider the mountains where I live as "my mountains".
They wondered if we were scared of coming and we said No.
The whole experience was so wonderful--a sharing of interests and concern. Pictures were taken and emails were exchanged, hands were shaken and then we were on our way. (My cameral battery died so I have no photos).