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Letting our hair down in Turkey - Lake Van

Written on: Wednesday May 7th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

The overnight train into Turkey wasn't quite so pleasurable as the Iranian one.  This train was jam packed full of men, mostly traders taking loads of fake sneakers and t-shirts from Iran to sell in Turkey.  To make things worse they didn't feed us and bring us tea like the Iranian overnight train did - lucky we had a large bag of those delicious macaroons to fend off the hunger.  
Knowing I can demand a 'family' cabin to save my reputation as a woman, we were moved into our own carriage - good result!    Still, not a good result for our wedding anniversary night!   It was a freezing night, and combined with the alcohol ban, we agreed the wise thing to do would be to postpone the anniversary until a more convenient time. 
For weeks now I have been visualising the moment I could whip off the hijab, maybe hold a ceremonial burning along with my kaftan at the border.  But when the time came to get out of our cabin and line up to get a Turkish visa, having to face the stares of all these market traders de-scarfed and no baggy top, well, I just couldn't do it!  I stuck with the hijab until we arrived well into Turkey, at Lake Van! 
Lake Van was freezing, but beautiful snow on the mountains.  We knew that breaking 3 weeks sans alcohol required a special venue.  So we found a really nice kebab restaurant, ordered a great big lunch, then realised they didn't serve alcohol!! arrggh! foiled. Another day of abstention won't hurt I suppose. 
The Turkish trains might be bad, but the buses are fabulous!  We got an overnight bus from Lake Van to Capadoccia.  They are brand spanking new coaches and are like a plane on wheels, they bring you cups of tea/soft drinks, distribute blobs of hand sanitiser and play movies (but in turkish).  What we didn't expect was all the army checkpoints where you would have to get off and stand by your bag and they would check contents.  The Kurds based around the Iraqi border are fighting a long and stubbon battle against the Turkish for their rights, and the Turkish government have been bombing Kurdish towns in northern Iraq over the past few nights and I suppose are expecting some retaliation.