Wednesday, November 23

Worst Side Story - Istanbul, Turkey
2 Stars This place was Poor visited Nov 23, 2005
We've discovered the opera here! The Ataturk Cultural Centre (the performing arts complex here) has an opera theatre and a program full of famous names, and the most expensive tickets are only AUD10! And it's a quarter of that for the top balcony! Not wanting to splurge that much, or sit up in the gods, we've decided the mid priced 1st balcony is our favourite spot! Tonight we saw West Side Story, figuring that whatever language it was in, we both knew it well enough to follow, if not recite the entire thing ourselves! It was with some excitement that we took our seats in the 'Big Hall' (such an original name for a theatre)and took a moment to appreciate the 70's decor (It's very similar to QPAC in Brisbane - both inside and out) and get freaked by the gold face of Ataturk leaning out of one wall at us (that guy is EVERYwhere). The appreciation started to wain when the orchestra started playing the overture. And then the 'dancers' came on and it wained further. And then they opened their mouths. Oh dear. We didn't leave. It was sort of compelling - in a 'how much worse can it get' sort of way. The dialoge was all in Turkish, but the songs were in English - with Turkish subtitles on an electronic signboard above the stage. For some odd reason they had significantly changed some of the words - even the ideas of the songs, and some of the new lyrics were definitely not written by a native speaker. The oddest part was where they changed the song 'America', which is originally a sort of musical duel between the Puerto Rican men and women, into an all-girl event, with one lone female playing the men's anti-US part. Very odd. Apart from that, the orchestra were sloppy and the dancing all over the place, which is odd cos the performers certainly weren't singers, so they must have been chosen for their dancing. The 3 main characters were definitely singers - Anita in particular was excellent - but the lovers themselves looked more 40 than 14. All in all it was an interesting experience, but we're really hoping that next week's performance of Carmen is a whole lot better!

Sunday, November 6

Underground Cities - Kaymakli, Turkey
4 Stars This place was Great visited Nov 6, 2005
On Sunday morning we took a series of buses and domuses to get to Kaymakli, one of the most popular underground cities. We had been told that it was worth getting a guide as many of the rooms have no sort of explanation of what they were used for (stables, kitchens, living rooms, storage etc), but there weren't any official ones, and neither Kate nor I could stomach entertaining the hustlers that offer themselves as guides at the entrance. We decided to explore on our own, which would have been fine - if we had remembered our torch! We had carefully packed a torch when leaving Istanbul, then managed to leave it in the hotel room the entire time we were away! We did have Kate's little red key light, but that wasn't really enough. Although all the main passages of the city are well lit, there are many passages leading off the main route that invite exploration, but without a torch it's all a bit scary! Luckily we quickly met some other anglophones - an american couple who had bought a torch outside the entrance and were intent on exploring every nook and cranny of the place! The four of us crawled down every tunnel we could find (many passages were too low to allow just bending over) and poked the torch into every corner of every room. Surprisingly, it was quite warm underground, and between that and all the exercise and contortions required, we were soon stripped down to t-shirts and were carrying all the warm clothes that were necessary outside. I thought it odd, as I had heard that it could be quite cold in the underground cities, but I guess the caves are about the same temperature all year around, and it would seem pretty chilly in summer when it's 35 degrees or more outside! After more than an hour underground, we emerged mole-like into the grey sunlight, dusty, hungry, with thigh muscles killing from all the crouching and bending and crawling and hair full of bits of roof-rock from all those times we had failed to crouch and bend enough.

Saturday, November 5

strange and unusual - Goreme, Turkey
4 Stars This place was Great visited Nov 5, 2005
The end of Ramadan meant both Kate and I had a few days off school and uni, so, again after much last minute discussion, we decided to fly to Kapadokya (in English it's spelt 'Capadoccia' for some reason) which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey (after Istanbul and the beaches that is). Kapadokya is a region right in the middle of Turkey that is famous for its bizarre landscape and cave cities - both above and below ground level. Both of these phenomena are caused by the thick layer of incredibly soft yellow rock that covers the whole region. The ease of carving rooms and passages through this rock has been exploited for millenia and there are whole villages that consist of cave-houses and whole 'cities' dug underground where hundreds, even thousands of people could live for months and months at a time in times of danger. Göreme is the main town in the most interesting area, but we stayed about 2km away in a tiny village called Cavusin. We were the only guests in the little hotel, and the only foreigners in town (apart from the busloads that arrived every morning to see the local cave village and church) and so the evenings were very quiet. It was grey the whole time we were there - and freezing - so staying out after dark (about 4.30pm) wasn'tt too appealing. We had dinner in the hotel (the guy who ran it cooked, just for us!) and spent the evenings drinking apple tea and playing backgammon! During the days we explored what we could of the area. It would have been marvelous to have been there a little earlier in the year when it was warmer and the days were longer, as there are dozens of walking tracks to follow. AS it was we didn't have time to walk more than a short way along any of them. The tracks lead through valleys of bizarre luna landscapes and the almost-ubiquitous Fairy Chimneys (see the photo when I get around to loading it), and often lead through caves and tunnels and other exciting things.