Turkey — Day Twenty-three — Selçuk & Tire to Pamukkale

Tuesday, October 30, 2007.

First chore of the day: stuffing every last purchase into an unsuspecting rolly suitcase.  That’s two, no THREE carpets, twelve or more pillow cases, a multitude of glass eyes, three little drums, a number of books including a hardback Koran, two red flag tshirts, a little jar of honey and god knows what else.  
The suitcase weighed quite a bit.  
As we wrestled sixty pounds of creaking, wheeled nylon box down one flight of stairs, we got our first glimpse of how incredibly stupid we were to attempt to haul all this sh*t home ourselves.  If it hadn’t been for that very prideful streak combined with an rancid teaspoon of Scots thriftiness we might have pleaded our case to Urdal or Nazmi and made arrangements to ship at least the big carpet home.  Needless to say, we didn’t, much to our intense dismay over the next five days.  
Breathing hard and a little flushed after the suitcase match (a draw, on points), we left the suitcase in the lobby of the Bella and hauled our sorry rumps back up the stairs for a last exquisite breakfast.  We were honestly not worried about leaving the behometh down in the lobby: not only did we have perfect faith in the Bella staff, but any poor thief would have had a paralyzing hernia before he got it out the door.  
It was a sad thought that we were leaving Selçuk, but we were also looking forward to the Tire market (Tee-ray, not what you drive on) that the Cliftons had raved about.
Thankful that we were leaving our red suitcase of death behind, we walked down the hill from the hotel, turned right and then crossed the street to the left just past where the market had been — ah, the otogar! Just where we were hoping it would be!
It was easy enough to find the Tire dolmuş; it was very conveniently labeled.  For just a few lira, we climbed aboard the empty dolmuş and had our pick of window seats. It seemed like a few seconds later that we saw familiar faces climbing on the bus — the Cliftons! They seemed happy enough to see us, though I suspect that they may have come to the conclusion that we were stalking them… 
The dolmuş crept out of Selçuk, taking every possible opportunity to dart across three lanes of traffic to pull over on the side of the highway to fit one more person in.  It left the main road and wandered around villages so tiny they didn’t have a name, picking up all kinds of people as it went.  It seemed that tourists got on in Selçuk and locals got on everywhere else.
We were glad enough to be popped out of the crush at the market in Tire.  With a small break for the little, clean bathroom by the mosque, we set off up the hill into the market proper.  Now this was an ethnic market!  Having read that Tire was known for its felt-makers, and having had such a lovely experience in Konya, we wandered around the lower part of the hill, looking for them.  
There were blacksmiths and saddlers and finally! felt makers.  Unlike the art creations made by Ikonium, these were practical items: saddle pads and slippers.  Not unlovely indeed, but not nearly as decorative as Ikonium.  We did find one decorative felt-maker but the items were just not up to Mehmet’s standard and we declined to buy.  I was actually very tempted by all the practical items I saw.  If I had but owned a horse (or even a larger dog), I would have gladly bought a bridle or two, or some of the blue-dyed leather collars. Perhaps a giant copper pot, lined with tin?  
The livestock area was a little sadder, though just as practical: droopy chickens in cages, panting goats leaning against a stone wall, and one resigned sheep.  The smell was of droppings and despair, but I couldn’t complain  — not given the quantity of tavuk and kuzu I had consumed over the past three weeks.  All things considered, I am much more comfortable with creatures that live a free-range life, spend an unhappy (but pain-free) day at the market, and then are killed and used in an atmosphere not redolent of the abattoir.  
We decided to climb the hill to see the older part of the market and to see what was around the corner.  This market was incredibly interesting!  I stopped at a few places to attempt to ask for the decorative metal skewers which had served our kuzu şiş at some restaurant or another.  Not only did I covet them myself, but they seemed like a good masculine gifts (Turkish girly gifts being readily available).  The only problem with this was that my trusty guidebook failed me on the matter of ‘skewer’.  The closest I could get was ‘fork’ or çatal, which I requested in several shops and stands.  I was met alternately with the UTS, a quizzical look, apologies (at not having the skewers or not being able to understand me, I’m not quite sure) and, in one case, a man who abruptly left his shop to return five minutes later with plain but serviceable skewers which I respectfully declined.
On a more positive note, I found some delightful chunks of olive oil soap which the man indicated to me was from local olives for something like a lira each, which seemed incredibly cheap.  Since we had run out of Olay, we needed some soap (especially given the non-deodorizing properties of the Turkish deodorant).  
The wonderful thing about the Tire market was that it was mostly there for the Turks, unlike the other markets we had seen, which were mostly for the tourists.  The upside was also its downside, however: if we lived in the area, we would have been buying food and soap and clothes and bridles and chickens and every other thing we saw.  Not living in the area meant there wasn’t too much that was practical for us to purchase and take home — the tourist’s dilemma, for sure.  Just walking around and up and down the streets was a magical experience, even if we left with surprisingly empty hands.  
Empty hands, maybe — empty stomachs, no way!  We found a little hole-in-the-wall which was selling what the L.P. reported to be Tire’s specialty.  It was a little awkward being the only non-Turks (and only non-man) in the shop, but everyone was friendly and a nice farmer got up and moved to a shared table so that Steve and I could sit alone at a table.  We stuffed ourselves on delish kebap and were pleased to see a Turkish couple come in and the woman sat beside me.  I wondered if my presence made it easier or harder for her to come in and eat?  
Emerging back onto the street, we watched the fish sellers for a while.  While most of the other merchants sat back on their haunches, quietly waiting for customers, the fish guys were LOUD.  They yelled at each other, threw fish at each other and every so often broke into song, the lyrics of which I would have given a pocketful of lira to understand.  Their stalls all had electric lightbulbs dangling above the piles of piscine… probably to make them look shinier and fresher, not that they looked (or smelled) bad in the slightest.  
We eventually tired of the fish show and decided to wander slowly down to the dolmuş station and catch our ride back to Selçuk as we knew our train left at five in the evening and it was almost two.  Ok, Steve wanted to get back to Selçuk asap; I wanted to look around and covet things some more. We managed not to spat and found ourselves at the dolmuş station intact.  After lazily inquiring where the Selçuk dolmuş was leaving from, we were surprised to be hustled down the hill and across the street where our intrepid guide threw himself in front of a white minivan to stop the bus.  It agreeably screeched to a halt and we clambered aboard, short of breath and temper, passed our money to the front and… stood.  
The dolmuş was so dolmuş-ed that I ended up sitting in the stairwell while Steve’s bum clung to half a seat at the back.  The reverse trip gradually sloughed passengers by ones and twos and we were both able to sit after not too long.  By the time we reached Selçuk we were even able to sit together, and we were all made up and happy again.  We stopped by the Van to say goodbye to Marco and his brother (who was pining for the German girl) and had a satisfactory short visit. Our happiness continued right up until the point where we walked back up to the Bella and reacquainted ourselves with our luggage — from this point forward to be known as the Red Suitcase From Hell (RSFH).  
Pulling only a few vital back muscles, we loaded our RSFH into the hotel’s minibus and then out again at the train station.  If it weren’t for the unforgiving burden, it would have been an easy ten-minute walk.  As it was, we were grateful all over again for the Bella’s free ride policy.  
Purchasing our train tickets to Denizli was completely straightforward.  We just walked up to the ticket window, asked for tickets and paid our what, 15 lira each?  It was very inexpensive and we were there only a half hour in advance.  It appeared that most tourists took the bus instead: the bus shaved an hour off the trip but cost a little more.  It wasn’t the price that was a factor: our last bus trip hadn’t been the most pleasant ever, especially compared to our last (and first) train trip.  We wanted to stay a little off the tourist trail and see a different slice of countryside.  Plus we like the pace of the trains in Turkey.  Very civilized!
This trip was not to change our mind — other than the disc-rupturing lift of the RSFH onto the train, the stowing it in the aisle (and hanging onto it the entire trip in order to have it not crush the person across the aisle on every slight corner), and the resigned (but not unfriendly) looks of the people who had to squeeze past it in the aisle, it was all very civilized!  
We were able to buy snacks and drinks for cheap and we chatted a bit with a pair of Korean girls who hadn’t made any arrangements for somewhere to sleep or how to get from Denizli, where the train ended, to Pamukkale, where they wanted to stay.  We had been thinking of following in Bill & Nancy’s footsteps once again, but the people at the Bella had recommended the Venus Hotel in Pamukkale and in fact had called ahead to make us reservations for two nights and arranged for the Venus people to pick us up in Denizli.  Since the L.P. concurred that it was a nice, pink, and apparently romantic place to stay, we were game.  
The train pulled in just after ten at night and we were greeted right away when we hauled our RSFH off the train (off is easier than on!) by an older Turkish couple who identified themselves as being from the Venus.  They helped us schlep our crap out to the parking lot, followed nervously by the two Korean girls.  They were suspicious that the kind offer of the Venus people to give them a lift to Pamukkale came with strings, and Steve and I acted as translators as we were most fluent in the only common language.  
Satisfied at last, the Koreans followed the four of us out to a tiny sedan with a tiny trunk.  Apparently the only strings were to be the straps from my backpack straps which I used to tie my precariously-lodged pack to the hinges of the open, stuffed trunk, which the Turkish mum thought was very ingenious.  The mum sat in the front, with at least two backpacks and a suitcase in her lap, and the four tourists crammed into the back, with one Korean on the other’s lap.  It was insane.  Seatbelts were a joke.  The Turks looked very entertained, and indeed it was nothing short of hilarious, at least until the top Korean started looking a little green around the edges.  
Fortunately, it only took some fifteen minutes to get to Pamukkale, and nothing drastic or messy happened.  We popped out of the little car in front of a very sweet looking hotel with an arbor-ed terrace and an empty pool.  It was right across the street from the Melrose Allgau Hotel, which had been our other choice.  The Koreans were invited to go find the hotel of their choice but they sensibly opted to check in at the Venus.  
We were greeted by several large golden retrievers (it seemed like dozens) and the owners, Ibrahim and Karen, a young couple — she’s Australian — who were about our age and incredibly nice.  The hotel was lovely, with fresh tiles, paint and an open airy room with a spotless bathroom and distant view of the travertines, lit up in the night.  We asked for a restaurant recommendation as the snacks on the train were no substitute for a real dinner.  Ibrahim’s mum, who was part of the collection party, made it clear that she was ready, willing and able to make us some dinner instead.  It was late and we agreed eagerly, which was a very good thing — the casserole was delicious.  
We were absolutely beat and so were only enticed to chat with the other guests (Germans), Ibrahim, Karen and Ibrahim’s brother (?) for an hour or so before we hauled ourselves into our comfy bed and fell fast asleep.