At Istanbul international airport I approach the AKTURK Bank money changing counter. I have some small denomination notes, 10 English pounds and a crisp New Zealand $20. They proved apparently worthless to the state owned bank. Believing as I do, that an English pound was surely as safe as…… well a bank, this particular note had a 5 mm tear in the upper right corner. It was disdainfully discarded across the barrier. The last time this happened was 40 years ago in Nepal, where even the Royal Bank of Nepal refused to take their own money with the minutest nick. Pass across currency crumpled, creased and covered in cow dung and it would pass muster immediately provided it was un-nicked. As for the virginal NZ note it was also rejected. She had never heard of New Zealand and despite my best efforts at imitating a sheep, she was resolute in her rejection.
I regrouped and stepped six paces to the right where the adjacent Travellex exchange counter coped unphased and unfussed with both currencies, even a slightly lacerated Queen Elizabeth II.
The 6 days I am to spend in Kusadasi have all been planned and prepaid before leaving Adelaide. At Izmir airport I am collected by an adolescent who manfully carries my backpack out to a Mercedes van and he and his father transport me at breakneck speed the 100 km to Kusadasi. I suspect that they will transport me back to Izmir as well, Allah be praised.
Kusadasi is the archtypical ancient seaside settlement that has been gone from a vibrant medieval centre of the spice trade to a modern mecca of the rag trade. The old part of the town is crumbling and whilst the local municipality have turned the historical streets near the shore into boulevards and pedestrian malls, it is still a seething tourist hub of commercialism. The number of shops selling blatant copies of italian designer clothing and footwear, is only outnumbered by the population of alley cats and kittens. Several gaudy side streets are dedicated wholly to tattoo parlours. The overall feel for the “old town precinct” was as far as I was concerned a unique mishmash of the Vietnamese street markets and the gaudy streetscapes of our western seaside tourist townships minus thankfully the pussies.
Food and icrecream stalls abound and did a roaring trade after 7 pm. Until then the outside temperature hovered around 38 degrees and that with a high humidity induced a sophorific physical and mental stalemate.
By the second day I was feeling more enthusiastic – although the death of Oliver Sacks, the reading a “Fairyland” by Sumner Locke Elliott on the plane over and the memories of the many books by Bill Bryson which I adore, all combined to induce a tsunami of self doubt about my literary skills and I sat down at the keyboard.
In the mornings I walk at dawn, having been rudely called to pray at 5:30am by the Tannoy speakers on the mosque. Clearly this acapella cacophony is digitised on an iPod playlist and set to automatic whilst the Mufti remains in bed asleep with a pair of earplugs affectionately known as the “Mufti Muffs”.
I swam in the Agean sea in the late afternoon, meandered home via a Turkish chocolate ice cream parlour and proceeded to tongue my Recorder in the confines of the hotel garage whereupon within seconds the Mufti iPod activated calling all to evensong and several stray cats started a fight to the death in the alley outside the garage.