Guney Express to Diyarbakir (2003)
Early morning. Guney Express. Ankara Railway Station. Got up at a quarter to five and came to the Railway Station. Found the car. Now it is just getting daylight. Nice old train. I think we will be off in five minutes or so.
Diyarbakir bound by tomorrow morning around eight in the morning.
We passed through Ankara suburbs, Gecekondus. A lot of the areas are actually being improved nowadays. The old Gecekondu houses are being replaced by flats, three and four story flats. More houses are getting solar water heaters. I notice it is relatively new, the type being installed that I have seen a lot in other countries. So one can see that gradually the standard of living is being improved for the lower classes in Turkey and it is quite environmentally sound since the power comes from the sun.
There is no dining car on this train so it is good that we brought food with us and drinks. There are sometimes bufes along the tracks where one can get tea when the train stops. We are out to the rocky small hills to the east of Ankara now. The land is no good for farming right here, but there are some valleys that are fertile.
Kirikkale at nine, morning. The town is just starting to wake up a little. The train is really over heated. Not much change since the last time I saw Kirikkale I think.
Half past twelve. Just passed a village called Kanlica. This is nice country. The railroad goes down to Kayseri, then back up to Sivas. There are small wheat fields through this area. Mostly green. Small valley and hills. We ate our lunch in the car. Kofta, vegetables for salad, borek, beer. Nice lunch along the way. The conductor said there was a dining car for this train but it is being repaired. So no place to get tea on here this trip. We ended up getting some from the conductor in exchange for some of our kofta. There can probably be a bufe along the tracks at Kayseri for that. I will go back to reading Faulkner (Go Down, Moses).
Mid-afternoon. I crawled up on my rack and took a sleep. Then we passed through Kayseri. We were sitting in the station and I didn’t even realize it. Selma opened the outside door and then we saw we had come to the station. We will come up to Sivas around seven. Hope, maybe, we can get some tea there in the station. It is surprising they don’t come along and sell tea in these stations. Part of the time the train gets way too hot, so we are keeping the window open partly. I guess it will be good to sort of get away from the news, somewhat on this trip. It is always good to have a change of scenery for a few days.
Late afternoon. The day is wearing on. We have been coming through a big valley with Mount Erciyes in the background, a big valley with wheat fields. Mountains around the area with snow. But on the ground here, there is no snow. We are following a quite big River here. The Kizilarmak, or Red River. Melted snow coming down form the mountains. It is quite full.
I just thought how these Jewish groups would probably come after me if I was teaching Middle Eastern Studies in the US! Because if one looks at the peaceful conditions, the tranquillity in this part of the Middle East, one sees that a major factor in keeping things peaceful was keeping the Western countries out of the region. If Britain, France and Italy could have carried out their plans in 1920 to divide up this country into provinces under their own rule, then one could have had the conflicts that one sees in the rest of the Middle East. Especially one has to say that Palestine too would have been peaceful as well if the British and America had not been able to carry out the Balfour Declaration and take the land from the local Palestinian people and turn it into a European colony and let the Zionists drive out the Palestinians and destroy their villages, it would have been peaceful. So if one is ever to understand anything about the Middle East, it is necessary to understand that.
Of course, it is not acceptable to tell and teach such historical truth in universities in the US, and many other places too. Well, it has been done and it is being done, but now the Right-wing Jews and neoconservatives are going after those academics who are willing to tell the truth about history. I think the best book ever written on that is Chomsky- The Fateful Triangle. It is a very great book. I know there are many others that I have not read because that is really not my specialty. So I hope that the Right-wing groups will not get by with shutting down the true scholarship. Trying to hide the truth, the way they are doing is certain to backfire, and their fascistic tactics are truly totalitarian. Turkey is a good example of the great benefits of keeping the Western colonialists and imperialists out, but they have not done so well in keeping out the neo-imperialists. One must say that. I have to thank my lucky stars every day that I managed to escape from that country called the United States of America. There are many things that I like about it, but the neocons are not one of them, for sure. I like the US from below, one can always find dissent.
Nine in the evening. Sivas. From here, we are off to Malatya, to the south and then Elazig and Diyarbakir. Some snow on the ground along the way. That River back there, that we followed for a long distance, was the famous Kizilirmak, the Red River. Red River Valley.
It actually comes from around Kirikkale, it seems. This station is very quiet tonight. Just a few people walking around. We had another picnic coming to here. It seems later to me than it actually is. But there is a lot of time till tomorrow morning. We gave the rest of the kofte and borek to the conductor and got some tea from him. I feel pretty stuffed now, really. Nice countryside that we came across today. Nice winter weather. Quite mild and open. I guess another storm may be coming.
These towns like this are rather sleepy, in a way, and peaceful. I hope that economic conditions have improved for people in the area, as it was quite bleak around Sivas during the economic crisis.
We are off from Sivas. Passing out of the station now. I suppose we will be close to Malatya by midnight. In a way it is refreshing to be in a place where one can’t spend any money.
Another trip we are planning is to take the train down to Aleppo and Damascus in Syria. That i to Sham. It would be great. Fascinating. Selma wants to do it too. It is quite a bit too hot, perhaps, in the summer, so we were thinking about the next Bayram, which will be around October this year and we could hopefully have enough days off to make the trip. We will see what Diyarbakir looks like tomorrow.
This is a slow train to Paradise.
Six in the morning. February 10. Just passed a small mountain station called “Sallar” a few minutes ago. Sallar or “Shakes.”
Ercani. Just passed a small station. This is a mountain valley with wheat fields, Nice area.
Had a little snack. Came through a lot of mountains. The road is pretty level here through fields of volcanic rock, black and white. It was a pretty rough road all through the night, but I slept pretty good, waking up from time to time. There was a rock canyon there. A canal for water. But mostly volcanic fields here. So some of the track coming down here from the mountains is quite rough. Some of the roughest track I have seen. The ground here is very wet. Like it had rained a lot recently. I don’t know.
Leylek. Small village named after the big storks that build nests on high places, storks. They like electrical poles. Some fields look very fertile. We are right at the outskirts of Diyarbakir, almost eight in the morning. We are at the station.