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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Fred's Kahramanmaras



by Fred Moore, February 2006

We're traveling with our good friends Jim & Chelly once again on holiday; we're on our way to Kahramanmaras as we travel east on the autobahn. This city was once known solely as Maras; Kahraman was later added as a prefix meaning 'heroic'. In Turkey's War of Independence, Maras lost the greatest number of souls to the people's cause to save the land now known as Turkey. Soon after WWI, the European allies tried to divide up Turkey's land as spoils of war, giving parts of the country to each of the allied powers and leaving only a small portion of land for the Turkish people.

Our view today is filtered through a haze making the landscape difficult to see off in the distance. We've had a great deal of rain the past several weeks and the landscape has come alive with shades of green; it's a patchwork of grain fields and forests. We can see snow on the mountains in the distance; it looks very cold and uninviting. Quite honestly, though, I love the white blanket that covers the black of the mountains. The snow cover softens many jagged cliffs and they seem far smoother than we know they actually are. It's near 50 degrees today and will edge toward 60 before the day is done; it's a beautiful day for a drive in the country. Usually at this point in the drive we can see the Mediterranean Sea off to our right but today that is simply not possible; that beautiful blue ribbon of water just isn't there. It's early in the day though and the sun has not yet had time to burn off what could be mostly fog.

Since this is Monday, the traffic is heavier than we're used to but still it's easy going. Again, I love to crest this hill overlooking Osmaniye; the valley floor is so green today and the collage of fields below look so fertile with new growth. The road ahead too is stretched out for kilometers across this great expanse of valley floor to the mountains in the distance; it looks like a belt that was dropped on Astroturf.

Now we're across that lush green valley and we're climbing up the mountain and those amazing tunnels I've talked about in the past loom just ahead; the first one we approach we can see from start to finish all the way through. All we see ahead is sky; it's as if we were going to exit the tunnel and fly! Along with the tunnels are the viaducts for the next several kilometers, as the autobahn skirts the mountains here. We traverse this tunnel and immediately shoot out across this viaduct and then the next set comes into view. Without the haze, our view would be nearly forever up here. I'm sorry my literary description can't fully illuminate this awesome landscape.

Time has marched away and we've come to our exit. We're well into the trip now and we slowly glide down the off ramp and into the tollbooth to pay our fee. Right here at the tollbooth is a gentleman selling fresh simit; there's no one behind us so we linger for a moment and get four. There nothing more delicious than a fresh soft simit for breakfast (these are very fresh) or even a snack after breakfast. I can't explain it but these simit seem especially good!

Immediately after we get past the tollbooth and the simit vendor the ramp ends and we turn north on a two-lane blacktop road. We go just a short distance though and pull into a service station for our first rest stop of the morning. As we get out of the van, I look toward the mountains behind the station; the snow cover is just picturesque. Fully refreshed we continue on our way; beside our two-lane, construction is under way to add two more lanes. This highway is obviously going to be transformed into a four-lane divided highway in the not too distant future. Traffic is steady but very tolerable; it would appear we're not headed for an unvisited community.

The road makes many a twist and turn and the construction has caused some damage to the surface but the drive is quite pleasant nonetheless. We come to and pass through a number of small villages; Beyoglu is most notable in that the city hall compound has a wooly mammoth statuary in the courtyard. The sight of that mighty, tusked beast begs the question; is there something significant about it? I will not answer that question today however; my research has turned up nothing. We pass through Turkoglu, a major village at the half waypoint on our route to our goal, and Kilili; I only mention this one because the name seems fun to say.

We've come to an area of considerable water; seems there's a river flowing here and great mounds of crushed stone or gravel has been piled up. There appears to be a dragline set up on the riverbank but I can't see it all that well, as it's behind a very large pile of stone. Off in the distance there's either a lake or some very swampy wetlands; the roadway is far too low for me to be certain what's out there. We're crossing a bridge now and up from the river rises a white heron, they are so graceful; then Chelly notes there are several off to other side of the road along the river. The water appears to be moving fast and it isn't very clear so maybe this is runoff from the combination of rain and snow.

We don't go far now and we enter the outskirts of Kahramanmaras; the sign indicates the population to be 332,000, not a small village. My meager literature tells us that there are over fifty textile mills here; we've passed a good number of them already so I don't doubt it. There's an immense statuary in this first traffic circle we encounter; this must be in commemoration of those who died fighting for independence. There are a number of bronze relief panels around the base depicting scenes of battle and the whole center pedestal is shrouded with a sculpted Turkish Flag with a hand trust outward with a gold medal facing us; very stunning work. I'm sure my description has not fully conveyed the majesty of this monument; it's quite dominant here in this traffic circle.

Just past this monument we see the sign for the city center and head in that direction. As Jim drives into the city it's evident this is a city full of life. We're not at all sure where we're going and Jim simply drives through town until we see another sign that indicates the direction to the castle. Jim and Chelly have been here before but not recently and they have not been to the castle so we follow the signs and make our way there. We wend our way through the streets and upward toward our goal. As we make the final ascent there's a hairpin turn and we're on the cobblestone street leading up to the castle. At the top we have to make a 90-degree turn right in through the castle wall. This edifice is believed to be Hittite from the 8th century B.C.; it's perched atop a hill in the center of the city and inside is this lovely small park. It's very well maintained and there is a museum containing Hittite relics from the area; we won't get inside however because it's Monday and museums are not open on Monday. This certainly will not be our last visit here though so there's plenty more time to see this attraction. We park next to the museum and get out to walk around the interior castle walls.

We're hardly out of the van before the resident security man greets us. The gentleman is very cordial and is very pleased to see us visit 'his' sight. The view of the mountains to one side of this hilltop is fully blanketed with snow and clouds; beautiful from the warmth of the park we're standing in. There's a light breeze up here and it's lovely; from here we get a panoramic view of much of the city stretched out below us. We spend a pleasant half hour walking around and Carol talks with the security policeman about where we're from and what we've come to see (he has a number of questions, just friendly chatter mostly). He's anxious to show us around and points out a number of attractions in the park, he makes a special point of showing and talking to me about the cannon on display; it looks like a small version of a howitzer; it's not new by any means, probably WWI vintage. Off the one side, on another hill, we see a very large mosque being constructed; it's very imposing on the hill adjacent ours. I'm awed by the three Turkish Flags set just a few feet apart on the castle wall; I've taken a photo trying to get them in their full glory. The Crescent & Star on that Red Field against the mid-day sky is stunning.

I must digress here for a moment; I don't know that I've ever mentioned it before but the design of the Turkish Flag is quite powerful. The design came to be after a fierce battle when a soldier noticed a star and the crescent moon reflected in a pool of blood; the Turks are a fiercely proud people and this nation was formed quite literally on the blood of their forefathers. The Flag of Turkey may be a simple design but make no mistake; this Flag symbolizes incredible depth of emotion.

As we prepare to leave the viewing platform where the flags are flying on the wall's outer edge, the security guy motions us to the far side where it overlooks the entryway we drove in through. Chelly notices the ancient entrance to the castle, a large set of green doors (probably tarnished copper) across from where we're standing. They open into a large foyer that makes a right angle toward an open entry archway, very sound ancient security measure, and no direct entry to this castle. I continue to wonder how far we have to go to be as safe as our ancestors used to be; but then I too have to laugh at how much security we have today that isn't at all secure.

OK, we've walked around the park and have seen what we could from each side and thank our security host and descend to the city below looking for a place to park. As I've indicated so many times before, parking is simply not something that gets a great deal of consideration in these cities. After a bit though we do find a parking garage and we enter and begin the descent into the bowels of the complex. I'm accustomed to ascending in a parking garage but this time we go down, and down, and down some more! As we descend it gets darker and darker; lighting does exist but it is very sparse. Lighting costs a great deal of money, so in the interest of economy there are few lights and security is not a consideration. Unlike the states, crime here is rare. There may be a florescent light ever fifty or seventy five feet! Down on the forth level we finally find space and pull directly into it; we get out of the van and the lighting is simply so weak we must adjust our eyes before we start walking and then it isn't an easy task. We ascend the ramp we've just driven down and I'm looking for an elevator. There's a wisp of sunlight sneaking in around the edges, but for the most part we're in the dark. Signs indicating an elevator exists do not make an appearance; it takes us a few minutes to even find the sign indicating what level we're on so we can find the van when we return later.

Careful movement gets us to the elevator just above us and off in a dark corner; well actually a gentleman joins us in the semi-dark and goes directly to the elevator he knows is there. He ushers us aboard the elevator and it only takes four people so he indicates he'll take the stairs and he closes the outer door. The interior door closes and we descend another floor; ops, we didn't intend to do that. We push the button and raise one floor but stop, we push more buttons but nothing; we are momentarily entrapped. Finally the door does open but we're still on the same floor. We all get off, I get in alone and suggest I'll see if it works with only one person aboard and they can call it back. I don't know why, but I get in push ZERO for the ground level and up I go. OK, I get out, shut the outer door and see that it's going down, good I think, the others can ascend shortly. Minutes later Jim and Chelly have come up to join me. The elevator again goes down; a minute later it opens in front of us and we expect Carol to emerge; Jim greets the open door as if it will be Carol but it's another gentleman. Oh well, there it goes down again, and here comes Carol, finally! That was certainly interesting.

We leave the garage and meld into the mass of humanity on the sidewalks. We've decided we're going to put off lunch for a while since we had simit just a little bit ago. We make our way to the old shopping area that is very much like a covered bazaar. We're in dreamland; shop after shop of the old world greet us -- copper, brass, wood crafts, fabric, GOLD, silver, carpets, glassware and spices, it's all here. These little alleys go in every direction; we take the first one up a flight of six or eight steps. The alley follows the contour of the hillside and ascends straight up in front of us; a number of alleys move off in both directions to our right and left. A number of vendors have greeted us as we enter this first alleyway. The ladies as usual have to stop and quiz the fabric merchants; one can never have too much fabric, HaHaHa. Jim and I humor ourselves by moving on ahead but never far enough to get away from our trusted partners. For Carol, I can't get far away because I carry the bank. Jim and I scout the next turn or alley for things of interest; yes, our interest I guess. Carol and Chelly are benevolent; they don't linger a long time in any one place so we move into and out of a number of shops, as we immerse ourselves in this experience. Chelly decides she needs some wooden rods for rolling dough; these are finely crafted sticks, maybe a meter long and used very much the same as a rolling pin. I find a shop with kilims hanging out on the alleyway but it turns out to be mostly wood chests and other types of boxes; the young lady running the shop insists we have tea and we leisurely oblige. Carol thinks we should have one of the hand-carved Koran boxes; we'll use it for our Bible. The Bible can be stored inside the box or laid open on top the box where a folding platform has been carved for the purpose. I'm very impressed with the kilims they have on display; most of them are not for sale. It's obvious to me why; these are beautifully handcrafted antique works of art.

We happen into another shop with stacks of carpetbags and small kilims; I can't resist a small bag and while I'm looking through them Jim spies a couple he wants. These pieces simply are not made anymore and they are not available in Adana either. Don't either of us need these pieces but they just can't be passed up by either of us. Everywhere around us here are gold shops and I've seen a coin in this one window I simply can't leave without. We continue to browse and window-shop for an hour or more. Down another alleyway Chelly sees a large kilim bag hanging on the wall and wants to know how much it is; we stop and question the vendor and bargain the price down to a good deal and Chelly has her bag. We find ourselves in one alleyway filled with shoes; it doesn't seem to me there are enough feet in the world for ALL of these shoes. Every city we visit has a street or bazaar alleyway that is filled to overflowing with shoes!

Our treasures are in large plastic bags and they are beginning to get unwieldy and down right inconvenient; we decide to make our way back to the van to drop them off. Right across from the garage there's a restaurant (Yenisehir Lokantasi) and we decide before we go down into that dark garage, we'll have a late lunch. We cross the street with our packages and before we get to the door of the restaurant a gentleman at the door is ushering us in. We ascend a couple steps and enter an auditorium-like facility with multiple tables and the wall to our right lined with booths. The kitchen cooking area is off to our left and everyone is smiling as they usher us to a booth. The tables are covered in white tablecloths topped by burgundy accent cloths; the wait staff is similarly attired, burgundy on white. As is our experience in these settings, the wait staff simply can't help us enough; they want to be of service in way they can. The make us very welcome.
The headwaiter has come to the table; I tell him we want to go over to the kitchen area and look at what's available. We can order from there and we do. Carol orders five different appetizers; we get soup (a specialty of the city) and we order meat dishes. When we return to the table, a large fresh mixed green salad, a large plate of yogurt and the bread have been served. Carol and I have ayran and it too is at our places. The staff hovers around the table until I tell them we're fine and will call if we need something. The food is nothing short of great; we all agree we'll come back to this place to eat another time. We don't hurry with lunch and enjoy our social time together. We talk about all we've seen and about the next time we will come. After lunch Jim and I take the bags to the van and return to the restaurant to meet the ladies who stayed behind. On our departure the staff insist we have a card, well actually a number of cards, to pass on to our friends; we take them with our thanks for the wonderful lunch.

We decide to go back for some more exploring. Jim stops to buy some pastry for his office the next day and we each have a piece; want to make sure all is good, you can't be too careful, HaHaHa. Then we walk some more, first up one street then down another. Jim and Chelly need a couple baby gifts and we go into a store for little ones. A young lady turns the shop upside down trying to get them just what they want; we leave the store with two outfits for each baby.

Kahramanmaras is noted for ice cream of a very unusual flare; it's akin to taffy, it's said you must eat it with a knife and fork. Jim and Chelly don't remember where the shop is and we have not located it on our walk so we head back for the van. But Carol wants some of this famous ice cream and simply stops a man on the street and asks where this shop is. As it turns out, we are nearly on top of the place where we stand; it's simply up the street a half block and around the corner, and we've been walking all around it! We collectively decide there's time yet in the day so up the street we go; sure enough, Yasar Pastanesi (the original Mado Ice Cream shop) is right where we're told it is. This shop is famous Turkey wide; it's filled with antiques of the ice cream business. We are lead to a very comfortable table in the back of the store and we have our ice cream. Jim and I both have standard lemon ice cream; ours is served in a metal pedestal dish. Carol and Chelly have the genuine product and theirs is served on a small dessert platter. Carol has chocolate and vanilla while Chelly has only vanilla. I very much enjoy Turkish ice cream and this treat is NO exception. Even though I didn't have the specialty of the house, I had really good ice cream. It was fun to watch the ladies eat theirs though. It appeared to be very hard and it didn't seem to melt much. Carol said it was quite delicious.

The ice cream was gone and we were preparing to leave when Chelly discovered she was short one of her packages. She searched around the table and concluded it had been left behind at the baby clothes shop. We'd been gone for a while but since this is Turkey and we know how things are here, we simply make our way back to the store in question. We're only a couple blocks away so it isn't a lot of effort even though we were not going to walk much further after all the walking we'd done already. Sure enough, the owner was glad to see us back and immediately ran to get the package Chelly had left. He said he had run down the street after us but we were already gone. Greatest people in the world, these Turkish folks.

The day was quickly escaping and we wanted to get back to the autobahn before dark, so we didn't linger anywhere on the way back to the van. Country roads are not all that inviting after dark; too many people drive without lights or ride motorbikes or bicycles without lights. Many Turks walk on the roads at night in dark clothes; it's a real challenge to drive in unfamiliar places at night. We encountered some of these exact situations toward the end of trip; drivers simply have to be alert and careful.




Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya
Birsen's Horizons
Fred's Trip Logs
Bahar's Views on...
Business World
From Members' Pen
Interviews with Members
Moms & Kids Corner
Pets with Dr. Demirel
The archives of The Guide
The Archives of Turkishtime
Teen's world

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Fred's Trip Logs
Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya

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