The stairwell in the hotel was hung with posters of white cats with different coloured eyes. The posters all said 'Van Cat'.
I asked the lobby manager and he told me the Van cat was a world famous breed.
"You know, Van cats love swimming in the lake. Very friendly is Van cat - strange for cat."
He told me there was a Van cat house at the university - take any dolmus to the campush.
The campus was huge, flat and bathed in bright sunshine. I walked from the bus stop towards the closest collection of buildings.
|Van University Campus|
A couple were whispering and giggling in the shade of a bike rack. I asked for the Van Kedisi, a phrase written down by my man at the hotel. The couple discussed me and my request. The girl seemed to have a better grasp of the situation but it was her boyfriend who finally addressed me.
"First go away!" He suddenly pointed down the road. "Then go left".
He smiled, looking at his happily nodding partner for confirmation.
That was a start and I did as he suggested. I'm a firm believer in incremental directions. I don't need to hear the whole story just tell me the first bit and I'll ask someone else when I get there. The further away a place is the more difficult it becomes to describe.
So, after a decent distance 'going away' down the road I veered left, tramped over some wasteground, clumsily negotiated a flowerbed and found myself in a carpark. A car was just pulling in.
I sought their help and three guys began discussing the likely location of a cathouse inside the university grounds. The owner of the car offered to drive me around till we found it.
He asked me some questions about my background, family, work and footballing allegiance.
Usual topics, no tricky start this time.
"You speak good English."
"Thank you. I lived in Sheffield for 3 years. They have a United too."
"And a Wednesday."
"Were you working in Sheffield?"
"Maths PhD. I'm a lecturer here."
He told me about the university, then spotted a security guard and got directions.
He mentioned an earthquake two years ago that had destroyed much of the campus. I as ked him if he'd been here when it happened.
"I was here. My house was badly damaged so the government made me knock it down."
"You had insurance, right? You understand 'insurance'?"
"Understand, but didn't have any," he glanced at me. "Stupid."
Now he slept in a spare room at a friend's place somewhere on campus.
We found the cathouse and I offered to pay his admission. He nodded, touched his heart and thanked me.
|The Van Cathouse|
The lobby contained the ticket desk and a small gift shop. I wondered how I'd look with a big photo of a cat on my T-shirt.
From the lobby a short corridor led to the main cat enclosure. Wire mesh separated the few visitors from a dozen or so cats within. The cats were indeed friendly but the fencing stopped any properly gratifying contact so after ten minutes of awkward stroking I resigned myself to just taking photos.
Cats are never easy subjects and Van cats were no exception. For a cat famous for having different coloured eyes the Van cat delights mostly in providing only profile shots, or shots with one or both eyes closed.
My companion from Sheffield had looked over things quickly with a perplexed frown then joined a security guard in a bored chat.
Off the corridor were small rooms with titles like "Kitten Room", "Female Dining Room" and "Delivery Room".
I tried the Kitten Room door but it was locked. I nodded at the wary security man reassuringly.
|Female Dining Room|
I got a lift back to the bus stop.
"You don't like cats, do you?"
He regarded me as if he'd never thought about it.