Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Breakfast Street

I've been reading "The Great Gatsby".

I felt like a change from the pulps I've been wolfing down throughout the trip - I've spent endless mornings in bright cafes reading lines like "Chin furiously clenched, Nayland Smith literally hurled himself through the open doorway.", smiling and shaking my head.

Pulps made me feel anyone could be a writer, if they had a story to tell.

Now, reading the bright, perfect Gatsby I sit smiling and nodding. Smiling as the supple prose lifts and spins me through the roseate candlelight and perfumes of Gatsby's parties. Nodding at its diamond sharp dissections of the frivolous, ghostlike guests breathing dreams for air.

Gatsby makes me feel there are far fewer writers in the world than I'd previously thought.

I've already downloaded Fitzgerald's other novels and a selection of short stories, and I'm in the market for a biography. However, Gatsby is a demoralising experience when you're engaged in blogging, and forgive me if I forget myself and start to "wax lyrical".

Back to our story... wax on.

I left Tatvan after on the third morning and took a bus round the south coast of Lake Van. Water on the left, grey and creased by squalls, snow-capped mountains jammed close together on the right. The rugged land empty but for some goats and sheep blown together into huddles.

Around noon, the city of Van.

In an flagrant attempt to claim Diyarbakir's crown, Van has dedicated a whole street to providing the ultimate in breakfasting. "Breakfast Street", blocked off from traffic, is 50m long and filled with street cafes selling every imaginable breakfast food.

Uniformed waiters patrol the channels between groaning tables that buckle under the weight of plates and dishes.

Young lads rush back from the bakeries bringing armfuls of hot, flat breads big as shields.

A small clique of street kids with shoe-shine boxes slip in and out like cats, with huge, dark eyes that miss nothing.

One boy approached me, took in my unshinable, faux-suede trainers at a glance, smiled and simply held out his hand. I returned the smile and gave him a coin.

Back suddenly a few minutes later, he nodded solemnly and gave me a small packet of tissues. I took his photo.

Breakfast duly began arriving in shipments. The scale was unprecedented, but Diyarbakir remains the one to beat.

After breakfast I caught a bus down to Van Castle - rambling walls along a grassy bluff dotted with poppies by the lake.

The clımb to the battlements winded me, I stood head down and panting next to an elderly couple.


She sounded American but she informed me she was half Armenian. She talked about the history of Armenian suffering under the Ottomans and how modern Turkısh people don't even recognize the fact that the atrocities had happened.

"It's always the same. The perpetrators never admit their guilt."

"Well, I suppose the Germans did." Pause. "Eventually."

"True. He's German - had to wear the brown shirt as a boy", she lowered her forehead at her silent partner.

He looked at me and nodded sadly. Another tricky start. He showed me some pottery shards he'd picked up around the site over which I gushed idiotically.

The castle was being extensively renovated and we collectively railled against the insensitivity of the rebuilding work.

We shared an abject fear of heights so bonded well back from any edges and looked on in horror at two Dutch girls sitting unconcerned by a precipice.

"Did you visit the underground cities in Cappadocia? I couldn't do it."
"Yes, I did. Time was there were 10,000 people down there hiding."
"I know! Christians. Course you'd have to believe in God to live down there..."

Wax off.

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