Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Inside a mosque in Esfahan.

After we'd passed the last police check and had officially left Iraq and entered Iran, my French companion and I wondered how we would get away from this 2000m-altitude border crossing in the pitch black, freezing cold and deep snow. We didn't have to wait long: two locals gave us a lift in their car to the nearest town and drove us around to find a hotel. They expected nothing in return; this kindness was to repeat itself throughout my stay in this beautiful, hospitable and misunderstood country.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Iraq (well, Kurdistan)

Bungalows and a ferris wheel in the mountains. Weird.
 As we crossed the border from Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan, our driver donned a traditional red and white checked headscarf. We found another taxi to take us to Dohuk (there being no public transport in Kurdistan) and within two minutes of chatting in pigeon English the difference with Kurdish Turkey was palpable: here everyone is not only fiercely proud of their Kurdish ethnicity, they are also able to say so freely, without fear of reprisal.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The rest of Turkey

Mardin, Turkey
Leaving Istanbul reluctantly behind, I took a modern but ultimately uncomfortable night bus to Goreme in Cappadocia, central Turkey. Well, I say Goreme, but actually myself and a fellow bleary eyed traveller were disembarked at nearby Nevashir, taken to a tour company's office and given the hard sell at 6.30am. We refused and they deposited us at our choice of hostel with no hard feelings. The hostel is set into a cave with some dorm beds hidden in dark alcoves reachable only by precarious ladders, but it's outside that the truly amazing experience begins. The town is surrounded by valleys containing rock formations seemingly dreamt up by mad, artistic giants, bent on confusing future humans. Huge mushroom shapes balance atop impossible cylinders, massive cones point skywards above canyons eroded by millions of years of trickling water, honey colours blend into red and white. It's breathtaking.