27 December, 2010
We flew from Istanbul to Mardin and landed at what is probably one of the smallest airports I have ever been to. It has one runway, room for 2 planes and a building with a maximum capacity of about 300 people. Mardin itself is a gorgeous town built along the sides of a low, rocky mountain, with buildings that date back 4000 years or more. There are a couple of roads, but most navigation through the town involves walking up and down uneven ancient staircases, the view changing with each step. Because of the amount of stairs, which in many ways reminded me of Santorini or Neemrana in India, donkeys are used to transport good though the old town. It is not tourist season, so apart from the locals, we pretty much have the place to ourselves. But, as there are not many tourists, a lot of the historical places are being renovated and repaired, so there were several places we just could not get into. We stopped for a great lunch the middle of the old bazaar that extends about half way around the city and you can buy everything from brooms to pans to groceries and pretty much anything you can think of. At the restaurant, which was large enough to fit about 5 people, we met a local with a café and before long, we were sitting in the sun, having a cold beer, looking over the plains toward northern Syria. I saw Syria today! And of course, we talked about going to Damascus in the near future. Travel is like heroin. Not that I ever tried heroin, but the more I do, the more I want.
As beautiful as Mardin is, it seems equally boring at night. We walked and walked to find a single restaurant for dinner and finally we came across one just around the corner from our hotel. The adventure has already started and in a most un-Robb-like action I ate what seemed to be a local delicacy, stomach stuffed with rice, veggies and herbs. I didn’t want to do it, but hey, I am starting a big adventure, so what’s a little stomach in the stomach?
Out hotel is next door from the bus company that will be taking us to and across the border tomorrow morning and instead of the high costs I had been getting from blogs and other limited information on crossing the border, it is costing us a mere $50 per person to go from Mardin to Erbil – Our information told us it would be double that, so we are already under budget! Time for sleep as the alarm goes off at 5:15. The water has been out in parts of Istanbul for 2 days, and I am in need of a shower and good scrub down.
Tomorrow Iraq! It’s finally going to happen!!!