by Marcus Slease

I am drinking Seftali Nektari and walking up a steep hill. White stones are glowing at the old gates. It has rained and the red clay sticks to my soles. The houses are built on top of each other and the hill is devouring them. They are colourful but crumbling. Like an old sadness.

An old, yellow dolmuş picks us up each morning and we drive by the mules and the wedding drums and the mopeds with negotiations on the fly. The city is under construction. The newly planted trees provide no shade. Students pack every morning into the dolmuş with peasants and workers. In the centre new buildings go up and look old before they are finished. Nothing matches.

When we first arrived, we found a small restaurant and drank some Turkish tea. The teas gave the glass cups a reddish tint. A gypsy girl kept calling us sir and madam from the road. I couldn’t explain to her that I am not a rich Westerner. There are plenty of people in this city with more money than I have. We ate our cheese gözleme as the dust blew around us and a man with a hose sprayed down the footpath. Women were collecting water near the mosque. The sign said it was built in 1292.

When we left the restaurant, the sun was scorching so we grabbed some ayrans. The crowds rushed by us cracking sunflower seeds in their mouths and spitting the empty shells on the street. There was music everywhere and ice cream. Turkish ice cream.

There are no pubs or alcohol in these parts. This is a dusty town. Men slick their hair and wear tight jeans. The women are mostly covered and there are a lot of old men with sticks. The few non-covered girls are modern with bright red lipstick and bleached blonde hair.

A lot of shopkeepers tried to speak German with me. You told me it’s because Turkish girls return to their hometown with Germans. They buy up cartons and cartons of cigarettes and purchase mobilya to ship back to Germany.

Today is our last day. We are watching the World Cup. Teenagers are in the corner drinking Coca-Cola through a straw. A former ship captain is feeding us popcorn, green melon with honey and white cheese.