The people on the Hasankeyf Train were educated hip Turks who love history and nature enough to give up a four-day beach weekend for a rackety train with smelly bathrooms, intermittent air-conditioning and only a brief overnight in antiquity before the return. But did we care?
Not a harsh word, and on the next-to-last night, a raucous party stretching through both dining cars with loud singing and people dancing in the aisle and everyone screaming with laughter.
A veterinarian, two electronics majors, and Sadan Ögüt, who slept sitting up for four days and kept smiling. She also organized showers for us, in a kindly hotel, when we got to Hasankeyf.
You might think that being the only person who couldn’t speak Turkish, not to mention being an American in the Middle East in the last year of W’s presidency, I’d feel left out, but no.
In the next seat was a bubbly woman who spoke English. Overnight we became best friends and still are. Buket- we call her Boo Cat– made all the diffference in my trip. Her author father had taught her ecology and history– Osman Shahin’s Tales from the Taurus is a grand preservation of legends from the region. She had mad enthusiasm and a lot of information. She translated what was going on and made everything more fun, found us a guide in Hasankeyf and even got us interviewed on TV. Now she travels the world, taking pictures, and if you come to Istanbul again and don’t call me, Boo Cat, you and I are going to go around and around!
In addition to the legendary friendliness of the Turkish people, my first book, Drawing On Istanbul, had just come out, celebrating their history and culture, and everybody made a fuss and made me feel swell. They stood around and watched me draw, and I only wish I had taken fifty copies with me because I sold every one that I had.
Rocking the Cradle of Civilization in Hasankeyf NEXT: 6 FLASH DRAWINGS FROM THE TRAIN