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25 – 27/02/11 – Tatvan, half way point and a great time with some ship builders

March 5, 2011
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I spent the next whole day glued to the laptop enjoying the fast wireless in the hotel, partly due to the weather which had taken a real turn for the worst (I arrived just in time) and also because this here blog  was requiring some attention. I ate my weight in Baklava again, enjoying a sugar high that took me long into the night.

The next day I decided would be leaving day – I did some research into Van and it seems it’s a worthwhile city to visit, plus there’s nothing for me to do here besides eat and write blog and I’m quite excited about the ferry ride. I packed up and was out of the hotel by midday, straight into a snow blizzard. I had 20 feet of vision as I precariously cycled down to the dock to see if the ferry was running. I arrived and they told me it would be leaving at 7pm, so in 6 hours. Such was the nature of this ferry as I had heard; it has no schedule and only runs when its cargo of trains set for Iran is full.

I contemplated heading back to the hotel to veg on the internet for a few hours when the offer of tea came from inside the tea house by a couple of ship builders. I couldn’t refuse, so in I went and sat with them for a bit. It turned out they were from Istanbul, building newer and bigger ships for the Tatvan Van ferry crossing. Soykan spoke perfect English, and I was very interested to hear about his job as a naval engineer. After thrashing me at backgammon and buying me some food they offered to give me a tour of the ship yard, and I jumped at the chance.

It was amazing to see the ship being assembled in the dock. I say assembled rather than manufactured, as it seems the whole boat is a kit of parts that is laser cut in Istanbul before being shipped to Tatvan to be put together, much like how I would make a model at work. It was fascinating to see giant sheets of steel with all the sections accurately cut and waiting to be popped out of their templates. Soykan showed me a drawing set for the ship, and introduced me to the band of merry men that were in charge of putting it all together.

We hit it off really well, and when news came that the ferry for Van wouldn’t be leaving until 8, meaning I wouldn’t arrive in Van until 1 in the morning, the offer of a bed for the night in the engineer’s quarters was hard to refuse.

We had dinner in the mess hall, a typical canteen affair, and then I sat and wrote some blog for a bit, before being invited by some of the guys to go into town and go bowling.

Off we went in the pickup, 6 of jammed in together. We arrived at the amusement arcade and I got thrashed; at bowling, pool, air hockey, boxing and basketball. I was quite tragically shit. Soykan joined us later on and we headed off to a rather sordid bar on the edge of town, which after midnight turned into a belly dancing club. Beer was flowing, followed very quickly by Raki. I received a lot of interest from the dancers I guess because I wasn’t Turkish, and was rather embarrassingly encouraged to dance with several of them much to the amusement of my new mates. Cheers lads. To be fair though, they all had a go as well, and after polishing off the Raki, we rather drunkenly headed back to the dock.

I had a great night, despite only being able to communicate with Soykan who wasn’t there for most of the evening. I’ve come to realize that language doesn’t really matter with people who want to share something with you. All you have to do is be happy, thankful and enjoy their company, and just try talk with your hands as much as you can, even if what you’re saying is quite trite and uninteresting (which it usually was!)

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