Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finding the Van cats

For once one of the principal reasons for my recent trip to Van in the far east of Turkey near the border with Iran and Armenia was not to look at museums, archaeologial sites and breath taking nature (I did that too) but to find animals. Two in fact: one being the famous monster of Lake Van and the other, more realistic, the Van cat. These cats are very special and only bred and raised in Van. They are all white, have different colored eyes and their most intersting idiosycrasy is that they absolutely love water. That part of Turkey is not a prime destination for tourism which means that if you want to see something you very much have to find your own way there. I love that because it makes travel an adventure and so much more interesting. How did I find the Van cat? Well, my first port of call was the hotel manager. He brust into laughter when I mentioned the monster and said that he would call it at midnight so I could see it. When he was finished laughing he got serious and told me about the 'Cathouse' located within the campus of Van university. A map of the city revelaed the location. So, I took the dolums (minibus) into Van and then went about finding the next one which runs to the university. Not an easy enterprise but everybody I asked for direction were trying to be helpful, but...there was the little matter of communication. Nobody speaks English or any other language I know, so I got a crash course in Turkish and my limited konwledge of the language increased out of necessity. I got on the right bus and when we came to the entrance of the university, an armed guard (!!)got on the bus and asked me where I was going. 'Kedi evi', I beamed, proud to know the words. He beamed right back, motioned me off the bus and then accompanied me all the way to the cathouse...and stayed. There they were, hundreds of little, white, wooly balls, running around in their enclosure and looking at the foreign visitor with one brown and one green or blue eye. It is as if they know how special (and expensive) they are, because they didn't feel like posing for me. Just gave me a big, pink jawn. Nevertheless, I found my Van cats and managed to get a few pictures of these extraordinary and so,so cute creatures.