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May 16, 2012, Wednesday

Talk talk

Sometimes it takes an outsider to let you see yourself. Sometimes you need that fresh pair of eyes to show you what should be staring you in the face but isn’t.

And so it has been with Göreme lately, when a relative newcomer forced me to confront what I really should have known anyway, which is that when it comes to sparking conversation and social stimulation we may be, well, let’s just say a little lacking.

The newcomer had arrived from London, where she had a great job that brought her into contact with all sorts of exciting people. Of course in comparing Göreme with London she was effectively comparing a rare Stilton with bog standard cheddar, but still it did pull me up a bit and make me think about what we find to talk about in our small community of less than 2,000 souls.

There is now a cinema in nearby Nevşehir, but do I remember any riveting conversations about the latest blockbuster movie? Frankly, no. Even “Fetih 1453,” which went down a storm countrywide, seems to have left Göreme pretty unmoved. “Mühteşem Yüzyıl,” the TV series set in the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent that has kept İstanbullus on the edge of their seats? That, too, seems to have passed us by. “Kurtlar Vadisi,” though, a dark story set in the Turkish underworld? Well, there you’re talking and it’s almost a hanging offence to disturb some individuals on the nights that that’s showing.

Books, then. Well, once again, we have to hang our heads in shame. It’s true that there’s a hard core of enthusiastic yabancı readers who pass books around as if they were gold dust, but amongst the Göremelis themselves, I can think of at most half a dozen people who I ever see with their heads in a book -- and, come to think of it, some of them don’t seem to bother any more now that they can pass just as many happy hours poring over Facebook and TripAdvisor.

Ah, now that’s more like it. TripAdvisor. That’s a topic that is guaranteed to consume many happy hours of conversation. Is it accurate? Is it fair? Is it being manipulated and, if so, what can be done to get in on the act? Ditto with, a hotel reservations service that has shot from nowhere to become a number one topic of conversation with my friends.

And that says it all, really. With 90 percent of Göremelis earning their living either directly or indirectly from tourism, the principle preoccupation for 90 per cent of the year is anything to do with tourism. Which countries are sending the most visitors? Which countries send the nicest visitors? Which countries send the most demanding visitors? And so it goes on.

In winter, the main topic of conversation switches abruptly to building work, as we all focus our minds on what stones are best for cave conversions, along with the latest trends in hotel decor. This comes interspersed with plenty of bitching about the weather, especially if, like last winter, it hits us harder than anticipated.

And don’t let’s forget the balloons, of course. We talk about them a great deal, too. Books? Films? Politics? Why worry about such urban preoccupations when tourism provides us with so much to talk about instead?

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.

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