Testing the Turkish Reputation


We feel like we are leaving old friends as we push off up the narrow road into the mountains. This feeling is becoming quite a theme for Turkey. The day started with a 6 am wake up call from the Sofa where I lay, Olof in the room next door. I washed and packed my few things and headed down stairs, ensuring that I wore my sandals for the few steps down to the living area. Someone slept on the floor, probably in order for at least one of us to have a bed. As I entered, the mother ushered me to a low table placed near the kitchen door. Five or six family members milled about in the room. Food and, of course, tea began to appear on the table, cheese, tomato, olives, bread, eggs and of all thing; french fries! We ate and drank as much as we could in the company of the men while the women kept themselves busy around us. It was then back to where our bikes had been stored for the night by car. We happily rode out of town, stopping at a construction site to repair a slow leak.
We had been given specific instructions about the road ahead, the only way was to take the motorway an extra 50 km via another city in order to arrive where we wanted to be. These directions had been given to use by an experienced truck driver. We reached the turn off onto a small road off the main road and headed into what I would become one of my best days cycle touring ever.
Immediately after leaving the main road we were greeted by every person we saw, cars tooted and waved enthusiastically and lightning danced across the hilltops. A light rain filled the air with that wonderful fresh smell, the one which takes you back to playing in the rain as a child. "Chai, chai" called a man as we passed the first village, but being just 15 km from the start we decided to wait till the next town which appeared after a few more hills. As Olof selected a few things from the market, a young boy appeared to admire our bikes, he then showed us to a tea house across the street, I ordered two teas in my best Turkish and sat down to fresh bread and tomatoes. The teas, a knife, salt and a newspaper table cloth were placed on the table within seconds and a man introduced himself and sat down, he brought with him some cake and biscuits. A few words from him sent the boy scurrying across the street, soon to return carrying plates laden with olives and cheese. We ate and ate, our tea cups were never allowed to empty. The Germans then cycled past and I called out to them, we had not seen them since early the previous day, there were many stories to share. By now the tea house was full, a man spoke German with Tanya, Olof communicated with the boy using my phrase book and Martin and I discussed our most interesting experience the night before which included dancing at a wedding in a village, being fed a huge dinner at 12.30 in the morning after having just eaten at a restaurant with two couchsurfers and a visit to a lively street market.
As we have now become accustomed to, we were not allowed to pay for anything, it was quite the opposite as we were given cakes, cherries and tomato sauce to take with us, how can we say no? We all left with huge smiles on our faces as if we had known all these wonderful people forever.
At some point we lost the Germans, it had begun to rain more and we were still chatting about the incredible hospitality and generosity of the people, when all of a sudden a window flew open in a house close to the road and a man leaned out, teapot in hand, yelling "chai, chai!" in an almost aggressive manner. How can we refuse such a enthusiastic offer? Chairs appear and we squeeze in around a tiny table, the man, his friend and us. We try to communicate by all possible means, but finally laughter is by far the most effective, and there is no shortage of it when they hear our attempts at Turkish.
With a friendly "Güle güle" (which more or less translates to: go smiling smiling) we push off again. Our smiles just keep expanding. Soon we see bikes of the Germans parked next to the road, they say hello from the second floor balcony of a large home which we hear later will be demolished to make way for a major road through this valley, such a shame.
We finally reach the top of the hill and head down the other side for a 10 km decent to Devrek where we are immediately greeted by a young man who shows us to a nice place to eat in broken English.
It is quite late by now but we want to move on, the map shows a quiet road about 20 km away which we head for hoping to find a place to stay. Soon enough the Germans appear again and we decide to camp together. The small road turns out to be a dead end according to the locals so we head back to the main road. We spot a nice camping place near the river below and as we roll towards it a goat herder shouts her greetings. Her enthusiasm is incredible as I pass her my "Can I camp on your lawn" note, she opens it but we quickly notice that she can not read at all. She points to her house and indicates sleeping, babbling constantly in Turkish at the same time. I instantly accept and we pedal up to the house, her son reads the note and points to the river bed below. But Mum won't have a bar of it, we must sleep in the house. In a slurry of words she points, yells and somehow indicates that she will milk the cows. I follow close behind, ready to get my hands dirty. She shows me the cherry trees and a mulberry tree, talking nonstop as we go, I respond with "yes, ok, yes, yes, ok, etc" in Turkish, understanding nothing. Again laughter works the best. We return to the work at hand, a screech from her mouth and a sharp blow from the large stone she has just thrown accurately at the cow 15 m away get the beast moving toward the shed. Even the cows know the power of this women and won't mess with her for a moment. More fiery insults maneuver the cows into milking position, a calf suckling at one side, Fatma at the other. Squeeze and pull, squeeze and pull. This send streams of warm milk at high speed into the bucket waiting below. One false move by the cow is met by a slurry of incomprehensible words which the cow sure understands a lot better than I do. I help with the last of the milking before being ushered upstairs for a hearty dinner of beans, chicken, bread, soup and sliced vegetables followed naturally by copious quantities of tea. Her husband and son are almost silent in stark contrast to the incredible power of Fatma. After Tanya has a long chat on the phone with the daughter in law who lives in Germany we are allowed to go to bed.
Laying comfortably under a colourful duvet in total darkness, Olof and I run through the day, trying to absorb everything that has happened is impossible now, our eyes become heavy and we drift off, recharging for another day.