Thunder plagued campsite from my anachronous post previous:
I left late, sleeping heavy. I did catch some more balloons in the morning, before crashing again for four more hours:
It was already hot, but I stopped to use some internet, popped into Avanos 8 kilometers up the road, then had to tweak some stuff on the bike, which seemed to want to disintegrate after a couple days of disuse- one of my brakes had gotten loose, my front tire needed air, and all my stuff was in disarray because I brought a single pannier with me to Konya and threw off my organization. By the time I left it must have been near noon. It was hot. I was tired. The land was more of these rolling hills through open plains that make me crave the mountains and the trees.
I hit Kayseri, a monstrous stretch of condominiums along the base of Mt. Nagthi. I also ate very little all day, having stuffed myself the night before. By the end of the day I had somehow done 100 kilometers, finding myself outside of the last settlements of that ugly sprawl toward evening, positively sick with ketosis. I stopped in at a restaurant, unable to continue. I rolled up to the family trying to get a squirrel out of a tree. I watched the festivities for a moment and then ordered a pide, which is basically a Turkish pizza. I ordered in Turkish, of course, because they didn’t speak English, and a man at another table remarked,
“You speak Turkish well!”
“I said, you speak Turkish well,”
“Your Turkish, it is good!”
“Oh, no, no Turkish!” (Didn’t know how to say “bad,” or “not very well”).
From there, my practice came on hard. The whole family sat down and pummelled me with questions I didn’t understand, but thankfully one of the young sons was learning English in school, so at least I knew what was asked. Turkish is a fairly simple language, but the sounds are so foreign that it is difficult to remember. I am learning far more than I expected to, because I need it!
I ate a delicious and enormous pide, a salad, and tea for three euros and chatted for a while. I asked, as I was leaving, if it was okay if I camp anywhere in the fields behind, and they said no, but I can camp behind the restaurant, which I gladly accepted! Thy told me to sit and relax, no hurry now. Three fellows came in for dinner and started asking me the same questions which were answered by my host, thereby saving me a lot of time and effort. I was invited over to their table and after some talk over Google Translate a young man comes over and sits with us who speaks fluent English. Two questions we were having trouble with were these: Do you have a job? Why are you doing this trip? and last but not least, Do you like Erdogan?
The first was challenging, I had to think about it. Why am I doing this? To learn about myself? To see the world? To get out of my country so that I can see it from a global perspective? I threw out these and this seemed to satisfy everybody.
The second I was able to explain, with the help of my interpreter- what I did before and that I had quit.
None of these guys seemed to realize how much stronger the dollar was than the Turkish Lira, and I ended up explaining that it is very cheap for me here. This was amusing to explain, as I had just displayed my miserliness to these guys when they suggested I stay at the hotel in their town which was nearby, ONLY 20 kilometers away! That was too far in my condition, but a shower sounded nice. I asked if they were offering themselves, if it was free. The lead man smiled like I was being cheap (I was, I am, always!) and said they’d pay for the room, which was generous, but I insisted that I was happy with my tent and that I didn’t want to spend their money. I thought one of them ran a hotel or something, but they were initially suggesting I ride another 20k to PAY for a hotel! Ha! Of course they assumed, for some reason, that a guy who rode his bike from Portugal to the middle of Turkey was accustomed to living luxuriously, or that one needed a shower every few days. Pshaw- that would indeed be an expensive trip.
The third question surprised me. They asked if I knew who Erdogan was, which I did, he is the President of Turkey, and as I understand it is holding elections early because he looks good in the polls. There are vans blaring campaign songs all over Turkey, banners, flags, and posters hanging from buildings left and right. Other than one huge banner of Erdogan I saw in rural Turkey, I was under the impression that no one liked him. I have also been hanging out with a Turk who describes the government as a mafia and an Iranian girl who is in no way uncertain in her estimation of Erdogan. We even joked about a picture of him we saw for sale in Konya, expressing our surprise that anyone would be interested in buying it. So… when he asked me if I liked Erdogan I shook my head “no.” He asked why not, and I said I hadn’t heard good things about him. I should have professed ignorance, which is true, my impression of him was at this point entirely based on hearsay. His response? “I would die for him. These two as well.” Ooh. Not expecting that.
I look at my interpreter, who is studying medicine, and he said, “I don’t understand these guys at all. I don’t like Erdogan either.” Time to backpedal a little. I said I don’t like Trump either. They ask if I liked Obama. “No.” George W Bush? “No!” This made them laugh. I explained that I don’t really like governments at all, people are mostly good, but governments are mostly bad. It is sad that it is not more common to be openly dissatisfied with the status quo. I would never die for my government. I would die to protect my beliefs and the people I love, but I believe that there is- and in this wonderfully modern age- should be a chasm between an individual man and the motives of his government. Individuals think for themselves, and are therefore too informed and opinionated to be led like a herd of chattel. Instead they trust in their own experience and are naturally critical of leadership that is deceptive and ineffectual, suspicious of those who seek power, because those who usually do are almost never qualified to shoulder the responsibility power requires or even understand the nature of their strange ambition. Unfortunately, the world is short on individuals.
Anyhoo, they weren’t so warm after that. They asked me if I liked Turkey and Turkish people. I said I love Turkey and its people, that I plan to come back to see more! They asked why Americans don’t often visit Turkey and what they would think if they visited.
I said that they didn’t travel here because they tend to believe the news and are trained to think travel is difficult, dangerous, and expensive.
As for Turkey, it is an amazing country, I have fallen in love with it. I think there is something for everyone here, it is huge! It is also a particularly special place for Christians. There is magic in Goreme. Mary is supposedly from Cappadocia, the house where she died is in Izmir. Abraham’s tomb is allegedly here. Noah’s Ark supposedly landed on Mt. Ararat. Christian kings are buried in the hills, Istanbul was Constantinople! Anyone interested in history, archeology, beautiful beaches, forests and mountains, rich culture or delicious food would love it here. Yeah. Come to Turkey.
Interesting conversations. Now I am here, 60 kilometers outside of Sivas, with eyes on Trabzon and the Sumela Monastery, already casting an eye to Georgia…
A long day, more flat plains and farmland. My shorts are shredded, and in a garbage can somewhere now. In Sivas I found a mall, which had a tiny storefront but opened down and out into a huge complex of discounted household items. I looked at the shorts, which were all tiny- here only children wear shorts. I picked up what I call “Muslim shorts,” for those racy liberals to wear.
I also decided to trim my beard, which I haven’t cut all year until now. It doesn’t grow well on the cheeks, and I have been asked if I am Muslim three times this week. Now riding in full linen, I figured I could go a bit more modern on my face.
Found a nice campsite by a river too.
A long day. I have been destroying myself on the road, trying to knock down a hundred kilometers a day even though it is getting hilly. I am feeling weak, actually. I was thinking about how weak I am, how my friend Justin would probably be sprinting up these little hills, when I pop up through a little mountain pass- I just climbed 800 meters, that explains it… This was followed by the most terrifying descent thus far. I weaved all over the road as I hammered my breaks: the traffic be damned, the road was far more likely to kill me. In horrible disrepair, with potholes and strange lumped up bits of asphalt, patches of gravel and abrupt lips, the road was waiting to caress me like a cheese grater and knock out my front teeth. The light was low due to the clouds and the road wound down in steep, tight switchbacks. I found a collision far preferable to sliding out. I made it though. I descended for a long time. It was getting late and rain threatened. I was hankering for some hot food and on the lookout for a place to camp, but things didn’t look too promising.
I stopped at the bottom of a hill to check the map and a man rolled up in a car and we began the old rigmarole, but in English! This fellow, Cemmalettin (Jamaleddin) is headed to New York in a couple months and his English is not half bad. He ends up inviting me to his village, insisting that I be a guest at his house, and I gladly accept! He waits for me as I struggle up the hill against the wind and leads me all the way to his beautiful house by a lake in the village of Kayi Köyü, where the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim- the last Prime Minister Turkey may see- lives when he is not in Istanbul! His family sits me down next to some gentlemen who are already lounging around the outside table. One is a friend of the family’s, the other is this Cemmalettin’s brother. The third is the Prime Minister’s brother. I compliment my host on his home, which is huge, and come to find that one floor is for his family, another for his brothers, and a third for his sister, (or sister-in-law, I can’t recall) which is not uncommon, particularly for summer houses, which this is. Soon a massive plate of food is brought out to me, with a side of yogurt, a sweet soup, some homemade cherry juice, and a plate of homemade dolmas that pack a spicy punch! Everyone else has eaten already, so I dig in as everyone chats amiably in Turkish. Cemmalettin is on vacation, for Ramadan ended three days prior and he has the month off. They ask my religion, which is a complicated question for me, and I end up being invited to pray at the mosque, which makes me nervous! Most of my conversation is being translated through two girls about my age, my host’s daughter, Ayeshanet and another relative, Zeynet, who was so nervous to use her English that her hands were shaking, poor thing! I was very grateful for their presence. So, we drink some tea, and then Cemmalettin offers me his phone and I call my mother, which was nice. I soon have to go though, as he implores me to hop on my bike, it is time to go. He has a bike too, and together we ride to the mosque. I was hoping this was a joke, but here we go… It turns out I do not have to pray, he only intends to show me how Muslims pray, and I am very grateful for the experience! One must wash hands, feet and face before praying. He does this, and then leads me into the mosque, having removed our shoes. He sits me down under a beautiful tiled half-dome, and I assume a lotus-like posture. He begins to pray. Muttering his prayers, he stands with his hands at either side of his head, kneels down and touches his head to the floor twice. This is repeated several times, and I am struck by the reverence of the act and the atmosphere of this empty mosque. After some time he pulls out some prayer beads and continues on his knees. I watch him some, close my eyes some, quite in tune with the energy of the prayer, I can feel it. He finishes, and bids me stand. There is a clock on the wall, digital, which informs the reader at what times prayers are to be performed. Muslims must pray 5 times a day, and the clock declares when, based on location. Cemmalettin is a bit late, which is no problem, as long as he prays before the next allotted time, which is in an hour and a half (This is why we are alone, otherwise there is a small congregation of devotees).
The big brown house is the Prime Minister’s.
After this we return and chat late into the night. When I am ready, he and his entire family walk me over to his father’s apartment, which is vacant at the moment. So I have the place to myself! They bid me goodnight and he tells me to return to his house in the morning for breakfast. What a host! I take a shower and snuggle into a nice warm bed. In the morning I am treated to an excellent Turkish breakfast and, after some conversation and exchanging of information, I am on my way again, clean and with a full belly. May Allah bless your house, Cemmalettin.