Monday, January 13, 2014

Turkey - Inquisitive and Friendly

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Click here for the Introduction.

Loud speakers on mosque blare muslim call to prayer.
Photo credit: Islamization Watch
Friday, November 4

The sunrise call-to-prayer wails out of loudspeakers at 6 a.m. awakening us from a peaceful sleep. The pansiyon was quiet and comfortable, but Andy and I get up, anxious to walk around Cesme. We eat the last of our food cache – American style cereal – and pay for another night's lodging.

Cesme is a fine introduction to Turkey. It's a tourist region; proprietors speak English. Andy and I wanted to visit Turkey because of it's eastern influence, archeological sites, Istanbul sounds like an exotic city, and because, frankly, we loved the name. However we didn't have an itinerary. We inquire at the tourist office and are rewarded with a wealth of information. Next errand: withdraw 3,000,000 lira (95.00 USD) at a bank. Andy and I chuckle at the huge number – 1 million of any currency sounds extreme – but again we are advised to exchange as little as possible. With 100% annual inflation – not good for the local economy – but our dollars should go far.

Turkey is a vast country. After talking with an American couple that spent 3 weeks bike touring western Turkey, we compare ferry rides; they offer suggestions, notes on culture, etc., and confirm that travel is inexpensive. They also reconfirm recent campground closures, but highly suggest pansiyons or bungalows.

Andy and I decide to spend our three weeks heading southward. We understand that Greek and Roman antiquities are better preserved this side of the Aegean.  

We are pedaling western Turkey, south of Izmir. Photo credit: Free World Maps
50 miles - Saturday, November 5

Andy and I get up early and eat cold breakfast: fruit, yogurt, bread, washed down with camp stove -cooked coffee. We leave Cesme a little after 8 a.m., excited and well rested after two days off the bikes. The town is waking up, though slower than on a weekday.

As we roll through town, men stare at us in disbelief. We presume that riding a bicycle is not common, probably less so because we're foreigners. It goes both ways. Turkey was the first country where Andy and I wanted to be better prepared. Filthy Greek campgrounds and ill will towards the Turkish people soured our Grecian travel, propelling us eastward to Turkey. Perhaps that's why it took us longer to acclimatize in Cesme. We needed a safe and interesting route, local currency, lodging, and where to buy food, all details we wanted sorted out beforehand. On the other hand, we remind ourselves that we bike tour to explore and one shouldn't get overly hung up on logistics.

Curious Turkish children.
Photo credit: flickriver
A strong wind buffets our loaded bikes. It's tough, whipping from the side, then a stiff headwind. It's easily 15-25 m.p.h. Outside of Cesme the road is far from pleasant: narrow, without shoulders, rough, with moderate traffic, zipping to and from Izmir. I'm scared, fighting tears, trying to hold a straight line as the tempest shudders, flapping the drying laundry secured to our panniers. I have mixed feelings. People wave from their automobiles, from houses along the route, especially children, yet truck traffic regularly blows us onto sandy shoulders. By 2:30 we are still on the same tack, struggling, frustrated, and tired. I haven't uttered a word in two hours.

Amidst the long tedious miles we take a break from the relentless wind. We crouch in front of a Mosque against a waist-high stone wall, eating lunch, drinking bottled water (suggested by tourist office, though tap water is safe, but smells funny) finally sheltered from whirling dust. Two young boys come by, bend over with hands beneath their chins, grinning wide-eyed and innocently at us, speaking Turkish. I respond, “Merhaba,” which means “hello”, the only Turkish word I know. I smile. The boys hang out for bit, inquisitive, then wave and are gone.

And then, we turn off the main highway. A simple 90 degree turn toward Ephesus and the wind is at our back. Exhaustion turns to exhilaration. We sail up and down dry hills, without a care. Laughing. 21 kilometers to Seferihisar fly by. A guy on a moped slows down and strikes up a conversation in English. He's an example of a handsome, black-haired and dark-eyed, lean Turkish man. We pullover and talk, avoiding the hazard of conversing at our new “fast pace”. He hopes we can provide him with a pen pal; he's 19 years old and studying English in school. We take down his name and address, delighted by his friendliness, and press on.

Sigacik, small fishing village near Seferihasir. Photo credit: Wikipedia
By 5:15 p.m. we roll into a tiny fishing village and take a 250,000 lira (7.50 USD) offer of a room in a pansiyon. Once again it's bliss to sleep in a bed. We squeeze our wide loads into a hallway and surprisingly past another mountain bike with panniers. Another bike tourist!

In the room, I hear the wind howling outside. Andy is bathing in the now familiar shower-over-toilet arrangement, common to this part of the world. It saves on having a separate shower stall. Best to lower seat and lid, otherwise seat becomes a wet mess. Later, we relax, rehash the day, pour over maps, hoping the roads are less intense the further we retreat from Izmir, 3rd largest city in Turkey.


  1. Very cool post. The toilet/shower is fascinating! Having just installed a second half-bath in a new/old house, I wish I’d heard of that!

    Thanks Annie!

    1. The room is usually small, without a window, and tiles cover ceilings, walls and floor so water doesn't permeate or create mildew. The shower head could be fixed to ceiling or be a handheld version affixed to wall. It makes total sense, with a drain in the center of floor. It bypasses having a shower stall and/or curtain or door.


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