Today was a key stage of my journey
I entered my 7th, and final, country on this momentous journey. And the first thing I passed as I crossed the border into Turkey
was an image that reminded me that I was entering an Islamic state. But this is no country of austerity or repression. I had just crossed three E. European countries where poverty, austerity and repression were still evident hangovers from the days of communism. Turkey, on the other hand, has a lively street life. Shops and market stalls are replete with everything you can imagine
and the atmosphere is one that I recognise as a hispanophile….it is a lively, friendly, hustling and bustling Mediterranean environment….and what a contrast to Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria!
No sooner had I checked into a very smart, but cheap pension (only £12 for B&B) I headed out to visit Edirne, a city that bristles with mosques, all of them as big as cathedrals.
I entered the central mosque, shed my footwear, and dared to join the men at their prayer meeting, expecting all the while to be evicted by the lady security guard (yes,all the mosques have female security, interestingly). But no, my presence didn’t seem to raise an eyebrow, and I sat at my leisure and observed the highly ritualized actions and reverences performed by all the men in unison. (The ladies, of course, look on from behind latticed partitions).
Afterwards, I was invited by these four Syrian lads to sit with them (mosques are also informal meeting places where men gather to relax and chat). They were eaten with curiosity about who I was and why I was there. They are all refugees from the civil war, and have fled Syria with their families. Their hope is to get to Scandinavia and find work. Only one of them spoke a little English, but we sat for half an hour making halting conversation. They all have an uphill struggle ahead of them, but they seem to be holding onto the dream.
Fascinating, too, was to watch this man perform his ritual washing at the holy fountain.
Tomorrow, rather than head straight to Istanbul (which is only 240kms to the east), because I have kept to my schedule since leaving Kimbolton, I have some flexibility now to go off at a tangent, and visit Gallipoli and Troy to the south.
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Posted on June 5, 2014, in Kimbolton to Istanbul 4000kms: a crusader's route and tagged adventure, cycling, journeys, travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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