Edirne-Kesan 114 kms
Changing country as often as I have in the last few weeks has meant that my journey has developed new twists and turns across every border. No two countries are the same, but the difference between Turkey and its neighbours to the west is somewhat acute.
In terms of meeting people and experiencing spontaneous hospitality, my first full day in Turkey has seen me drink a dozen glasses of tea at 5 or 6 separate invitations. Bear in mind that I am travelling through a part of Turkey that attracts virtually no tourism,
(the landscape and agriculture have little to offer the tourist) so few people speak any English, and seeing a cyclist wearing brightly coloured lycra means I will not escape their attention. Dozens of truck drivers have hooted and waved; people by the roadside waved and shouted a greeting; whenever I stopped, people would greet me with the only word they knew in English: “welcome”. Quite frankly, I have been touched.
My first refreshment stop was at a village bus station.
Omar was sitting waiting for a bus, and greeted me in English. He is a farmer, with 40 hectares in Turkey and 500 in Romania, growing rice and sunflowers. When I asked how a farmer came to speak good English, he said he had worked amongst tourists on the coast.
At another rest stop, the men were coming out of prayers in the mosque, and Sami
invited me to join him for tea. A trained teacher, he too makes his living from farming, and he gave me my first lesson in Turkish. I now have half a dozen basic phrases, all written down phonetically.
But the most extraordinary invitation to tea came from three men (by the way, it’s always men who will be found sitting around drinking tea, never women…) who pointed to a seat at their table
and ordered several glasses of tea for me. We didn’t have absolutely any language in common, but nobody cared. One asked to become a friend on Facebook, and another was so excited to be photographed with an English cyclist, that he wrote down his address and pleaded that I send him a copy of the photo. All quite extraordinary, really.
When I got to my destination for the day, I asked the first passerby for the Information Office. Well that started a sequence of events….
He took me into the police station (there was no information office because no tourists come to this part of the country) where a young gun-carrying officer guided me to the Mayor’s office (and in both places I had been offered tea!), where I enjoyed the attentions of four members of staff who wanted to help me. All I wanted was a city plan and to be told if there was a campsite (which there wasn’t). But for them, this was a major happening, pointing Kesan towards a future that would see growing waves of tourists coming to the city. (I didn’t want to say that I wanted to stay the night and spend virtually nothing….but I think they could see that anyway).
In the end, I was guided, personally, to a cheap but very comfortable hotel (again, only £12 B&B) including wifi.
After I had had some supper in a little restaurant (where a customer, incidentally, bought me a Turkish coffee) I wandered around the streets and chanced by this mobile exhibition, which turned out to be a collection of memorabilia and photos of the Gallipoli fiasco in WW1
with this visual of the battle formations of both sides, and amongst the showcases of salvaged equipment, I spied several pieces that were clearly British and Commonwealth…
So tomorrow, I will head down to Gallipoli, and I am sure I will be treated to an undiluted Turkish perspective on a campaign that saw the deaths of thousands of British and Commonwealth troops.