Bursa 0kms!

The first day in over 5 weeks that I did not climb on the bike…..how strange…. In fact, I climbed on a bus to go the very hilly 5kms into town….again, very strange.

Everywhere I go, I feel people watching me. They obviously think I’m a foreigner….I’ve no idea why…the way I dress perhaps? People simply come up to me to try out their bit of English….and it’s usually the same 4 or 5 questions….you know, the ones they always test in an oral exam (I’m an ex-language teacher, so I know all about these things).
In my first few days in Turkey, I got the impression everybody had a fixation about age. Everybody was asking “How old you are?”. Then would come “Where you from?” and “What your name?”. And that’s when most of them are done….there’s nothing more to explore. One guy, who spoke a little more English, told me that Turkish men of my age just sit down and drink tea all day….and sometimes they play backgammon (or what I call sitting in the waiting room for the hearse to arrive).
Turkish people simply do not ride bikes….for any reason. Until yesterday, I don’t recall seeing a single Turkish person on a bike….but then I met this young man, who had dropped by the service station to fill his water bottles


…on his very first cycle tour, but sadly going in the opposite direction, with his two mates across the road


…and he was excited about it. It was great to see. But where did he and his mates get the idea from? For sure, there are no role models in Turkey.
My first visit today in Bursa was to the Yesil (Green) Mosque and tomb


…and my self-absorption was interrupted by a Turkish Kurd called Yunus


…no ordinary chap this….he is an expert tile restorer, and had been commissioned to repair the damage of centuries of wear and tear to the mosque interior. For half an hour, I had my own personal guide, rounded off with a glass of tea in his studio.
Later in the day, when I eventually found Ataturk’s residence in Bursa, the warden gave me a tour of the house, showed me old photos of the great man


…then took me out to the garden for ……yep, you’ve guessed…..another glass of tea


…his name was Cetin, another Turkish Kurd, and I noticed he had a little leather-bound volume in his hand. I asked him if it was a copy of the Koran, he said yes and opened it to show me. Of course, I expected it to be written in Turkish….but no, it was in Arabic, and he proceeded to chant a whole page for me


following the script, from right to left, with his finger. I was quite moved by his spontaneous sincerity….and afterwards, he told me the Koran was like a brother to him.
When I entered the Grand Mosque, I found this little boy pure entertainment.


First he played the muezzin, standing in the mirhab, chanting the prayers…until security chased him. A while later, he joined the men doing their ritual ablutions


…and again, security chased him away until his mother caught up with him. I loved it.
But outside, I discovered a number of children engaged in a novel way of begging (and they weren’t really poor…they just wanted money for sweets)


….they tied string across the walkway, like a trip wire, in the hope you would give them a few coins so as not to trip you up.


And amazingly, I saw people giving them money.

On the way back to my hotel, I looked in on a Turkish Bath, looked down on the swimming pool and spied a young mother in full burka,


only her eyes visible, watching her children playing in the pool. As a non-Muslim, and a foreigner, I failed to understand that situation.
But then there is much about the Turkish way of life that I have yet to understand.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on June 12, 2014, in Kimbolton to Istanbul 4000kms: a crusader's route and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Rest day! Careful you don’t seize up!!

  2. Probably the Lycra! By the way, the early morning call to prayer is one of the most distinctive memories of Turkey that I have. On my first arrival several years ago, we got to the villa about 4am. While sitting on the balcony drinking an Efes beer, the sky started to lighten. And then the sound of the call to prayer started. The muezzin in Dalyan that morning had a particularly fine singing voice. And I was captivated. A few years later, in Istanbul, I was fascinated by the calls to prayer at different mosques around the city all starting a few seconds apart. And finally, greetings from Santo Domingo de la Calzada, en route on my bike to Compostela!

    • Great to hear from you Andrew….if my memory serves me well (from 20 yrs ago) Santo Domingo is the place of the legendary cockerell/hen?
      When I did the Camino 2 yrs ago, I took the North coast route.
      And your memories of the call to prayer in Istanbul are a good reflection of my experiences.
      May the wind be ever at your back.

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