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.