Find it very difficult to motivate myself to get moving in the morning. Got diary completely up to date, transferred some to the computer and FB then finally my stomach made me get up and go find some brunch. Rode into town and bought some burek. Sat by a park outside a mosque, eating the savoury pastry and people watching – when, before I know it, it’s midday! Stop once more before I’m out of town to have çay and say hello to two women who invite me to sit at their table. We converse as well as we can, but the language barrier is hard to overcome. I’m always surprised by how much we do seem to comprehend. I’m still in no hurry. I’m aware that as long as I get 25miles under my belt I will reach Istanbul by the 21st, which is a full week earlier than I had given myself.
The road I am on is small, and potholed and passes through villages and agricultural undertakings. This land is fertile and I see huge cabbages, chilli peppers, beans growing and fields where sunflowers have been harvested.
I pass through two villages where everyone seems to be celebrating weddings. In the first the drummers are just leaving. The women are eating icecream altogether (with the children running around) and the men are sitting separately with their glasses of çay. Two guys walk past absolutely plastered in mud. I’m not sure that THAT was about – but they looked happy. In the next village, the drummers are still drumming and the men are dancing – with people still turning up to the celebration.
A man sat outside a shop waves at me to stop and have some çay. Any excuse is good, but I wish I spoke more Turkish! I ask him his name but it takes me a few minutes to realise he’s given me the name of the village! (Çardik).
Nowhere on my route today is big enough to have a hotel, or even a pensiyon, so I am going to be totally brazen and test the Muslim hospitality. The biggest name on my map is Toprakocak – so this is where I decide to stop for the night. All I want (need) is somewhere sheltered to put my sleeping bag.
When I reach the village, I stop in one of one of those places where the men gather for çay and games (the place with the flag and a picture of Ataturk hanging outside) to ask where there is a place to stay. I cause a minor furore. NOone speaks English but I have my ‘point it’ book. I try and explain that it’s too far to cycle to a big town (and the wrong direction). I get out my knitting and sit and wait to see what will happen.
Children gather around – quite a large group – to practise their “What is your name?” and their knowledge of English numbers “onetwothreefourfivesix...” The teacher and his wife stop by and give me a bunch of grapes.
A 21year old girl does really well at questioning me and they are fascinated by my photographs – but she and the children are eventually dispersed and sent home by the men.
I am aware that I am being discussed and am given copious amounts of çay and even food (though I have some in my bag). I offer money in return but it is refused. Finally a man called Benim Ismim Yucef is given the responsibility of sorting me out and uses his phone to translate (no wifi around here). He asks me what my request for the night is. I explain I just want somewhere sheltered to put my sleeping bag. He asks me if the mosque (across the road) will be OK. I reply absolutely, yes indeed. “OK”, he says – using the phone – “make yourself relaxed until 9pm” – it’s now 7pm. Plenty of time to drink çay, blog and knit. My favourite question via the phone: “Is your hungry belly full?”. I think they’ll be pleased to be rid of me, but are all very curious.
At only half past 8 I am summonsed to follow the three men – including Benim – across the road and into the mosque. It is fairly plain by some mosque standards, with painted Arabic inscriptions on the wall rather than tiles – but the interior has a deep pile red patterned carpet over all the floors. I remove my shoes at the door and am shown there is a shelf to put them on, inside the door.
Benim waves in the general direction of the main room – I can sleep anywhere and be safe. Another man shows me the light switches. I ask where there are washing facilities and am shown a separate room outside with stools and taps. The WC is back across the road, below the tea rooms.
It’s very comfortable, even though my inflatable mat has a tiny leak, and I sleep well.
A newly retired Terri following her heart into a world of woolly creativity. Live the dream