Why We Love Turkey

Posted by on Sep 9, 2012 in Blog, Turkey | Comments Off on Why We Love Turkey

Dates of travel: 7/28 – 8/18/2012

We absolutely loved cycling through Turkey. It wasn’t because of the weather. The heat was exhausting. It wasn’t because of the road conditions. Actually, the roads were in bad condition with broken shoulders, lots of gravel and steep inclines. It also wasn’t because of the sights. There were great places to see here but we have seen a lot in other countries as well. No, the main reason we loved Turkey so much was because of its PEOPLE.

While cycling through the local villages and smaller towns we were always greeted with big smiles. Men, women the elderly and even the children waved at us and made us feel welcome. This is definitely one of the reasons why we love travelling by bikes. We are able to experience the people how they really are without the influence of too much tourism in their area. We didn’t experience this kindness very much while we were in the tourist areas such as Cappadocia.

The friendly people of Bozkurt
On our way to Pamukkale we needed to find an ATM machine to stop for cash so we could buy groceries. We took a random turn-off from the main road and ended up in the small town of Bozkurt. As we pushed our bikes through the streets everyone came to help us. We were shown to the ATM quickly and since we were hungry we picked a small pizza place to sit down and have lunch. During our lunch several of the locals came to talk to us about our travels including the restaurant owner who was also the pizza chef. We had some delicious flatbread pizza and cool Fantas. We hadn’t eaten out in a while so it was a special treat for us. When we were done eating and wanted to pay, we couldn’t believe it when the owner told us that we shouldn’t worry about it and that it was on the house. We then were also invited by several people to enjoy cay with them but since we needed to get some work done on our laptops we asked where we could find an internet cafe. The son of the restaurant owner was eager to show us the way, so we followed him on his bike to the cafe. When we got there we were immediately served cool lemonades and water, and when we were ready to pay Eric was only charged a minimal fee for a coffee he ordered. As we were leaving the town and waved bye to everyone we were stopped by a police car. Oh, oh, I thought, did we do something wrong? It turned out that the policemen just wanted to know where we were from and if everyone in town treated us well. They were happy when we responded with an enthusiastic nod and wished us safe travels. What a friendly town!

Pizza Chef in Bozkurt

Pizza Chef in Bozkurt


Getting a lift with a truck
After we left Bozkurt, we continued along the main road on our way to Pamukkale. We passed a truck that was parked on the shoulder and when the driver waved to us we waved back. A little later we found that same truck parked on the shoulder in front of us again and the driver signaled us to stop. He didn’t know any English but articulated to us that he could give us a ride. We were only 20km from our destination for the day and I was looking forward to cycling but when I looked at Eric he had those big eyes telling me “I really, really wanna ride in a truck!” So we loaded the bikes in the empty truck bed and climbed with the driver into the front. We found out that the driver’s name was Mehmet and that he was on his way to Ankara. He handed us furry cucumbers and plums to eat. He even offered us that we could go with him all the way to Istanbul and then Ankara. But we had lots of things to see in the area so we thanked him when he dropped us off near Pamukkale. Eric was happy like a little boy. It was one of his childhood dreams to ride in the cab of a big truck, and he finally got to do it.

Friendly truck driver gave us a lift

Friendly truck driver gave us a lift.

 

Invitations for cay tea
On countless occasions we were invited to drink cay tea. In fact, if we had stopped an accepted each offer for sharing some tea we probably wouldn’t have made much progress with our bikes.

We had cay with these local farmers

We had cay with these local farmers.

Dinner and cay with farmers

Dinner and cay with more farmers.

Cucumber Melon and Cay with locals in Hacıbektaş

After having cay these locals wanted us to try cucumber melon. Very refreshing.

Water melon at streetside food stand

We were stopped on our bikes to have some watermelon. When we wanted to purchase tomatoes they insisted that we take them for free.

Lunch with Turkish family

This family invited us to join their lunch picnic. We offered our own food for the picnic but they insisted that we pack it away and just eat theirs.

 

Ramadan at a family’s house.
At the end of a long day of riding our bikes we left the main road to look for a place to camp. We stopped in Gümüşkümbet, the first village we came across, to fill up our water bottles at the community fountain. Right away we were greeted by several men and young children. After we introduced ourselves and told them about our travels we were invited for cay. In addition to the tea we were also offered sweet snacks. We were hesitant about eating in front of everyone considering that during Ramadan most people don’t eat until sunset but we were encouraged with friendly nods. We got to meet four different generations of the family, the father, mother, grandparents, great-grandmother and two daughters. Since they didn’t speak English very well, they called a relative in Germany to do the translation. Over the phone I was asked if we wanted to stay for dinner and spend the night at their place. It was a special evening as it was the last day of Ramadan which was followed by two holidays. Eric and I felt flattered about the invitation and felt that this could be an interesting experience for us. We had a wonderful time with everyone during the “fast-breaking” meal, getting a tour of the town and meeting all the neighbors. It turns out that half the villagers were cousins. One of them spoke English so we were able to share conversations with everyone about our different cultures and viewpoints until late in the night. They explained to us that everyone sees us as Guests of God. It was a truly uplifting experience and has taught us a few lessons about hospitality.

With Turkish family at breakfast

Eric at the breakfast table.


Turkish Breakfast

Turkish Breakfast

With Turkish family

With the family who invited us for dinner and to spend the night.

Needless to say, we were absolutely amazed about Turkish hospitality. We have learned a lot and Eric and I feel deep respect and thankfulness for our hosts. It is our full intention to give back as much as we can.

A couple days later we were able to experience even more hospitality when we were invited to a Turkish wedding. More about that in another blog post.  🙂