Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turkish Delights

My arrival in Turkey was through a dramatic wintry mountain scene - thick forests of tall spruce and mixed hardwoods, thick wet agglomerated flakes of snow plopping audibly through the canopy of darkness. There's only one road to access the border crossing into Turkey from Bulgaria near the coast, but I walked its 10k length seeing but one car. Eerie solitude. Walking through a border again had its challenges; its not commonly done. A simple visa for 20USD - I'm set for up to 90 days. Another 10 kms or so and I arrived in the first village, quite small, in fact, not even possessing an exchange for Turkish lira. I immediately befriended a few shopowners who spoke some English and German and began my Turkish adventures with a list of useful Turkish words and an idea of how to proceed - no map available in the village but a handdrawn sketch from the fellows and I at least had some guidance on how to get back to the Black Sea. They found me accommodation of sort for the night in a hamlet 10 km further on, lodged with a strange family of woodsmen who live with their mother in two rooms - perhaps the craziest place I've stayed in so far. The eldest of the woodsmen, a tiny hunchback who looks 15 years older than I but who is in reality 5 years younger, was proud of the few words of Russian he was able to communicate to me in, so I had an effective crash course in Turkish. He warned me to stay in the dark forests where the woodsmen roam because the military patrols the road; later, unsurprisingly, the soldiers I met warned me equally to stay on the road to avoid the dangerous woodsmen in the forests. Neither group made me uneasy.

Once I descended from the pass, the snow changed to light rain, which washed the scenery clean. So lush! Tall hardwoods spring from a shag carpet of brilliant green rhododendrion arising from a broad covering of moss; ivy hangs from the trees; cascades and waterfalls abound in a symphony of trickles; and most warmly, dots of magenta and violet flowers glitter in the shadows. Beautiful.

Adding to the warmth of the scene was the welcome I received in the passing villages. It's clear no one's ever seen someone dressed like me before. The most outrageous reception was in the village of Kislecik, 'red tree' in Turkish. As the packed gravel road became the main street of the village, a handful of schoolgirls espied me and unabashedly shouted 'What is your name?' over and over. Out paths converged and the girls gathered around me with excitement. I asked if there were an English teacher and they gleefully led the way up the hill into the two-story brick schoolhouse. By then, all 100 or so kids had come rushing through the entry in a roar, all shouting 'What is your name?'. They were fascinated with my backpack and walking sticks, my clothes and boots - all new to them. The English teacher, a well dressed young man, whisked me into the teachers' lounge for tea and reception. The director of the school was summonsed, the mayor of the village... everyone interested in the stranger who came to their village. I enjoyed the feeling of bringing memorable excitement into their world. Other villages offered me similar reception and the school children, the police, the Jandarma, the old men in the cafes playing card games... everyone seemed genuinely interested in helping me, offering tea without hesitation. People are incredibly friendly, though understandably cautious... from my appearance, I certainly put the 'stange' in 'stranger'. Barriers are broken easily enough. The food is terrific.


Sylvia said...

Ann, Congratulations on your perserverance and fortitude on the trail! I am so glad that you are getting such wonderful hospitality.

Your travel descriptions paint a picture of delightful secnarios. Oh to be a fly on your back pack!


Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

I am one of your regular readers..... just amazed at what you are doing. I have been in Turkey, though not in the 'untravelled' parts you are in. And I instantly know what you mean about the kindness of the Turkish people. I remember a lovely trip I had with two old men on their horse and cart once, when the weather turned bad, and they took me back to where I was staying. We had no spoken language in common except 'thank you', but you don't really need words to understand genuine kindness.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh...what a nice surprise and here we were worried about this part of your journey! I concur with Sylvia...I wanna be the little fly, no the butterfly, on your shoulder!

You are leaving an indelible impression wherever you go, you go peaceful pilgrim.

Had a passionate meetup last night!