Posts tagged Turkey
Posts tagged Turkey
Latest blog post! This time on Turkey, Georgia and their aspirations to become Western-style democracies. And stuff.
The Saint Lawrence river has reached Number 2 on my list of favourite rivers. Ahead of the Rhone (France) and behind the Bosphorus (Istanbul, Turkey). And yes, I have a list of “The bestest rivers in the whole wide woooorld”. Wait, I only said “favourite rivers” the first time didn’t I…
Firstly, I loved the hospitality of the people. Their kindness was never-ending. The willingness to help was always inspiring. At times, I felt hospitality was given so that I could become something they could show to their friends, though this was all part and parcel of the excitement, and I didn’t mind it at all.
I found the lack of English difficult. This almost definitely sounds like a stupid point, but I was in Asia now and, as a result, the language bore no resemblance to my own. Turkish just isn’t a language an English-speaker can second guess. But it isn’t just that the words are different; the way you gesticulate to convey meaning changes with the culture as well. Even miming was hard at times because I used movements that I had assumed universally described a certain thing, and they, quite obviously, did not.
My experience in the big cities in Turkey was strange. At first, they seemed modern, liberal places, with swanky-looking buildings, students milling around constantly, and a free feeling atmosphere. But the more I talked to the people and got a flavour for the culture, the more I realised that deep seeded religious traditionalism reigned supreme. Families were knitted by it, and society ran on its terms. In my opinion, it is Turkey’s geographical location that has been the greatest contributor to this interesting blend of traditionalism within modernity.
One of the huge advantages of the religious traditionalism in Turkey was that its Islamic culture made me fear theft the least of any place I had been to. My things felt so safe, even in the slightly more dodgy parts of the country. I got the impression that murder (with a decent reason) was more acceptable than nicking someone’s game-boy.
I liked the mosques too, and in particular, the prayers being belted out over loudspeakers literally everywhere I went. When I was tired or lonely, I always took a certain comfort from them. They were always around, and kept me company in my times of need. I am not Islamic, but they reminded me that there would be someone who was willing to help if I was in trouble.
Culturally speaking, there were two negatives that really stuck out for me. The first was that male-female relationships (and I’m going to dodge gay relationships completely) appeared to be doomed from the start. And the second was the beeping culture on the roads.
On my first point, I know it looks very cynical, and of course not all relationships are doomed (because if they were, Turkish people would have abruptly stopped existing at some point), but a lot of the time they seem to start with a nasty backdrop of mistrust. Many of the women I spoke to, “didn’t like Turkish men”, citing that they didn’t trust them to be faithful. The Turkish men described the women as “jealous”. Of course, if that is how your girlfriend feels about you all the time, at some point you snap and think, “fuck it, I’ll do what I want seeing as it makes no difference anyway”, then you head off and do just that, and the preconceptions of the men by women is reinforced. It becomes a vicious cycle.
The beeping culture was insane. People were so impatient on the roads, that instead of waiting at stop signs, junctions, even traffic lights in some cases, they would just keep going until they were “beeped” not to. Car-horning was like birdsong – a way of communicating messages. But the most irritating facet of this way of behaving was that it was used to say “I’m coming”/”what are you doing”/”hello”. Now, being on a bicycle, if a vehicle is approaching down my side of the road, they invariably wanted to transmit at least one of those messages. Only to me, they don’t sound like messages. They sound li.., “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK”. For every minute I was on the bike.
People raved about Turkish food, and I am well on board. I really got a taste for Chai and Ayran (this yoghurt drink you have with meals sometimes) and as far as the food goes, I would kill a lamb myself for another Iskender kebab, but the thing I miss the most is Simit (round, seeded bread thingy). It was ludicrously cheap, and so simply delicious. It had been my staple for large parts of the Turkish leg.
Finally, the places. There was incredible history throughout the country and an amazing variety of scenery, climate and nature. I was a little less impressed with the towns themselves. I thought most of the towns outside of Istanbul and Ankara were very samey. The Black Sea coastal region was a little different, but after hearing great things about the cities in the area, I was a little underwhelmed by Samsun and Trabzon. I much preferred the smaller places (e.g. Unye), and Rize was an absolute gem.
Goodbye Turkey. It’s been fun.
The view from just outside the apartment. Kocatepe Mosque.
The more I pedal, the more I find a real artistry to long-distance cycling. True economy is the name of the game, but since that sounds a little bit lame, let me put it like this: being able to retain energy is the best way to bludgeon the road until it gives you hundreds of kilometres. Here are 5 steps to attaining tactical economy. I feel like I should start writing self help.
1. Danger-Tagging: The goal here is to get close enough to the inside edge of the hard shoulder to catch draft from cars and lorries. However, I should point out that the more often you do this, the more likely it is that you will crushed by a possessive truck driver. “It’s MY road”, he would bleet out of his cracked window, before smashing you a bloody paste. It’s just a price you’ve got to be willing to pay. Worth it? Doubtful. But I do it anyway. This game becomes real giggles when you play with combine harvesters; as the back mounted blades add another dimension to, what is frankly, an already suicidal pass-time. If you want downright hilarity, get cosy with the rear end of a running horse/donkey/camel on the hard shoulder. You never know, they might not kick you in the grill.
2. Bend-Squeezing: This is the adoption of a racing line, to the shortest possible distance on winding roads, and thus, getting the most for your effort. It requires bravery when going downhill, and effort when going uphill, so intelligent decisions must be made with regards to bend-squeezing. Intelligent decisions however, are not my strong suit. I have come off twice now in an effort to do this downhill.
3. Tactical-Freewheeling: This is the art of finding road smooth enough, or downhill enough, to retain speed without pedalling. This is especially useful for me because I have a problem. I struggle to multi-task, and, as a result, activities that aren’t cycling, require every connection in my apparently inadequate brain. Most notably, drinking and farting. For some reason, as soon as I drink, my legs stop working. As for farting, I actually have to stand up and cock my leg a little. It’s a real performance, and one that I never missed by other road users. I have been greeted with faces of contempt and disgust too many times to count.
4. Momentum-Retention: Maintaining speed much easier than generating it, so it is important to avoid stopping or slowing excessively whenever possible. On a few Serbian roads, this was difficult to say the least. This ideology involves avoiding anything that might provide some sort of rolling resistance. Speed bumps, debris, mud, uneven road, potholes…..school children…..sometimes.
5. Knowing-when-to-go-to-war: There comes a time when you just have to stop riding like a pansy and really turn the screw like your favourite action hero. Let’s call this what it is: Hollywood riding. You decimate your energy supplies, but sometimes it is beneficial. Keeping speed up on mountains, keeping speed up into wind, keeping speed up to go zoom zoom like a racecar or just because you fucking want to are all good reasons.
I hope this was educational.
Turkish article 3