Çay and Empty Spaces

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Loading the bike and starting the ride again after a break is always hard. It was hard after a one day break in Jajce, Bosnia (and how much time has passed since then) and it was even harder after an almost two weeks break in Istanbul. A break spent meeting new and old friends, watching movies, planning the Turkey route and speaking with other cyclists. I can easily say they were the most sociable two weeks of the trip so far. And, as much as I was looking forwards to riding again, I still found it hard to leave Istanbul. So hard I almost missed the ferry that brought me to Yalova, on the other side of the sea of Marmara.

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The first night it was quite a pleasure to pitch the tent on the garden of a family who owned a restaurant; a rich dinner and an even richer breakfast were offered to me. And I was given a whole bag of fruits, who turned out to be truly delicious, a welcome change to my food routine of rice, cheese sandwiches, jam and chocolate. The day after I’ve spent the night in the small house close to the mosque of Bayat Köyü, a 700 people village, where I’ve been informed I was the first tourist since last August, an event that had to be celebrated in one of the two men-only populated cafes in the village, drinking too many cups of çay.

And there I found a further confirmation of what I already knew: no one speaks english outside of the big cities; the only way I have to communicate is my small turkish phrasebook and my close to zero knowledge of turkish (but I am doing small progresses on that. One evening I managed to explain to a particularly surprised turkish man that I never did the military service. He just couldn’t believe it and tought I didn’t understand him, until I tried to explain that in Italy you can decide to do the military service or not. He was satisfied by the fact we managed to communicate, but still very surprised by the news).

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Also the landscape changed a lot, I have found mountains again, villages are getting more and more sparse and empty spaces are becoming a quite familiar sight. In more than an occasion hours have passed without crossing a proper villages, so, now, when I stop, I always ask where is the next village or the next service station, to avoid getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. This hasn’t happened yet, also because there are a lot of service station, often with a small cafe, where men silently sip their çay, looking at the snowy mountains outside and enjoying the sound of the spoon hitting the cup, produced while mixing the small cube of sugar inside the tea (I’m starting to think that the great passion of turkish people for çay is partially due to this sound and the movement that produces it).

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Luckily the weather hasn’t been an issue yet, it has always been quite warm, especially if compared to other years (I’ve read of cyclists who arrived in Ankara in January in the previous years and found a lot of snow and minus temperatures on their way. When I arrived in Ankara it was sunny and the temperature was +10 degrees), the only problem having been some rain, especially at night. But I have been lucky enough to find almost always a protected area where to put my tent, experiencing the joy of hearing the sound of the rain outside without having to worry about it. The last night before arriving in Ankara I found a small restaurant close to Ayaş with a perfect and protected place where I could have put my tent. Asking for permission it turned out that the owner spoke a perfect German, having studied in Hamburg and I was soon invited for dinner (it was the first time in a week in which I managed to communicate properly with someone). I joined a table where two men and two old and veiled women were starting to have dinner, the two men also drinking raki, an alcoholic drink tasting like Ouzo, which they shared with me. Soon a young (and unveiled) woman joined us, with a big cup of coffee, loudly saying how warm that coffee was. The owner explained to me in German that she was actually drinking beer, but pretended it to be coffee in order to be respectful of the two old women.

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And now a break again. This time a forced break, in Ankara, as I am trying to collect some visas. I should be ready to leave again at the beginning of next week, headed, if the weather keeps assisting me, towards Cappadocia and Kurdistan.

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3 thoughts on “Çay and Empty Spaces

  1. Francesco that trip is absolutely amazing. I hope the very best for you in that adventure. We met in Loughborough and the next notice i had about you is that…

  2. Ciao Francesco, abbiamo pranzato ieri con tua madre che ci ha aggiornati sui tuoi incontri con nuovi posti e paesaggi e soprattutto con tante persone curiose e disponibili; i tuoi racconti ci danno l’idea che il tuo viaggio è meno solitario di quanto pensavamo … e al momento le avversità ambientali sembrano essere di poco conto rispetto ai piaceri! Abbiamo cercato di placare le comprensibili preoccupazioni di una mamma.
    Quindi avanti così! Ti auguriamo buon proseguimento!
    Luisa e Horst

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