We decided to make a quick stop at the carpet / souvenir store prior to taking the bus back to Izmir. We really enjoyed our carpet lesson and felt that Mehmet (2), Ali, and Harry have been very honest so we feel comfortable with making purchases from them. Our brief stop turned into two hours, as Mehmet (the expert salesman) needed to show us all the different options available us. After what Becky felt was a painful negotiating session, Scott was able to get us what seemed to be a good price, with our purchases shipped to Istanbul for us to pick up there. We will mail out our Christmas packages from Istanbul once we complete our shopping.
We decided to ride out to the Otogar in Kusadasi. This decision was based on an assumption that it was only 10-15 km away. The wind was blowing like crazy with gust over 50 km/hr. Mostly it was coming from our rear quarter, but occasionally we would get a cross wind that made it difficult to ride in a straight line. For the first 6 km, we followed a side road (dirt) that was somewhat protected from the wind by tall shrubs. Unfortunately, the side road ended and we needed to get on the main road. The main road was not that smooth – the surface seems to be made of gravel with a bit of tar to hold it together – so our rolling resistance made riding a little more difficult than on smooth asphalt. When we made it to the intersection and needed to turn into the wind, there was a sign indicating that Kusadasi was another 15 km away, and we were riding straight into the wind. It did not take long for us to decide that this was a bad idea, so we headed back to Selcuk to catch the bus from there.
The otogar in Selcuk only had the small Dolmus type buses – minibuses. The moment we arrived on bicycle we had many people surround us to see our bikes, and a couple of touts trying to sell us bus tickets. Once we showed them the bikes it did not take long to determine that they would not fit onto the mini bus. One of the drivers/touts said he could make it fit if we took the wheels off. We decided that rather than disassembling our bikes, it would be easier to call the large bus company and have them pick us up in Ephesus, where we were dropped off on Thursday. So, we headed back to the carpet/souvenir shop, and Mehmet called to make a reservation for us.
Since we had a little bit of time before the bus, and we were getting hungry, Scott went out (with Mehmet) to the Bakery to get some buns and to the market to get some oranges for the trip. Becky was tired from the windy 15 km ride, so she stayed sitting on the couch at the carpet shop relaxing. Scott decided to also get some baklava as a gift for our hosts back in Izmir, which took much longer than expected. Becky started to get nervous about missing the bus, and Scott and Mehmet ran back to the shop with less than 10 minutes before the bus pickup – which was at Ephasus 3 km away, not in Selcuk. So, we quickly said our goodbyes one more time, jumped on our bikes, and raced to the bus stop. At one point, we saw a bus approach, so we changed sides of the highway, so we would be on the correct side to catch the bus. The bus passed – it was a tour bus and not our bus. Scott rode ahead of Becky, and just as he reached the bus stop, the bus approached. Scott flagged the bus down, while Becky was still riding to catch up. The driver wasn’t too happy about loading our bikes, and tried to show Scott that the cargo bay was full, but he just pointed to the other side, and said “no problem”. In fact it was no problem – we’re getting much better at loading the bikes, and the longer, lower profile of the recumbent may even make it a bit easier than a loaded upright bike. We quickly loaded our bikes and hopped onto the bus. Arriving at the bus in the last minute seems to be a theme with our bus rides in Turkey!
We arrived back in Izmir on Saturday afternoon to preparations for a party at Gul and Metin’s place. We also had an invitation to a large home cooked meal at Mehmet’s (1) mother’s place. So, after a brief visit and some chores, we enjoyed a large home cooked dinner. Dinner involved more types of food with names that Becky can’t remember. The meal included a delicious corba (soup), dolma (stuffed green peppers), a spicy beef patty with potato and tomato served with Mehmet’s mothers famous rice, and several “olive oil” dishes. The latter were dishes where similar to some of the side dishes we had at restaurants. They included baked beans and a broad bean paste dish. Dinner was followed by a dessert of baklava and traditional Turkish tea. Since Becky was coughing during dinner – clearly her cold is still hanging on – Mehmet’s mother made her a special cup of herbal tea that helps with colds. It turns out this was the same tea that we served to us in Selcuk – Sage leaves with a squeeze of lemon.
After dinner, we returned to Gul and Metin’s place to a party of work friends from Gul’s hospital. When we arrived, Metin was peppered with questions about our trip. Some of them he answered immediately, and others he asked us to answer. We both felt like our ears were burning several times throughout the evening. We both observed the interactions between people at the party. Becky found herself needed to re-assess the lens in which she saw the different interactions. In Turkey, there is a much higher level of social touch between friends of the same gender. In North America, you would not see male friends put arms around each other on the couch or put a hand on their neighbors knee without it being construed as a sexual advance. Here is it just a sign of friendship and nothing more. It was also interesting to see that the couches were mostly gender-segregated, with women on one couch and men on another.
Sunday there was a celebration in honour of Gul’s birthday. Nine of us packed into two cars and drove 100 km to a restaurant on a hill with an incredible view and a large variety of side dishes – sort of like appetizers that you eat before the main course. The restaurant was called “Kaplan”, or Tiger, and named after the village. It is apparently quite famous, and was at one point named one of Turkey’s top ten restaurants. Some of the dishes we had were similar to the ones we enjoyed at the fish restaurant, but others were a new experience. Our main dish was a “meatball”, which turned out to be a large patty of hamburger and onions. We both enjoyed the flame grilled burger – our first in Turkey. It was interesting to observe how the meal was ordered. A sample tray of side dishes was brought to the table, and various people from the group selected which ones we wanted. Once the selections were made, enough were ordered for the whole table. The main dish and desserts were also ordered for the whole table – so we all ate the same food. In North America, usually food is ordered by each individual with perhaps one or two shared appetizers.
After lunch we went out for a well needed walk. The restaurant was at the end of the driveable part of a road – the road continued but was not really passable by car. We walked along the road into the woods. We both found it reminiscent of our Thanksgiving walks in Canada, with the ground littered with fall leaves and the trees full of yellow leaves. We knew we were not at home when we could see groves of olive trees bursting with ripe black olives.
Most of the people at lunch were also cyclists, so it was interesting to discuss our trip, and compare notes with them on their travels within Turkey. They’re all interested in long distance touring to various degrees, so hopefully we’ve inspired a few more people. We left behind our Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook (http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Cycle-Touring-Handbook-Worldwide-Planning/dp/1873756895) and Silk Roads guide (http://www.amazon.com/Silk-Roads-2nd-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan/dp/1905864000). Scott has carried both since disembarking from MSC Alessia in Italy because he couldn’t bear to just abandon them somewhere, so he’s glad to leave them in a good home.
Neither of us are feeling 100% well and we are wondering if we ate something in Selcuk that affected our stomachs. Scott’s stomach started feeling iffy as we were leaving Selcuk, and Becky started to feel crampy and queasy after dinner on Saturday night, which unfortunately hampered her enjoyment of Sunday’s lunch. We had thought we might go spend a couple of days at the Iluca hotel enjoying the thermal baths and trying to kick Becky’s cold once and for all, but everyone said to us – why do you want to stay in a hotel? You can stay here! We do not want to impose on Gul and Metin for too long – they are such gracious hosts. That being said, with stomach uncertainties, an hour bus ride and soaking in public pools does not make the best plan, so for at least a day or two, we will stay here, relaxing while Gul and Metin go to work during the day. And we will try to ensure they are not worrying over us or feeling that we need to be entertained.
After a relaxing day of Internet and reading in the apartment on Monday, we decided that if we stayed in Izmir too much longer, we would both end up in sour moods and start to get depressed. We really need to get back to living our nomadic lifestyle, so we planned to head out to Istanbul on Tuesday morning. Not long after making the decision, we received an email from Mehmet (1) that he had a job interview in Istanbul on Wednesday, so he too needed to go to Istanbul on Tuesday. So, we again are travelling with the assistance of our friends from Izmir. It has been nice to not have to worry about how we will get to where we need to be, but we are also feeling that the challenge has been taken out of the experience – things have been too easy with friends to help. So, at least a part of us is looking forward to being on our own and working through the challenges of meeting our basic needs in a foreign country again.
In the afternoon, we went for a short walk over to the grocery store to pick up some fruit and snacks. We had noticed in the morning that Gul and Metin were out of dishwasher soap, so we bought a box of what we thought was dishwasher soap. It had a picture of clean dishes on the box! It turns out what we bought was salt that is used to soften the dishwasher water. This caused quite a few giggles when Gul got home.
Note on names:
Mehmet (1) is the Mehmet we met through warm showers, who has been an excellent tour guide and host in Izmir, and will be going to Istanbul with us.
Mehmet (2) is the brother of Ali and a host at the ANZ guesthouse and salesman at the carpet and souvenir shops.