(Our version of) Turkish Hospitality

11 04 2013

Jimi  and I spent hours deliberating about what to write in the blog and which bits of our Turkish life we could share. However Jimi’s mum has kindly solved our dilemma by writing this brilliant article, not for us, but for one of the Turkish national daily’s;  Today’s Zaman. We are posting her article as it has everything we wanted to say, but better she is with the English (what’s a noun again?). We will update again soon but for now this will more than suffice. Enjoy.

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7 April 2013 /ALISON KENNY, Antalya
There’s a lot of chattering in my house at the moment and, although it’s all in my native tongue, I can barely understand a word.

I catch snippets of conversation emanating from serious-looking individuals, heads bowed intently over their work, bizarre-looking tools in hand. Sometimes similar sounds waft in my direction from the same somber heads, this time riveted to laptop screens or poring over maps and guidebooks. The conversations go something like this:

James: “Twenty-eight-inch wheels? But surely you can’t get any replacements for these over here?”

Alex: “Ah, maybe, but they roll for longer.”

James: “I thought all Thorns came with Rohloff hubs?”

Rose: “Only as an extra.”

Around the world on two wheels

And so on. It’s like a whole new language or a whole new world, and one that I will clearly never belong to, nor, to be truthful, do I wish to. These are the words of a new breed of travelers known as “cycle tourists.” Until two of my children became suddenly and inexplicable obsessed with bikes — as children they had never shown more than a passing interest in their childhood bicycles — I had absolutely no idea just how many people were prepared to set off around the world on two wheels. I can fully understand the wish to travel to foreign parts and even the pleasure of being in the open air, but am still struggling to understand the attraction of pedaling uphill on a bike loaded with all your worldly goods, including the kitchen sink, with nothing but a bleak night in a tent to look forward to.

I also had no idea of just how many of these tourists pass through Antalya. It was, of course, no surprise when my son, his girlfriend and my eldest daughter turned up last October, all looking suitably sunburned and ridiculously fit after their 5,500 kilometer trip from the UK. They had warned me about their imminent arrival and, though I managed to be absent for the event, I have had plenty of time since then to hear all the gritty details of life on the road. For my daughter, the three months in the saddle were perhaps enough to abandon her bike in Antalya and hop on a plane to İstanbul to seek her fortune, or perhaps just to enjoy the comforts and contrast available in a big city. The other two have equally happily swapped their specially padded and balanced bike seats for the rather softer options of beds and our sofas for the winter months. They are now, however, beginning to get itchy pedal feet and busy plotting the next part of their round the world cycle tour.

 

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Wild camps and warm showers

Like all moms, I like to think that my children are unique. But when it comes to cycle touring, quite clearly they are not — far from it. I now know from personal experience that there are many people from all parts of the globe who pack up their belongings into a few saddlebags (or is that panniers?) and set off around the world — because I’ve actually hosted them in my house.

Although operating on a tight budget and therefore camping (preferably “wild”) most nights, living off semi-cooked lentils and pasta, all the while huddled in four-season sleeping bags and watching out for rabid dogs, they occasionally need respite from their self-induced life of hardship. This is where we come in. My son and his girlfriend (James and Rose) cleverly joined the website, appropriately named, Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org) before leaving the safety of their home in Manchester. Unlike its “rival” website, http://www.couchsurfing.com, Warm Showers is specifically aimed at those who understand bicycle banter and the needs of those who have traveled long distances in the saddle. Joining this website entitles the members to turn up and stay at the homes of other participants. Obviously, the deal involves the use of a bed (or sofa), preferably the chance for a hot wash and, if possible, the use of a washing machine rather than a quick rinse in a passing stream. During their time in Manchester, James and Rose hosted a couple of Koreans, a pair of Australians and a solitary Frenchman. In Manchester, they were able to treat these foreign guests to the delights of warm beer in British pubs, over-sized portions of greasy fish and chips and a guided tour round Manchester United’s football ground. What more could any self-respecting traveler hope for?

With Joo and Soo

Turkish hospitality

During their journey here, they also made use of a few warm shower hosts en route in several European countries, interspersed between the many nights spent under canvas. When they reached Turkey, however, they found very little use for either tents or warm shower hospitality. For the majority of their nights, they were offered shelter and often food by locals in villages they passed through, such being the nature of Turks, particularly those living away from large towns. With their limited knowledge of Turkish, this gave a great opportunity to learn first-hand about the culture of this most hospitable of countries.

hamza hospitality

 

However, when they reached Antalya and had recovered sufficiently from their trip, they realized that although they might not be “on the road” they still had a burning desire to communicate in their newfound language — the arcane lingo of bicycle banter. Initially, they tried with us and a few of our cronies to inspire an interest in their stories, but nobody could make head or tail of their conversation. So they logged on to the Warm Showers website, updated their status to “living in Antalya,” and, within a few days, requests from itinerant cyclists began trickling in. Fortunately, it’s perfectly acceptable for participants to turn down a request if it’s inconvenient, so there’s no obligation to put up those three Finnish cycle fiends when half your relatives from the UK have just turned up for their annual holiday in the sun.

A different breed of traveler

We have, however, successfully hosted several of this breed of traveler. They may come from all parts of the world, but, no matter what their indigenous language, I’m glad to report that they all speak fluent bike banter and I am able to leave these folk to twitter away for hours about handlebars, spokes, lycra shorts with sewn-in nappies (that’s what they look like anyway), where to buy fuel for their state-of-the-art stoves in downtown Antalya and whether it’s possible to renew their Turkish visa by taking a detour into northern Iraq and re-entering from there.

To date, a very sweet Swiss couple, a lone girl from New Zealand, a charming 50-something-year-old guy from South Africa and a very vivacious German pair in their 20s have all made use of our facilities. Not only do these guests provide hours of entertainment for my son and girlfriend, they have also all made the most of having a kitchen and cooked delicious food for all of us. Their energy, enthusiasm and refreshing attitude to life are infectious. They defy the principles that my generation was brought up to uphold — the “must get a job, save money and settle down” philosophy. Instead, these people from assorted backgrounds may have saved money — but only in order to enable them to travel the world with their bikes in tow.

All seem to enjoy their stay here, spending much of their time sleeping and eating, but the rest of the time they can be found enjoying Antalya’s old town, swimming in the sea, testing out the best food spots and soaking up the good weather from the comfort of our garden. Most importantly they can — and do — indulge in endless hours of bicycle banter whilst busy mending punctures, truing spokes and greasing hubs.

Ian
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A Surprisingly Pleasant End to an Unsurprisingly Good Year

14 01 2013

The good year we expected. It was just your bog standard year, you know the type: loads of parties with friends, family gatherings, quitting of jobs and cycling 5000 kms to Asia. You know nothing special, no point saying anymore about that really.

New Year, although we were not expecting to have a bad time it turned out to be really rather special. We were due to celebrate it separately. (Can you see where this is going yet?) Rose had booked cheap flights back to the UK for Christmas and New Year to be with her family, particularly her beautifully pregnant younger sister. Whilst Jim was remaining at the coalface- those puncture repair kits won’t pay for themselves you know. I (Jim) arranged to go to Istanbul for 2 nights with my Mum and her Terry to visit sister Rhi (formerly of the Rosy and Jim TDW Cult) in her new Galata pad.

So whilst Rose was living it up in the good old North of England with our two best friends, Real Ale and Cheddar cheese, Jim was on a culinary tour of Istanbul with an Istanbulite (Rhi) and the author of A Rough Guide to Istanbul (Terry).

We started the day with a swish coffee in Cafe Konak, check this for a view (and no that isn’t Robert Redford- she gets that a lot)!Moved onto Tantuni for brunch. Tantuni is spicy beef fried and served in a durum wrap. Before moving on to baklava,  ice cream and tea in the afternoon.  We then watched the excellent Life of Pi in 3D which was fantastic. Then whilst the oldies went for a lie down, me and my sis went for a few swift beers at a English microbrewery that she knows of.

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Feeling somewhat appropriately merry we made our way back across Istanbul managing to avoid the customary groping in Taksim square towards the meyhane, Gurme Boncuk, to meet the wise ones for our New Years Eve dinner.

After several bevvies and a one hour dash via 2 tubes our bladders were somewhat at capacity, so we dashed into the restaurant eager to find the toilets. As a result the scene that greeted us almost resulted in a very embarrassing accident.

Joining the oldies at the table was Rosy Pose and Little Jas, one of my all time  top 11 friends.  My slightly drunk and high on anti bladder release adrenalin brain was saying, “I know these faces but they don’t belong in this restaurant, who ordered them?”

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After avoiding the afore-mentioned embarrassment I regained my composure and set about getting to the bottom of the mystery. I think I’ll let Rose take over from here….

I had just spent a lovely week back home, visiting the family, holding the babies: my niece Melissa, nephew Lewis and friends new addition Freya. I ate lots of lovely food, met up with almost all my friends and even had a turn at karaoke at the family christmas party! After a training visit to York to see Jemma Buxton was my next stop and the lead up to the most expensive night of our lives.

First I had a lovely tapas dinner with Izy and got to play kitchens with Lewis and generally love his new words and cuddles. I met Jas in the pub and we were catching up and chatting about new year and our respective plans. I said I was going to Ben and Cats in Manchester then get the plane to Antalya on New Years Day. Jas didn’t have much plannedl, just maybe go to someones house. I told him where Jimi was and their plans and then suddenly we shared a look across the table at exactly the same time, we both knew what the other was thinking…”what if we went to Istanbul to surprise Jimi?” The seed was planted!

8:37pm 30th December 2012.

Jas got to work on his super duper phone and looked up flights for the very next morning. As the evening wore on and I had a few more glasses of wine the idea seemed flawless and of course it was the only way we wanted to spend our New Year. Jason was driving so he cant even blame the alcohol for the rash decisions we made. We then got a call from Jonathan (Jimis dad) asking us to go to his for wine and cheese and a catch up. Off we went with the help of a few bottles of wine from Co-op and indulged in a midnight feast of cheese, scones, crackers, red wine. The idea was firmly planted by this point and with Jonathan saying, “Don’t be ridiculous, Istanbul in the morning! Ha that will never happen,” we were spurred on.

So at 3am Jas and I parted with Jas saying, “I’ll call you at 7am, look at flights and make a decision then.” “Ok Jason, of course you will.”

7:03 am 31st December 2012

After 3 hours of drunken sleep…..Brrrriiiiing brriiiing brriiiiing! “WOW Jason you meant it then?” “I’ll be there in 30 minutes was the reply.”

8:07am 31st December 2012

Jason and Rose in a Nissan Micra driving to London Stansted, ticketless, hoping we could buy a plane  ticket from the airport and be in Istanbul in time for the new year celebrations and at the restaurant at 8pm to meet everyone…easy!

First problem of the day, Jason had no passport so we had to go via Doveridge (Staffordshire) to collect his passport a change of clothes and then off to London to catch the 14:10 flight to Istanbul we saw advertised. That means we have 3 hours to get to the airport,hoping there is no traffic, park, buy a plane ticket and get to the check in before it closes…easy!

9:32am 30th December 2012

The sat Nav said 2 hours 45 minutes that means we would be there at 12:15 if all went right, and there was no traffic. We arrived at London Stansted at 12:06, parked the car, the shuttle bus took us to the terminal and we were inside the airport by 12:15. “TICKET OFFICE CLOSED: read the sign in front of us… problem number 2.

We went to the Atlas Jet desk and politely inquired if we could buy a ticket for the Istanbul plane leaving in 2 hours. ” The ticket sales man is not here so I cant sell you a ticket sorry.” Problem number 3.

Just by chance the computers and internet were right next to us so we got onto them straight away and found the website to book the flights. (it was a minor problem that the flights had gone up by about £50) We added all the details into the system with our hearts racing as check in would be closing very soon. After a minor issue of credit running out on the pre-pay machine Jas finally put in his details and his flight was confirmed, he was going to Istanbul…or so we thought!

I added the details and was using Jason’s credit card to pay for the flight, “SORRY WE DO NOT ACCEPT THIRD PARTY PAYMENTS ON THIS SITE” read the notification in bold red letters on the screen. Problem number 4. That was it, Jas was going to Istanbul – on his own. I hastily made a call to my mum, ” Mum could you put £100 in my bank straight away I’m in London airport and want to fly to Istanbul in less than an hour and check in closes in 20 minutes. “Of course love Ill do it right away!” (Mum your a life saver)

Brilliant I thought, Ill just book the flight with my card and we can be on our way. I added the details only to be told the flight was no longer for sale as the airline had withdrawn them. Of course, its 10 minutes until check in closes, no one would be so stupid as to think they could book a ticket 30 minutes before the plane leaves. (Oh yes there are) Problem number 5.

I called the ticket sales number and they said sorry there are no tickets for this flight, they are no longer for sale. So I sulkily went with Jas to check in and say my goodbyes wondering how I would get from Stansted to London then Manchester in time for my flight on 1st back to Antalya. The train to Manchester was £100 and I started to feel a little silly.

Problem number…I cant remember! The man at the desk said, “there is no confirmation of this flight so you are not booked on it. I have called the sales UK Manager and there are no details for you sorry.” “Surely there must be something you can do?” He spoke to the manager and he said Jason could buy a new ticket from him and get on the flight….hold on if Jas can buy a flight surely I can do the same I politely asked to speak to the manager. “If Jason gets to buy a ticket, please can I also have a ticket?” “Sure give me your details and ill get you both on the flight right away!” Were we hearing right?

1:45 pm 31st December 2012

Jason gave his card details and to our delight two boarding cards were printed and handed to us with the words, “dont worry you have to go through security and go on the shuttle across the airport to the plane but it will wait for you no problem!”

Me and Jason were giddy that after all the problems and near misses we were finally going (to even our own disbelief) to Istanbul right now. In the hurry Jason left his phone at the security and the assistant said don’t worry ill go and get it for you, the plane will wait. You would think we were some kind of VIPs and the airport was on hold for us. This was all too good to be true.

14:15 31st December 2012

Alas no phone arrived so we boarded the plane which had in fact waited for us. Jason cancelled his phone literally just as we  left the runway, saying I have to go I’m on a plane.

We were brought Efes and a tasty meal as we soared over the Alps to a beautiful sunset and great view of the snow capped mountains. We couldn’t really believe we were actually on the plane after all that had happened, 4 hours sleep and a hell of a lot of adrenalin and hare racing going on all day. I may add that Atlas Jet are a fabulous airline, free luggage, loads of leg room, tasty food and drinks and very friendly and helpful staff.

As we landed at Istanbul airport, I asked a girl if by any chance she was going to Taksim Square and if she wanted to share a taxi, sure she did, she was surprising her friend there as well. (She had of course had hers booked for months).

So we arrived at the restaurant and was quite funny trying to explain to the manager that it was a surprise and not to tell them we are here. Finally he said, “oh Supris” which is very similar in Turkish. We sat down, had a well earned beer and waited with baited (although boozy) breath. In the midst of all the excitement at the airport and thinking it would never happen, I had text Lem to say I couldn’t come and that Jas would be coming alone, I had forgotten to text to say I would now be there, so even she was surprised when she climbed the restaurant stairs to see me and Jas sitting there.

So as Jimi pointed out earlier, he was desperate for the toilet and did in fact nearly wee himself at the sight of us two sitting there when he thought he would be greeted by just the oldies!

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The night was better than we could have hoped for and the flow of food, wine, Efes and Raki added to the enjoyment of the evening. We even did some Turkish dancing at midnight and shortly after Tez fell asleep at the table, we went onto a club (something we would never normally do) and had a jolly good time! The trip was well worth the butterflies, the anxiety and the money we spent. To top it off, Jas overslept and nearly missed his plane home. But as we now know you CAN check in late and board at the last minute, I guess some airline staff are kinder than others.





Going, going, going, going…

25 07 2012

going… going, going, going… going, going… going, gone!

Yes that’s right we promise it’s true. You won’t see us at anymore goodbye parties. Although we would recommend a hoax ‘we’re leaving’ scheme as it’s a great way to get all your friends together and have a merry old time!

Our final party was the wedding of our beautiful friends- and long suffering neighbours- Ben and Cat.

Day 1: We cycled to Buxton from Manchester on the hottest day of the year so far with coincidentally the worst hangovers of the year so far (post wedding). Unfortunately Rose has a chest infection and has just started a course of anti- biotics, she may have to rest here for a few days and take a train to Cambridge. We will see. On the way over we asked a man to take our picture, it turns out he was just back from walking to Norway to Spain over 6 months, there are others!