(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.

 

guilliam and lillian photo

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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The Truth! (My days at fat camp)

21 08 2012

When we planned this trip I was promised beautiful views, camping in the wild, city hopping and meeting lots of lovely people. And yes all this has happened so far, we have met some amazing people already been to lots of cities and seen some glorious sights along the way…what I didn’t expect was the grueling ten day stint at fat camp!

I never did join a gym or go on a silly diet to try and lose the pounds, no I decided to quit my job, sell my belongings and cycle 100KM+ a day to try and lose the pounds, and that I did (I don’t do things by half).

So who would have thought that eating great hearty meals, a block of cheese, bar of chocolate a day, carbs galore and tasting all the delights of beer that Germany has to offer would actually help me to lose weight in such a short space of time!This cycling malarky is much better than any gym.

We now have our own beer compendium of all the German beers we have tasted and have been assured that the czech beer is even better.

The cycling is not the hard part although it is tiring when the sun is beating down ( we have now invested in sun hats, although Jimi thinks hes a teenager again in his and forgets its for a purpose) I will also be investing in a second pair of cycling shorts as saddle sore is a slight problem. (Sudocrem is a godsend.)

Since the 1000M dash we have now chilled out and the day after we only cycled 30km and relaxed by the lake. This is now more like I imagined, camping, cooking dinner, reading lots of books and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. The next map after Prague however has many hills, so my next blog may be a different story!

We are now in Dresden and have stayed two nights with a lovely young couple from Warm Showers who have just returned from a year on their bikes around Australia. They welcomed us into their home like we were old friends and we have had a wonderful few days and a well needed rest.

We did the obligatory tourist sightseeing things, the military history museum was very interesting, then we had a bbq in the 40 degree heat! We are now busy planning our next few weeks as we will be crossing into the Czech republic today, where we will be able to wild camp along the river Elber cycle route as much as we like as it is more acceptable. We don’t have Wifi very often so when we do we will blog and keep you all up to date with our trip. More photos in the photo gallery.

 





4 Wheels and a Wedding

29 05 2012

Finally a full shake down of the gear. And what a weekend to choose, absolutely typical English May weather- honest.

We both went to our respective work places on our fully loaded Sherpas. Both bikes were laid to rest in the safety of our respective offices for the day too, No risks being taken here!

The rendezvous was Knutsford train station at 4pm, both parties were punctual and the journey began. South Westernly towards our campsite in Wrenbury, it was a lovely evening and the route took us down country lanes and river towpaths. The only moment of confusion was when we lost the route 75 signs, then out of the blue came Rich; a local rider from the Weaver Club. He was on his 4th day of 120 miles plus, truly putting our humble evening ride into perspective. Rich chivalrously cycled us the final 6 miles to our campsite and waved us on our way. Lovely chap.

We had barely put up our tent by the time we’d greedily devoured our Kronenburgs and bacon fries- there’s nothing like a beer after a ride. After some great tucker cooked on our donated MSR XGK stove (Thanks Jem- lovely chap- good luck on your US ride) and one more beer, we slept like very tired logs for 8 hours.

The following morning we set off on the anticipated 2 and a half hour ride to Shrewsbury and the wedding of our good friends Dave and Rhi. Again a very picturesque ride in the English Sun down the Mercian Way (Route 45). Rosy was looking rosy until we passed a sign saying Shrewsbury 26 miles with about an hour to go before we had to be there. After a slight panic, we set off with renewed vigour and jaffa cakes making it by the skin of our teeth. After a quick shower and erection of the tent we arrived at the wedding a good 2 minutes before the Bride.


The wedding was absolutely fantastic. I only hope the happy couple had as much fun as we did.

Raise your glasses to Rhi and Dave. x