The Heart of Turkey

Posted: August 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Life & Travels, Route | 3 Comments »

The three of us, Chrystal, Phil and I, left Istanbul early in the morning trying to catch the first boat to Yallova. Unfortunately we got screwed over by a taxi driver and missed the ferry ride. It was already around noon when our virgin feet touched the new continent of Asia minor. As the land rushed towards the wide metal ramp of the ferry, I got nervous, this was the continuation of where I left almost 2 years ago. How would the others do? How would Turkey receive a few rugged wanderers? All fears and uncertainties proved to be far from justified, but between that certainty and the moment we stepped off the ship would lay 800 kilometers of walking, much stretching of the soul and quite a few mountains.

Along some back streets we headed south aiming for some hills, the firs goal was already set: the town Iznik, or better known as Nicea of the famous christian creed and home to the 1st and 7th Ecumenical Counsel. To get there we had two rough days, but most importantly we had to decide how to handle the opportunities of taking a ride. The first day, on some random crossing, as the sun was already setting, we decided together on the one and only rule we’ve made so far: taking rides is allowed within reasonable distance (walkable) and cannot cost anything. So far we have kept to it except once where a guy offered us a ride and then in the end demanded an exorbitant pay of 20 Liras. So as we were standing at the crossing of legislation, of course the first car to stop was a shared taxi, called “Dolmush”, we tried to wave him by and make clear that we were not willing to pay and so he offered us to take us for free.
As we arrived in Iznik most of the anxiousness was stripped as I quickly realized that just like everywhere else the true dangers lie in the soul, how we relate to each other and ourselves, and not in “bad Turkish men”. From Iznik to Eskesir the way we chose brough us along the Sakarya river through many remote villages, canyons; a way mostly labeled by the locals with all kinds of impossibilities: too far, to dangerous, too bad road (“uhm, we are on foot, what do we need a good road for?”). It all turned out to be quite simple and doable, sometimes very hot and sparce on opportunities to buy food, but the farmers were giving us all we needed and more. The greatest challenge was to learn how to acknowledge and respect Chrystals and Phils rhythmswith staying true to mine, an art I still haven’t perfected yet. Chrystal is slower, Phil is faster than I. A stretching of a new kind, when I walked alone this was never an issue, the challenges were of a different kind, like being alone and so on. Now, walking in a crew has a different dynamic, it’s easier in many ways since we carry each other, one just has to be careful to keep allegiance to the mission of working on ones own soul in solitude when it would be possible to always have communion.

The day before we made it to Eskesir we were looking for a place to spend the night, as we asked for it in little villages they kept us pointing to the mountains saying: “Hotel, hotel!”. The sun was setting and we’ve had a long day walking but kept going. Jokingly we said: “I bet, we’ll find an all inclusive resort…”, Phil pitched in, “and a water slide!”. Believe it or not, that’s just what we found! A few road turns later a hotel appeared with a pool in front of it and a winding slide into the water. Unfortunately the hotel was full and the pool was closed, but since Turkish hospitality prevailed once more over circumstances they reopened the pool just for us and let us sleep on the lounge chairs and in an abandoned hotel, all for free of course.

In Eskesir we stayed three nights or so, enjoying the atmosphere of an university town. At Varuna cafe (recommended, and NOT in LP) we met some students that were excited to show us the city. From there, we headed to Yalvac which became our next goal after we decided together that we should go all the way south to Antalya. The most important factor for our decision to go so far south and not head more east was that there’s a 300 km long trail from the lake region to the sea. Between there and Eskesir lay still 300-400 km of central Anatolian highlands. These we crossed with a mix of walking and hitch hiking along small roads far aside of the main highways that cross the country like pumping veins. We wanted the slow blood and little veins, the real life of Turkey, the stuff you don’t find in tourist brochures and Lonely Planets. We found it in abundance. In villages that count the appearance of tourists in years are keen to give the best and welcoming hospitality I have ever seen. Sometimes we heard, “Yeah we’ve seen people like you before… four years ago.” The days passed in a rush everyday was something new, we all struggled to keep our diaries in sync with all the input and developments of the inner life.

Once, in Han a little town almost in the desert, a team of archaeologists hosted us, they enthusiastically showed us their work, took us to their sights where they¬†dug out¬†graves and channels running under the rocks for hundreds of meters that were once used to hide from the invading Persians. We were the first “tourists” to visit the site and felt special once more taking a liking in the way we travel, for it’s only on this way those special acquaintances are abundant.
After days of yellow grain fields with a mountain to cross or avoid once in a while we arrived in Yalvac, a small city at the foot of the Sultan mountains and the gate to the southern lake region. The last part of walking was ahead with the rugged Toros mountains guarding the way. The St. Pauls trail would be our way through.

3 Comments on “The Heart of Turkey”

  1. 1 daniwani said at 2:35 am on August 30th, 2009:

    Sometimes I dream and realize that I just woke up. Much lub, -dan

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 4:54 pm on September 14th, 2009:

    r u walking along the coast to syria or taking a ferry? Tammy(mom)

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