2 September; Some time in early hours I left Europe and arrived in Asia. Its’ been a long journey to other side of Turkey. Two continents but one country, same language, same skin tone. Outside it’s biggest city there are improvements in roads, now comparable in standard to other European countries. Coach driving standards are higher than taxi drivers, but that’s not a huge compliment. Coaches are now non-smoking, except for our driver last night.
It’s great when someone starts and completes a whole conversation in Turkish with me, people usually start addressing me in English. Many people pick up that I’m a Cypriot, it seems half the males of this country have done their national service in Cyprus.
I’d like to tell how I love night buses, but after 18 hours and little sleep I’m ready for my afternoon nap.
In Trabzon, home to 244,000 people and arguably Turkeys best team outside Istanbul. Noticeably quieter and easier to relax in. 25 years after my first visit I returned to this place, I hope I don’t wait till I’m 75 before I return. We visited Sumela Monastery. This has been unused since 1923 when the war between Turks and Greeks ended and the government’s of the two countries agreed that all Christians should leave the new state of Turkey and move to Greece, and all Muslims should leave Greece and live in Turkey. These forced emigrations had an effect not just on the people but on the economies of both nations. Thankfully relations between both nations are better now.
Whilst visiting Sumela we met Rodriguez from Chile. He was on a world tour, having started in Spain he was making his way through Georgia, and then on to Russia where he intended to take the Trans Siberian railway before ending his traveling either in China or Japan.
Night buses? I hate to admit but perhaps I’m too old for them now. I love the service stations and I enjoyed a nice liver stew and rice at 2 am. But in future, daytime journeys only.
Turkish language, like any language is subject to evolution. I don’t hear ‘buyurun’ (don’t know if I’m spelling it right, corrections gratefully accepted) so much. Translated into English it means deign, as in, ‘please deign to enter my shop, restaurant, whatever. I prefer it to ‘one question’ spoken in the English language. What happened to ‘ allahais marladik’, despite being in some old guide books I never did hear that word uttered. It means ‘ sorry’. Perhaps no one was sorry for anything they did to me. Like me, for that matter.
4 September; Today we visited Ataturk’s house, set in the hills of Trabzon before leaving it to travel 3 hours westwards to Bulancak (pop. 68,000), near Giresun. Not so sorry to leave the accommodation.
Last night we ate again at Cemal Usta in main square in Trabzon. Starters, main course, baklava and water ( no alcohol served) for a tenner for the both of us. Dolmus taxis are a cross between bus and taxi, they follow set routes, dropping off and picking up. A journey that we’ve been making by taxi for £4 cost 75p for the both of us. Examples of great value once you get away from the tourist traps along the Med.
After a sober meal we looked for a bar, and kept looking. When I found one on a rooftop terrace I went up alone to check it out, it had a ‘ family area’ and a ‘men’s area’ and seemed OK, women and men enjoying a drink together. I went down to give Penny Yusuf the all clear and I went up again, behind two young women. I almost followed them into the toilets, thankfully my Turkish is good enough to know that ‘ bayan’ ( not a word I learnt in my Turkish Cypriot speaking early years) meant women. I did make this mistake many years ago at a service station on one of my beloved bus journeys. The normal symbols of a pipe and high heels were replaced with this word I was unfamiliar with. You can get away with a lot when you’re a guest in a strange country.
Having found the bar and ordered drinks you can imagine my joy when the disco rubbish was turned off and instead they switched to a channel with the Turkish national team marching onto pitch. After a rousing national anthem ( I didn’t stand or sing, no one else did either), the match started. The Turkish team confused me by playing in red rather than the white I’m used to seeing them in. Latvia were playing in white and I managed to avert a diplomatic incident by cheering for the home side. eventually. They were made to pay for not taking their chances with a 1v1 draw. Penny, I swear I didn’t set up this surprise football watching evening.
The ‘family’ area is mis-named, there were no children and we were the oldest customers, and I’m 50 ( and proud of it), what kind of family is that?
Things I recommend, accepting your limitations and pacing yourself.
Being at peace with other nationalities, even living with them.
Saying sorry, but only when you mean it.
Things I don’t recommend, carving your name on religious buildings, no one wants to know that you were there and who your girlfriend was.
Chips. When did they become part of a Turkish breakfast? Is it a Black Sea regional twist? I’m not adopting this new fashion and I recommend you don’t, say NO to chips for breakfast.