4 September; A less than impressive bus service where we were dumped on a dual carriageway. Lesson learnt to buy my own tickets in future and clarify that we’re being dropped off at a bus station. After going under a still to be completed underpass I walked into a cafe and the kind waiter bid us follow him where he hailed a cab from a rank. Having arrived at hotel our spirits were lifted by quality of accommodation, the best yet, where we have a sea view (and also of a dual carriageway). So in one situation, the best and worst sides of human nature.
5 September; After our unsatisfactory accommodation in Trabzon and more research, we have rejigged our plans and are now staying an extra night in Safranbolu,and one night less in Ankara. Still haven’t entirely decided where we’re going after we leave here, options include staying here longer, going to Sinop. We have considered and decided against Sivas on this occasion.
I was commenting on good prices in restaurant but then learnt something whilst at the bar. Also a small bottle of water costs only 75 kurus (100 kurus to the lira), 1 lira in Istanbul, or 2 lira from the cheeky kids ( some from Syria) trying it on. I persuaded the boy to come back with my water after he started running away, he did, with a smile. I hope he has more to smile about for the rest of his life.
Which brings me to that picture of a drowned child. England has taken in 216 refugees, Turkey has two million. Lebanon, a much smaller country, and also an Arab country also has two million. Cameron boasts about the money UK has donated, be clear about this, he has donated to keep the refugees IN Turkey and Lebanon. Events like this mean I am proud of my ethnicity and embarrassed by my government.
So to sum up, engage don’t disengage, be active not inactive. Raise your voice and demand your country do it’s share. We can’t bring that boy back to life but we can help those that are alive. It’s the least we can do and any less means we are crying crocodile tears.
6 September; A day on the beach,, at nearby Giresun. To get to it, a dolmus relay, 3 buses before getting to destination. A dolmus driver likes nothing less than traveling with an almost empty minibus, so we get passed on between them. The driver’s belong to a co- operative and it’s in their interests to work together.
On our travels we passed near Corum, where the chick pea is an important commodity. Round where we are staying it is the hazelnut. Everywhere around us, on pavements etc. they are scattered on the floor, I think to dry out in the sun. Men and women sit around them and turn them around from time to time and then they get placed in sacks and taken away by lorries. I’ve even seen tents pitched up on the roadside. I’m not sure if people are sleeping in them or just taking refuge from the sun during the day. As a child I remember harvesting sesame seeds in a similar way on Cyprus holiday. The baklava locally has hazelnuts where normally they use pistachio variety.
The weather has been perfect sunshine, yesterday was cloudy and from Tuesday it is forecast to rain for a few days, you will see from today’s pictures a selfie with my red face. The plan is to go brown by the time I return to UK. This expectation of rain is forcing us to consider carefully where we go next.
Yesterday I spoke about language and the impact it can have on behavior, which reminded me of some past events. I was once on a bus to Mersin and the bus pulled in and I dashed off to the correct toilet. However when I came out the bus had gone. It had just stopped to drop someone off so wasn’t a scheduled comfort break, as they say in UK when you are at a training event. I prefer a former managers description of it as a break for a tea and a wee. Anyway back to me being in the middle of nowhere with my suitcase on a bus. What to do? I went to a taxi driver and explained what had happened and he chased the coach and got it to stop. So you see, sometimes it is good when taxi drivers speed. When I got on the bus I got back in my seat, next to an idiot ( I can’t think of a polite word for him) who I’d chatted to on the journey and who you might have thought would have stopped the coach leaving without me.
Finally I arrived in Mersin, but ferries to Cyprus were infrequent and I spent the early hours sitting with the staff at the port getting bitten by mosquitoes. As there were two days till the next sailing one of the workers took me back to his house where his mother made up a bed for me to get some much needed sleep. Turkish people ask very direct questions, it is normal and not considered rude like it might be in England. I explained in my not so great Turkish that my parents were divorced and that when I got to Cyprus I would meet up with my family who had travelled to Cyprus the sensible way, by plane. My hosts mother, when I woke up got me something to eat and drink and was being visited by a neighbour. I stayed silent and did not correct her as she described me as a child ( I was 18 I think at the time) who had been abandoned by my family in England and I was on a quest to be reunited with them in Cyprus. I received lots of sympathy that day.
7 September; Another day in Bulancak, and another day on the beach. As its a weekend there are lots of families and its lovely to see the children enjoying the water and sand, like the boy in the first picture. We have been to Giresun’s Belediye Plaj which means Municipal beach. It is next to the disco beach and we had to move when they played some disco , I think someone must have spoken to them because the volume got reduced.
The manager of the beach likes to jog along the beach and when he is tired he has a nice hammock to rest in. He manages a nice family beach and professional sunbathers are in the minority, perhaps they are posing on the disco beach 50 metres away. Penny observed one pair who had numerous costume changes during the course of the day.
The sea is a lovely temperature to swim in, in the low 20s.
Last night we went looking for somewhere to eat, didn’t have much luck in Bulancak, its a very small place, so went on to Giresun 10 km away. We didn’t have much luck there either, mostly cafe’s, takeaways, and lokantas. So I directed a taxi driver (I’m getting used to this) to a pizza place on the main road. After food we went next door to a coffee and cake place (see picture) and it was packed out with youngsters. Couples over a certain age nowhere to be seen. A nice evening, but I have noticed both here and in Trabzon that places that serve alcohol are few in number.
Yesterday I got a haircut, this is something I try and do every time I am in Turkey, its not nice getting bushy eyebrows or growing hair in your nose and ears, and all Turkish barbers agree with me on this.
Last night after we returned to hotel we hear music outside and a bride and groom preforming a dance outside hotel, in the presence of some friends and family. I think they spent the night here. I wish them a happy marriage, for me and Penny, it will be 25 years next February.
Bulancak as I’ve said before, is quite a small town with few facilities for tourists. There is lots of construction going on, with newly surfaced roads and sand mountains.
We are planning to escape the rain that is coming to the Black Sea ( don’t know why its called that, its lovely and blue). We plan to head inland to Ankara which is dry and sunny according to forecast.
My Turkish has improved today, after some misunderstanding I learnt how to say hair gel, for the vain amongst you planning on a trip here you need to bring your own, or ask for ‘jole’, not sure if I’m spelling it right.
8 September; Last day by the beach, rain heading to Black Sea coast for next couple of days. We will be going to Ankara tomorrow, a nice 10 hour coach trip, in daytime. It will be my first time in Turkey’s capital city and two days won’t seem enough.
Today we went to Ofran beach. It doubles up as a camp site and also has large scale versions of beach huts. Less busy than yesterday but we arrive earlier than most. We were joined by some ducks who then waddled off home somewhere.
Last night, a meal in Giresun hotel, as recommended by guide book. Reccomended for having a licence to serve alcohol that is. Receptionist took us up in staff lift to roof terrace and one other customer there, with waiter sat facing television showing Turkey v Holland match. Again no planning of this joyous event. By time of arrival Turkey were winning two nil, and scored another before end of match, giving them a chance of making 3rd place play off position and worsening the chances for Dutch team.
The waiter sprang into action and when asked what food was available (no menu in sight) said he’d go into kitchen to check. When he told us we chose fish, but then I checked what fish hamsi was and it’s anchovies. Having only had anchovies on pizza’s I was starting to worry. In the end they were OK, not over salty like I feared. And they sent out for cold beer because they only had warm beer in stock. Nothing is too much trouble for guests in this country. They also brought a bottle of wine for Penny. So, our culinary experiences here in this location have not been the best. I am starting to crave doner kebab, they are available everywhere. And still no red mullet in this fishing region.
After meal we have coffee and cake, many people seem to come out to hang out in such places that provide them. The only bar I saw was a dive with old men, no windows, my kind of place but not for the opposite sex.
We are close to tea growing region of Rize, it is the nations favourite drink. But us Cypriots prefer Turkish coffee. There are only a few steps from start to finish, so I can’t work out why the grains hadn’t settled at the bottom. Can anyone explain to me what they did wrong?
So, we are having our last night in Bulancak, and overall the good outweighs the lack of good quality restaurants a man with my style and elegance should aspire to eat in. The hotel is lovely, they have done some laundry for us and as a thank you for visiting their hotel the staff have included a complementary man’s vest amongst my smalls and t shirts. I haven’t worn such item since I started to choose for myself what to wear. And I’m not going to start now if you don’t mind. I have handed it in to reception and I hope when it is returned to its owner the sorrow he will have been experiencing can be replaced by pleasure. Cos that’s the kind of guy I am, never lacking in the happiness giving department.
9 September; I’m in Corum Otogar (bus station), some 4 hours away from Ankara. Weather is fine, but was cloudy earlier en route. We have left the Black Sea coast, we will be inland for rest of holiday until we return to Istanbul. Scenes of sadness at bus station as families are separated. Just as laughter can be infectious, so can tears and I found myself feeling sad for them too.
Last night we had our last and best meal in Giresun, in a terrace restaurant overlooking town square. The waiter invented a new vegetarian pide ( like a pizza) for Penny and I admired the way he made eye contact with her when he was describing the dish, with me as an interpreter. During the meal chanting is heard and young men arrive in a political demonstration. So politics finds me everywhere without me having to look for it. The only slogans I could recognise was allahu akbar ( god is great) and one wishing the hanging of the leader of Kurdish organisation who has been tried and sentenced to death but it hasn’t been carried out. Instead the prisoner is locked in a prison on an island near Istanbul. I checked the news later and at least 15 (some say more) Turkish soldiers were killed in a single incident at the weekend. Altogether 40,000 deaths in just over 30 years. The cycle of violence continues. For those not familiar with this part of the world you should be aware that every young man in Turkey has to serve in the army when leaving school. This makes the death of a soldier an event that chills the heart of every mother and father. I only have this to say, political problems will only be solved by political solutions. A military solution is a delusion. In UK we have learned that about Northern Ireland. The demonstration was short, there were no police, the men dispersed, families carried on their business like it was a regular occurrence.
In Turkey we address each other by family terms, even if we are strangers. For example, you might address an older woman as teyze ( auntie). As a sign that I am maturing, I am now referred to by younger people as amca ( uncle), no longer abi ( brother).
In my time at Bulancak, I grew fond of the dolmus transport system. The drivers are a close knit group, always talking on their phones and alerting each other to passengers waiting for their arrival. I also noticed that they function as a delivery service, collecting parcels from one location and handing it to another further on.
I have noticed they no longer offer cologne to passengers on the coaches, why did this custom end?
Things I reccomend, travel, it broadens the mind, and do it as independently as possible if you can. You get to spend your time with more interesting people and you learn more than just staying in one place.
History, it’s our stories that are important. Not the governments.
IPod with some decent tunes.
A hammock in every workplace, Lyn, Sarah, Sam, if you’re reading this I want it on agenda of first team meeting when I get back. Never mind austerity, we need to sleep on the job.
Turkish coffee with grains at the bottom.
Things I don’t reccomend; reversing on a dual carriageway because you passed your slip road, today’s example of bad driving.
Imported whiskey, stick to home produced varieties in Turkey. One glass of whisky, £7.
Never get off a bus until you have asked how long it has stopped for. Better to look an idiot because you have asked a question twice, than to be chasing coaches at illegal speeds.
The Mersin – Famagusta ferry, it took all night. Years later they introduced a shorter crossing to Girne from Tasuci.
Telling the truth, if it gets in the way of kindness and correcting may cause offence.
Disco, not in a beach, a club or on your IPod.
English barbers , we need to send them here to get trained.
Vests. What is the point if them?
War. It causes death and sadness.