Turkey, 9 February 2007
Success on getting the Syrian visa has sealed our route for the next couple of months. A brief burst of energy from our previous tortoise pace of travel has seen us arrive in Antakya, the closest Turkish city to the Syrian border. Perhaps causal to this change of pace has been a change in the weather. Hanging around enjoying some winter sun hasn`t really been on the cards for the last couple of weeks and we`ve had a couple of right royal soakings on the bike in recent days. This probably will be a source of some schadenfreude to friends at home working through the dreary British winter but of course for us it is rubbish. The cold and rain has rather neatly coincided with us moving on to geographically colder climes too. Clever eh! The one saving grace of being in places that are used to the cold is that hotels tend to have decent heating and hot water on tap. Coastal Turkey is environmentally excellent in having hot water completely powered by solar energy but there's a catch.. Summers are really hot and a cold shower is just the ticket then, but when it is cold and cloudy and hot water would really come in then cold is what you`ve got. Such is life.
As with the last entry we now move on to selected highlights, observations and outrageous stereotyping:
Greek TV: Totally forgot to mention this in writings about Greece but it deserves highlighting for its unparalleled poor quality. To be fair this is probably down to having a small and spread out population but special mention must go to the following: Kisamos TV - seems to just be a bloke who has been given a camcorder for Christmas and patrols the countryside by day experimenting with the zoom feature and by night drops in on Cretian booze ups. Also to the chanel that showed a ten year old British school play during prime time and had actually bothered to subtitle it.
The leather tank panniers debacle: We've been beset by issues caused by the sheer weight of two quite large people and all their personal junk plus cooking and camping equipment being carried by one motorcycle. One small inspiration has been front tank panniers. Inspired by Ted Simons' legendary front panniers in 'Jupiters Travels' we had been on the lookout for a saddlemaker of repute for some time. Arriving in Side we thought we had found him in a cheery old chap sitting outside a shoe shop with a vintage Singer leather sewing machine. We asked him, he said yes and there began a downward spiral ending in us paying out forty quid for a couple of bags that are of lamentably poor quality and so poorly designed as to be an actual impediment to our load carrying abilities. He didn't even make them himself but took us over to a place that specialised in stitching together outdoor beanbags. All the same it took up a rainy day and getting back to our room and setting to them with the Swiss army knife and a couple of spare shoelaces has resulted in something more worthwhile. The moral seems to be that nowadays proper craftsmen are few and far between and having the right kit doesn't make you any more able...
The gaming phase: Arriving back to Antalya from our visa run to Istanbul saw us with a week or so to kill. We were awaiting throw over panniers to arrive from home (thanks dad!) in another attempt to ease the burden on the overloaded Bullet. The last couple of weeks in Turkey have been half term and we've noticed that the internet cafes are chocka with kids playing games. In an attempt to keep up with the kids we decided to have a go. That was it. Hooked. When we decided to spend another day in Antalya just to play on we knew things were getting out of control. In those glorious few days I became a motorcross world champion, street raced around Miami and captained an army of Cyclops against the walls of Troy. Makes you wonder why we bothered to leave home at all!
Alevi faith: As well as spending quality time in internet cafes in Antalya we did also have a good few chats and backgammon sessions with the guy running our guest house. He explained to us about the Alevis, a branch of Islam unknown to us before. The topic came up as his brother was fasting in the 12 days before Ashura (the date of Hussein's death - son of the fourth Caliph). This wasn't a don't eat during daylight hours but a full-on don't eat or drink at all one. We last saw him on the tenth day and he seemed to be losing the plot a little. Alevis are a branch of Shia Islam and a significant minority in Turkey. Men and women pray together and they meet in assembly halls rather than mosques. More on wikipedia...
The u-bend: Growing up in the UK we are taught to believe that this is a British invention. We still have no question to doubt it. What is strange however is how little it seems to have caught on around the world. Since first travelling as a teenager it seems that cheap hotels now have en-suite bathrooms a lot more than at previous times. This makes it even more unpleasant when a neighbour flushes their lav and a waft of sewage comes drifting up through your shower drain.
Political assassinations and Turkish Armenian relations: In Istanbul we met and had a good chat with a Turkish Armenian guy. On the same day Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered. No connection of course just a coicidence that had little more relevance than provoking lines of thought in our heads. He was murdered in Taksim Square by a Tukish ultra-nationalist from Trabzon who was only a teenager. The whole issue has sparked a lot of debate here and thousands turned up to the funeral. In conversation with the guy we met we found out that the Armenian population in Turkey is growing as more Armenians come here to seek work.
That's all for now. Again Sascha has put up lots more photos on fotki. The weather has been forecast to be reasonable the next few days so with any luck we cross to Syria and head to Latakia in a couple of days....
Posted by Richard Miller at February 08, 2007 07:14 PM GMT