There I was once again a few days later, a 20 year old girl from Sweden trying to stand up against these five big armed Turkish men.
“I don’t care! I’m going into the woods, you CAN’T stop me!”
You kidding me girl? Sure they could stop you. And they would…
I was really frustrated by then, that I just never seemed to get to decide anything for myself. There was always someone else doing it for me and I wanted to scream and bite and kick and stamp and explode. People wouldn’t just warn me, they would literally forbid me from leaving the bigger roads. The main reason given was always “wolves, dangerous!” or just generally “wild animals”.
As for this time, I wanted to set camp in a little forest next to a village. Just as I thought I had found a good enough spot, I was confronted by a shepherd. Oh those damn shepherds being everywhere and anywhere, I cursed to myself. He didn’t speak English but I could tell still that he obviously wasn’t going to let me stay there. No, he kept grabbing my arms pointing towards the village I had just left.
“No, I’m going this way”, I insisted. And he insisted the opposite just as much. Since we couldn’t understand each other very well, I decided to call my Turkish friend Mert, and let him do the talking for me.
“He says it’s dangerous to camp in the forest because of wild animals. He wants you to go back to the village, there’s a park there watched by guards all night were you could camp in.”
The park entrance to which the shepherd took me
There was no way the shepherd would let me go, and thus I followed him back to the village and the park. But the manager wouldn’t let me sleep in the park. Instead I was directed to the city I had passed a few hours earlier, “in which you can find a hotel”.
I got furious. There was no way I was going back to Eskisehir, and instead I tried to sneak off to the forest again. Mission failed – the guards all armed with guns in their holsters came after me immediately. Fine, I thought to myself, if I can’t go to the forest, I won’t go the opposite direction to the city either. I will simply refuse to move. And I did; I stayed there right on spot putting on my grumpiest, most disappointed face possible. And… The guards gave into my nearly bursting into tears-eyes (wow, I’ll try that more often!) pointing at a perfect spot of grass right outside of the park; “Ok you can sleep there. We’ll guard you the whole night.”
My camp right next to the park
They did, and I slept safely.
Not only was finding camp troublesome, my motivation was also sinking as I kept riding the big roads; each day was the same as the one before. I rode simply to make a distance; not to gain any new experiences, not to enjoy the views, not to play on bumpy, fun terrain. Was this what I had been working so hard for? To simply make the days pass by as fast and pain free as possible?
No, it was not. So what to do when you are not satisfied with how things are? You make a change, obviously. And that’s what I did; I had a close look at the map and picked out some small dirt roads going through more remote areas rather than continuing on the asphalted roads. No man is going to stop me now, I thought. And no one even tried to.
The only ones bothering me were in fact the sheep dogs. I’m not sure if it were their spiked metal head-collars or their huge size that made them more frightening than the Romanian sheep dogs. Like seriously dog, who do you like more: Slayer or Mayhem?
A sheep dog spotted from the distance – unfortunately it’s hard to see the collar in this photo
Most often their shepherd was nearby and unlike the Romanian shepherds, these actually had somewhat control over their dogs. They told the dogs to stay off from me and normally they would listen (although not immediately). Once there was no shepherd to be seen however, as the five huge dogs had come running after me from the opposite mountain side (!)
As they surrounded me with growls coming deep from their throats like a pack of wolves surrounding pray I realized these were no “back-to-your-sheep”-dogs. It simply was not in my power to tell them what to do, and I judged it better to keep my mouth shut. Instead I remained on my spot and kept yawning to show the dogs that I was not afraid.
No doubt, the sheep dogs’ pups are adorable! Not yet wearing the metalhead collars, not yet growling at me. Just being… pups.
Four of them would eventually tire off and run back to their shepherd, but the fifth – the most aggressive one – wasn’t as easily fooled. At last, after a mental battle between the two of us – I got rid of him too. By that time I had yawned so much I just couldn’t stop – I kept yawning all day feeling so tired!
Despite the various encounters with the sheep dogs and despite my low average speed up the mountain I couldn’t enjoy myself more. I am slow, so what? I got the time! I shouted out to the hilly, desert-like surroundings as I enjoyed another pause in the beaming sun. The seemingly endless road went up and down the barren mountainscapes and I had it all to myself, no single vehicle in sight. Every now and then one of those colourful little lizards would cross my path and I even saw a turtle sunbathing next to the roadside. This is what I have been working for. Turkey, I might just take you back! Yep – that’s how pleased I was with my choice. My love for this country was already on the rise again..
You do know by now that even though I have seen hundreds I still get thrilled by the sight of a deer, and when seeing cockroaches in Bursa I jumped by excitement, too. Just imagine then how over the moon I was when I saw this cutie – my first live, wild turtle!!
A wild flamingo and a wild turtle in the same day – I felt lucky!!
In the afternoon I stopped in one of the few villages around to fill my bottles and buy some food before setting camp. The woman working in the minimarket immediately invited me in for Çay, and before I knew it the whole village had gathered to see me. Some just to say hi, others to stay and chat for hours.
My tent ended up being pitched in the woman’s and her husband’s backyard, although I didn’t end up in the tent… No, I ended up on a bed inside. Despite the fact that Nazli and I didn’t speak the same language, we talked all evening. I found out she had two children – one daughter and one son – both studying at the university in Ankara. As we ate dinner on the floor of the common room (like many here do) she pointed at the various dishes and I repeated after her: “Pilav” Rice, “Patates” potatoes, “Su” water, “zeytin” olive..
The food was cooked on a gas-stove and showering meant pouring a bucket of hot water over yourself. In the morning, one of the sheep was slaughtered in the backyard. It sure put some perspective on my own life
Every now and then the language lesson was interrupted by a glance at the tv in the corner of the room. There were two main news: Football and terrorism. There’s no doubt that IS has gained greater establishment in Turkey the past year; The bomb threats are particularly present in Ankara and Istanbul, but even when I was in Bursa a woman detonated herself just one km away from where I was at the moment. It however was just a small bomb – I didn’t even find out about it until afterwards – and luckily it killed noone but her. Needless to say though, many Turks are on the tense, waiting for things to get worse…
Just as I was going to leave the next morning a few more women came to see me again. You leaving? No way, it’s time for Turkish coffee! They also happily suggested that they could take turns hosting me in their homes. I surely was deeply touched by these women’s hospitality, but I had to kindly say no since I wanted to keep moving forward. Still though I let them take me on a tour through the village and one of them proudly showed me her garden flourishing with countless fruit trees from which I could pick as much as I wanted.
To the left: The classical Turkish tea pot; the bottom one is filled with hot water and the top one with tea. You then pour them together in a glass, and voila – you got Çay! To the right: The classical coffee pottery
Two nights later I ended up sleeping indoors again, on the floor of a monitory room inside of a restaurant. It had been raining heavily that afternoon and thus I had taken shelter at a gas station; immediately being invited to drink Çay with the worker in his office. Later on the manager knocked on the door, shook my hand and showed me to the restaurant where he served me free food and of course… more Çay.
Sleeping on the floor in a room connected to the restaurant
“Seriously how many cups of Çay do you drink in a day!?” I asked him, startled.
“Really? You gotta have some sort of Çay super power!” I think I had closer to 15 cups that day – that’s how far my super powers stretched before I felt as if I were to explode.
Ugur, the manager to the left, and Yunus, the office worker to the right – both from Kurdistan. In July Ugur will visit Stockholm and I trust all of you fellow Swedes to take as good care of him as he did of me
The manager was from Kurdistan, and just like Asis – the pizzeria owner I met back in Sweden – he told me: “Kurdistan always been crushed, in the middle of everything. But we like our freedom.” And he smiled – in fact he smiled all the time. You see, Ugur was that kind of person who seemed to love everything and everybody, and he had been to Sweden specifically several times to visit his relatives.
“I love Sweden!” He said smiling even wider, “Swedish people are so nice, I love Stockholm.” I even got to speak Swedish that night, as he made calls to various relatives and Kurdish friends all over my country and handed me the phone. They all told me the same thing:
“Just call me if you are ever in trouble, ok? We can help, we want to help! And please come visit us when you are back, we want to get to know more Swedes!”
Two members from the friendly staff of the restaurant, one from Afghanistan, one from Kyrgyzstan – the whole staff was like one big, multicultural family and I loved it
Every now and then the attention was once again on the tv; more terrorism news. Ugur showed me photos from his hometown, Mardin. He showed me photos he had taken himself of beautiful architecture; of mosques and of churches. “Christians and Muslims here like each other, want to live in peace. But too many radicals”, and he then showed me photos of ruins; of houses shattered to pieces by bombs and missiles. The news also showed a fight from the senate which made me literally stare at the screen with big eyes and my mouth opened. I had never seen anything like it – just youtube it if you haven’t watched it already. “They don’t want us in the senate, that’s why”, Ugur laughingly explained.
Good day duck family! Enjoying the lovely weather today, aren’t we?
The next night there were – just like most times in Turkey – no trees around and I hence thought I’d ask another restaurant by the roadside for permission to camp on their ground. The answer was a straight no, and I was just about to leave when the manager of the restaurant grabbed my bike and brought it inside, and directed me to a table next. He then had me served the best kebab I have ever eaten and showed me to a room in which I could sleep on the floor. I didn’t end up sleeping on the floor however – the manager changed his mind and wouldn’t let me anymore.
Grilled kebab and chicken and then a dessert (I have forgotten the name) – I was served this without paying anything twice, both the first evening and the next day
Instead I spent the night in a real bed in his home, chatting all evening with him and his wife and 16 year old daughter as we snacked on lokum and various fruits and berries.
There I was once again a few days later, a 20 year old girl from Sweden enjoying myself to the fullest in Turkey. I was munching on sweet-tasting strawberries on a beach next to a beautiful salt lake. Its surface reflected the sky above clearer than any HD-screen and it was all still until… a thunder bolt struck. The past days had indeed been rainy and the obscure storm clouds were once agan heavily lumbering onto the ground, but I couldn’t really care less.
For life was pretty damn amazing still.