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Hello Everybody! Selamun aleykum! Today I will tell you my great story in Turkey. I’m sure you will want to go to Turkey after you read it. Are you ready to buy a plane ticket?

After long long stay in Istanbul, I didn’t want to leave honestly but decided to go. Japan is still so far away, you know. When I was passing the suburb of Istanbul, I felt something had changed in my mind. I mean I felt a sort of “nostalgia” from the atmosphere of the city, even if what I was seeing was almost same as when I had come to Istanbul.  I’m living in real Turkish life.

During this one month, it has been getting colder and colder. It’s crucial for bikers. I need to keep body temperature but always get a lot of sweat(even under -10℃) while I’m riding and feel really cold when I stop. Of course it’s very hard to sleep outside. Daytime has become shorter and I can’t go so far in a day. Winter is almost there.

However, cycling in Turkey is the most comfortable and enjoyable ever even though the condition was the hardest ever.  Because of super kind and friendly Turkish people. I didn’t have to sleep in the tent, buy food or feel alone. Everybody helps me. Now I can believe them much more than Japanese people. They are so kind that sometimes I wonder why they are so kind. Imagine that all the people you meet are your friends.(Friend is called “arkadaş” in Turkish but I think it’s wrong to translate friend to arkadaş. Because I can’t make a friend in other countries like in Turkey.) It’s like that. No fear, no problem at all in Turkey.

The first day after I left İstanbul, I went to mosque in the evening because I heard “ezan”. (It reminds you that it’s time to  pray. It was just an exotic sound before I began to pray but now it has meaning. ) When I was standing in front of the mosque, some old men talked to me and gave me çay and food. Then we prayed together. One of guy took me to the construction place and let me sleep in the cottage. He sometimes calls me even now. Of course all in Turkish.  So I started leaning Turkish and now I can speak it in a way. I’m really glad that I’m getting able to understand what he says.

I stayed in mosque next day but it was very cold inside. It was like refrigerator. Anyway it was better than outside. Of course I prayed before I slept and after I woke up. Don’t misunderstand,it’s place to pray. You should respect  God here even if you are not Muslim.

Then I arrived at Bolu, the small city in the mountains, and stayed at my friend’s family’s house. Of course they don’t speak English but really welcomed me.

All the food Anne(“mother” in Turkish) made were amazing. If you want to eat real Turkish food, don’t go to restaurant! You should make Turkish friends and visit their house. Then you can eat the most wonderful foods in the world . Be careful for your weight!

We went to the beutiful lake for picnic. The water was totaly frozen.

This is the great tool for making çay(turkish tea). Turkish people always drink it whenever and whereever. Now I can’t do anything wıthout çay as well.

Thank you very much for nice memories! In the last night in Bolu, I said l was leaving next morning and they suddenly began crying and said I’m one of their sons now. All of you reading it might think it was a kind of joke but surprisingly I could believe it was true. I couldn’t understand everything they said but their eyes , voice or other expressions were exactly same as my parents’ doing to me.  This was first experience in my life, so impressing. I cried too.

Anne gave me a lot of foods when I left. It became very cold when I ate but I felt Anne’s warm heart and though “I have to come back”. I got a new family in Turkey and cried again.

By the way, If you travel in Turkey, I really recommend to bring a bottle(with insulation). You can get çay everywhere and it’s free if they like you(So I mean it’s free in most of cases) Hot and sweet çay always saves me in the cold. Great culture for bikers.

I had imagined that Turkey is huge flatland, but it’s was big misunderstanding. It’s actually full of mountains and basically very high(above sea level). Most of the way I passed was more than 500m and sometimes nearly 2000m. It means ıt’s very cold.

Everything was frozen. It was sometimes under 0℃ even in daytime.

However, people always allowed me to stay in warm place with something to eat and drink. Actually I have never been rejected when I asked. Because there is important culture called “misafir” in Turkey. If you don’t have a place to stay, they would invite you to their place. If you are hungry, they would give you food. So if you get such a problem in Turkey, people would  help you. But keep it in your mind that it’s not “free hotel” or “free restaurant”! It’s their kindness, hospitality and culture. If you want to go into their culture, you have to respect and follow their way. At first you have to try to speak their own language. Don’t think English is priority. For most people in the world, it’s still just a strange and uncomfortable foreign language. To be honest, I don’t like to speak English even in touristic place. As long as you speak English, you are just a tourist, out of their real life. Then you can talk about your country or story of your trip. It’s also nice opportunity for them to talk with people from other countries. This is actually only what I can do for them in return.   One more thing  I’m always trying is learning their religion because “misafir” comes from one of the rules in Islam. For examples, I try to use only right hand for eating or say some words before meal. I pray together of course . And if you really want to show your thanks or respect, you should use some religious words. You cannot find them normal guide book for tourists but when you get nice friends here, they would tell you. If you open your mind, Turkish people would welcome you as well, maybe more than you do. They are amazingly nice.

Ankara, the capital of Turkey. It’s very modern city and the nice contrast between Istanbul. You can see it rapidly spreading out if you get close from out of the city by car or bike.

I was staying at students’ house for  5days. This house belongs to same community as the house I stayed at in Istanbul. This kind of houses are everywhere in Turkey and some places in other countries. Students can stay there with cheap money and sometimes have a meeting for learning religion or teach to small children. Those who had stayed and graduated school help students with food or money. I was surprised that there is no company or group which organize these houses, I mean It’s not for any benefit but just like a domination. In this time, my friend in Istanbul find his friend in Ankara and told me this house. Even the people in 500km far away are like neighbors in Turkey. Great. Thank you guys! I’m really happy to meet you! Hakkni helal et!

I visited the university and joined design studio and commented in the end of presentation. It was nice experience to talk with students. Now Turkey is rapidly growing up and many architects or urban designer are needed, I guess. They might be new stars in the future. Please give me job;)

I also met many nice people after Ankara. One day I met one guy on the road. We walked to his house together and he hosted me as if “I met my friend on the street and we went to the café together”. Oh my god.

Teşekkur ederim! also from my bike!

I’m really feeling “the earth” in Turkey. There is nothing but road.

In Turkey, I’m very busy on the road. Many drivers push horn and people on the street cheer me. People often stop me and give me çay and food. It’s totally impossible to ignore them. But it’s fine, I like it.

Eating in beautiful nature is nice in every season!

I found the very nice museum(done by Japan!) near the small city Kaman. There are lots of archeological site around it and Turkish and Japanese researchers are collaborating for examination. I met one Japanese researcher Muramatsu-san(bay) and he helped me a lot. Thank you so much!

When I was looking for the toilet in the mosque, they talked to and took me to their house. They also let me join the dinner(that hamsı was so nice…) and we got to know each other. Then I asked if I could stay there but they couldn’t host me(because they have their daughter, I guess). However one taxi suddenly came when I was leaving and the father told me to follow him. We came to the hotel and he payed for me!! I was trying to turn down again and again but couldn’t finally. I really appreciated but felt guilty at the same time. I said I didn’t have money to stay in hotel but actually I could pay only for one night stay. I mean I can’t continue traveling if I always pay for sleep. I leaned that; Turkish people are too kind and I have to be careful NOT to let them do so much. They would care about you as much as they can. Anyway it was really happy to meet you…I never foget you!

I passed by Cappadocia because it was fortunately on my way. It was very cold but the landscape with white snow was super beautiful. I don’t write about it so much (because everybody knows it), but I would highly recommend to visit there.

Air balloon is famous here but of course expensive. I think it’s enough for me to see from the ground…(you should try if you are rich!)

Then I came to Kayseri. I met the friends of the friend of friend of mine in Istanbul(he was also the friend of the friend of friend of mine when I met at first but now one of the best friend). I stayed at 3 houses and spent great time with their friends or family.

Kayseri is modern city. There are lots of high-rise apartments or new shopping mall. Roads are wide enough and there is nice tram(My friend said it was constructed by Japanese company but I have never seen such a nice tram in Japan). The city is changing and getting more modern, huge and dense as well as Ankara but there is one problem.

We visited old castle in the city center. The building is very cool and historically important actually but it’s not used appropriately. There is no nice cafe, restaurant or shop but normal kebap shops or electrical market. Who wants to buy phone or TV in the castle? There are many other historical places like this but no one is attractive. The city is becoming useful but people don’t care about “beauty” or “worth”. The growth of economy is changing the city but they cannot controlling it I guess.

Small children speak English better than university students!

Beautiful girls showed me around the city!

I played football with them and really enjoyed it!

Their mother gave me Namazlık(seat for praying) from Mecca. I’ll treasure it! (I also got Mecca’s colon from Imam in Kayseri. Moreover, I have 3 tesbi and 2 Koran. I’ll use it;)

There are many more people I met in Kayseri but I don’t have picture unfortunately. Anyway I’ll come back to meet you! Thank you very much!

From Kayseri, the way is going to high and deep mountains. The next city is Sivas.

Sivas is on the tiny flatland which has been created by the longest river in Turkey, totally surrounded by high mountains. The city was enveloped in the mist because of the cold. My friends were trying to find their friend but couldn’t yet when I arrived there. I was sitting in the station just waiting for their reply. Then some people came and talked to me. I remembered that I cannot be alone here. I said I was looking for the place to stay, like this; “Yatmak! Uyumak!(with gesture)” “Otel?” “No otel! Para yok!”. Then another guy came and said, “Do you speak English?” “Ingilizce biliyorum!”. “Let’s go to my house and have a çay.” “Çok teşekkür ederim!”. This is the story.

The guy on the right of me is Erol who talked to me. The next guy is also Erol. The guy on the left is Ahmet who is the best cooker(of the guys) I have ever met.

Mantı. It’s like ravioli but with Yogurt in Turkey.

Chocolate cake for dessert.

I don’t know what this is but like Menemen. Nice breakfast.

He has a small chicken. not eatable yet…

Sivas Ulu Camii built in 12C. It’s totally different from other famous mosque especially in terms of its height. Basically big mosques are very high and have domes with beautiful paints and it leads people’s conscious to the sky. Facades have a lot of ornaments and look quite majestic. However, this mosque is very low and huge in horizontal direction. There are many arch-shaped pillars, which divide space into small units. I felt cramped at first but really comfortable when I sat down. The light comes only from the direction to Mecca. Therefore, my conscious was naturally led to the direction of pray. This is not symbolic or gorgeous but corresponds to prayers’ movement or mind. I wondered if I could be aware of it if I was not on the side of prayers. Space has meaning for itself. Interesting.

I took train from Sivas because of the cold(there are many mountains more than 2000m high) and visa problem. The train passed on the narrow crack of mountains.

Erzurum, the coldest city in Turkey(also in my life). The temperature is always under 0℃ and goes down to -20℃ in the night. The road is covered by thick ice and super slippy. Çok tehlikeli!

During staying here, I went to Trabzon, the city faced on the Black Sea in order to get Iran visa. It was much warmer, actually 20℃ warmer than Erzurum.

I met the friends of the sister of my friend here and had nice dinner or hung out with them. 4 girls and me. It was wonderful situation.

Cağ Kebab is famous here. It was fantastic.

I’m staying in the house of the classmate of the girls. We had a small party in New Year. There is no special custom to celebrate New Year in Turkey(they said but I’m not sure), so the atmosphere of people or city was same as usual. Only the thing they did was to buy lotto, but it was unfortunately…

Well, the stay in Turkey have been much longer than my plan. I expected 1.5 months but it’s going to be 3 months(limit of stay)! That’s just because Turkish people are so nice. Hey my friends! You delayed my trip! How can you take responsibility? OK, YOU SHOULD PROMISE TO SEE ME AGAIN! Tamam mı? I’ll definitely come back to Turkey anyway and live, work or marry, inşallah!

To people who are reading it. If you cannot like or trust other people, you should go to Turkey. Turkish people will save you. They are genius of making friend and loving people. I have got more than 100 arkadaş actually, maşallah!

Now I’m going to Iran, which is the country I’m most interested in. Of course I was a little bit afraid because I had always heard only bad news on TV or newspaper. However, there is no fear at all now. One big reason is that now I’m believing in Islamic people. Turkish friends told me how nice they are. There should be many differences between Turkey and Iran but I can feel like “connected” to Iran through Islam. All the people I have met, all the idea they have told me, all the experience I have done, everything connects “the way I have passed” to “the way I will pass”, and the way to Japan would be one beautiful line. I’m just going on it.

Thank you for everything! Allah razi olsun!

The next way: Erzurum – Tabriz – Teheran

Istanbul – Erzurum

4693 – 5555/ 862km   5000km!


Yu Ito

January 2012
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