Shame on the violence

Canakkale Travel Blog

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The lakes

Like folds at the end of a crumpled-up carpet the steppe folded into barren lumps and bumps that needed climbing. Luckily steep enough for a JCB, a gravel truck and a milk truck to struggle enough for us to grab on to the back and get towed almost 17 km up. Here the dull sand colours were exchanged with clear blue dam lakes and pine forrests and the solemn mood of the steppe gave way to the kind and hospitable environment we had been so used to.

As we arrived at a clear lake, surrounded by mountains we began stumbling across left overs from the old greek empire; A bathing place with crumbeling overgrown statues hidden deep in the farmland and later a city, not on any of our maps but complete with the old ruined theater, the pillars and the piles of rocks that once formed gymnasiums, stoas, streets and gutters.

Pamoukale mineral landscapes

At a second lake we began taking some serious, cross country short cuts, getting lost and having to circle and back track, asking and convincing people that we didn't need the tarmaced roads but were capable of riding the old, unused tracks. This way we found our way back to the almost undisturbed Tyrkey, that is so beautyful:Old brick houses with red tilled roofs and with large wodden verandas, all overgrown in grape vines. In the evenings herders would return with herds of goats and sheep, filling the air with the sound of tinkeling bells as they pushed along, cats lazed in the sunshine and grups of men and women sat chatting separately. However rapidly Tyrkey is developing these villages looked like they may never change. Like China, alongside it's new and modern houses Tyrkey offers timeless places where people seem to have stuck to the old ways of life, regardless of the change of pace all around them.

Our vineyard family

As we rode on similarties to China kept appearing; The sensation of being tiny somewhere huge, just riding from village to village....

With the vastness of central Turkey came amazing camp spots; First on the plains, in harvested wheat fields on beds of straw, then amongst apple and pear orchards. No sooner we had passed those we rode into the grape harvest. These areas were busy and densly populated with farmers and seasonal workers. Many have come from eastern Tyrkey's poorer areas and others are gypsies. In the north east they picked hazel nuts, in these areas they pick the grapes, the tomatoes and peppers and later they will pick the apples and pears. Ther'e travelling across the whole country, living in big tent camps on the harvested wheat fields driving along in batered cars.

Many of the tyrkish ruins are better preserved and less crowded than the greek ones....
 The villages and towns here seem more like old caravan towns, booming with temporary and permanent residents working and trading: Tractors are racing in and out with farmers picking up and dropping of heavy equipments or freshly harvested produce, weighing stations are full of queing trucks and men stacking crates of fruit or drinking tea at the roadside caffees, and the streets heaving with the added population doing their shopping or enjoyng a day off. It strikes me how relaxed the romany populaton moves amongst the tyrkish people: No gangs of boys, no groups of begging children, no intimidating young men. I expect their life here does not bring the need to intimidate. A small gyspy girl in sunday dress is astonished when she sees me.
Tired and skanky, after 11 month in asia, on the boat to europe
We chat but eventualy her mother drags her of into the shoe shop, smiling apologetically for her daugthers curiosity. The French politics make me sick to my stomach; How could they allow that to happen?? I feel embarresment and hope they do not associate me with french because we are western...But at the same time memories of danish police removing Iraki refugees from a church at night, using violence and intimidation stir uncomfortably at the back of my mind...

As busy as it was, even here camping wasn't a problem; We set up our tent, night after night, in amongst the buzz of people, well hidden in a dense world of grape vines. Childrens voices would echo around us, carried with the wind, making them sound like they were playing right next to us and farmers would drive the last loads home before 'iftar', the call to prayer that breaks fast for the day, and then, finally, the fields would become quiet.

daren in serious conversation

However one night amongst the grapes two large and confused looking sheep shuffled past us nervously. A little later a big farmer came along, looking for his escapes, but instead finding us in his fields. "Don't forget to come for breakfast! Or a cup of tea now if you want!" He said. (Read this british farmer!) Daren helped im look for a while...

The next morning we spent hours talking round their shady table: in this part of tyrkey they can grow almost anything and three harvests were hapening around us. Grapes, peppers, tomatoes, cotton was still growing but pumpkins lay drying out in the fields. We talked about how the old coule meet, about their many delicious homemade products and finaly we tried to understand the upcomming referendum:

Tyrkeys entire Judiciary is controled by the army. On Ataturks principles they are to keep a modern government but in the name of freedom they have ended up discriminating against women who wish to wear a head scarf, as they are not permited into university and are excluded from a wide range of jobs. The up comming referendum will end the armys sole control of the judiciary and permit selected politicians and lawyers entry. The key voting propagande is 'the head scarf issue' as the discrimminating law can then be changed. Whilst the 'Zaman' paper (Anagram of 'Manaz' -the call to prayer) shows a blonde police woman riping the head scarf of a young student and discussing european style democracy it is not difficult to understand our families decission to vote 'yes' to the changes. It is a step towards democracy, towards the Eu, they feel, and equality will be on the horizon. However later we meet an Australian journalist, settled in Tyrkey for 20 years. He is an animal lover and an avid critic of the Tyrkish government. A 'Yes' to the referendum will, according to him,  give an already corrupt and dangerous government even more power. He talks about a looming Putin-style presidency instead of democratisation and equality. Its not easy being openly, seriously critical here and recently 9 of his cats were poisoned...  But he is not alone in his opinion and many people chose to boycutt the election entirely to show their contempt and disapproval of the government. On the 12th of september the 'yes'vote was stronger than the 'no'. The military control of the laws has efectively ended. 

Back to the grape growers family we finally left three hours later, heavily loaded down with grapes and rasins. Plus i'd eaten about 5 sandwiches with home meade peach jam...

Eventually we reached the coast and the hard battle north began. It was headwindy and hilly but stunning. Ancient olive groves and rocky mountain tops filled with ancient cities.

And with those experiences we left Turkey. We have ridden 2361 km there. We could have done it in about 1500 km but because we had the time we decided to keep up an old promise we'd made ourselves about 8 years ago. To do Tyrey justice and travel it propperly.... And it didn't dissappoint!

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The lakes
The lakes
Pamoukale mineral landscapes
Pamoukale mineral landscapes
Our vineyard family
Our vineyard family
Many of the tyrkish ruins are bett…
Many of the tyrkish ruins are bet…
Tired and skanky, after 11 month i…
Tired and skanky, after 11 month …
daren in serious conversation
daren in serious conversation
Canakkale
photo by: irmayu