Mediterranean Cycopaths

Turkish Delight

2nd Aprıl 2007 

The hot topics in Turkey right now involve human rights, the state of it’s prisons and some dubious legislation severely punishing those who ‘denigrate’ the Turkish character. Questions being asked will need to be satisfactorily answered if they are not to sidetrack Turkey’s bid for EU membership – another controversial subject. Whilst some sing the praises of the associated economic benefits, others voice a fear that Turkey will blend into a European hegemony, losing a sense of its own national identity.

At times the temperaments of the local men seem as flammable as the issues wracking the nation. In a rural village in the Taurus Mountains a seemingly pleasant man lent me a knife to cut a tomato. Seemingly pleasant, that was, until our stumbling interaction was peppered with words such as ‘Kalashnikov’ and ‘Junta’ and the performance of throat-slitting actions.

In Iskenderun we joined unperturbed locals eating kebabs at the epicentre of a midday street brawl. Although some of the combatants armed themselves with the kebab shop furnishings it seemed more show than blow, and thankfully the large amount of negotiators and spectators outnumbered actual adversaries. Still it was a freewheeling and lively display of flaying limbs, intense gesticulation and heated verbal exchange which provided a welcome distraction from the rigours of the day’s cycling.

Further on, an alcohol-fueled hothead in Kaş allowed my one-line acknowledgement of the existence of the PKK to manifest into a belief that I was a Syrian Kurd brainwashed, propaganda espousing voicebox in town to realise some sinister Kurdish agenda. My best efforts at diplomacy could not shake him of his conviction and things were beginning to look a little nasty. Taking a cue from earlier events I surveyed the street for a kebab stand to plunder. Unfortunately for me it seemed I was drinking at the only bar in Turkey not flanked by such an amenity.

Wondering how I might use the dregs of my ‘Hot Chilli’ flavoured Doritos as a form of defence, I was relieved when the inner workings of my nemesis’ vast intellect steered him away from a violent resolution and led him to call the Secret Police to interrogate me instead. Amazingly effective at their job, the Secret Police – who actually turned up – presumably managed to interrogate me so secretly that even I didn’t realise. Even better, they diverted ‘Einstein’s’ attention long enough for me to escape in a taxi.

Fortunately I managed to travel the rest of the country without enraging the local population and got the distinct impression that most would give their right arm to help us if it wasn’t being so vigorously utilised to shake our hands, pat our backs or wave in encouragement. At the very least, the novel sight of 2 scrawny foreign cyclists scoffing lunch in supermarket carparks (rather than well to do tourists being shuttled between expensive coastal resorts and restaurants) seemed to engender a generosity that saw us proffered cups of sweet tea and armfuls of juicy oranges.

Indeed after months of cycling through some very arid landscapes the lush, fertile surrounds of the Turkish Mediterranean coast were an unmitigated delight. In the East in particular soaring pine-clad mountains plunge straight into the shimmering turquoise sea. Winding descents lead to river deltas capped by sandy beaches and teeming with crops of bananas, strawberries, oranges and lemons. The air is warmed by frequent sunshine, perfumed by ripening citrus and freshened by afternoon sea-breezes.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the great pleasure I already take in eating has been raised to even loftier heights. Fresh baked bread, honey, olives, baklava, pide (meat and cheese bread) and the best kebabs on the planet have all predictably compounded my love of this region. But right out of left field I was shocked to find myself thoroughly enjoying a dish I never in my life expected…SALAD!! Not the tired, leaf dominated side that I usually only pick at out of guilty obligation, but bowls laden wıth ripe tomato and cucumber, bursting with flavour and drizzled with fresh and herby dressings.

The downside of such a conversion is that by extolling the virtues of salad one is highly liable to being charged with denigrating the character of Team Cycopath – another crime, which at this time, in these parts, is severely punished indeed.

Sean

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April 4, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Another delightful installation Mr Smee, I almost had to reach for my thesaurus a number of times, but alas it was not required. Have you thought about compiling these scriptures and putting together some sort of travel memoir or book?
    I’d read it (again!).
    Next time the secret police come around, use the secret handshake!

    Comment by Josh | April 5, 2007 | Reply

  2. ohlala..such a disappointement…..Pssitt.. Michael, Michael,listen… wake up: you have failed your mission in trying to get nice pictures !!! You may hurry up as the readers of the interesting journal start to get very impatient !!;)…ok .. ok …you still have a last chance hehehe 🙂

    Comment by audrey | April 14, 2007 | Reply


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