Sunday, 29 December 2013

Aegan coast

After 10 days on the Aegan coast, here's some thoughts after sedentary touring, bike touring, and sight seeing either way. 

The coast is lovely. More rugged than I pictured. Rocky, steep. Switchbacks are steep. Roads are narrow and quiet.  Great for cycling.  Lots of places to get long climbs up bigger mountains than I thought. If one were to explore the forest roads by hard tail or 'cross bike there'd be a plethora of treasures, those trails are everywhere. Water springs in stone carvings at sides of road all over. 

Words that are redundant here are words that should be elsewhere as well. Fresh, organic, free range. Steps from ground to plate are very few.  Diet is quality stuff I should eat more of. We went days without processed foods or fried stuff. Omelettes and kebabs are the only things done with grease of any kind. Getting your RDA of fruits and vegetables is not a difficult task; locals probably think being told to emphasize fruits and vegetables in the diet would be very strange.  Those 100 mile diets where your food comes from nearby are redundant too. I probably ate more honey than I have in years. There's bee boxes everywhere. Tea, on breads, etc. favourite innovation was the trick of carving butter with your fork, putting honey in middle, whipping it up, and putting it on bread.  That could be a diet killer. But better than frosting. I feel better. Of course it's vacation, commensurate with less stress, air conditioned environment and fluorescent lights, and more activity, but the food aspect is noticeable. Lastly, we got one Turkish delight in a bazaar. Wow. Heavenly. 

Traffic is nicer to bikes than home by a long shot. Everyone loves the tandem. By the numbers we got zero aggressive drivers and 100% toot toot honks, waves, smiles and the universal thumbs up, fascinated kids, hellos from old men smoking and drinking teas in towns.  While we have electrics and hybrids jammed down our throats, roads seemed to favour €10-20k diesels that get 1,000k+ per tank.  Scooters are everywhere. They haul firewood, families and goats. People turn them off to coast downhill. 

People are nice. In two weeks we got zero displays of rudeness, impatience, foreigner distrust or ripoff, or religious judgement. Zero. We got patience, hospitality, intrigue, care and just good genuine treatment.  Everywhere. Despite language being extremely unrelated to ours, we never struggled. People brought you back into the kitchen to show you ingredients they offered. Showed you hot peppers and motioned for how many.  Easy.  Aside from how they treated us, they seemed to treat each other very well, and their animals nicely too. Animals aren't seperate from life in the small towns.  Chances are your pensiyon has chickens in the front yard, a cat in the kitchen, sheep out back and bees by the gardens. 

We saw one homeless person. It seems to be really under control. There's basic living in farms, but we didn't see evidence of destitute life. We saw basic entertainement, and cost effective life, like tea and dominoes and layers of 4 sweaters and a tweed blazer all the farmers wear with a watchman cap, where most of their life cost appeared to be cigarettes.  They smoke a lot. Sad. 

I wish I had a telephoto lens to take distant shots or Turkish charisma to ask people for photos. The moustache, beard, side burns combos here are amazing. They have a lot of raw material to work with. 

I don't really get the religion thing. They're nearly 100% Muslim by statistics. But you can sit having a beer being served by Hassan wearing a hipster outfit while the call to prayer goes out and nobody flinches. The soap operas are juicy and women's outfits span a wide range. Bikini shops and fashion ads didn't have a required amount of cover up, they were full Euro standard. So I can only assume they aren't so uptight in their interpretation of doctrine.  If they think we're "infidels" they kept it pretty hidden.  We sensed intrigue absent of judgement. People would come and ask Huseyin where we were from, how far we were biking, if Cindy ever went in front, marvel at the tandem, then come and say hello to us in English after as that's the word everyone knows.  In this area, I think people have a global understanding of a lot, but probably care more about their daily life than who's killing who and why. They have very wholesome existence and I'd suspect feel very little need to take on the outside world's issues.  I wouldn't. 

This coast felt like going back in time. Other than being on a paved road, there were times in the little towns where horses, miles, donkeys, chickens, cats and dogs, fires, axes, cows, farmers, stone walls, drying laundry strings, hoeing fields drowned out anything new. Occasionally an old Fiat tractor would go by. Pace of life probably hasn't changed much... since life really got going here. 

Like any travel, and in a very healthy dose this time, the "superiority of home" mentality suffered big blows this trip. My daily routine is more rushed, more rude, less tasty and healthy.  They have enough internet (fast wifi is ubiquitous) and TV (should just be called the football viewing device) to get them by. Peaceful, welcoming. If I "got stuck" here without ability to return, I couldn't fathom being very upset, provided I could order bike tires and chains online.  Beat all our expectations. 

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