Hoş bulduk! Indeed, welcome to Turkey, and I am happy to be here. Turks are great. Snežana and I arrived in Çeşme and were welcomed by a friendly immigration officer. From there we rolled over to Çeşme’s castle and were treated to a private tour by one of the friendly guards who was oh-so-willing to help me learn some words of Turkish.
Çeşme itself is a bit of conundrum. The old stone castle sits across from the fancy yacht marina. I saw a young woman in a mini skirt holding hands with her boyfriend as we listened to the call to prayer from the nearby mosque. Trendy boutiques and boutique hotels surround the small waterfront while southern California-style sprawl extends many kilometers east.
Snežana and I hadn’t even made it out of said sprawl when we were offered our first cups of tea. Sneki had stopped to use the toilet at a gas station, and they sat us down inside next to the heater and the hot tea. In need of a shower we asked about a nearby hamam. Our friendly hosts, Kurds and Arabs from Mardin, let us use the shower right there in the gas station and put together a fantastic lunch of soup, pasta, and salad while we washed the dirt away.
The following morning we woke up to a dusting of snow. We backtracked a bit to a marked bike route which led to the tiny village of Karaköy. It was a cold and wet day as we dodged the icy spots on the rocky road into the village. Mustafa came out to offer us tea which led to another full lunch: homemade butter, homemade cheese, homemade bread, homemade honey, and of course plenty of tea. Plenty of tea from the generous Turks.
We arrived in İzmir with a couple days to explore the city before meeting Kurt at the airport. We stayed with Özgür and Çetin and met their friends Pınar and Fatih. One evening the four of them put together a fantastic shish kebab dinner with a bunch of salads and bread. After eating they taught me some Turkish folk dancing. Dancing, singing, and playing instruments, they were in their element as they all teach folk dancing to kids and take classes as well.
İzmir is a giant city. It feels bigger than Athens, making it the biggest city I’ve visited since Berlin. Sneki and I spent a few hours exploring the Konak area. There’s a famous clocktower, an old mosque, some Roman ruins, and loads of shopping. On the Sunday we were there it felt like a carnival.
On Monday we had the unfortunate need to learn a little about the Turkish health care system. Thankfully Özgür spent a few hours making the process rather painless. Well, painless for me. Snežana broke a tooth and had it extracted. First an examination and x-ray, then x-ray analysis and a referral for surgery. We biked a few kms to another clinic and, incredibly, Snežana’s record was there on their computers. Ha, I’d like to see that in the US! Some anasthetic, a little yanking, pulling, and chopping, and the tooth was out. 52.70 TL total (US$~30) and that included the pain drugs and antibiotics.
The doc gave her the go ahead to cycle the following day. Off to the airport in the cold pouring rain for the next chapter.