West Coast of Turkey (November 10th - November 16th)
(Geyikli - Near Assos - Akcay - Gikili - Yenisakran - Gaziemer - Selcuk)
Distance biked so far: (4,645 km)
On Tuesday I joined a tour group as we went by bus around parts of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The young tour guide was excellent as he avoided the tendency of historians to recite dates but focussed instead on real stories of the soldiers who fought in the war. He would read out pages of personal diaries that had been recovered from those killed and then point out the areas where specific battles took place. I had not known a lot about the campaign but it was a great way to spend the day. I notice that I have a keen interest in relatively modern history (Gallipoli was fought in 1915) and much less interest in many of the historical ruins dating back thousands of years. The war memorial from the D-Day landings in Normandy, France and now the tour of the Battle of Gallipoli have been my highlights in terms of sites visited.
As noted earlier, the Battle of Gallipoli had 500,000 casualties with most occurring on the victorious Turkish side. The Allies, predominantly England, France, Australia and New Zealand also suffered heavy losses. There was a small contingent called the Newfoundlanders before the province joined the Dominion of Canada.
Mustafa Kemal was a Commander of the Turkish forces and after he correctly estimated where the Allies would attack he was able to hold his position until they retreated. He later led the Turkish National Movement in their War of Independence and became the Republic of Turkeys first President, under the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He created a Western style government and separated the role of church and state, unusual in a Muslim country. His picture is everywhere and one of the monuments at Gallipoli bears these words of his:
As part of my effort to understand the culture of Turkey, I am reading the following books. First is the book "My Name is Red" written by the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature Orhan Pamuk. It is a historical murder mystery but the novel is written as a commentary on Islam and provides a great perspective on the city of Istanbul. The second book is "Turkish Accession to the European Union: Satisfying the Copenhagen Criteria" by Jozef Konings. The book examines the history of Turkey and then reviews if they are making progress towards being accepted as a Member of the EU and specifically, what are the potential roadblocks ahead.
There is a highway that runs down this part of the coast but I have been able to get off it for most of the route following rural roads that takes me through olive orchards and very small poor villages. I left the small town of Geyikli on Thursday November 11th and within a few miles a truck slowed beside me and the driver motioned for me to pull over. He then asked if I wanted anything to eat but I had just eaten a large breakfast but accepted a few tangerines to eat a little later. Later in the day another man drove up beside me and handed me a bottle of water from the passenger seat and then they drove ahead honking their horn and waving enthusiastically until they were out of sight. As the afternoon wore on a young man pulled his car over and came out to greet me. He spoke fairly good English and asked if I would join him for a tea in town and I accepted. The owner of the store slipped into the picture on the right.
He told me about his friend that owned a nice beachfront hotel nearby and suggested that instead of going into Assos, I stop there as the price will be about 40% cheaper. I biked for another hour and found the turnoff down to the water. Unfortunately, it is a 5 km side-road and very steep all the way down meaning I will get a very tough uphill first thing in the morning.
I found the pension on a dirt path along the beachfront and wasn't sure I was there until a few feet in front. A young guy came out to greet me and said they had a room so I unloaded my bike. It was a rustic room but looked quite comfortable. I had a shower then grabbed my book and went back to the main building to see if they served dinner. The room had 7 tables with benches and pillows propped up along the side and the young guy and his brother were off to one side mending fishing nets. The kitchen was on one end where the mother would reside, I didn't see her the entire night. The meal was fantastic with lots of fresh salad, bread, fish, fruit and a little wine. The fish they serve and that is very popular here is anchovies, something that tastes far different than the salted version served on pizza in America. The entire meal (other than the wine) was created from the fish and produce caught and grown on their property. Cagataya stopped by and joined in with a few other men and we ended up talking and eating until 9 pm, a nice leisurely 4 hour dinner.
It is olive season right now and the fields are full of people (mainly women) picking olives. I stopped to watch them in action and a man came out to greet me. He spoke very good English having lived in Australia for 12 years with his Dutch wife. He owns a fishing boat and during harvest season helps his friend and in return gets a year's supply of olives and olive oil. They get the olives down by laying down large mats and then shaking the trees so the olives drop on the mats. They are then put into large crates and carried off to the producers. Some of these are kept for eating and others for making oil. Turkey is the 3rd largest supplier of olive oil to the U.S after Spain and Italy and is usually sold under the name brands from those two countries.