Turkey has rivaled Serbia in its friendliness and welcome. Many times when I was cycling with Robin we were beckoned into a house or petrol station for tea or food. One man stopped his car to chat and later bought us lunch in a local restaurant.
Ahmet was our first host in Turkey and it was in his flat that I first noticed the call to prayer which rings out all across Turkey. Ahmet is a practicing Muslim and prays 5 times a day and although he says he only does the minimum required I’m impressed by his devotion. Several times when he was showing us his city, Edirne, he would hop into a mosque to say prayers before the tour continued. The mosques are the most impressive sights and it was in the Selimiye Mosque, watching Ahmet and the others pray and listening to the imam sing his beautiful song that I felt my most peaceful moment on this tour. It was a strange contrast when Ahmet then took us to the basement of a tower block and led us to a back room to experience his other act of worship. A large flat screen was surrounded by plastic guitars and drums and a games console with Guitar Hero 5 lay on the floor. Robin and I were on the guitars and Ahmet fronted the band with the energy and intensity of a rock star, head banging and screaming along to Rammstein.
Ahmet was one of the profoundly generous people I’ve met on this journey. He is a 6th year medical student and had to be at hospital from 8:30 am til 1 pm both days we were there. We had arrived in the evening with no Turkish money and Ahmet took us around town, fed us lambs intestines and took us home at 2 am. We woke at 11 the next morning. The table had been laid and two parcels waited for us with a note. He had crept out and bought us breakfast before leaving for work.
After Edirne we stayed in Luleburgaz with another generous Turkish host and watched football with cold beers in his beautiful apartment.
Robin and I separated at Corlu as I planned to follow the NFL all night in a cheap hotel. I popped out to the local pub for a quick drink and found myself in a dark bar with music blaring out. I settled down in a corner and started writing my diary. A lady started drinking next to me and occasionally stroked my beard. She spoke no English so I tried to gesture that I was only here for beer. When I came to pay the bill I found I had been charged for my companion. After 15 minutes of questioning the bill I found myself surrounded by 3 women and a handful of young men, one of whom spoke broken English. I explained several times that I did not wish to acquire the services of anyone and would only pay for the beers. After a while they tired and accepted 15 lira for the two beers I drank. Since then I have been put off bars in Turkey and have stuck to tea shops.