Tantalising Turkey Tempts Travelling Twosome
"The journey is difficult, immense. We will travel as far as we can, but cannot in one lifetime see all that we would like to see or learn all that we hunger to know" Loren Eiseley
A necklace of red chillies dries on the veranda. Green grapes drip heavily from the vine. Golden sunlight creeps up the white minaret. 'Walk like an Egyptian' blares from the restaurant below, competing with the evening call to prayer. The air is warm and a gentle sea breeze floats up the street.
Older woman in traditional headscarves seem to co-exist quite happily with tanned younger generation sporting bikini tops. Children glide in and out of the crowd on colourful mountain bikes. Men on velvet stools sit outside their shop, luring passers-by into their treasure troves of carpets, leather jackets, jewellery and intricate tiles.
We were meant to cycle 80kms today to Izmir, but we were so tired after the saga of crossing the Aegean that we came straight from the ferry to this pension. One thing we have learnt on this trip is to stop and ground ourselves when we arrive in a new country. Besides, the people along the shop-fronts were so smiley and friendly; we would have found it really hard to leave even if we had the energy.
Our last day in Greece was spent circling a three-lane roundabout amongst the crazy traffic that is Athens. Our ferry was at 8pm but we had left it to the last minute to get some crucial footage and photographs of us cycling in the chaotic capital. Luckily one of our fellow hostellers just happened to be a National Geographic photographer. He followed us up to Omonia Square and like an invisible pixie darted in and out of the cars, buses, motorbikes and traffic police, producing some super sexy images in the process.
We made it to our ferry with hours to spare. We should have guessed something was not quite right when we caught an escalator up to the carpeted luxury of the first deck. We definitely should have known something was up when the engine started two hours early. Before we knew it the Acropolis was disappearing behind us in a sea of dirty white buildings and smog.
We had caught the wrong ferry. Three different people had checked our tickets but they all failed to notice we were on the wrong boat. But we were lucky again. Not only was the boat we stowed away on one of the newest and fastest in Greece, it was also one of the most luxurious. And it was going to our island! We were deposited on Hiros just before midnight - six hours earlier than we thought we would get there. Our ferry to Turkey wasn't until 8 o'clock the next morning. So we asked the port policeman in his smart white hat if there was a campsite nearby. His response was; 'Camping is twenty kilometres away, but no problem, just put your tent in our local park. It is safe here, no one will cut your throat'.
We fell asleep listening to the 'The Beach' sound track as it was projected onto the open-air cinema screen set amongst the neighbouring palm trees.
We awoke with the sun on our faces and made our lazy way back down to the port. Within two hours we found ourselves in the Turkish port of Cesme. The locals gave us the most amazing welcome. The man at tourist information warned us not to camp wild because: 'there might be insects and even some flies.' Not quite as harsh as the warning we received our first day in Greece ('Do not camp wild because of the bears, wolves and Albanian bandits.')
It is amazing to think that Greece and Turkey were on the brink of war only four years ago over a few barren rocks in the Aegean. This is a country that Greece finds so threatening that they passed a law making it virtually impossible to find out information about passenger ferries to Turkey.
As we crossed the few miles between Hiros and the Turkish mainland we could feel the history around us. But this wasn't schoolbook history. This was now. It was a tense moment as the captain lowered the Greek flag. We had entered Turkish waters.
In Greece we found it difficult making our way through town because everyone ignored us and were not prepared to help. In Turkey it is the complete opposite. It is difficult to make our way through town because everyone wants to chat.
Kevin's Bike2oz t-shirt (with our route marked across a world map and the text: 'England to Australia by bicycle') seemed to make matters worse. As we walked up the street we heard someone call: 'England to Australia...England to my shop.' We turned to see a man with a huge smile across his face, waving his arms about, pleading for us to come back and buy a leather handbag!
As the mosques called the people to prayer we fall into an afternoon slumber. Once again we can relax because once again we are in a country where we feel at home