A long weekend in Bursa
Sweaty from a steep climb we arrive in Misa, apparently a picturesque village within the expanding boundaries of the metropolis Bursa. Bursa has been the capital of the great Ottoman empire. It counts over 2 million inhabitants and many must see attractions. Misa has a campground according to maps.me; it's always the question whether that's true, but this time it is confirmed by Google Maps so we are in good hope. We first cycle into the village and see serried terraces along the river. This looks nice! The local mini-supermarket has a small product range. We think with some improvising we can cook a meal, but the restaurants beckon. The well deserved beer is unfortunately not available. On a terrace we drink an icetea and then we go to the campground.
We pay 40 Turkish lira (converted € 5.58) for 2 nights with the manager of the on-site restaurant in a net suit. There is a separate tent area and we are not the only ones, not even the only cyclists! We pitch the tent and want to take a shower, but first we say hello to the group of people in the middle of the site. They immediately offer ice-cold beer, red wine and ayçekirdeği, or sunflower seeds, to nibble (or make an effort because it requires some dexterity).
We meet Aydogan and Ece, they live in Istanbul and came by bus to Bursa. Ece has been restoring ornaments in mosques, churches and country houses for 30 years. She shows an impressive series of photos with gold leaf ceilings and own designs. Aydogan has been her friend for 7 months and they are now working together. They would camp 2 days here, but that was 10 days ago and they are still here.
Furthermore, we meet a French family: Matthieu, Sophie and Luba from the Vosges. They came by bike and followed the route along the Danube. They have rented their house for a year. Sophie is originally from Madagascar and they are that's their final destination. Luba is 2 years and 4 months and sleeps during the day in the trailer behind Matthieu's bicycle. Luba is a dazzlingly beautiful boy with a bunch of high-blonde curls on a sun-kissed body.
That shower follows much later. We often learn the word for cheers: şerefe. Harry cannot remember it and pronounces to everyone's hilarity many variations. After the beers are gone we look for the Tekelshop along the motorway where we can supplement the desired refreshments we have consumed. A Tekelshop sells alcohol. We are not allowed to go for a dinner or cook anything from our new friends. We are told that "the doctor" (he was always addressed this way and his name is not known to us) will arrive soon and he brings food and (more) drinks with him.
The doctor is a friend of Aydogan and lives and works in Bursa. He brings lahmacun, the Turkish roll-up pizza that is filled with tomato, cucumber, pepper and mint. Very nice! We take the figs that a gamer gave us on the way. Don't know how to eat figs. Aydogan shows us and we all enjoy the ripe fruits. Later in the evening a young couple from Bursa arrive by bicycle to the campsite and also sit down with us. The tent area is now full of tents. Most come after dark and according to Aydogan most leave early in the morning: "they will not pay". The following days shows he is right.
We want to visit the city the next day, but we're not going. Bread is bought and Aydogan bakes sucuk, a typical Turkish dry spiced sausage, with eggs. There is also cheese, tomato, cucumber and pepper. The newly arrived young couple from Bursa, offers home-baked nut-cake and Turkish coffee from small porcelain cups. Turkish coffee has a layer of coffee grounds. Harry carefully drinks the coffee. Aydogan takes over the cup and puts it upside down on a flat plate. After 10 minutes Ece carefully examines the remaining grounds. She appears to have the gift to be able to read the future from the pattern. As a medium she reads that:
- Big mama will send a postal package that comes by plane
- What you wish, will come true
- After this trip you will leave six more times
- Bulls are no problem
No idea how great her gift is, but Harry does indeed have a bull phobia.
It is a heavy breakfast for us but it is also late in the morning. Soon after breakfast, a can of beer is pulled open. There is a basic reaction from Harry to first turn off an offer a number of times, but then go on tacking. The doctor summarizes it under the slogan 'no no no, yes yes yes'. Another common text is 'okay, no problem'. We have now decided to stay longer in this special place with these beautiful people and will go into the city tomorrow. We fully enjoy this atmosphere and the solidarity.
It is August 30, the independence day or victory day. Our friends and camping people around us are in the best mood. The Turks celebrate modern society that Mustafa Kemalpasa, or Ataturk, founded it. There is a big flag hanging on the tree in the middle area. It is treated with full respect and great love. Same if spoken about Ataturk. The image of Atatürk has something: a strong look that we can not define, but it attracts our eyes and that is what the Turks appreciate.
In the meantime Matthieu rents a car. The French find it too hot to cycle in Turkey now (and they might be right about that). They store their bicycles in a shed on the campsite and will travel two weeks by car along the west coast. We say goodbye to this wonderful family from France. Both Ece and Aydogan must leave a tear.
Ece and Aydogan want to take the bus back to Istanbul in the afternoon. They have to return to work the next day. The time of departure is continuously adjusted, continuously a little later until a phone call is made and they can stay two extra days. Great, not another farewell today!
In the afternoon Harry goes shopping with the men. Summeth, a friend of the doctor, joins them. The men get everything for a mangal, a Turkish barbecue. Sis kebab with seasoned lamb, kofte of minced meat, large cheese-filled coffees, sauces, bread and salad. Later the doctor will get some drinks and comes back with an extra flag of Mr. Atatürk for us! We proudly hang it on the washing line at our tent.
One of the dogs from the pack, who lives on the campsite, has walked with a leather slipper. A moment later the owner of the slipper appears on one slipper and one bare foot. Her husband follows. It seems like a coincidence. They saw us sitting and wanted to take a closer look, the dog has accelerated the acquaintance: Ahmet and Zuhal also join the barbecue. Two friends of the cycling couple from Bursa complete the now large group. Meanwhile, a loudspeaker box is hung in the tree and Turkish music completes the party. We dance in a Turkish way and around us the tent field is filled with all kinds of small tents.
Ahmet and Zuhal return the next morning with an extensive and high-calorie breakfast of borek with beef with meat and cheese, simit (sesame bagel) and pie with a paste of walnut and honey. Now we have to burn some calories and we cycle to the city. We have to pass a detection gate in the shopping center. The shoppingmall with chic brand stores is painfully quiet. Would the declining exchange rate of the Turkish lira cause people to keep their hands on their pocket?
At Intersport and Decathlon we buy some bicycle supplies and then we go to the outdoor shop North Star of Ismail Deniz. He approached us days ago at a gasstation and invited us to come by for advice. Our plan is to cycle through the middle of Turkey. He advises against: this time a year it is too hot and there will be no shadow. Via Lake Abant to the Black Sea region is a better route. We take his advice a few moments into consideration and decide that we should indeed change plans. It is indeed stiflingly hot. Ismail, thanks! Also for the "survival" knife that Harry has been looking forward to for ages and which seems to have a primary and ego-enriching effect on him.
In the evening at the campsite by Ece and Aydogan spoil us again with an abundance of food. There is bread, cheese, different types of meat, tomato, cucumber and sweet melon. Summeth teaches us how to knit a shawl in Turkish and Arabic. The photo of Harry ends as a profile picture on Facebook.
The next morning we are picked up by the doctor at 9 am for a swim at his apartment. The French / Madargaskarian Sophie apparently had a foresight and gave Roelie her swimming cap. For long hair a cap is compulsory. Before we go swimming, an extensive and tasty breakfast is again made in the doctor's apartment. The doctor himself is at work. His large apartment is located in a fashionable district full of high-rise buildings. Four flats stand around a large swimming pool and barbecue area.
We learn a lot about Turkish culture and food, which we will benefit from a lot. We also laugh a lot. If we do not understand each other for a moment, we use Google translate. This sometimes produces bizarre translations. For example Aydogan frase: 'We now come to the pool, ladies tops come from different backs'). The pool is lovely but Harry immediately loses a contact lens.
Aydogan receives bad news from his brother who tells him that he is going to divorce. The mood changes, but we still enjoy it. Later in the afternoon Roelie is taken by Ece to take a shower and Harry goes (again) with the men to do the shopping for a barbecue evening. Harry has put a lot of pressure on Aydogan to take care of the cost of the meal this time. This pressure had to be maintained until the cash desk, but in the end he succeeded. The barbecue is again nice and cozy, but Aydogans mood is less festive than before. Around midnight, Summeth takes us back to the campsite by car, which again is packed with new tents. Not only the sheep on the other side of the road, but now there are also camping guests, who stay blaring until late at night.
The last day, Sunday, we have breakfast with the preserved 'left overs' of previous days. Aydogan did not sleep well and does not feel well physically and mentally. We cycle to a shopping center for a SIM card for our WiFi hotspot and a contact lens for Harry. Buying a prepaid sim lock free ticket creates a lot of confusion and language problems at a Turkcell shop. We have to show our passports, forms are filled in and the final amount to be paid is adjusted a few times upwards to eventually more than € 30. In Serbia 4GB costed € 3 ... We decide to use one of our help lines and call Iskander from Istanbul, whom we met in Alexandroupoli. In the end, we decide to postpone the purchase and come back with our hotspot device. Five minutes later, however, we walk by a Vodafone shop. "Let's try again", we say and we enter the store. A little later we are outside with the desired card for less than € 10. We do not buy the special Apple paper clip for € 3. At the nearby supermarket we buy a box of paper clips instead for only € 0.50.
The contact lens is a more difficult story. It turns out that you can order contact lenses in Turkey only on doctor's prescription, to pick them up after a week. If we had known that before, the doctor would have written us a prescription. But still we had to wait for a week to pick them up. That is not working for us. Our Turkish friends are going to leave today. Harjan, the son of Harry, will have to send something to us on the way for the first time.
Once back at the campsite, the doctor and Summeth have arrived and a few beers are being drunk. With Aydogan, however, things are getting worse and by the end of the afternoon the time has come to say goodbye. With a tear and lots of hugs we say goodbye to these beautiful, sweet people. They go home, we continue cycling. The flag of Ataturk, a small turkish flag, a bandana from Ece and a cap from Aydogan accompany us with all the valuable memories.
On the last evening the tent field is ours. Everyone has left and this evening no one is setting up his tent in the dark. Besides the tent field, there are still many families barbecuing. We decide to follow their example. All those nice restaurants including those next to the campsite where you can sit with your feet in the river, we leave unvisited. At the Tekelshop we buy a disposable barbecue complete with coal, pincer and impeller. In the restaurant next door we choose delicacies from the display: kofte, sis kebab and steak fillet. The good English speaking waiter, who also has a few important Dutch words 'Achtentachtig, allemachtig prachtig' (meaning '88, extremely good', referring to the year Holland won the EK championship soccer). He adds extra sauces on the house. Together with bread, fresh tomatoes, peppers and fruit we are guaranteed to have a wonderful evening of an unforgettable weekend ....
When we finished and want to go to sleep, a young man brings dolma's (with fried rice stuffed aubergines and bell peppers) of a family that barbecued on the tent field: we are already full but they are so tasty that we eat everything.
Turkey is a beautiful country full of beautiful people and great food!