Week eleven - the international travellers lodge


My progress in the last week was stunted by the discovery of a special community of people.

I had planned to spend only two nights in Cappadocia. My first was spent under the stars in the national park itself. For the second I had organised to stay with a warmshowers host only thirty kilometres further, in the town of Urgup.

One of the pleasantries of warmshowers is that it's structureless. You may have a room, a bed, a sofa or a garden to camp in. You may share your space with one person or a whole family. No two experiences are the same, or usually even remotely similar. It is never boring.

Having experienced all of these possibilities already, I had thought that I was prepared for anything. I was therefore surprised at what I found when I rolled up the driveway of my host in Urgup.

Bruno is in his fifties and with his housemate runs what seems to be an unofficial international travellers hostel. Cappadocia is a tourist hotspot. Its central position in Turkey and Turkeys centrality between Europe and Asia means that in the summer long distance bikers and hitchhikers swarm like mosquitoes to a head torch.



For three months a year Bruno opens his house to the swarm. On my first night he had 12 guests - three French, one Dutch, one Hungarian, one Italian, two Germans, one Columbian, two Argentinians and me. The only rule was that people gather for dinner to talk, laugh and drink. Cooking is delegated to a different person each night, and in the day time you team up with a new friend and go hiking through the breathtaking Cappadocian valleys.

Five days had slipped by before I had time to raise my beer and exclaim “serefe!”

On my first day we hitchhiked to the Kalmakli underground city, eight floors of twisting passageways and caverns which were built in the Hitties and Phrygians period in B.C 3000. At their height they were home to a predicted 3500 people.






In the following days I hiked four of the major Cappadocian valleys.




In the Pidgeon valley, so named due to the numerous pidgeons (duh!), we met a young Russian couple at the bottom of a rock scramble. They had been travelling in Georgia and to celebrate the successful descent they were getting drunk off their stash of Georgian tchatcha, a spirit made from fermented fruits. We joined in and soon were also drunk, despite being less than halfway through our hike.



A last highlight of Bruno's was introducing the gang to a proper apple crumble, this is become my travelling trademark.

Although I am ‘solo’ I usually prefer the company of others to my own and jump at any opportunity to share my time.

I left Bruno's with Pablo and Guilliame, two French cyclists who are cycling round the world from Paris. Pablo has a knee injury which prevents him from cycling so Pablo pedals with his hands on their adapted tandem.


We were able to meet up again a few days later to drink Turkish Raki and celebrate Guilliame's 26th birthday.

The city of Kayseri taught me that clouds really do have a silver lining. I arrived in the early evening to watch the World Cup final, after which I would join my couchsurfing host for the evening.

Unfortunately my host waited until 8pm that evening to cancel. I pedalled around in the dark due to my broken bike lights  looking for an open hostel. At 11pm I was exhausted, deflated and beginning to get teary. I begrudgingly paid the equivalent of three days of food for a hotel.

The following morning I posted on instagram asking for local expertise to fix my lights. Mehmet, who I had bumped into the night before, immediately answered. He put me up in a hotel for that night which gave me enough time in the city to solve my light problem. He even joined me for the ride out of Kayseri the following morning.



I am constantly humbled by these displays of generosity. The Turkish people are teaching me lessons about basic humanity which I hope I will live by in the future. Being alone in a foreign country can be a uncertain and isolating experience, particularly if you do not speak the language. In Turkey it is impossible to feel isolated, you are only ever a few seconds from a smile and a cup of ├žay.




Comments

  1. Mehmet, your local guardian angel. Cappadocia and its characters look fantastic.

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