Translated by: Éva Bognár
We spent our very first Turkish day with sightseeing in Edirne (formerly known as Adrianople). Due to have been the capital of the Ottoman Empire, the city has a massive cultural heritage. The best known is the Selimiye Mosque, which had been built for 6 years before it was opened in 1574. The 2nd biggest mosque in Turkey is believed to be the most beautiful by many. It is very impressive even from the outside but our jaws dropped when we entered. Painted tiles, colourful bricks and mosaics all over. The interior is full of carved columns and carpeted with red. First we walked around to take some photos but then decided to sit down and enjoy the place quietly.
Any mosques are a wonder for anyone especially for those from a different culture like us. We were mesmerized by their beauty and never got tired of looking at them in awe. The city is full of tourists, mainly Bulgarians and Turkish. Just as we left the mosque we bumped into a lady who’s been living in Australia for 40 years and came as a tourist to see her home country. She offered her help to find an exchange and we had a nice chat with her.
We had a chance to visit a few more places including an old and sadly ruined Turkish bath, the pedestrian bridge we arrived on in the city the night before. The bridge was built during Hadrian’s era (who was, by the way, the founder of the city). We walked through a bazaar and saw the historical part of the town famously known for its wooden houses.
Well, if you visit Turkey, be prepared to eat all the time. Food is delicious here, furthermore we are prone to random “binge eating” due to the high number of calories burnt during cycling. We have eaten kebab – made from either goat or lamb, we weren’t quite sure though it had the typical barn odour - with salad, bulgur and lavash (Turkish flatbread) during the sightseeing.
By the time we got out of the bazaar, we were hungry again and were ready to eat. So… baklava! I’m sure people are divided into two groups. Those who love this rich and overly sweet pastry and those who don’t. We believe there is no middle way. Why would anyone eat anything they dislike? You can get the plain and the chocolate variety of baklava in Budapest, here there are much more. One may choose from 10 different flavours! They are different not only in their fillings but their shapes, sizes and of course, in their prices. Generally it’s between 16-22TRY/kg (1 TRY=115 HUF) for a standard baklava. If you after some special ones, you may need to pay 35-45 TRY/kg. We experimented with a few types, loved them so much, it’s hard to decide which one was the best. Our next way lead straight into a shop selling Turkish delight (aka lokum, sweet and fragrant cubes of jelly, made of water, starch and sugar) and our food experiment went on. We bought roasted chickpeas (called leblebi) without actually knowing what we ordered. It tasted creamy and a little bit nutty.
Honestly, the Turkish cuisine is hard to beat; we fell in love with it in no second.
On the way home I pondered getting my hair cut. It seemed to me Turkish men take pride in their appearance because the streets were full of hairdressers. These are mostly male Turkish barbers where the hairdressers are males, too. After bargaining for a deal, I managed to convince them not to touch my beard, no matter what they think, it’s good as it is. (Here, many of the young males have beards and they trim it regularly.) We had to wait a bit so we decided to do some people watch. We listened to their conversations, watched the men in front of a teahouse nearby (women were 2 floors above, upstairs, chatting on the balcony). The haircut was quick and professional (okay, they simply had to trim it to the same length everywhere), they paid a lot of attention to detail. They have washed not only my hair but my eyebrows, cleaned my ears with cotton balls and sprinkled me with a fragrant that wasn’t very welcomed by Eni. Indeed, the scent was closer to some cheap eau de cologne than to a Bulgari perfume. Feeling cool and proud of my new hairstyle, we set off for home. I guess I would have only needed a fancy upgraded Fiat (essential accessory for a cool Turkish dude on the road) to feel totally merged into local.
Our host was Egin, the owner of a professional bike store (Trakya bisiklet), who is devoted to build and support the growth of the local cycling community. We have met a few cyclers in front of the store (right underneath the flat) and we ended up having a small gathering in our place, together with them and a Romanian and Malaysian cyclist. We started a great length of discussion about trips, who went where and shared our experiences with one another. We really liked Eadi, the Malaysian guy; we hope we’ll have a chance to meet him again. Surprisingly, we enjoyed the company of Osman the most, the brother of our host, despite (or perhaps for?) the fact we had to play mime to understand each other.
We left the next day to cycle over to Istanbul and discover this buzzing, one may even say chaotic, country.
More experiences, impressions are the topic of the coming post.