Translated by: Alexandra Fadgyas
What a long and tiring journey this has been. After 23 hours of being bounced about the train we safely arrived to Tatvan. The trip began in Kayseri. Our bargain train tickets offered us only a little compartment that I must say - was not at all very comfortable. The seats themselves were sufficient but due to the size caused us to wake up with our arms and legs completely numb. Needless to say, we did not feel refreshed.
By 5 o'clock in the afternoon we were standing in the station in Tatvan surrounded by local children. After thanking them for their welcome we jumped on our bicycles and made our way out of the town. The plan was to find a place to pitch our tent before nightfall.
Despite the fact that we were riding against the wind we were making good time. As we peddled our way further and further away from the town the landscape became full of crops and fields - not exactly an ideal place to make camp. We stopped for a moment to access the situation. What were going to do? As the sun set the wind began picking up as we watched the last bit of light touch the horizon. Now what? Honestly, we had no idea what to do. All of a sudden (whilst Balázs and I further pondered our predicament) a car pulled up next to us on the road. One of the passengers signalled us to follow them to a nearby village where we would be able to spend the night. How relieved we were to hear this. Quickly our happiness changed to curiosity as we wondered where this new adventure would lead us.
When we arrived to the village a bunch of kids approached and surrounded us. The welcome was so loud that even the parents came out from their houses to see what was going on. While we were pushing our bicycles on the road we tried to return all the smiles and waves that welcomed us. We took little boxes out of our pockets ( that we got in Kayseri) they were full of little colorful candies and gave a few to each child.
After few minutes a young man came to us from the crowd, greeted us kindly and then led us to his house. Some braver and older kids were still following us. A minute after we entered the house, the whole family gathered before us. The word family has a different meaning at this part of the world. Most of the times the entire extended family will live together under one roof.
They offered us a seat. We sat down on the floor and accepted a cup of tea. Whilst sipping our drink everyone introduced themselves. The young guy – who picked us up from the crowd- was the son of our host. Müjde – was his 17 years old sister. After a little chat we were officially offered accommodation at the house. Our host offered us a room for couple of days and also ensured us that we can stay longer -even for weeks- if we wanted to. Both of us were interested in the life of this tiny village, therefore we gladly accepted the invitation.
The village – Yocabasi- is located in a valley about 15 km away from Tatvan. It is surrounded by hills. There are only few parcels that are good for planting. Families with good financial means keep sheep and goats around the nearby mountains.
It is interesting that there is such large class differences in a small community!
Our host – Nejmetin’s house was very humble. We were cooking on the floor in the kitchen. There was only one little faucet from which we could take some water. It was connected through the bathroom. The only luxury was the electricity and the squatter toilet in this house.
The floor was covered with nice carpets in each room. We had to take our shoes off if we wanted to enter. Barefoot only on the carpets!
At lunch time the whole family gathers together and sits on the floor in a circle. Everyone knows their places. The head of the family sits closest to the fire. These people are deeply religious, therefore they asked us to wear long trousers and I had to wear a shawl as well. I would take a little note here: my Hungarian style of tightening a shawl gathered some appreciation among the women around, even from the older ones! :) A day had to pass for us to realize that the financial situation of our family was not as good as we thought.
The food at the house was delicious. Lunch and dinner were mostly made of vegetables. Only rich families can afford meat. Eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt can be bought in the village. Bread is made and baked at each house. It is the women's task to collect mushrooms and other consumable plants from the hills nearby.
We wanted to contribute towards the costs, but they refused us – saying that we are guests in their house and it is an honor for them. We tried different tricks how we could return all their kindness but they turned us down again and again. We finally managed to do something : We cooked then dinner. Rice- pudding. It was great to see that all of them liked it.
We found these people kind, funny and hospitable. Everybody has their own role and task around the house. A family usually has 8-12 children so they have to work hard to raise them. Müjde- the daughter of our host has a different idea about living her life. She would like to leave the village as soon as she can and go to university to study. She would like to be an English teacher and work in Istanbul for a ’brighter future’. She was enthusiastically telling us stories about her cousins who found their luck in the city and now own businesses, houses, big cars and iphones. We were speaking with her a lot, but we did not want to destroy her vision about the western world.
One night we were invited to a wealthy family for dinner. In their living room there was a flat screen TV and a sofa as well. They had eleven children. Three of them live in Istanbul and manage a successful construction company. Four of the children still live with them as they are still young. As tradition dictates we had our dinner on the floor along with a nice chat.
Even without having a common language it was easy to communicate with the kids and the young adults. We used our hands and some Turkish words to explain things. In return we learned some Kurdish phrases which were useful even at the western part of Iran.
We spent 3 days at the lovely village of Yocabasi. We did not have internet access and our phones were not working either. This place gave us the impression of stillness. As though time had stopped.
As we bicycled along the Van lake we had opportunity to experience the extraordinary kindness and hospitality of the Kurdish people.
On one occasion while I was making my way up a steep mountain a van pulled up next to me. Two men jumped out and offered to help bring me up to the top of the hill. At first I did not know what to say or do, I was pretty embarrassed, but then I put a smile on my face and kindly refused their offer. Balazs was 150 meters away from me and returned to see what was going on. The 2 men offered to transport us again, but when they saw that we are not interested in the ride, they left; Sitting back into their van with a huge smile on their face, tooted the horn and drove away.
Another time while we were setting up the frame of our tent close to the border of one of the small villages in the hills, we suddenly recognized a a man who was approaching us. Oh—we thought :( He must be the owner of the field and he wants to send us away. But, this was not the case. This man was making his way back home on the road and he spotted us from there. He came up, greeted us and offered us an accommodation at his own house. He was very serious about the offer because he did not want to leave until we said yes. We entered his house, where we received dinner and warm tea and we were offered a bed in the guestroom. We could feel that with each of their gestures they wanted to make us feel at home. We were grateful for the kindness of these strangers who welcomed us in their home like old friends. In the morning each of us received our own snack pack as well. There was cheese and bread in it. 'For the journey!' – they said.
As we got closer and closer to the Iranian border at some point we ran into a stormy weather. We had to stop and find shelter as it was impossible to ride the bikes. But again, we were saved by yet other Kurdish family who offered us some space at their home until the weather conditions became more friendly. We made ourselves useful at the house. I helped with the homework of one of the little girls. Balazs's favorite memory was when I was trying to teach the little girl how to read in Turkish. After the compulsory homework, there was time to play a little. Have you ever tried to play a game using a language that you hardly understand and speak? Try it! It's fun. J
By the next day the bad weather was gone and it was time to hit the road again The morning was difficult as we had to ’climb’ a very steep hill. We reached the highest peek of the journey that we had done so far: 2,276 m. After a long nice slope we arrived to Kapikoy where we crossed the Turkish-Iranian border. We had to wait a little bit at the crossing point to have all of our documents checked. Luckily, we did not have to wait for hours, we could pass the border within reasonable time. In our next blog you can read about our first days in Iran.