“Silah?” The security guy grumbled, pointing lazily to his gun, as we put our luggage through the X-ray. He wore a serious Turkish mustache and a belly that told us we would enjoy Turkish food, a lot.
Once again the language barrier stumped us. When someone notions to their weapon in the ex-soviet countries, where Police officers feel they have some sort of ungodly powers as big as their enormous military hats they are sporting, it often means some sort of trouble.
Realising we were stupid “yabancı” (foreigners) he did decided the best approach was to take one step closer and yell the word repeatedly, waiting for some sort of understanding to occur. None followed.
As you drive across the border, you investigate your surroundings looking for clues of a new country. On the right the Black Sea continues out into the horizon, flat as any sea I have seen before, lined with pebbled beaches and people awkwardly sun bathing on the uneven ground beneath them. It’s a welcome familiarity, especially after almost 100 days without seeing the sea. But then as you look to the left small clues pop into sight.
Patriotic Turkish Flags are draped outside on almost every apartment balcony and the cross is then replaced with mosque towers dotted throughout the city, popping up just above the rest of the buildings.
After not being near the ocean for many months it adds an immediate relaxed atmosphere to the city. Che Guevara puts it quite eloquently when he writes in his Motorcycle Diaries; “for me the sea has always been a confident, a friend absorbing all it is told and never revealing those secrets; always giving the best advice- whose meaningful noises can be interpreted anyway you choose… It signifies an infinite number of paths to all ends of the Earth.”
It is something I never realised I missed so much until I saw it again. Almost like breathing the first breath of fresh air in quite some time. Refreshing and invigorating.
We then caught a bus from Sarpi, the border town to Trabzon, another beachside town. Not knowing much about Turkey and its history we were surprised yet entertained to see that there was an “educational” channel on the bus which we eagerly tuned into.
The every country has their idol Mongolia has Genghis Khan, Aussies have Ned Kelly and well, the Turks have Ataturk. The first I ever heard of him was when we took a bus from the border right near Georgia to Ankara where there were little screens on the back of the seat in front showing a very interesting translated film about Ataturk, setting straight any bad rumours there may be about him.
The scene goes something like this. The camera pans out to show a lovable old grandpa sitting on his old leather armchair beside a warm and comfortable fire, and then as the camera pans out some more you can see there are children sitting crossing legged in front of him all looking up devoted and mesmerized by what he is saying. One, two, three, six, ten, twelve kids. Possibly a little excessive, he must be a busy grandpa. The cutest kid of them all, a little girl with blonde piggy tails, huge puppy dog eyes and an innocent face says “But grand daddy, wasn't Ataturk an alco-lic” Poor thing can’t even pronounce alcoholic yet. “Now, now”, he chuckles, “where did you here this nonsense? Yes Ataturk enjoyed a drink every now and then, but doesn't everybody?”
There are similar questions and stories that arise from the innocent conversations taking place in front of the warm and loving fire in that happy family household. Such stories of his kindness included the fact that a tree beside Ataturk’s house was growing rather large and imposing on the house, so what did he do? He moved the house of course; he mustn't change where the tree is.
After the filling our lungs with the fresh sea air, it was off to the big city smoke, to Turkey’s capital city; Ankara.
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