As ever...new pics at http://www.flickr.com/photos/8151765@N03/
Beginning of post...began two days ago...
Well dear friends, it is the 25 of May and...we're here. Antioch. Yup, the epic hike we toiled to plan and enact is, well, over. I feel like I may have missed something. Why aren't we still hiking? My legs are still itching to go, my clothes are still made of breathable light-weight material and I'm still getting confused stares from the locals. Yet the grand purpose and adventure that brought us half way across the world has come to a close. And now we're just regular old tourists again. Poo.
But baby we're going out with a bang.
After spending an evening with a fisherman and his family, chatting with a German expat named Helmut and crossing Lake Eğirdir in a hole-ridden boat, dad and I wandered up from the buggy shoreline to our encampment just outside the town of Eyüpler.
We woke up the next morning to a single, resonating "woof" (and no it was not dad trying to wake up in the morning). I jerked up from my sleeping bag in the middle of a field to find two enormous dogs staring back at me with spiked collars encircling their necks. They were somewhat taken aback by the tousle-haired creature that emerged from the gortex black heap they had encountered (though I doubt, as dogs, that they really considered the material). But after some initial dubious smelling around they appeared to decide that these strange figures were harmless and proceeded to flop down at our feet as we packed up our gear, carefully resting their heads so the spiked collars didn't penetrate their necks.
Soon dad and I were ambling into a little village called Eyüpler the guide book had described as "unfriendly" and whose locals were to be altogether "unhelpful". By the time we'd taken a picture with a man and his donkey, been nearly trampled by about 20 school children, sipped free chai with three generations of farmers and been given free food and supplies at the local market, we were beginning to suspect that this assessment wasn't quite valid. Full of sugary chais and happy as clams we began to wander out of town--only to be met with a parade of tractors and cars filled to bursting with shouting locals in their finery. Apparently the procession was heading off to a wedding--but of course they made time to stop their journey so the strange man in zip-off pants and the girl with the cowboy hat could take pictures.
It was 10:30 am and already we felt as if we'd had the best day ever...but it was just getting started. As we walked out of town we realized we were completely off course from our trail, having been a bit distracted by the events of the morning. So rather than backtracking (which is not a word in Miller vocabulary) we fired up the Global Positioning System (GPS) and began winding our way through backstreets to cut back up to the trail. After a turn we looked up to see a donkey standing at the end of the lane. Seeing as we never pass up an opportunity to take a picture of an ass, we began snapping away when a group of women wandered by. We asked to take their pictures as well, but they waved us off as they hurried on. Thinking this meant they didn't want to bother with the crazy tourists we started to trek on, only to notice they were beckoning us down another side alley. Somewhat confused but always up for an adventure, we followed them to a door that opened up into a backyard. There beneath a metal awning were about eight women busily rolling out dough into wide flat circles and then placing them on a large curve-topped stove. It was the most delicious and lively line-up imaginable. One woman cut and balled the dough then threw it to two different women who used 3-foot-long sticks to roll them out. They then threw it to the next woman who filled it with a mixture of ingredients ranging from cheese to chives to spinach and then folded it to be thrown on the stove. Another set of women shoveled hay and scraps of paper beneath the oven to keep up a fire roaring below. The last woman used her bare hands to flip the bread from side to side. They welcomed us heartily, laughing as they pulled of my cowboy hat and thrust yogurt drinks into our hands. Soon we were chomping happily on these delicious cheese and chive concoctions as they went about their lively work. There were huge bowls of ingredients laying about and it was amazing to see these women fluidly pass from one position to the next, expertly rolling out the dough and stoking the fire as they passed different treats to the strange foreigners gawking on the fringes.
Then, as per usual, dad decided that I needed to get in on the action. He made a rolling motion with his fingers and then pointed to me. Before I knew it I was seated at a portable, circular table that was about six inches high and four feet in diameter with a newspaper spread across my lap and a ball of dough in front of me.
Let me tell you, the whole stick rolling thing is way harder than it looks.
I began making futile pokes at my ball of dough, much to the amusement of the ladies. The one who had initially waved us on in the street seemed to be heading things up so she took me on as her personal project. She bent over me and physically moved my hands in the proper motion (the process of which I botched up completely). As I slaved over my one piece of lumpy dough a slow trickle of women began to come in the door, each somewhat shocked by the freckly foreigner in the midst of their work. Suddenly an even larger group came in and there dad and I were with about 25 women taking cell phone pictures and giving words of encouragement to my meager attempts at rolling out the dough. Two of them were about my age and spoke a few words of English so we were able to communicate a bit--but soon my dough-roller-warden smacked my hand and pointed at the dough. Apparently I had gotten off task, whoops.
Eventually I had to give up my seat and pass the dough rolling to the experts, but as dad and I pulled on our packs they shoved even more of the delicious concoctions into our hands and smiled and waved as we shouted "Güle güle!" (still our only form of goodbye) and turned back onto our trail.
After a beautiful day walking through immaculately maintained farms, we reached our destination of Antioch at sundown. At the outskirts of town we sat down and tried to figure out where to go to find a hotel and a bite to eat. As we hauled guide books and maps from our bags two women passed and dad asked them for directions to a hotel. Though their English was limited and our Turkish is infantile at best, they motioned us to follow them. Once again, we had no idea of where they were leading us nor if they had even understood our question, but seeing as following people about had worked so well before, we took up our packs and followed.
The one woman, dressed in traditional head scarf and a long jacket, was elegant as a queen. She seemed to know everyone in town, all of whom laughed and pointed curiously at her strange charges. With gracious dips of her head she nodded to the people of Yalvaç (the town just below Antioch) and continued to lead us down a maze of streets.
With one final turn she pointed us to a substantial looking hotel on a main street, but insisted that first we come up to her aparment for chai. Soon we were sipping tea and eating a delicious spread of foods with her husband and three darling little girls. A quick phone call brought the English teacher friend over and soon dad was in deep conversation with them as I played with the girls, drawing them pictures and letting them look at the viewfinder as I filmed them. They then put on my hat and glasses and mugged for the camera...and I have to admit they work that cowboy hat quite well.
So even in an urban city, Turkish hospitality is not lost on strangers.
and now...two days later, May 27...
We're back in Antalya plotting our next move. Though the St. Paul trek is over, we're not quite finished with Turkey and the Mediterranean. The process of filming brought up even more ideas for the direction the documentary will take, and it seems several different films could be made from the footage. So currently we are awaiting responses from potential interview subjects as well as mapping out some more adventures to enact in the next couple weeks. Currently we are thinking of hiking up to Mt. Olympus, journeying to the Syrian Antioch (actually located in south-eastern Turkey) as well as ferrying to Cyprus and Rhodes for some exploration and beach time. I'd love to get my scuba diving license and/or sailing lessons, but no decisions have been finalized. If you have any other ideas for cool adventures we could go on, drop us a line! We're game for just about anything.
And with that I'm off to explore Antalya a bit--dad and I have split up for the day to find our own adventures. On my list of things to do: get a haircut. For some reason this is becoming one of my traditions abroad, to varying degrees of success. The mullet I received in Spain was less than stellar, but the pixie cut in Costa Rica was awesome, so wish me luck!!