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Breakfast Conversation In Antalya Turkey

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I have never seen so many stray cats in a country. The people put food outside their doorways to feed them. Dogs too. The surprising thing is they are so mild and gentle and approachable. Never seen an approachable cat before! I think this says a lot about the people here. They treat animals with love and care and it is a joy to watch.

And they love children! A month here and I’ve never seen anyone give a child a harsh word. Visiting a family on a Friday…their Sunday…with a 7 month old baby in Adana with my couchsurfing host, the whole extended family was waiting in the living room for the child to wake up. The word came. All 7 of them jumped up to run to the child’s room…hovering over the crib. Oh, I thought, all these big people staring down at him will frighten him. But he wasn’t frightened at all. He just looked at first one person and then the other with a big grin on his face. They brought him out to the living room with a blanket on the floor. I had to laugh at all the ridiculous “baby sounds” the family was making…especially…I noticed…an older uncle. lol. They were so proud of this child!

In the breakfast room early this morning I had a warm conversation with one of the pansiyon employees. There is an old resident dog and as I was sitting out on the patio with my coffee petting her, the breakfast manager brought out some pieces of buttered bread. She is fat, I said, smiling. But she likes buttered bread, he said. It is delicious for her! ūüôā

He said he has two children, 7 and 4. I asked him about the schools here. The schools don’t cost money but there are a lot of other expenses. There is morning school and afternoon school…split schedules…because there is not enough money for schools. Then suddenly he says, “I love my children!” And pulled out his phone to show me their photos.

I told him that in the month I have been in Turkey I have found the people to very gentle and kind. Why is this, I asked. He said, we are mostly a Muslim country. It is in our character. We must not be rude. I told him that I wished people in America knew this…because all they hear and see in the media are the words and actions of the militant jihadists. However another Turk…a modern secular one…says she thinks it’s an individual thing…people are either kind or they aren’t just like in any other country. So there you have it. Well, I’ve only been here a month and haven’t had time to drill down into the bias, prejudices, loves and hates that exist in every country and every culture.

The breakfast manager has been reading an autobiography of Ataturk. Ataturk is very important to us, he said. As the conversations progressed to world affairs he said that there are about 10 American military installations in Turkey. He added that 85% of Turks hate America. They killed one and a half million muslims in Iraq, he said. It is unbelievable, he said! Your defense minister lied. They said they were bringing democracy. What good is democracy if you are dead, he said. They just wanted the petrol. I was sick to my stomach… knowing Iraq didn’t have to happen.

Breakfast Table

Then we moved on to domestic matters. Seeing an old woman walk by in the street he said, “That is my boss!” Her three sons own and run the Pansiyon. “But when she says something it is finished, he said!” I said that families in Mexico are like that too. People there say I am a bad mother because I “let” my sons, in their 40’s, leave home to live in Hong Kong and Thailand. “Why you let them live there, they ask! I told my Turkish breakfast friend that when I tell my sons to do something they just roll their eyes and say “Moooommmm!” We laughed.

And now I have to go to thank the Pansiyon employees for a wonderful week here in Antalya and go catch a bus to Bodrum where I will stay with Gunes (which means sun in Turkish), another Couchsurfing host.

Antalya Turkey

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I left Adana by plane for Antalya. ¬†Outside the Arrivals Hall I asked a gentleman if he spoke English. He didn’t but another one with a very busy 4-year old in tow, overhearing me, asked if I needed help. The city ¬†was a considerable distance from the airport. “Do the Red buses leave everyone off at the same place in the city?” ¬†Yes, he said, but my friend can give us a ride into town. Oh my, I thought! ¬†Ever since I arrived the Turks have been friendly and generous everywhere! He even gave me a Turkish pastry to eat on the way!

I am staying in the Kalei√ßi (KAH-leh-ee-chee) a castle ruins at the center of the sprawling modern city which was a¬†Roman town, then the¬†Byzantine, then the¬†Seljuk Turkish, and finally the¬†Ottoman town. ¬† There are oodles of shops, boutique hotels, guesthouses and restaurants along the narrow winding walking streets. I am staying at the Sabah Pansiyon…with breakfast…very friendly and helpful staff. And wifi in my room! ¬†It’s¬†a short distance to both the city center and the many coffee houses that line the beaches. ¬†So the easy walking has been a pleasure.

I had to laugh today at an outdoor cafe with a view of the Taurus Mountains. About 40 German guys took nearly all the tables and chairs and ordered beer. The first one took a taste and made a face! lol. Turkish beer not so good?! ha! Then a Turkish guy tried to sell them all cologne and perfume. They had great fun with that!

I’ve been corresponding with a woman in Germany. When she read my blog and saw that Antalya was full of Germans she said:

The place where you are staying sounds very romantic. I know I would enjoy it there. The pension inside the ruin makes it even more romantic. I wish I could join you, but I don¬īt think I would like meeting so many Germans. I hope they behave and respect the country and the customs. There are reasonable ‘packages’ for a vacation in Turkey, so that must be the reason, why so many Germans are there now. We had a very tough and long winter . The sun has been out for the last two or three days, but next week, winter will be back again.

I assured her the Germans here were very well-behaved and gracious. lol I told her I felt sorry for these Germans. Cold in Germany and it’s been damn cold here!

Taurus Mountains

I have never seen so many stray cats in a country. The people put food outside their doorways to feed them. Dogs too. The surprising thing is they are so mild and gentle and approachable. Never seen an approachable cat before! I think this says a lot about the people here. They treat animals with love and care and it is a joy to watch.

I called another couchsurfer and a food writer, Tijen,¬†whom I had had lunch with in Bangkok a couple of years ago. I was delighted to find that she lived only about a 10 minute walk to my pensyon in the Castle. ¬†She cooked a lovely vegetarian lunch for me…steamed artichoke hearts with oil and lemon and a lentil salad. Says she:

“Green lentils with dried eggplants, wild leeks and dried tomatoes (I just soaked green lentils in water for few hours, then add all of them in the pot with some water and cooked it down. Of course there is salt, pepper, cumin seeds and olive oil. You can use normal leeks or onions, doesn’t matter. Buon appetite!”

The next day we had a breakfast of Borek, a wonderful Turkish pastry made by an old Borek Master in his tiny three-table restaurant. He learned it from his older brother and his uncle, Tijen said. Watch the video below showing how Borak is made:

Making Borak

Well, Tijen surprised me this morning and came by my pensyon to see if I needed anything. So I walked her back to her apartment and on the way we stopped and bought a bus ticket for tomorrow at noon to Bodrum. Thank God! I would have gone to the bus station not knowing there was only one bus a day and might have missed it! I told her she was my angel! She is leaving in the morning for Morocco. She is lucky she can travel all over the world for her work…writing food articles.

This morning in the breakfast room I talked again with a tall blond Danish guy…about 50. A former journalist, he is enraged by the lack of transparency and the corruption in Denmark! And the stupidity of the EU. Of all places! That should tell you a lot about all the other countries! When he described his Prime Minister I told him she sounded like our Sarah Palin. “Worse!” he said! She’s never worked…just always been a politician/bureaucrat. He actually said a lot of other things too I won’t repeat here.

I’ve always said that people running for government office should be required to have some time in the workplace first. He’s been aggravating government officials with letters and questions he doesn’t get answers to. He is afraid they will find a way to nail him and shut him up. So he is writing a book. He’s supposed to be here resting from all the controversy but it’s so cold he has been miserable…and we’ve both gotten chest colds…we think from the unclean air con/heating units in the rooms. I told him I was sorry to get him revved up again but he said no, it’s all just going round and round in his head anyway and that it was good to talk. I hope so.

I caved in this afternoon and had my first Burger King in 5 months!