Turkey summary and update from Edirne

(written by Dave)

Today we have been enjoying our last day in Turkey.  Edirne is a fantastic city.  As noted yesterday, Edirne’s population has been shrinking over the past couple hundred years.  The grandeur of days gone by is evident in all of the 400 and 500 year old mosques, markets and other historical buildings.  This is also the first city in quite some time that we’ve felt the “European city” vibe.  Lots of streets are closed to cars and there are many small shops and street side cafes.

First, a quick review of our mosque run this morning.  We first visited the Uc Serefeli Mosque.  This mosque was built between 1437 and 1447.  It is famous for having four minarets all of very different design and heights.  Many features of this mosque were repeated in Istanbul mosques built later once the capitol moved there.  Our next stop was the Old Mosque.  This mosque was built between 1403 and 1414.  It is famous for large calligraphy on the walls and striking red and white tiles.  Our last stop was Selimiye Mosque.  This mosque was build between 1569 and 1575 and was designed by Mimar Sinan.  Sinan the Great (as he is known) is widely considered one of the greatest architects of the Ottoman period and certainly one of the grandest of mosque designers.  He designed some 300 buildings of which many today are still standing.  All three mosques were beautiful but I think we liked the first mosque best.  It was probably a little less famous and as such, completely empty.  You could almost hear your own heart beat while inside – for such a large open space, it was incredibly quiet and peaceful – we were the only people in the mosque during our time there.

After the mosques we decided that it was time for some lunch.  I wanted the try the fried liver that we talked about yesterday (we didn’t have it for dinner last night).  Nancy was not so keen.  Most of the restaurants that serve the liver (cigeri), serve no other dishes so I had to negotiate with a cigeri restaurant so that Nancy could bring her takeaway borek to my table.  As a child, I liked liver.  Having it prepared right makes all the difference as over the years I’ve had some bad liver and lost a bit of my taste for it.  When they brought out my big plate of thinly sliced, freshly fried liver I had my doubts on being able to finish it.  Well, these fears were misplaced.  In fact, I got more help from Nancy than I thought I would.  It could have been a bit of “anything fried is good” but I don’t think so, the liver was fantastic.  It was very rich, but nice and crispy with just the right amount of liver taste, not overpowering, perfect.

Edirne is also famous for wrestling – that is strong men, in heavy leather shorts, coated with olive oil – proceeding to throw each other around for a few weeks in late July.  They have been doing this since 1363 or so, it is reported.  We were too early for the big July wrestling festival but tried to get a sense for it by visiting a local wresting club.  There were some bronze heads of famous wrestlers but not much in the way of information, we left no wiser than when we entered.  And now have yet one more reason to return to Turkey one day.

Unless it is bucking down rain tomorrow, we will ride out of Turkey.  We have thoroughly enjoyed Turkey, finding a much more modern country than we had expected.  It is a country of great contrasts.  In all of our travels, we never encountered a country that is so completely wired – there is free wifi everywhere and great mobile coverage, yet it is not uncommon to see shepherds tending sheep with a curved staff  as you travel a dual carriageway into a large cities.  The influence of Islam is unmistakable yet Efes beer is available freely in every shop or market.

We’ve met some great folks here in Turkey.  We’d been told of how hospitable people would be but even this was a surprise.  If we stopped every time offered us a cay (tea) we’d be at least a few weeks behind where we are now.  Stand on a street corner with a map in your hands and it won’t take long for someone to stop and offer to help you, even if they don’t speak English.

Some things have surprised us.  For starters, Harry Kewell.  Harry is a famous Australian soccer player who happened to played for a team in Istanbul, Galatasaray 2008 through 2011.  Many Turkish folks know little about Australia and often are not sure where you are talking about until you say Harry Kewell.  Galatasaray is one of the most famous teams in the Turkish A league and Harry was a star.  Even people who don’t know soccer, often know who Harry is.  Sometime a few weeks into our trip, Harry overtook the kangaroo as our “Australian icebreaker” – he worked the treat.

Next up, town fountains.  We are not sure how or why but nearly every town that we entered had some form of generally tacky town fountain.  And not just basic fountains.  We are talking about big fountains with lots of moving parts and jets going everywhere, lots of concrete figurines and often in a general state of disrepair.  Being that most of our time here was in spring, many of these fountains are dry, leaving the pipes, pumps and jets exposed.  We have a theory that someone in the fountain making business has a good friend high up in the Turkish government but that is just a theory.  At one point I started taking photos of these fountains but quite frankly, they are just not that attractive.

Onto falafels.  Long before we travelled to Turkey, we have enjoyed kebabs.  In fact we often know the best kebab shop in whatever town that we live in.  More often than not, these shops are called “Turkish kebab” shops.  All of these shops sell meat and falafel versions of kebabs.  So you can understand why we expected to be eating falafel kebabs while we were in Turkey.  Well, this did not work out.  As a matter of fact, we’ve yet to find anyone in Turkey who knows what falafel is.  That’s not to say we’ve not found kebabs, just no falafels.  In hindsight, this makes perfect sense, as falafels are Arabic and come from the Middle East, not from Turkey.  I’m guessing that Turkish shops in the west get away with blending foods, much like you’ll also find “Asian” restaurants in the same places.

I’ll stop there.  Turkey has been great.  I’m very excited about Bulgaria tomorrow.  Nancy is also, but as the list maker of LWOP, she has a more pragmatic view of things, such as how do we get a phone SIM, what currency do they use, will we be able to find food to eat, can we read the signs, etc.

Back in March we rode through three countries in one day – France-Monaco-Italy.  Tomorrow, we get to ride through Turkey-Greece-Bulgaria.  Entering and exiting Greece is purely gratuitous.  That is, you can go straight from Turkey to Bulgaria without going through Greece.  I really want to ride through Greece for the simple point of passing through three countries in one day.  Nancy is willing to humor me here, though it does go against her better judgment – knowing that we should be getting the above mentioned items sorted out sooner rather than later.

Check back tomorrow for a three country post, if we get the Bulgaria internet connections figured out.  Posts may be less frequent if Bulgaria turns out to be less wired than Turkey – time will tell.

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7 thoughts on “Turkey summary and update from Edirne

  1. Goodbye to Turkey for now. Love those three country days! When driving in the northeast one can drive into/through three small states and have a great feeling of accomplishment. Happy Trails!

  2. The photos of the ceilings in the mosques are really quite spectacular. Woudl make a great screen saver if you didn’t already have the wonderful hotel room rug of a couple weeks back for the best ever screen saver.

    Hearing of the conversations with people explaining where you are from makes me wonder if you carry a small world map so that you can describe your route to people? And if so, do you think the journey is understood even when language is a barrier?

    • It is hard to keep the “best” 50 photos for my screen saver. We have 20,000 or so photos now. Last time I picked the best was in Nice. Probably need a new batch.

      As for a map, no we don’t carry one. Not a bad idea though. 90% of all people probably get Australia, but it is so far away that they need something to help them connect, like a kangaroo or Harry Kewell. In the smaller towns, we often find folks who have never left their county/province/state. The biggest confusion is probably folks who speak little English and think that we are from Austria.

      FWIW, we travel on our Aussie passports because we started the trip in Oz and most countries like to see entry and exit stamps in the one passport. We never explain the being dual citizens because it is too confusing. That is unless we meet fellow Aussies as they pick our non-Aussie accents straight away.


  3. Hi guys, good to see you enjoyed turkey, I loved reading the posts and seeing the pics, and the food well….. I wish these computers had scroll and taste 🙂 I have cravings after every reading your posts thay should make you guys honorary turkish ambassadors…….

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