Bursa: A Walk in the Woods. And then Some.

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Saturday, May 31, 2008

As I discovered in 2003, I think it was, when almost all at once I lost my job, got divorced, had to establish a new residence--in effect, became "fully" retired--there are some problems associated with unlimited "free time." I learned that with a new "life style," one has of mental necessity to create a new rhythm to life. And one of the first things was to differentiate the days of the week. Simple as that seems, it was not apparent to me in the beginning. So, I came to the conclusion that I had to "create" a weekend, to do different things on Saturday and Sunday than I did on the weekdays. And the same requirement now holds as I attempt to establish a new life in Bursa, and even though I am still living out of a cheap hotel.

So it was that on Saturday I decided to not search for an apartment rental, but to go for a hike in the wooded hills above Bursa, somewhat in the manner in which I would hike in the forested park above my home in Portland, Oregon. It ain't no park here, though.

East of the center of town there is a deep canyon-like stream bed, flowing out of the hills. The hills themselves are "foothills" which eventually lead up to the close-by Uludag, a mountain which is high enough to have a ski resort in the winter. So, it was into this gorge and hills I went to hike and explore on my first Saturday in Bursa.

Being so abruptly adjacent to the city there is no problem of finding trails. And, of course, a narrowing gorge pretty much assures finding something. And, the first trail I chose to follow led me across a creek, over which I noticed the little bridge fairly recently repaired with new little logs. Up over a rise there was a structure that looked like a possible barn. Yet on a side were some plastic washing basins that led me to suspect the opposite side to be a home. And about the same time I came to that idea I spotted the first sleeping dog.

And, about simultaneously with that two other dogs sprang to life, one nearer me and snarling for red meat--mine! I had minutes before sharpened a stick for such an eventuality, but for one encounter, not three. Fortunately, they were all restrained and the cords held as I beat a hasty retreat. A fourth dog, unbound came to me from the same area and was the most docile of creatures, and I scratched its ears and throat to its contentment.

Well, that experience led me to change my direction, and I soon saw some hikers on a far hillside trail, and I headed off in that direction. I don't know where they went, but I found a well-used trail into another gorge and went along it. There were a couple of isolated domiciles here and there, and each seemed to have an associated cherry orchard.

I encountered an old man coming my way, dragging a log which he must have cut judging by the saw in a quiver over his shoulder. The log was perhaps seven to nine feet long and about four inches at its largest diameter. We tried to talk, but I'm not sure he was totally coherent. However, I think he was trying to dissuade me from going far into the gorge. One word I recognized was hyvan (animal). And he made a hand gesture like shooting a gun. But, I smiled and went on my way, following for a considerable distance into the gorge the trail of his log's rut.

Finally I came to the last little homestead. Dogs started to bark, but not come for me. A man I saw in a window roused, and with a gesture indicated that it was alright for me to continue along the path. There was also a water trough with the Turkish words of greeting--Hos Geldiniz (Welcome)--painted on. So I didn't take this for hostile territory.

I followed the trail deeper into the gorge, and it rose. There were some plastic water lines, and a large, very old cast iron water pipe which in some instances was so ingrained into the rocky landscape that I could imagine it having been there since Roman times. But I'm pretty sure that cast iron was a latter nineteenth century technology, if not too long before that.

Finally, all the water lines ran out at a collection point, the trail became more obscure, and I began to half bushwhack as I climbed the hillside. There would seem to be a trail, but no. There were strange areas of obviously random cuttings of trees and branches of up to about two inches in diameter. But I could make no sense of any purpose to it.

Eventually I did find remnants of a very, very old trail, and I followed it the best I could, with the romantic fantasy (not strong, but still there in my old age) of coming upon some ancient spring with archaeological devotional remnants or something. But, there was absolutely no other evidence, other than the sort-of trail, that anybody had been that far back in there for any purpose whatsoever in a very long time. And, I suppose I could have continued on myself, but finally, enough was enough, and I turned back.

As I came back to the last house here the man and the dogs were the dogs began to bark again, and the man came up the trail from the house to greet me. He invited me to come down to the house for tea. And I accepted.

We went down through a rather neat--that's not to say a pristinely beautiful--garden of fruit trees and vegetable growings. There was some aesthetic to it, and signs of nice attendance. The housing structures were pretty rustic, but there were also some folksy touches of country aesthetic. Like plastic flowers. It was a mixture. I was given the host's chair, and tulip tea glasses were washed out in the near water trough--a different one--and tea was served.

I thought the gentleman might be a hermit. But after asking me about my marital status I asked him about his, to learn that he had a wife, and she was at the market (as a seller, I presume) back down in Bursa.

Then the fellow sprang up, picked up a woven basket and went to pick some cherries, which he brought back, rinsed, and placed before me. Well, I just hoped the water was ok. I photographed him at the table. Then I had the idea of posing him with the bowl of cherries by one of his rose bushes. But he changed the idea to posing as though he was picking the cherries. On the return to the table and chair he had me smell his roses. Then, back at the table he climbed onto the chickenhouse roof and picked some sweetly fragrant tree blooms. Then he went back and got a rose, which he then in turn composed into a small bouquet, tying it off with a gold ribbon. A couple of new ribbon rolls just happened to be on the table. I don't know why. He then produced some silver and blue metallic paper, that also just seemed to be coincidentally by, cut a square from it and twisted it around the base of the flowers, again tying it off with more gold ribbon. He dipped the paper into the water trough, and presented me with the bouquet.

Then, in a final burst of inspiration he bid me to photograph him in what I called his love den, and proudly posed therein. And I have to admit, for all the  crudeness as things appeared outside, it looked like a pretty romantic little nook to me, too.

If that wasn't enough of a day, it was far from over.

I got back to the "hotel" in time to take a shower. Furthermore, I am still in a travel mode, living out of a backpack, having left more clothing in Ankara, and even some in Istanbul. So I still have to go into a shower, sometimes, wearing my clothes in order to soap them up and give them a light washing, and to have that set dry while I rotate into the clean set. This at my age and now financial abilities. Tut, tut.

I also had time for a short nap before meeting my guide for the evening, Mehmet.

A little after six in the evening Mehmet came to the hotel. Mehmet is a friend of the hotel's owners. He is a hoja, or school teacher. And he seems to have sort of adopted me, for purposes I am yet a bit circumspect about. But, Turkey is a country where human relations and connections are very important (aren't they everywhere?), and God knows my life has had its limitations due to a lack of human relations. So I am going along with Mehmet's guiding attentions. But, more about that later.

For this Saturday evening we first went around the block to a tea house in which people drop by to listen to, sing, and play the saz and drums. And many of them smoke cigarettes. So, after about forty-five minutes there I told Mehmet that when the next guy lit up, I was going to leave, even though I found the music pretty ok, and otherwise the ambiance pretty nice too. But all that smoke in just too close of a space was intolerable.

We sort of ambled around to another couple of points in the neighborhood, some of which I had already visited, and finally ended up in the basement of a building kitty-corner from the hotel. There, we joined three young men--teenagers, really--as they watched a fellow Mehmet said was akin to what the Japanese call National Treasures. This man was a master musical instrument maker. And on this evening he was--as I saw it--working on one of the lad's saz, fashioning a new bridge, and restringing the instrument with new strings. We all watched him as though he was performing. Periodically his dog barked at, I guess, other activity in the building, until the fellow commanded him to be quiet and lie back down.

And that was the end of a rather full weekend Saturday for me. Sunday was to be another outing with Mehmet.
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