Incidents: Bursa to Ayvalik
Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
154Trip End Sep 11, 2009
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On Saturday I went for one of my hikes into the hills above Bursa. This time I took the metro to the west. It emerges to the surface out a way from the center and I could pick a station point to head upwards. As before, one need only follow the streets up (no, there is not a grid pattern around here) until they run out, and then likely as not there is a continuing path.
Well, it wasn't a great hiking day through very interesting scenery as it turned out--but for two incidents.
At one point I was approaching a dip in the trail in a quasi-open area. Ahead of me, down the trail came running a creature. It got to within perhaps 40 feet of me when it pulled up short, sensing me, regarded me for about a quarter of a second, then turned to its right and disappeared in an instant.
Its body was about the size and a half of an adult cat. It had long, very agile legs, and pointed ears that were again about half again long as a cat's. Its tawny color was pretty much the same as the dry dirt of the path on which it was running. I made a guess to myself that it was sort of like a fox.
Later, when I text messaged G. (yes, we're still "together") she supplied the Turkish name tilkli. I looked it up on the Turkish Google site (google.com.tr), and sure enough there were pictures of enough varieties of the species to confirm my notion. Almost as noteworthy to me was the fact that in as much hiking as I do, on trails and off, in America and elsewhere, I rarely see wild animals. So this was quite enjoyable for me--as sudden and hard to encapture in memory as it was.
Much of the hike was wandering about private property trying to get to an objective I saw, but couldn't find a way to it. However, at one point I was walking down a tractor trail when I saw ahead of me about 30 yards, in this case, a young girl in a garden hutch. At about the same moment she saw me. I stopped, thinking that I would have frightened her, and sort of held my hands down at my sides, palms forward--to me, anyway, a gesture of "I mean no harm." Regardless, she jumped up and came bounding up to me and with a bright smile, saying something in Turkish. She was probably about 12 years old.
I said I spoke very little Turkish. She sort of mumbled, I think, she didn't speak English. I tried to ask if there was "a way" (Yol var mi?) She either didn't know what I was saying, or had no answer. She tried something else that didn't take with me, then said something about her mother (anne, I got), then went racing off into the vegetable patch.
Mom emerged and basically told me to keep going on down the tractor trail. I turned to go, but not before the comely girl gave me the universal "wait a sec" sign, then ran to a house a few feet away and returned handing me three cucumbers.
On Monday the guy came for the rent at noon. So I figured I still had time to get to the otogar and catch a bus for an exploratory trip west to the city of Balıkesir.
Curiously, there was no mention of Balıkesir, a large city, in the Lonely Planet Turkey guide. Now I know why.
I got off the shuttle bus from the otogar to the city, and just picked a direction to walk into the scene. Passed the first hotel, walked along seeing about three others, then returned to the first. An old guy led me to what I call the "typical Jim room:" first floor, fronting on the street, probably with a street light outside. Why do they do this?
This time, however, I objected, and asked for a room in the back. He went and got a key to the top (4th floor) back room. Perfect, almost. It had a roof deck out back. That was fine.
But, the bathroom floor was about seven or eight inches above the room floor. And if that wasn't enough, the top of the door jam was a couple of inches lower than normal. I grazed the top of my head going in. And, being the slow learner I am, really scraped it coming out. I mean really scraped it. In fact, I peeled back some skin.
There was no paper in the bathroom. (As I've written before, bring your own). Well, I didn't want to invest my stash. I'm not even sure I thought about it. I'm sorry to say that I had to liberally spot the towel I found in a cabinet.
I went out for a walk in the gathering darkness, hoping to dry things out, and have a look around. The only thing I found of interest to me was at a plumbing fixture store, the apparent child's bathroom commode in the form of a kangaroo. I don't know if there is in Turkish an alliterative encouragement as to me the seemingly obvious English, "Poop in the pouch."
(Maybe that's why LP snubbed the place).
The next day (after spotting the pillow) I elected to try a mini-bus west to the town of Dursunbey, a couple of hours due west of Balıkesir. From there I just made the assumption there would be a mini-bus to Bursa. Whatever.
The road was beautiful, in a certain way. However, I was in the window seat on the right side, one row back from the front. In front of me were two young women, one the mother of a very young child. I don't know when a person transitions from baby to childhood. But this kid was pre-babble. All he could do was shriek. He may have been glorying in the thrill of a bus ride 'cause he wasn't crying--just repeatedly shrieking. It was a very, very painful, piercing sound. And the mother and friend were doing little to quell it. She was even bouncing the kid such that in some moments he was looking, and shrieking, right into my face! I pulled the window curtain across the back of her seat, but to no real muffling effect. (Nor was the kid very attractive, either).
When I got off the bus in Dursunbey my eardrums were palpably dulled and numb. But my omni-present tinnitus was in high excitement.
I have written before that the main reason I am not going to emigrate to Turkey was coming to grips with the idea that I would not be able to learn Turkish well enough to have the personal freedom I do speaking English in my home country. This notion hit me first when I confronted immediately some minor hardware and supply issues relating to my new living situation. But, how long would it take me to gain proficiency in Turkish; to acquire the vocabulary, verb tenses, and cultural nuances to spontaneously say: "Lady, shove a tit in your kid's mouth and shut him the f___k up!!"
As luck would have it, this day the time was well past the two-a-day mini-buses to Bursa. The one hotel in town (This is a very rural area. Where families bring their traveling member and themselves to the bus station in tractor-towed harvest flatbeds) was beyond what I wanted to pay for a room in a town--the kid notwithstanding--I didn't want to spend any more time in. So I elected to turn around and head right back to Balıkesir--to the amusement of the guys at the ticket counter.
Back in Balıkeshir, a couple of more hours later, I again overcame my ambivalent undecidedness and elected to--what the h--go on to the coastal town of Ayvalik after all, even though I didn't think I'd get to a place to have a swim.
In Ayvalik the otogar is only 1.5 km from town, and that I don't mind walking even in the heat, and especially after sitting a lot in a bus. Plus, the pension I elected to try was "in a gorgeous house that once belonged to a French ambassador to the sultan." Plus, plus, it was also the nearest.
It was booked.
The proprietress, unbidden, telephoned another, and they had a room. It was just a couple of blocks away, and, as it turned out, was the LP "Author's Choice." At 30YTL (+/-US$25), high season, I got a nice little room on the top floor, with a bed and a couch and a small table. There was an all but noiseless fan, of absolutely no disturbance, that I kept running all night. It wasn't so hot an humid as to be necessary, actually, but it did help.
I went out for a fish dinner. There are a lot of restaurants rimming the quay. And, there were boats coming in with party harties making a lot of noise. I went down a back street and into an isolated fish restaurant, just hoping it would be ok. I was the only patron. To start with. The guy had to start up the grill. And, I don't even think it was the main cook that got things going. The fish had a little bit of sushi in the middle. But, the salad was very good and nutritious; and with a beer it was a nice, ok, quiet dinner at sunset.
Back at the pension, after dark, I went out on the veranda next to my room, looked out past the minaret and steeple of the now mosque, formerly old Greek church, out over the Mediterranean Sea, and saw a long while line, sliding down toward the sea; one of the clearest and most prolonged shooting stars I have ever seen.