“Turkey’s true master is the peasant” ~Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
We have followed a path twisting up through the woods and following a watercourse. On our left side is a wall built of boulders and rocks collected from the adjacent fields. The wall invites us to sit on it, rest our feet for a bit while our sweated shirts dry in the sun.
Our trail is part of the Bodrum-peninsula section (or Ceramic Gulf section), an 8-day stretch of the 850-km-long Carian Trail in Southwestern Turkey.
Coming our way is a woman, herding three cows. Anxious as these animals often are when encountering people, they hold back when spotting us. The first two carefully move on, as much to the other side of the track as possible. Number 3, however, freaks out, jumps and stumbles uphill, scratching its paws on a flat piece of rock and almost slides down.
Meeting on the Trail
The woman follows her animal uphill without blinking an eye, knowing it needs guidance to get down somewhere else. We look in admiration with what ease she runs her big body on the thinnest of open shoes up that slope. The contrast couldn’t be larger with us, slim and in sturdy hiking shoes, with trekking poles on our sides but unable to run up such a hill with so much ease.
Thinking we’ve seen all of it, I take out the halva (sweet treat) from my backpack and cut a slice for each of us. But the woman returns and greets us with a big smile. She accepts a slice of halva and happily chats along, her face open and friendly and voice full of enthusiasm.
We don’t have a clue what she is saying as we don’t share a language but that’s okay, it’s a nice way of spending a moment together.
Coen is better at interpreting languages than I am and concludes she is inviting us for tea. How nice is that. Apparently the cows have been brought to their field for the day and she is on her way home, which is right around the corner.
The three of us walk back, up the hill and staying on the outskirts of a village until we reach her house: big, white-plastered building with a red-tiled roof (typical of the region). On the terrain more than a dozen of chickens, a rooster and a duck with a lame wing are running around, and a young calf seeks shelter with her mother in the stable at the sight of us.
Thus we meet Gulnaz, and a bit later her husband Mustafa. The tea on the terrace in front of her house is a ‘big tea’ and we have the impression it is breakfast for her husband. The table is soon filled with food: different kinds of cheese and olives, pide with spinach, honey, butter, a dish with boiled potatoes and eggs. What a joy.
Spoken and Unspoken Language
On that terrace also stands a large loom on which she is weaving an enormous carpet. Unfortunately we don’t get the details of Gulnaz and Mustafa’s lives. As said, we don’t share the language and we have no WiFi connection so we can’t use the speaking function on Google Translate. Typing text in Google Translate doesn’t work well either, the first attempts lead only to confusion.
If spoken language doesn’t work, there are images. I show a couple of family pictures on the iPhone and soon we’re studying their family pictures and her album with graduation pics.
And so we sit, happily together enjoying a great meal of local produce, on a terrace in the sun, looking out over the village. Really, you don’t need much to feel incredibly blessed to be hiking here, in this beautiful part of Turkey.
With memories of this wonderful encounter of Turkish hospitality we set off to continue the trail, eager to find out what other surprises lie waiting for us.
Practical Information on the Carian Trail
- The Carian Trail is an 850-km-long hiking trail along the Southwest Coast of Turkey. Find all info here.
- We use the Carian Trail Guidebook, by Yurus Özdemir, Altay Özcan, and Dean Livesley. Find it here.
- We are hiking without laptops. The pictures are snapshots I take on my iPhone and new on this hike is a foldable keyboard. After a day of diary typing, I can say I’m very happy with this purchase.
- Here’s the hiking gear list with what we’re carrying on our backs for the next two months.