The morning I left Edirne I met Malik in the kitchen of the hostel. He put the spaghetti leftovers from his meal of the night before in a paper back.
What are you doing?
I put this outside for the dogs.
For the dogs?
Yes, Turkish people love dogs.
No, you can’t love dogs.
Yes, we do.
Yes, Turkish people just love dogs.
That’s because Turkish people don’t ride bicycles.
Within the first hour I had two dogs chasing me. The first one was big and scary, with drool running from its mouth. Luckily, it seemed to hold back and ran only a few metres alongside my bike. The second one was a scrawny cur that wasn’t able to induce any fear. Still, I wished Turkish people would stop feeding these dogs spaghetti (or cannelloni or tagliatelli), it seemed to raise unnecessary expecatations.
In a restaurant I ordered soup.
Çorba, I said, testing out a new word I had learnt.
Işkembe? the proprietor asked.
Uhm, yes, I answered, unwilling to admit I had no idea what he meant. Five minutes later I was chewing on some animal’s guts again. With some extra intestines added for the foreign guest who had plainly expressed his fondness for the dish.
Riding into Istanbul along the D100 was not pleasant. It’s not that the Turkish people are deliberately trying to kill you, but more the likelihood of ending up a victim of their unimpressive driving skills. At some point I was riding on what was technically a six lane motorway, fearing for my life.
In Istanbul I took residence in a hostel very close to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. The location meant I was now woken up by the most accomplished muezzins, who, nevertheless, still called for prayer at an ungodly hour, but at least in a very skillful, if not slightly hysterical, voice.
Istanbul. A menu had English translations in brackets and so I discovered that a dish could be ordered either ‘spicy’ or ‘painless’. Then I found out that the Turkish word for ‘hot, peppery’ and ‘painful’ are the same.