“Kiran… Can you see him?”. Frouke was nervous.
“Yes, he’s standing outside the shop a few doors away. If we are quick maybe he won’t see us”
The “He” in question was the owner of the hotel we were staying in. We could see him out of our bedroom window and we wanted to leave and get some food without him seeing us. We wanted to leave without him seeing us, not because we didn’t like him, on the contrary, he was a lovely guy, we liked him a lot. We just knew that if he saw us he would ask us what we were doing. If we told him we were going for dinner then there was a 99% chance he would pay for our meal. I know this because at lunch time I decided to ask where the best place to eat was. He said he would show me where it was and so Frouke and I walked with him to the place he thought was best. We ordered our meals and asked him if he wanted to have lunch with us, but he said no. He waited until our food arrived then told us he was leaving. We said thanks and goodbye but he didn’t leave straight away. Instead he walked to the counter, paid for our lunch and then quickly left the shop before we could do anything!! We were shocked, grateful and amused all at once. We would have been more shocked if we hadn’t been in Turkey for a few weeks already. This kind of thing happens here.
A few days earlier we cycled into a small town just before lunch and were greeted by two men standing outside a tailor shop. They told us to drink a tea with them. This happens all the time here too so we stopped and went into the shop to sit with them. Drinking tea is the national sport in Turkey. We talked about our trip and asked about their lives in this town. After 2 teas it was time to go. They asked if we were hungry. We said no, but actually it was probably time to eat. We knew if we said yes they would probably try to feed us and I guess we thought we would just find something ourselves along the way. We said goodbye and thanked them for the tea and chat. After a bit of cycling we came across a place to eat so parked up the bikes, went in and ordered some food. As we were eating one of the guys from the tailor shop walked in. He looked directly at us and was clearly not approving of something. He tapped his ears and pointed at us.
TRANSLATION: I heard you were here.
News clearly travels fast in this town. He then tapped his belly, wagged his finger and then pointed at us disapprovingly.
TRANSLATION: You told me you were not hungry
Oh dear… He came over to us and literally pulled both of our ears and wagged his finger, first at me, then at Frouke.
TRANSLATION: You’ve misbehaved.
We tried to somehow plead some innocence but he just laughed then walked towards the exit. Before he left he stopped at the counter, paid for our meal and walked out without even looking back. We were dumbfounded. I suppose that’s the right word.
This is what it is like in Turkey. We’ve had people let us sleep in their house when they thought it was too cold for us to camp, we once had someone give us the keys to their second house when they thought it would rain on our tent (it did rain). We once just asked a guy if he knew of a cheap hotel in the town where he lived. He thought for a few moments and then said “Tonight you will sleep in my house”. He took us to his beautiful apartment with a view of the sea, fed us dinner and breakfast the next day. After we arrived in Turkey from Georgia the first person that spoke to us in the first town we came across bought us lunch, gave us a tour of the museum where he worked, along with his friend played a short private guitar and clarinet concert for us and showed us where we could camp. He was the first person we met! All this the first 2 hours of being in Turkey! It’s crazy.
All of that is just a sample of why we were attempting to sneak out of our hotel without the owner seeing us. We thought it was time we paid for our own food for once. It was raining quite heavily so maybe that would give us some cover. We pulled up the hoods on our rain jackets.
“Ok Frouke, when I give the word, let’s run to the other side of the road and walk quickly away”
Waiting for the right moment…
“OK! Let’s g…..”
“Hey! Where are you going!?”
Busted. The hotel owner was smiling and waiting politely for our answer.
“Errrrr we are just going to go for a walk and then maybe we will eat something… somewhere…”
He looked at me suspiciously. The way someone looks at you when it’s raining heavily and you’ve just told then you are going for a walk.
“You look like someone who wants to drink beer or vodka.”
Did I? I wasn’t expecting him to say that.
“Why don’t we drink Turkish Raki together. A way of getting to know each other better.”
After his genourous lunch time behaviour we couldn’t really say no to him so we offered to buy the drink and some snacks.
“No”, he said this firmly and told us to wait while he went to get the drink.
We spent the next hour or so drinking, chatting and getting to know this lovely man. Once the drink was finish we told him what a great time we’d had with him and thanked him again for buying us lunch. We said we would be very happy if he came to dinner with us. It would be our treat, a way of showing our appreciation for everything. He said he would love to join us, quickly followed by him saying there was no way that we were paying.