Kirklareli, Turkey (TR)
I can read the signage in Turkey; it’s written in Latin Script. Kamal Ataturk was responsible for changing the old script to the modern Latin alphabet. Thank you Kamal!
We finally arrived in Turkey, the modern Turkey; our end goal. This Turkey today was the ‘Ottoman’ Empire; the Empire that lasted for more than 600 years. The Ottoman Empire was not a small blip in history, but a true power in the area. Compare that to the Roman Empire which lasted about 500 years, or the Greek Empire which was split into many smaller parts. All those dominant countries, after a while were no longer Empires but have left us with a great history. Greece, Italy, Turkey, Germany are just that, small countries today. There is no evidence of an Empire any longer but there is something about the people of Greece for example, that makes them different. Think of Italy, they have flair! And when I think of Turkey there is a wild strangeness, a smart calculating idea beyond their daily lives. I like Turkey; I have been to this Country before. And now I am back, getting more ideas of what Turkey was and is like.
The most obvious, immediate change noticeable is that the belief system changes drastically once you cross the border from Bulgaria to Turkey. Most of the people in Turkey are Sunni Muslims. But there are many Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims or even non-orthodox Muslims, too. Not too many Christians, the Christians have left Turkey for the most part. When I say I notice a change in religion I don’t mean to say all the women wear Burkas or the men dress differently, or there is something written on their faces that would make you see something obvious, yet there is a feeling that this country, Turkey, is different.
At the end of the Caliphate or the end of the Ottoman Empire, or during WWI, or between the two Wars, during WWII and even today, Turkey is in constant change. The reforms Turkey took upon itself are healthy and still ongoing. Kamal Ataturk, a pro-Western thinker, was most likely the most influential man in recent history. But Turkey always was on the cusp between the great religions, Christianity and Islam. Turkey is the buffer zone between the Near East thinking and the European thinking. Not that either of them are bad, they are just very different from each other.
To visit Turkey is a unique experience, especially visiting Istanbul, our final destination. But, as you might know by now, I take my time getting to my goals. Kirklareli, our first stop in Turkey gives me a bit of breathing room, a stop to take a deep breath before entering the very busy Istanbul proper.
For Carol this is her first time in Turkey and I do not know how she feels as a woman in a Muslim Country. I let her write a report on that if she wants to do it.
Carol writes: I had absolutely no qualms about entering Turkey. I know from my reading and from previous travelers to Turkey, that western women have no problems in this very tolerant Country. The only stipulation for women was to have hair, shoulders and knees covered when entering a mosque and everyone had to remove their shoes. My biggest fear had nothing to do with my gender but everything to do with the crazy drivers sharing my lane (in fact there were rarely any lane markings) and the amount of traffic flying past at insane speeds.
Kirklareli is a nice town. We had no Hotel reservations so we had to find a room for the night. With a little back and forth and asking people we did OK. Parking the bikes was easy; the hotel had a large enough parking lot. I did not fear for the bike in Turkey. Just park it, put a cover over it, and that is it. We walked along a busy street just to get a feel for Turkey and to get used to the sounds and ambiance.
When we were looking for a small nibble, an older man took notice and he asked us, in German, if we wanted help. He was Turkish but he spoke German. Not so unusual in Turkey where many men have spent time in Germany working for some years. He helped us to order a soup and some tea and then left us alone. He was a nice guy, neat and orderly looking. The soup turned out to be head cheese soup but it was delicious. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in Kirklareli, exactly what we were looking for. I felt like a visitor of course, but nobody made a fuss about us.
Carol saw that, even though all the cafés had only men sitting at the table, it was OK, as a western woman to have a coffee too. I am ignorant as to why women are not in the cafés. I remember in Morocco, when Carol had to use the washroom once, it was a real dilemma because there was no facility for women at the café. In Turkey, we did not have that problem. At least I never noticed that Carol had problems, but you can see my point, right?
We spent the night eating dinner at the Hotel, which had a restaurant on the top floor. The food was so-so but all and all Kirklareli was the perfect stopover before we rode into Istanbul.