3 – The old city, young

A few miles by boat and we are heading for Lake Iznik. We get into a farming village in the middle of the mountains, Yeniköy. The passage of foreign travelers is rare here. Also a man came running towards us, seeing that we were trying to find somewhere to eat. He indicates a place to us, right there, 10 meters. We can find this kind of establishment almost everywhere in Turkey. A small room, a counter with 4 prepared dishes, we only have to choose and eat. It is delicious. dsc00308We choose to spend our first night in a tent, just to enjoy the sunset at the water's edge, a campfire for warmth. Unlike in France and other European countries, wild camping is not a problem here. If someone comes to bother you, it will be to invit you to sleep at his home rather than outside. By however, it disturbes dogs apparently. Two hours of uninterrupted barking, sleep is hard to find but comes gradually. We leave in the morning towards Osmaneli. We rummage a "Pansiyon", a kind of cheap guesthouse. The boss, Nedim, welcomes us, we negotiate the night for 50TL. Nap, shower and goes down to eat. We ask Nedim for an address, he proposes to join us. We glup our food as much as the kilometers traveled the last two days. Unavoidable, our host is determined to pay the bill. You don't understand why I talk to you about that? Well, the meal cost around 70TL. You see, Nedim is the kind of person who lost money to host us and who highlights the human before his business. And as if that were not enough, he wanted to guide us to visit the village, and to top it all, invited us for breakfast. I'll not give you details about Bilecik stop. This is a small town where there is nothing to do, the only gathering place for youth is the top floor of the mall where are 3 found bistro-coffees. They drink tea and play to some kind of local Backgammon. Nobody goes in this city, so much that there is widespread joke in Turkey about it like "Oh yes, Bilecik, but where is Bilecik?". Incidentally, it should be noted that this is a city where, like many others in Turkey, it's not possible buy alcohol, anywhere, either in bars or in shops. dsc00334Appointment is taken the next day at Bozüyük with Burak, we found him on the site Warshowers, equivalent to CouchSurfing but dedicated to bicycle touring. Burak welcomes us into his apartment with his family, his wife, his few months old son, and his brother-in-law. They offer us a meal of kings. Vegetable soup, salad, salmon and gretchka (A gluten-free russian wheat), fruits and tea. Ah yes, the tea in Turkey ... You know at what time it is drunk here? All the time actually, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night. Turkish people drink tea 24/7. Burak is passionate about cycling. He dreams about a trip similar as ours and, waiting to get into himself, he share some of our experiences by procuration, hosting travelers like us. I am confident he will find the way and courage to embark on his adventure. 5th day of pedaling, we outstrip the north-west mountains. A series of gentle ups and downs quietly guide us to Eskişehir. Eskişehir in Turkey language literally means "Old Town". A paradox when we look a little closer. This is not technically an old city compared to many others from the various empires. It is the most modern city that we have crossed so far. Not necessarily architecturally, but for everything else. dsc00310Eskişehir, is a kind of Oasis of yougness, modernity, desire to move forward, lost in the big authoritarian desert gradually built by the government of the president. This is one of the few cities where the mayor is from an opposition party, the center-left. And it is strongly remarkable when entering. The average age of the flow of people we met must be around 25 years old. There is actually the fourth largest university in the world in number of students. The mayor began a full refresh of the city with a tram on the main road, a huge shopping center, brand new docks along the river, a large street dedicated to bars ... Therefore, open-minded groups swarms. From coffee-bookstores to old halls and rehabilitated elevators, we can easily feel an effervescence of ideas, and it's so good. We felt at home right away. Romain went for a walk at the organic market while I was napping. This tour will lead a series of unexpected meetings. He started there a discussion with Gülcan who talk to him about a group that was created one year ago after a film festival focused on ecology. Its members meet a few times a month to discuss about permaculture, of what they have read, learned or practiced recently. A municipality let them benefit from a piece of land where they can practice and test some techniques. Gülcan gives us the Serhat's contact with whom we go for a coffee, he presents us Inanc, who presents us Suleyman .. But Gülcan also presents us Basak, who presents us Pelin and Sevim. Parenthesis, do not tell me that determinism of Spinoza is bullshit after that. The evening, here we are dispatching organic tomato seeds in plastic pouches, just like weed dealers. These seeds will be distributed at the next festival. During this activity, we meet Arda (Arda is actually not his real name but he named us both Fabien for 2 days, I allow myself to give him a Turkish name that I can pronounciate easily) which invites us to participate the next day to a debate with philosophers of the city, epic. But all is not good in Eskişehir and the president arm is long. A good illustration is what just experienced this young woman I met in the Inanc coffee. She is 40 and has lost two weeks ago her job as piano professor at the University Conservatory. Why ? Because she signed a petition for peace between the government and the Kurdish people. And if I do not give her name it is indeed to avoid from further potential troubles. When I'm writing this, and since this summer coup attemp, 37.000 officials were arrested, and 100.000 have been suspended or fired. 55 newspapers, 36 TV stations, 23 radio stations and 29 publishing houses were closed. And I pass the details on the prohibition of license plates bearing the letters FG, on the pretext that these are the initials of Fethullah Gulen, the imam allegedly behind the attempted putsch. The situation is somewhat worrying. We will keep nice memories of our passage in the Old City, young.