Yesterday was my first venture outside of the Malatya city limits without an airplane, but the excursion was by my favorite
mode of transportation, bicycle. I joined a group of men and woman (yes, 3 women!) for their weekly Saturday ride. Aside from the cold (I wore five layers including 3 jackets, 2 hats and 2 pairs of gloves) and the headwind both directions (serious chapped lips) it was a beautiful day and a really fun bike ride.
The Turkish twist on the typical bike tour is the number of
glasses of chai. We started with tea at the bike shop. Then, we made three stops over the course of 80 kilometers for
tea. Twice at the same gas station/chai shop about 20 km outside of town and one at a picnic ground where we ate lunch. Here, the leader of our group walked up to a house above the picnic ground and found a family who would prepare tea (no paper cups by the way) and bring it to the park. We finished with more chai back at the bike shop. (I would have preferred a cold beer at this point.) But my fellow riders switched to the big cups and downed another 4 or 5 glasses. It was here that I learned many of these people drink 30 cups of tea a day.
By the way, there are 2 problems with this quantity of tea: the need for toilets (they were all the disgusting Turkish type) and the quantity of caffeine (that's why I'm writing this po
st at at 4:30 am before the prayer call.
Another twist on the bike ride is the Turkish coffee. One woman brought along her copper Turkish coffee pot, 4 porcelain cups and saucers wrapped in paper towels and bag of Turkish coffee. At the aforementioned picnic grounds the bikers quickly made a fire (no fire pit...just feet to stamp on the ashes when the first spread a bit). Once they had some good, hot coals they buried the coffee pot in the coals and made the best cup of coffee I've had in a lon
g time. Did I mention we followed the cup of coffee with a glass of tea?
Lunch was chikofte (I learned it's illegal these days to use raw hamburger)so I ate it. I was also handed what looked like a bottle of pomegranate juice but turned out to be Salgam Suyu. Here are the ingredients: water, purple carrot (beet), turnip, salt, pounded wheat, and chili powder. I don't think I'll ever live here long enough to develop a taste for this drink. It is disgusting, especially when I thought I was going to drink pomegranate juice.
One other highlight of the trip was the ride through a famous Arabian horse farm. It was
just like being in Kentucky and I was told the horses sell for 1 million Turkish Lira.