I stayed at this pension for over a week, sleeping by the lake, taking showers with hot water every day, doing my laundry, and eating the traditional Turkish breakfast served on the deck—the array of cucumbers, tomatoes, green and black olives, slices of processed meats, boiled eggs; three or four varieties of cheese, including kasar, a smooth textured white cheese like mozzarella; and beyaz panir, a crumbly white cheese. This was accompanied by honey and an assortment of jams with lots of bread to spread them on. If it rained I had the option of sitting inside in the dining room, looking out the bay windows that surrounded the dining room.
One of the things I enjoyed the most during my days at Charly’s was the leisure of sitting on the deck listening to music with my headphones. Through the entire month of September I hadn’t used my headphones. While walking it was important to be aware of my surroundings, and I couldn’t unplug from my environment at all.
I did get an “earworm” that wouldn’t go away for several days while at Egirdir–America’s “Horse With No Name.” I don’t like that song, but the lyrics came out of nowhere, and I let them in because now they felt right:
“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
“It felt good to be out of the rain
“In the desert you can remember your name
“Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain”
During my stay I met a number of people passing through the pension, several of them British. One was a woman named Carla, about 60 years old, who stayed at the lake three or four months of the year. Carla had been coming to the lake for years, not as a guest, but paying her way doing odd jobs such as food prep (cutting cutting up cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.), clearing the tables, making beds, and vacuuming. In return Ibrahim allowed her to stay at the pension and eat for free. The rest of the year she would go back to her family in England. Like me, she spoke English and Pidgin Turkish.
Another, a young woman in her late twenties, was passing through Turkey as a Christian missionary, taking buses from one city to the other. She was a born-again Christian.
One day she joined me as I sat in the sun on the deck.
During our conversation she asked me, “What religion are you?”
I said my usual, “I’m a Christian, of course!”
She said, “Do you believe in God?”
I said, “Yes, I believe in God.”
She asked, “Do you believe that Jesus was his divine son?”
I said, “No.”
She said, “Well, then, you are most definitely not a Christian! And you should stop referring to yourself as one.”
I was slightly bemused by that conversation and thought, Well, if I stop referring to myself as Christian then what am I? I was used to referring to myself as Christian because where I was walking you were either a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew. My Turkish was not good enough to explain to people what I’d have meant if I said that I was none of those things and that I was just “spiritual.”
I’d had these kinds of conversations with the Muslims in every town along the way, too. I always felt like I had been pummeled by a bully every time. The “not only am I deeply religious, I am also right” spiels were the same no matter whose mouth they came from.
There was another group who were regulars at the pension, and that was a group from an elite military training center for komandos a couple of kilometers away. These were not your garden variety infantry. They were in this area because of the mountains and the lake where they could train in different terrains. I was able to watch them jump out of helicopters when they practiced lake landings. There are also some high and craggy mountains around the lake that are covered with snow during the winter so they could train on the steep, rugged terrains in the high altitudes during inclement weather.
During the day the travelers cleared out of the pension to take their day trips and the deck of the pension became a lake-view internet cafe for the komandos. They came in during leave hours in the afternoon to hang out on the balcony and drink tea or beer and check their Facebooks and email their wives and girlfriends back home. Some of them must have had agreements with the pension owner, though, because apparently they had girls closer by who came in to join their komandos with a drink, and before you knew it couples were disappearing into the available rooms together.
The komandos had to be back on base about the time the foreign travelers came back from their day trips. So the pension had this 24 hour circulation of groups of different people I watched as they came and went.
Also during my days at Egirdir, I did some walking around the town. There was a little square where I became a regular. As much as I enjoyed Charly’s, I sometimes felt out of place surrounded by the foreign travelers there. I felt much more at home surrounded by the Turks in the village who spoke Turkish and ate Turkish foods like kasarli pide, a flat bread with cheese, for lunch.
One day as I sat in one of my favorite restaurants munching on my kasarli pide, I was jarred out of my comfort a bit while watching T.V. This was the time the Syrian border was starting to become destabilized, and on T.V. the talking heads were discussing the Turkish parliament debate taking place that day on whether to authorize the Turkish government to make incursions across the border into Syria. I knew I would be walking close to that border in a few weeks.
Another time I took a mini-bus into a nearby village to a farmers’ market, the Pinar pazari (spring market). This was one of the biggest farmers’ markets I’d ever seen and one of highlights of the area. I had trouble not grabbing handfuls of olives out of the tens of thousands of olives heaped colorfully on trays that were arranged down long tables, and I could barely resist sticking my fingers into the powdery red spices mounded in cloth sacks with their tops rolled back. There were fresh vegetables, fruits, butcher shops, restaurants, clothing for women, and home goods—and tourists.
But most of the time I spent the week at the pension lounging on the patio, listening to music on my headphones, and answering more questions from 4th graders.
The other travelers coming through didn’t understand this. When they caught me lolling around on the deck wearing my headphones during the day they would invite me on their day hikes. They were having the trips of their lives, following in the footsteps of St. Paul and soaking up the great history of the area! How could I just sit on the deck doing nothing? Of course, anyone traveling through would want to explore the rich history of the place.
The hotel staff and Carla and Ibrahim would also come out and ask me, “Are you sure you don’t want to do some of the activities?” “Are you sure you want to sit here all day and do nothing?” For me, though, this was my holiday from walking through the country visiting places, and all I wanted to do was sit on the deck and listen to music on the headphones, soak up the sun, and watch small whitecaps sparkle on the lake.
After a month of great but somewhat disorienting experiences it was good to have nine days of stable routine where I could wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, take a shower, hang out my laundry to dry, sit on the patio and read a book or listen to music, or keep up with emails. Then in the evening I would eat dinner and go to bed.
Ibrahim and his guests believed me to be a traveler and travelers walked about exploring the sites. But I was a person perfectly happy to spend day after day, week after week, month after month doing the same thing over and over. I like to go to the same restaurants every day. I’m like a dog that way. I can eat the same food every day for months. So I’m not a traveler at heart. I suspect a real traveler wouldn’t want to do an activity like the walk I’m taking, for example. By nature, travelers want to move, not go incredibly slow like when you’re walking across the country with a backpack asking strangers for a place to stay each night.