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Stranger in a Strange Land

By Rabun

Living in Turkey is kind of strange, especially if you like cycling. Leaving other things aside, you can have unique experiences in Turkey. Like what?

Let's first meet the people.

Turkish people are both conservative and curious at the same time. We like things the way they are and do not like much changes, like our favorite sports. We are typical football fans. Period. It takes guts to change this fact. That is really nice if you like football. But just for a moment suppose you like cycling which means you are weirdo in peoples eyes. When I describe things in this way, the reaction I get is:
"Why is that?"

The answer is:
People like things the way they are, which means every Turkish man is a potential football player or basketball player at least. How come a "man" wear that "lady" outfit (the cycling tights) and expose himself. Moreover being a curious nation, we do not leave the person alone. Here starts that "stranger in a strange land" part. Imagine yourself as a cyclist here, trying to ride your bike.

The facts are:
1) Here the roads do not include special sections dedicated for you
2) Public transportation drivers (autobuses, minibuses, vans, etc.) hate you and see you as bugs on the roads
3) Normal drivers hate you and see you as bugs on the roads
4) People walking hate you and see you as bugs on the roads

You can easily see the pattern here. You are a "bug". One friend was trying to go to work on his bike. Some maniac (truck driver, the most dangerous species on the road) saw him on the road while he was eating some oranges and threw the remains of the fruit to my friend's face, causing him to end in the ditch nearby.

My personal encounters in the traffic is similar, I was accused of "hitting the car" which is something I cannot possibly do, hitting a person walking in the middle of the street (not crossing the street, mind you and I did not even go close to him), one guy called me "a SOB" for no appearent reason, another one sent his dog after me... The list can grow easily.

This is due to the curious nature of the people I guess. The best explanation I can find is that, they see some strange guy in tights riding some strange bicycle and want to get involved and tame him. And they use the well-known harrasment method, thinking once they come on us, we will stop riding that damn bike in that damn clothing. Back to the ways of real men, for our own good.

What is that thing about wearing tights?
The answer is: "Real men do not wear tights, this is not included in the Book of Men" (Have you ever heard a famous Turkish ballet? No? You can easily guess the reason.)

In short, sometimes it is hell being on the bike. I have asked myself if it was worth it a couple of times. The answer is yes, in my opinion cycling the equivalent of yoga. You listen to your body, you push it to the limits, you learn your rules. Moreover the country has a great terrain for cycling, you can find passes higher than Tourmalet if you want and the flatest and longest road in the whole europe.

For example on my way to the university there is a section that includes a hard ascent for me. It has more than 15 switchbacks in about 1.5 km, with an average grade of 7% (this is my wild guess, I have not profiled anything). My every visit to school means such a climb, I love this. I love suffering there. Such little fancies really keep me going.

So I feel like a stranger in my country, a stranger in a strange land. I hope someday things change, people start respecting cycling. This is not a big wish isn't it?

PS: I did not write this article to insult anyone. People can have their own ways, like I do. I am just expressing things as seen from my way. This more like a "I wish it was not so" kind of article, rather than "damn drivers" kind.  




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