Saturday, October 4 Ofrinio to Kavala
(written Sunday morning)
I had originally planned to stay in Kavala one extra night so that I could ride up to Philippi, just a few kilometers north of here (and skyward, too!), to visit another of the sites that the apostle Paul had established one of the early Christian communities. If this had been a traditional Christian pilgrimage it would be a must see. But, this pilgrimage is from Rome to Rumi (from the head of the Church to the heart of mysticism).
I only have so much energy left and, at this point, I want to reserve it so that I can fully immerse myself in the rich religious world that Turkey offers. Istanbul is really where West meets East. I get excited even writing this. I will have moved from the Roman Catholic culture of Italy to the Greek Orthodox culture of Greece and then be introduced to the Eastern Orthodox Church in Istanbul. But, that is just the beginning. Culturally, I am imagining that Islam will likely be the religion of the majority of the people.
Yesterday, my eyes feasted on the picture postcard perfect scenery around me while my head and heart were beginning to prepare for the journey ahead. I only rode just a little less than forty miles, but a westerly coastal wind made it feel double that. The ride was stunningly beautiful, though, as the sea was often anywhere from thirty feet to a hundred feet to my right. I loved hearing the waves crash in as I rode along and feasted on the simple pleasure of watching fishermen (and a few women) casting their sea-worthy poles into the water for prizes that I could only imagine.
I had one delightful stretch where hotels and restaurants lined the pavement on both sides. Had it been peak season I would have been fighting traffic and pedestrians, I am sure. But, the area was largely deserted and I had much of the road to myself arcing my way around hillside curves while enjoying the same views of the bay and red-roofed villages that the posh hotel patrons also enjoyed.
At one point I was given an unexpected gift. A tractor slowly passed me traveling no more than five kph faster. I quickly found the draft behind and coasted along for ten or fifteen minutes letting the wind that he was generating drag me behind him. When he looked back he was startled, then gave me the thumbs up, as if to say, “It’s cool!” After that I could tell that he was choosing a path on the road that avoided the worst of the potholes and slowed down when there were ruts in the road. What a nice guy!
Speaking of that, the politeness and hospitality of the people is noticeable. On more than one occasion I have tried to make it easy on the coffee clerks by ordering at the bar and waiting for my coffee. Repeatedly, they have almost taken me by the elbow, and said, “Sit. Sit. Sit. Let me take care of you.” I can feel that my attempts to make it easy on them is stealing something from them and they won’t stand for it. They enjoy and take pride in their hospitality. I have been given free candy bars from store clerks and two nights ago I asked for a plastic fork for my baklava to take back to my hotel room. She didn’t have one, but gave me one of the regular silverware and refused to let me pay for it—all this for less than two euros.
Increasingly, my mind is turning toward home—not so much that I am missing what is before me, but I am noticing the yearning. A few days ago, a remake of a Storm Large song came on in a café. Storm Large is a local Portland product who wrote the powerful, funny, and startlingly honest one woman play, Crazy Enough. I saw her perform it. Hearing the song put me right back in my Portland community. Later that day I was reading Life is a Wheel and he mentioned German chocolate cake. For years I have asked the people in my life to bake a German chocolate cake for my birthday. I immediately yearned for home. Today, is the baby shower for the grandchild who is expected in about two months time. I ache just a little knowing that I made the decision to take this pilgrimage and miss celebrating with my family. But, I sent flowers to let them know of my presence and to relieve the ache a little.
I stayed last night in Kavala, a town small enough to enjoy easily, but big enough to have a vibrant energy. This is a port for the ferries that transport people to the islands south of here and make connections in western Turkey. Five and six story buildings line the waterfront while apartment buildings and larger private homes are layered on the hillsides behind the bustling downtown. This is not a beach waterfront as some of the earlier coastline presented with the string of hotels. There are fishing boats and larger recreational charter boats. The massive ferries tower over all of them while tourists sit in open air cafes, bars and restaurants soaking in the sounds, the smells, and the sights on all sides of them.
I spent a little time researching Sufi sacred sites in Turkey and am slowly putting together a plan. When I arrive in Istanbul I plan to spend as long as I need to really get a flavor of the city and this new world that I have entered. I also don’t want to leave until I have route and a plan to Konya that feels safe to me. I plan to engage many people in that conversation and not slip into any kind of challenge and adventure that reeks of false heroism. This is about wearing the cloak of Rumi and if the journey begins to steer me toward Brian’s personal ego I will have taken a detour that will not serve me or the purposes of this trip well.
Today, heading east a little more. Fall is in the air though. It’s overcast and I am not sure if rain might be brewing for later. If the headwind persists I may end up in Xanth tonight. If the riding has some ease to it, I may reach Komonini and be within one day’s ride of the Turkish border. My Visa has been approved, my heart is ready, and my legs are still churning.