Saturday, June 18, 2011


On the afternoon of my arrival, the team of us stopped into an open-air market in the small town of Avanos, where we are staying before we commence on the ride proper.  In all my travels, I have never been to a more authentic place than that market. 

Avanos is off the tourist circuit.  No tourists come here, which means the locals have no tourism hangover, no cynicism of travellers.  These are townsfolk in rural Turkey simply buying their food at the dusty market.  There are bright red tomatoes – some torn open so you can see their quality – yellow melons, pale green squashes, strawberries, two kinds of cherries, cucumbers, corn, beans, on and on, all straight from the farms of Cappadocia.  Row after row of fresh produce gives way, oddly, to shoes.  Hundreds of kinds of shoes.  Then sacks of rustic orange and turmeric yellow spices, nuts, seeds, sheafs of dried herbs and tea.  Leatherwork.  Toys.  Barrows of twisted, glazed breads.

But the most memorable part is the people.  They are mildly curious about the presence of a tourist, but they go about their business with polite indifference.  They smile when you say merhaba – hello – and are happy to oblige when I ask to take their photo (by smiling and shaking the camera at them with raised eyebrows – such is the sophistication of my Turkish).  And the children are hilarious.  There’s no learned trepidation over strangers, here; they are wholly children, cheeky and innocent.  One little boy stopped and smiled at the white guy with the camera gear and I snapped his photo before he ran off.  Two precocious eight-year-old girls spoke English very well and playfully posed for photos by our group.  It was a really lovely, authentic thing.

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