The whole country is one huge road works at the moment. Turkey has one of the worst road casualty rates in the world and before coming here we heard that Turkish drivers are terrible. Our observation is that they are no worse than anywhere else but nobody wears seatbelts, small children ride unsecured in the front seats, only 1% of motorcyclists wear helmets and some of the cars in rural areas are in very poor condition. No wonder the casualty rate is high.
We have seen three Turkeys: the tourist areas where the majority of people speak some English and the dress is casual; the industrial and agricultural towns where nobody speaks English though some can speak German , everyone lives in apartments and dress is conservative; and rural Turkey on the minor roads where nobody speaks English, dress is very traditional and people are working the fields with small hand tools, sometimes a dozen people in one field bent over working in the heat using implements that we would use for tending a small flower bed. Apart from the presence of the occasional tractor the scene has probably changed little since Roman times – including the goat herds, donkeys and pack ponies.Apart from in the tourist areas the demarcation between men and women is stark. The men gather at every opportunity to drink tea, not alcohol, and to chat, but the women meet at their door steps or on a carpet outside someone’s doorway to chat. The genders seldom mix socially from what we have seen. Gail initially found the groups of men a bit threatening, and I understood what she meant, but we found that if they talk to you or if you start a conversation with them they are really nice and friendly people. It’s probably like peoples’ misconceptions at home about gatherings of teenage males on street corners. The people in this country have without exception been very welcoming, though they do find the concept of two retirees riding around on their own on a “huge” motorbike very strange. Perhaps it’s just that those groups of men don’t know what to make of us and particularly Gail; which is quite understandable.