Mar 14, 2015

Great Lent on the Turquoise Coast

This has been tougher than I expected.

I spent the first week of Great Lent in İstanbul, attending services and visiting churches and museums.   I probably walked more than most tourists do, but my pack was in the hostel rather than on my back.‎  There are also plenty of restaurants that offer Lent-friendly fare, one of which was just around the corner from the hostel. I also prepared my own meals a few times: a half tin of beans mixed in with some lentil soup made for hot, delicious, and nutritious. 

I caught the bus to Antalya on the evening of March 1, but at some point on the ride, the bottle of fuel for my penny stove fell out of my pack. I only discovered that as I was packing up to start walking again on Tuesday, and I was unable to replace it until just last evening (Mar 13). All the packets of soup I had bought in İstanbul have been dead weight for almost two weeks, but what made the loss worse is that restaurants have been few and far between for the last four days. It's nice to have a hot meal at the end of the day, and a hot cuppa to start the day off.

The beautiful scenery along the coast has been some consolation, although the seemingly endless row of resort hotels around Alanya was less pleasant than the richly pine-scented sea air in the hills and the vast groves of citrus and bananas I passed. Every standing body of water has its own colony of frogs, and I've seen turtles sunning themselves several times. Lightening-fast lizards skitter away as I approach, and even the stray dogs I've encountered have been friendly.

One aspect of Great Lent that I treasure is the beauty of the services held throughout the week, but I haven't been to church since leaving the City. There was an Orthodox parish about 100 m from my hostel in Antalya, but they only have service four days per week during Lent and Monday is not one of those days.

It's not just restaurants and churches which are in short supply. After leaving Alanya, I've slept outside in an abandoned campground, in a petrol station as the honoured guest of the Kurdish man working the graveyard shift, and on a rickety metal cot in a room at a truck stop restaurant. The past two nights I've found legit lodgings, complete with mattresses and showers, but the next few days of walking are looking ‎pretty sparse on my GPS.

The weather has been quite nice, so unless there's rain overnight, sleeping rough is a good option. Apparently this part of Turkey gets 300 sunny days each year, so we've had about a month's worth of rain in the past week. It's been warm enough that the rain has been refreshing rather than miserable.

Although my time in Turkey has been wonderful, I am very much looking forward to arriving in Cyprus. After a day in the (self-declared) Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, I'll cross back into a country where churches are numerous. My plan is still to spend a week in Lebanon, where I hope to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Then it'll be back to the airport in Cyprus before hopping a flight or ferry  to Haifa and the last eight or ten days of walking.‎ It would be wonderful to arrive in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but we'll see how it goes.

I'll try to write updates more frequently, but even when I do have WiFi I've been too exhausted to think. There are several dozen photos waiting to be sorted through and uploaded as well. Perhaps I'll be able to do some catching up once I reach Lebanon...