A few kilometers into the day, Nihal and Kader call me into their yard to have breakfast with them and their colleagues. They’re into the dairy business. There is much laughter at the thought of how long my hair and my beard will be once I have made it to Germany.
Back on the road I see a sign with a magical word on it: ISTANBUL. I remember the first time I saw the name SAMARKAND on a road sign, and how happy I was then. There are only two places I feel like I have to walk through on The Longest Way – one was Samarkand, the other one is Istanbul.
So much promise lies in that name.
I come up to a house with two fires in the yard. There are two pots on the fires. One of them is filled with grapes, the other with slices of pumpkin and water. Recep, Hadije, and Emine are making molasses. They’re grilling meat on skewers over the fire while they work, and they offer me some of it along with some pumpkin slices and grapes. All three of them generally laugh a lot, so it all looks like pretty good fun.
Only it’s hard work.
Stirring the large pots is very difficult, and both Hadije and her husband Recep have back problems. At one point Hadije lies down on her side, and when I see her face relaxing I know exactly how she feels. It’s that sensation when something in your back seems to be tied up in a knot, and then you lay down to allow it to untangle just a little bit.
As I stalk around the fires taking my photos, I think about the amount of open fires with pots on them I’ve seen on my way from China up to here. And about how few of them I’ve ever seen in Germany. Of course these fire/pot scenes are very picturesque, and in a way I’ll be sad to see them go. But progress will make them go away, and it should.
It’s easy to look into smiling faces and mistake a life that’s hard for a life that’s simple.