A journey with the little fruitarian runner on board. Day 8: Water. The last full day on the island

This morning is slower and, during our breakfast on the balcony, a small basket tied with a rope descends next to the table. I follow the rope upwards and I am met by the smiling face of the lady of the house, looking down at me from among her laundry hung out to dry.

“Hello! Kalimera!” she says, pointing to the small basket.

“Kalimera! Efharisto poli!” I reply, picking up from inside the basket a white bowl with the best olives in the world.

She was very kind and came to our door with a plate of delicious apricots the night we were back from the mountains. We spoke some more Greek then and I was happy to have someone to practice with.

After breakfast we make a stop at the bakery but, being Sunday it’s closed today, so we shortly stop at the supermarket on our way to Fonias.

Once at the river, we start going upstream, back into the land of dragonflies and soon find the vathre (pool) where we bathed the first time we were here. It’s tempting, but we don’t jump in this time, but walk ok, determined to get to the waterfalls.

And before long, we find a bigger varthra and we can hear the water falling from the left, hidden behind a huge rock. We climb on and see the gorgeous waterfall from above. We continue the climb through the forest but give up after a while, eager for a bath down below and then for a swim in the sea and relaxation on the beach.

So we go back down and when we get there we find a crowd of loud people taking a swim. We can’t be bothered. We ARE going to jump in no matter what. When we do, in spite of the cold water, we are amazed by the beauty and the freshness of the place. There is such purity and such clarity about it. We swim to the waterfall and let it splash us with its fresh, clear water.

“Clean me”, I tell her, “purify me of everything I no longer need, everything stale, everything burdening me, make me clean and clear, purify me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

After the purifying and refreshing swim in the vathra, we go down the river, get back to the car and go to Lakkoma beach in the south. We crash again under the same bamboo umbrella, take a swim and just relax.

We have a meeting with Carlota at 8.45 pm, so we go back to the house before sunset. The view of the mountain rising up to the sky on the right, the tumbling hills with their olive orchards below, gradually becoming lower and lower until they turn into the pebbled seashore that pressed against our foot soles a short while ago, all in the mild, golden light of the setting sun are signs of paradise.

At home we are offered ice cream by the lady of the house, while waiting for Carlota to finish her giggly conversation with the young English couple that’s just arrived, looking for gifts for a wedding they are attending in Alexandroupolis next week.

When she is done, we are next. Like a good host, she asks us about our stay and is particularly interested in our climb on the Feggari two days ago. She’s impressed by our performance and asks about the baby, whom she insists is a “strong boy”. And she is right. Later on we pay for the room and her mother in law comes and makes good wishes for us and our baby, expressing her gratitude and good will.

“Write to us”, Carlota says, “send us pictures and come back with your boy!” And then translates her mother in law’s words: “She wishes you that with only one cry to take him out.”


Related posts:

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A journey with the little fruitarian runner on board. Day two: Alexandroupolis – Samothrakis

The next day I am woken by the stiffness in my back and the rain tapping on the tent. The little fruitarian runner performs a soft but lengthy training and then seems to go back to his usual meditative state.

When we build up the courage to get out of the tent, we are greeted by a beautiful rainbow rising above the sea and the rain stops just in time for us to get our stuff back in the car, have a small breakfast standing next to the car and head for the harbor to catch our ferry. Not before we study the orange flowers of a small tree whose buds look like fruit. When they reach maturity, their shell cracks and the flower explodes in the outer world. I declare it a unique phenomenon: having fruit before the flower. My travel companion says they’re just buds.

The two and a half hour ferry ride is far from spectacular, except for the sight of a beautiful dolphin springing seemingly from under the ferry and swimming away. The cool breeze is relaxing and the clouds tucked into one another like sheep in a sleeping herd are a spectacular view accompanied by the intense ultramarine blue of the sea underneath.

We spend almost the entire trip outside on the deck, determined to resist the cold wind and spot dolphins and countless shades of blue both above and below. Up on the deck we seem to be in a state of limbo, suspended between two worlds, traveling from the continent to the island.

When the arrival time approaches, we move to the left side of the boat and finally see the island: a high mountain in the middle of the sea. A thick blanket of clouds is covering the shy peak, hiding it from that shameless touristic gaze cast by so many pairs of eyes on the ferry.

samothrakis harbour from the ferry

Our host, a dark skinned, thin Spanish lady in her forties, Carlota, has written to me on WhatsApp and is now waiting for us “by the big green container on the right of the harbor”.

“I came here nine years ago with Erasmus, fell in love with the island and never left. It’s a very powerful place”, she confesses and, noticing the blue scarab locket on her necklace and remembering her meditating clay frog picture on WhatsApp, it all makes sense. We are of the same kind.

We then follow her car to her husband’s family’s place and I immediately fall in love with the beautiful stone paved garden, with its two small tables, trees packed with ripe fruit and the huge geraniums and begonias in bloom everywhere. We get inside and she offers a studio with a kitchenette instead of the small room I booked online.

“I can give you something bigger for the same price. Since we are free, why not. Here, this one has a balcony and this one doesn’t. Choose the one that you like.”

We make the choice,  but change our minds after she leaves and eventually move into the room with a balcony – it’s prettier and more luminous. The house has a kitchen and it looks like an old family house turned into a small motel. The owners, her parents-in-law, still live upstairs.

After she leaves, they arrive home and park their utility van next to our car. Her mother-in-law starts calling her name, so I take the opportunity to get out on the balcony and practice my Greek, since I have been warned by Carlota that she speaks no English at all. I say hello and explain that her daughter-in-law is not there. I am rewarded with delicious,  freshly picked apricots and a big smile.

We later get out of the house, in between heavy showers, in search of the bakery. We find it much later and it is closed, like pretty much everything else around here, actually.

“It’s still low season”, Carlota warned us as soon as we stepped foot on the island.

Since we come across no open shops, we pick fruit from the trees lining the road, so by the time we get back to the house, still without a map or food, our stomachs are full of apricots and sour cherries. The little fruitarian runner is satisfied.

“What shall we do next?”

“I know, let’s take a nap!”

And, with the soothing sound of the heavy rain hitting the leaves in the garden, one third of us does just that while another third is meditating and the third third fixes the blog and starts posting.

At sunset the rain decides to give us a break and sheep are grazing peacefully in the neighboring garden and I realize for the first time we have a view of the sea from the balcony. It is not so obvious, since the eyes are tempted to stop at the trees separating the two gardens in front. The water is now shining under the setting sun and cannot escape my vigilance.

At sunset we get out and see how islandy it looks from the harbor. We eventually find some shops open and get what we need. The shopkeepers are bored and still have not activated their tourist-attracting mode.

We have dinner on the balcony – salad and cheese and make plans for the next day. It’s been a weird, rainy day. Perhaps sensing my uneasiness, the little fruitarian runner is very discreet with his evening training.


Related post: “A journey with the little fruitarian runner on board. Day one: Bucharest – Alexandroupolis

For more photos from this journey, follow “A lover of the road” on Instagram and Facebook.

Making a Cappadocian friend in Goreme

It’s my very last day in Goreme, Cappadocia and I decide to take a morning walk in the village, after having breakfast on the sunny terrace of my hotel. I go down the stone steps, cross the small paved yard, get out into the alley, turn left and then right at the first corner, into the narrow street, looking at shop windows on the way. My eyes are hurting from the strong sun and I decide I need a new pair of sunglasses, since I left mine at home – the pair I got in February form the night market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

So I stop at this corner shop and check out the sunglasses displayed outside, but they seem to have survived every rain here since spring, covered in layer upon layer of white and red dust turned to mud by the rain, dried by the sun, wiped by the wind and so on, again and again. So I think they must be fairly cheap. I am running out of money, but my eyes are not happy at all, so I’m looking for a pair I can afford.

When the shop keeper comes, a dark haired man, mustache, black leather jacket, hands stuffed in his pockets, he hits me with the 20 lira price. And I am too polite to turn my back and just walk away. And my eyes hurt. So I manage to choose a pair and ask him to wash them so I can get a better idea of their real condition.

When we get into the shop, he sprays window cleaner on them and starts rubbing them with a soft cloth. I cringe at the sight and look around the shop, trying to feel more comfortable.

“I think they should be washed, really… And I think 10 lira would be enough. I mean, they are dirty and scratched. And it’s winter…”

“Maybe I would make it 15 lira, but not if you say like that”, he replies giving me his most expert puppy eyes look.

I smile, giving him my most penetrating look, stripping him naked of all the pretense.

“I’m sorry”, I continue. “I mean no offence. Really, look at them. I am just stating the obvious. And it’s off season. No one buys sunglasses anymore.”

“It’s all right”, he answers smugly, “I’ll sell them next year.”

“In this condition? OK…” I answer and let him continue rubbing them as I continue looking around the selves.

“You have a really nice shop.”

“Thank you.” he replies and I feel him softening up.

“Have you had it for long?” I insist.

“The building? Forty-five years. Family business.”

“Wow, a long time. That’s nice.”

He then hands me the sunglasses, proud of his work. I pick them up, turning them in my hands unsatisfied with the result.

“Can I?” I ask picking up the cloth myself.

“Of course.” he replies with a frown.

I wipe them again and carefully check them for scratches.

“They’re still dirty. And scratched”, I land the verdict on the glass counter between us.

He moves away from the counter, sighing and picking up a carton box from the lower shelf on the right, places it in front of me and starts shuffling through pairs of brand new sunglasses, clean in their thin plastic covers.

“Oh, the secret stash”, I giggle.

He hands me a pair and then my hands find their own way into the box and I try on several pairs, some just for fun, asking him for his opinion and making him laugh.

Eventually, I narrow it down to two pairs.

“Hmm… Which one should I get? What do you think?”

“This one”, he says, pointing to the pair I’d actually choose.

I decide to play a little longer and try both on alternatively a few times, complaining it’s so hard to decide.  When I see him rolling his eyes, I say I am sorry, forcing him to encourage me to take my time and keep going. Eventually, when I get bored, I choose the ones we both like and hand him 15 lira.

“Do you want tea?” he asks.

“Actually, yes. Why not?” I reply, although I wasn’t planning to.

And I let him lead me to this other room in the shop, where a hot chimney is burning, inviting me to take off my coat and pretend not to notice the satisfaction on his face.

“How nice! I love your chimney!”

He smiles and points to a chair next to the window and I sit down. He pulls a white plastic chair and joins me after pouring tea into a small tulip-shaped glass and handing it to me on a matching square shaped plate.

“Are you travelling alone?” he asks.



“I like travelling alone. I can write. I can sit down with you over a glass of tea and talk, I can do whatever I want. And it was my birthday. So this trip is a gift I’m making myself.”

“Oh, really? Happy birthday!”

“Thank you.”

There is a short silence between us as I’m looking around, getting more familiar with my surroundings.

“You have nice things. I like your shop”, I add honestly. “And your notebooks are really nice.”

“You can choose one. I’ll make it a birthday gift for you.”

“Oh, really? That’s so kind. I will.” I was not expecting that and I’m feeling very grateful.

We are drinking tea and smiling and I tell him which notebook I like, so he picks it up, wraps it and adds a card with his number and a happy birthday message. So I decide I should also be generous.

gift notebook from goreme

“Do you have Facebook?”

“Yes, he says, handing me his phone. So I type in my name, tap ‘add friend’, then take out my own phone. He takes it from my hand when I ask about WiFi (it’s a Turkish thing, I guess), he keys in the password and I accept his friend request on the spot. We then shake hands and he pulls me closer, kissing my cheeks. We have the Turkish ‘double hug’ which I love.

“Come again”, he says.

And I do. After the scary episode that follows with the owner of my hotel (unpublished at the time I’m posting this), I return a few hours later, still trembling inside, to say goodbye before going to the bus station. When I get to the shop, it’s empty and the sunglasses I tried on earlier are still resting on the glass counter, the chimney is burning, the tea kettle is boiling and his phone is charging in the shop window. I call his name and there is no answer, so I take a few photos of the shop before walking from one shop to the next, as several of them are connected, and find these two older men chatting, surrounded by carpets.

shop in goreme cappadocia

shopping on goreme

“Merhaba. Furkan?” I say when they finally notice me.

One of them stands up and starts calling Furkan. He offers a seat and tea while I wait, but I carefully refuse, smiling politely and asking questions about the shop. And by now I know it has become a defense strategy and I am no more willing to make any new friends in this place at this point.

When Furkan comes, he looks so happy to see me and, at the same time, a French couple come into the shop, trying to choose some lamps. I tell them in French that they are very beautiful and the only problem in choosing. I show them the model I have at home, from Istanbul, and tell them I keep it on the kitchen counter and light it almost every night when I get home. They seem a bit more determined now, so I let them choose.

I turn to Furkan and he looks so proud of me now, as if he’s raised me himself to be a good seller or I’ve got contaminated by the talent just by being around him for a glass of tea earlier this morning. I smile and offer him one of the nice, ripe quinces that the psycho hotel owner picked for me on our trip in the forest in the middle of nowhere in the nightmare I’ve just survived.

“Did you see how we arranged the carpets today?” he asks taking me into this hidden yard at the back of the shop – a carpet paradise. He is so proud of his work and so affectionate of his carpets and I do believe it looks impressive.

carpet arrangement in goreme

“It looks beautiful!” I tell him.

“Like you.” he quickly replies, smiling and giving me his warmest look.


We go back in and he brings me a water bottle for the road, telling me he saw my picture on Facebook, wearing the new pair of sunglasses. We both laugh at the new memory we have in common and I hug him before I leave, taking in his warmth and that soothing smell of a good man, like warm bread when I’m starving.


PS If you travel to Goreme, pay Furkan a visit at the Ikman Gift Shop and please give him my warmest regards.

Istanbul, mon amour

When the plane starts descending and I see the sea and the ships and the the city, my heart becomes so warm I have to remove my scarf so that my chest doesn’t start burning, for fear I might become the first Turkish airlines passenger in the entire history of the company to suffer from spontaneous inner combustion. 

And I find it so hard to stop taking pictures and I don’t even try to wipe the idiot smile off my face as the overweight middle aged Romanian guy next to me scans me in amusement. I feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole. 

Here I come, my love, canim benim , habibi, Istanbul of my heart! Here I come, take me, leave no part of me outside your hug, eat me, swallow me completely, canim benim. Your lover is here, feed on me.

Landing is truly like finally feeling your lovers feet touching yours after a long absence. Well, it is only the third time this year… I let out a sigh of pleasure and finally close my eyes as my head leans back in contentment. Yes, baby, I am bere now yes, evet, evet, evet. He seems happy about the reunion and greets me with my favorite views and with that special pinkish golden light,like honey dripping on my skin, healing all my wounds.

As I get off, I almost run to passport control, forgetting all about my painful knee. I rush through the exit gate and I must look so convincingly happy as I am quickly scanning the crowd lined up at the arrivals, that some of the faces there actually start smiling back uncontrollably. 

I do not see my friend. And I do not sense him there, either. So I fool myself into thinking he must be outside, smoking. I rush out. Still no sign of him. Maybe he’s running late, I tell myself as cinvincingly as I possibly can. So I wait. The possibility that he might not show up, right on my birthday, after having planned and looked forward to our meeting for about a month, seems very remote. Like a thought that comes to sabbotage your peace of mind when you are at your best. So I banish it gently and wait, all the time smiling when someone looks at me. 

I decide I am going to wait no more than thirty minutes. I try without any success to connect to a wifi, so I try calling him instead. Only a woman’s voice informs me in Turkish and then in English that this number cannot be reached. Reality forces herself on me eventually and I take the escalator to the underground and come up with a plan to spend my four hours in Istanbul on my birthday today.

I do not worry and, despite the sudden sharp pain in my heart, I do not even fall into despair. I am not even feeling sad. I am thinking rather it must be karma’s way of telling me to let go once and for all. Let go and move on. So I do. 

If before I had absolutely no plan whatsoever about my day in Istanbul except meeting my friend, I now decide I am taking myself out to lunch in Sultanahmet, right across the street from the Blue Mosque. 

I catch the metro and ask for directions and get them in Turkish and then someone offers me their seat. I start talking to the young girl sitting in front of me and she offers to help.

“Come with me, she says, and we both get off and I submit and follow her. Although, I told her I want to walk, she takes me to the train station, pays for my ticket before I can do anything about it, and we both get on the same train and get off together again, this time at the university. 

Nihan (stress falls on i) is a beautiful long haired brunette Turkish girl from Adana, in her twenties, studying political science and dreaming about going to Europe. Loves the UK. ” Are you a student, too?” she asks me. And though I feel flattered, I disappoint her and say I am a teacher. And then I get the same reaction: “Konya?! Why?!”

After we say goodbye, I walk past the university and the Grand Bazaar. Such dear memories tie me to this place. Perhaps it is time to get untied, to cut myself loose from this spiderweb. But now I am here and enjoy the colorful, loud crowd of Istanbul.

As I start recognising places, I remember the bookshop where I bought “The Dervish Gate” by Ahmet Umit, the book that first introduced Konya to me. So I suddenly decide to make a visit and say thank you. I can see the  Blue Mosque in front of me on the right, so I start searching for the bookshop on the left. I remember it is a famous one and only remember the name when I see it: Galeri Kaisery.

I go in and take a look around and when Rhana comes, the bookshop lady, I am so happy I can thank her for the recommendation she made in April. 

“You know, today, because of that book you recommended, I am travelling to Konya!”

“Really?! Today?! You read the book and are going?”

“Yes. And so I felt I should come in and thank you for it.”

“Well, I am happy for you. You know, I feel you need a new book now. This one: “Potrait of a Turkish Family”. Then you will really understand the Turkish people and our history. It is really everything you need to know about Turkish people. After you read this, you’ll be back again.”

She then pulls out this thick file full of feedback from customers about this book, but she really doesn’t need to. I know it makes sense to get it and, even more than that, I know that somehow it is going to change my life. So I get it.

“You know, I am looking for a place with wifi where I can have lunch. Can you recommend one?”

“Oh, go here, on the right, after the kebab.”

We shake hands and I go. And as I get into the restaurant and up the stairs and down at a beautiful wooden table, I am greeted by friendly faces and I remember I was here before and had something sweet.

The waiter, a tall, stout guy in his late twenties, comes and hands me the menu. When I ask the password for the wifi, he simply takes my phone from my hand and keys in the password himself. I feel it is a bit too much, but then I remember I am in Turkey and I relax. Personal space is an overrated form of distance used by smug people in cold, western European countries.

Yalcin, as he later introduces himself, leans over the table, resting on his elbows, takes the pen from my hand and marks our location on my map to show me how to get back to the airport. He is flirting with me shamelessly, totally ignoring my attempts to intimidate him by giving him my most penetrating look. And, even more outrageously, completeley ignoring the bruises on my face. Up to this moment, everyone began any conversation with me by addressing a few words to my right cheekbone, stripped naked of skin now. So, when this guy looks me directly in the eye, as if he were talking to a real person, I finally start feeling whole again.

A Scandinavian would probably have to get himself drunk before even considering doing anything remotely similar. Or would kill himself instead of ever trying.

An hour and a half later, having resisted the Turk’s attempts to convince me to stay till tomorrow morning, I make my way to the tram station. A guy on the tram quickly explains in Turkish what I need to do. Hands free. Smile free. Flirt free. I can’t understand a word, but, miraculously, I know what he tells me, I get the message.

I get to the airport when the sun is setting and rush to the domestic departures terminal. It is so much cosier than the international departures. I feel like I am in a big Turkish home, where everyone loves me.

Next episode: my first night in Konya- missing my airport pickup, taxi driver who speaks absolutely no English, not finding the address of my host and not being able to contact  her. The great adventure begins.