So I’ve been having some little brake noises: the right front goes “eek eek eek eek” if I’m going down hill and hit the brakes on the light side. If I put more pressure on the pedal, I get no noise at all.

The hostel guy in Konya drew on my city map to show me where the mechanics were, and I asked if there was one he recommended and he looked at me like I’d just bought the Brooklyn Bridge.

And it was easy: right on a major road on the way out of town toward the highway: all I had to do was follow the tram line I’d taken Sunday AM looking for the big amusement park (that was now a construction zone).

But, the road, because of the construction, no longer paralleled the tram line for about a kilometer or two, so I’m hitting one-way and road closed and traffic and and and and I got close, took a wrong turn on the major road, and only had to go about halfway back to town before there was a way to cross the tram lines and get back out to . . . .

Repair City.

I think one of the interesting aspects of markets over here is that they cluster: all the shoe places are in the same corner, all the clothes places are together, all the food places are near each other, the gold merchants, you may remember from a recent report, were all in one place— in the Arab world, by the way, the word for such a collection of similar shops is “souk.”

So I’m in the Mechanics’ Souk.

It’s maybe 20 blocks by 20 blocks and it’s all mechanics — little two- and three-person shops maybe thirty feet deep and 18 feet across and one grease pit cut into the cement apron out front.
So I pulled in to the area, hit a wheel and tire store, thinking they’d be somewhat impartial, and asked for a brake place.

Right across the street.

“Five minutes” (actually, “Besh dakika,”) the owner said, and about twenty minutes later, I pointed at my watch and said “Besh?” and he said “On (ten) dakika.”

Well about 45 minutes later, they got to me and fixed me up good.

New brake shoes— including installation: $35.

Oil change (I’d just hit 5,000 Km [3,000 miles]) and had been trying to figure out if I could find an Oil Can Emir’s, about the same: $30. I went the high end—replaced the filter, too—apparently not always the case over here.

Then I got the big surprise:

Hey, Mac—yer muffler’s shot.

While they were down in the pit playing with the oil change (apparently the filter is hard to get to) Achmed found a hole burned through the muffler. Luckily for me, Cousin Mehmet’s Friendly Muffler Shop was right next door, so I didn’t even have to move the car.

And there was an ugly hole burned right through the muffler: $ 60.

Not a bad escape, actually.


I have noticed lots of people pulled over to the side of the road throughout the trip now, often, it seems, as a family project, cutting certain plants to take home and eat, I guess, or sell, or feed their animals.

In the Balkans last year, the gleaning was done almost exclusively by people with donkey carts and wagons, but here, it’s predominantly by people in cars and trucks—not the newest or flashiest, but cars.

There is more prosperity here on the whole, everywhere, than I saw last year, all the way up and down the economic ladder.

Divine Blessing

As I get further and further from the (much more culturally westernized) coast, and travel further and further east into the heartland, the amenities are increasingly primitive.

The hostel in Kenya, a major Turkish metropolis, was new—very clean, very nice. Turkish toilets. Very clean, very nice.

In the gas station today a couple of hours NE of Konya, in a town of about 10,000; well, I don’t believe in prayer or any of that, but I was thinking that there were some parts of the world where severe constipation could be a Divine Blessing.

Tent cites and mud-brick houses

And along with the plumbing gradually becoming less western, I’ve seen more tent cities—a half-dozen big tents (with sides) in a cluster, well out in the country, with (it seemed to me) not enough work for them to just house seasonable workers, for example.

So these well may be Roma (Gypsy) people, as I’m seeing more and more women begging, carrying what seems like limp (or comatose) children, to increase the take.

And I was at a caravansary today, built in the 13th Century along the western end of the Silk Road. Pretty interesting place, but as I left some girls maybe 9 and 13 tried to sell me postcards, then just asked for candy, then food (they saw the food I had in the cardboard box I carry in the car) and then just asked for money.

Hadn’t experienced that any that I can remember further west or further south.

And I may have mentioned that while most of the houses here are made in the normal way (cement and re-bar) there are many (some abandoned, some not) made of mud bricks (not factory-made bricks) with wood/-supported sod roof.
Rugs in the road

On the way into and out of the town where the caravansary was, there were about a dozen or two big (what we would call Turkish) carpets across the roadway, pretty dirty as you would suspect and placed in the lanes so we all just drove over them on the way in and out of town.

Don’t know what that’s about.

Storks in the air

And I’ve see some more storks—none nesting, but in twos and threes in thermals, wheeling around and around each other.

And I realized I didn’t know why. They nest on chimneys and the tops of columns and mosques and churches and power poles, and they feed in flat slightly marshy (or marginally drier) land.

So why would they need to wheel about in the air like that? And the answer may be that they are gaining enough altitude the easy way to either get back home or go where the food is.

More new geology

And I climbed up out of the flat plain of Konya and went through some amazing country— also flat—all the way through southern Russia to Mongolia— this is the steppe— grassland and rims of 500 foot-high hills.

And I cut across a corner of it into higher and much lovelier landscapes, the flat steppe left behind, and now where I could see mountains.

And this is the western edge of the origin sites of Turkey Red wheat, which Volga Germans (Germans who had settled in Russia in the 18th century), many of them Mennonites, brought by the trunk-full. It formed the genetic base of the abundant winter wheat crops that became an important part of the economy of the American Midwest (thank you, Encyclopedia Britannica).

Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey

posts by Robert