I didn’t realize, when I booked our tickets from Nuremberg to Istanbul, that departure at 01:30 and arrival at 04:50 meant AM, not PM. So it was that Jason, and I showed up to our host’s apartment in Istanbul at 7:00 AM, with only 2 hours of sleep under our belts and adjusting to a new time zone.
Mesut, our host, met us at the bus stop and walked us to his apartment, making a brief stop at a bakery for fresh bread. At home, he started digging through his refrigerator, pulling out jars, and making tea. He sat us down at his table and laid out a beautiful array of cheeses, jams, honey, dried fruits, and nuts.
This is a typical Turkish breakfast. It is similar in principle to the standard European breakfast, of open-face sandwiches, but with a near-eastern flair, including staples like feta cheese and olives. After eating, Mesut headed to work, and Jason and I, despite really wanting a nap, headed out for a day of sight-seeing.
When Mesut heard that we wanted to take an overnight bus south to visit Ephesus, he immediately arranged for us to stay a night with his sister’s roommates in Izmir. His sister was studying in Poland, but her roommates said sure we could stay with them.
A few days later, Jason and I took an overnight bus down to Izmir, and thus found ourselves, again, tired from overnight travel, and feasting on Turkish breakfast. The overnight bus lasted 7 hours, so longer than our plane trip, but with every time the bus stopped, we woke up. In the beginning, the bus was overheated, but at some point in the night, rather than turning the heat down, the driver turned it off all together. It was just above freezing outside and not much better inside the bus.
Asye, Mesut’s sister’s roommate, also met us at the bus stop, this time at the slightly more reasonable hour of 8 AM. We sat in the living room, while Asye disappeared into the kitchen. She came back and said, O.K., breakfast is ready, and she was going back to bed.
Asye included sliced cucumbers and tomatoes in her array, but otherwise it was similar to the fare that Mesut had made. This time, Jason and I did the dishes and then, having learned from our last experiences, decided to go back to sleep, too.
We showed up exhausted, weary travelers, and were welcomed into the homes of strangers with mounds of food and open arms. We had found Mesut via couchsurfing.org, with which we are near veterans at this point. But I was so grateful to Mesut and Asye that I will carry the kindness of Turkish breakfast with me when I eventually return after my year of travel, and try to welcome backpackers with as much kindness as they showed me.