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Chapter 27: Warm Showers

Adana, Turkey. May 14-15.

There is a niche hospitality community for cyclists called Warm Showers. The premise is simple: cyclist at home hosting cyclists on tour. Adana was my first time using the platform, which immediately delivered on the story making front, with mixed results in terms of guest experience.

My primary host would not be at home, instead I had the contact of his friend Murat who I was supposed to meet at his barber shop. When I arrived he didn't know much about this whole hosting situation, only that there was one more guest coming. So, he gave me his phone and asked me to explain the details (which I didn't have) to the other guest (who turned out to be not one but two) while he finished cutting hair. When he was done he walked me over to the location, but not before prompting me to say, on camera, that "I have heard that Murat in Adana is the best barber in the world".

Murat turned me over to host's family. The space that I was to share with two incoming cyclists was, basically, a shed. What it lacked in sleeping space it made up for in toddler bikes and a desk full of what seemed to be bills and permits for a local cyclist club. Geometrically I could barely see three people of average size fit on the dirty floor and the tiny couch, made more difficult by the fact that I, at two meters height, would be one of them. When the family insisted that we kept the bikes inside as well, my skepticism was not appeased.

Now, I am a firm believer in that no space is too rough to be shared, and the family even gave me food so I will not complain over what was offered to me for free. But communication is key, and clarity and transparency are of utmost importance when you share your space so that people have an idea of what to expect and not. As a first time user of "Warm Showers" and since nothing else was stated on the profile, I did expect there to be at least a warm shower. While I did experience a bit of a cold shower when I saw the shed I was to call home for two days, not even that was offered for my body.

Luckily, I had a plan B. A second host on the platform, Ahmet, had accepted my request after the shed owner, and I had told him I would be in touch should something happen. As it was, he was still available and so I jumped ship and swam to the next one. When I arrived and gratefully explained the situation, Ahmet just laughed. "Bro, you're not the first one". I somehow felt relieved that I wasn't the only one turned off by the bike storage for a night's stay. Mentally I had adapted to the situation and could have stayed, but if there was an option I would take it. I was just lucky that there was.

By day Ahmet taught mathematics at high school level, but like many turks he also had a side hustle. For him and his working partner it was manufacturing apparel to motorbikes. Custom skull-shaped indicator lights had been the main product, but they were now expanding to rings, aimed at the same biker clients. The lights were made by 3D print, whereas the rings had their negative done by the printer to later have precious metal cast in it. Ahmet was far from a biker himself, but I can imagine they have picked a good target audience who are already spending a lot on their hobby. I always find it fascinating with the worlds of markets and hobbies that are out there, and the creative resourcefulness among those that will refuse to believe that "there are no jobs": 

Ahmet had more talents. I spotted a bağlama in his apartment, and when he played it he took me on a musical journey back to his home village, and back in time. The bağlama looks like a lute but has three groups of three metal strings, nine in total. I do not have the knowledge to describe it further, but its tune creates a melancholy bonfire vibe. It was the most moving sound I had ever heard from an instrument, and Ahmet played it well and could sing the part. He told me the songs were all sad, but that I had felt from the moment he touched the strings.

As for Adana, it was the first Turkish city where just cycling around was a joy, flat and green with rivers, parks and mosques, old and new. It marked the start of west Turkey that would continue to get increasingly picturesque in the main cities. Before moving on, there were two other characters from Adana that made an impact on my journey, and my outlook on others.

To be continued in chapter 28.


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