Gunfire in the gloaming: Istanbul - Dagyenice - Say hi to the elephants, and hope the weather improves - CycleBlaze

September 7, 2012

Gunfire in the gloaming: Istanbul - Dagyenice

Away from Istanbul on wet roads in the wind
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WE EUROPEANS are skitterish around guns. For us, gun law is very simple; we can't have one. Not unless we belong to a gun club, say, or work on a farm. I have never held a gun and certainly never fired one. I did once put one finger on the handle of a policeman's gun and, to tell you the truth. I have regretted it ever since.

Well, last night I was shot at. Or shot over or near, anyway. The distinction doesn't seem worth debating. I had settled down in a small clearing at the bottom of a field of maize on the edge of a scruffy stream and zipped up the tent against insects. And then the firing started. The sun was going down. It didn't seem a wise time to start firing at rabbits but that's what I concluded was happening.

I was now torn. I concluded I was too low down and too hidden to be mistaken for a bunny or a rodent and that I was safe. Or as safe as anyone is in these circumstances. I listened and the intermittent shots seemed to come from the same distance and direction. Sharper than a shotgun but not the crack of a rifle. I was torn because I didn't want to hear pellets rip through the tent but I didn't want to be found and turfed out either. Nor did it seem wise to stand and ask for all this noise to end.

So I lit my lamp in the tent and pointed it just enough at the outer that it would glow should the gunman look that way. Clearly he didn't because the firing continued, and now it was joined by more from a field some distance away. I had arrived on the annual nocturne rabbit shoot, clearly. And it was such a big event that it went on after midnight, by which time it was so dark that I presumed folk had come equipped with night sights.

I made a strategic decision. I put in my ear plugs and fell asleep. I fell so soundly asleep that I was surprised to find they were still shooting at dawn. And then the truth came blushingly. I am a country boy but never, I can say, have I heard bird-scarers sound quite so explosive. Usually even the most stupid of birds can work out that a loud ploff is nothing to worry about. So these things are different in Turkey or all this pedalling has rendered me more stupid than a sparrow.

Embarrassing, isn't it?

Today I left Istanbul by keeping the Bosporus on my right. Those are all the directions anyone needs.

This man wishes he'd kept the Bosporus on his right as well...
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Stick as close to the water as you can, go under the two bridges, turn left in the next town and you'll make as neat an escape as a big tourist city can allow.

I always thought that shipping passed through the Bosporus only by night and only in one direction at a time. That was why we had seen so many ships moored off Sarkoy a week or so back and then more again on the edge of Istanbul. I thought that was the rule first to avoid shipping disasters in a narrow channel and also because the water is criss-crossed by ferries. And as every sailor knows, cross-water traffic has priority over those sailing along a waterway.

But, no. Today as I sat by the water making and eating sandwiches, I saw grubby, ugly functional ships moving up towards the Black Sea while the great white swan of a cruise liner sailed down towards them. Not all that riveting as anecdotes go, I realise, but this comes to you from a man who has spent almost all his life in places without street lights but still can't tell the difference between gunfire and a bird-scarer.

Nothing like a big bridge for wasting time with a camera
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