We were in Antalya, a fairly large city on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, and had rented squeaky poor excuses for mountain bikes from a man who spoke so little English that he used his phone to translate prices to us ($8 for the entire day). Either we are very trustworthy or the bikes aren’t worth the hassle because he let us take them and the bike locks without any sort of exchange of money or IDs.
Antalya has a set of twin waterfalls connected by a river that runs on the outskirt of the city. The plan was to ride bikes to both falls in one big loop. The 6 miles to the lower falls was pleasant: there was a gorgeous park most of the way, a paved and separated bike path dotted with coffee shops, restaurants, and charming neighborhoods. The lower Duden falls cascades from a green city park into the Mediterranean, looked upon by a man trying to convince you take photos with his pet parrot and hoards of people viewing from the safety of their extravagant yachts, clearly wealthier than the likes of us. Unlike them, we were drenched in enough sweat to spend a long swath of time standing in the stream of the sprinklers running in the midday heat and humidity like bums.
The ride to the second waterfall wasn’t as idyllic: 11 miles along highways and heavily trafficked roads adjacent to large swaths of agricultural farms. The trucks were large and domineering, the heat oppressive. A little more than halfway to the second waterfall, we stopped out of frustration to double check the map, strangely next to an inexplicable watermelon stand overseen by two Turkish men in the middle of nowhere on the side of a freeway. Like our bike rental man, they spoke no English but started cutting watermelon for me to savor. It was cold. It was sugary. It was delicious. It revived me.
Either they were confused about why two Americans were on bikes in the oppressive heat of the middle of the day, or they thought my travel companion was Turkish (which happened often this trip), but they fed me half a watermelon, instructed me to fill up all my water bottles, and refused any efforts to pay them even a dollar for their generosity. It was one of my first lessons in the abundance of Turkish hospitality: they are magnanimous and, in a way that I found very similar to Colombia, extremely proud to share their country and culture with you, despite any language barriers.