Sep 15, 2013
Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey
When Sarah and I met Muhammet, we two were on a stroll under a perfect Turkish summer sky, and his tractor was kicking up dust down the dirt road that divided the surrounding pomegranate fields. All was quiet once his engine quit, and he asked me and my Australian travel buddy where we were from and whether we wanted a ride back to the center of town.
"If I can say something, you should not be out here. Most people are good, but you never know if there is a crazy one, and you’re a long way from town." This part of Denizli was not near the Pamukkale Natural Park travertines, and, therefore, did not draw many tourists. "Come! I will give you my grapes."
Sarah and I exchanged glances that said our walk had been satisfactory, and we hopped up onto his fenders to ride a bumpy sidesaddle back to his house, chatting the whole way about his years of selling kilims (the traditional Turkish carpets) and running a pension in the village before retiring to farm olives, pomegranates, grapes, and other regional delights.
When we three reached the house, we dismounted the grumbling beast and rinsed our hands and two bunches of just-picked grapes under a running spout. His were the sweetest grapes of any I’d eaten in Turkey. We thanked him profusely for the treat, and he wrote down his address and made me promise that I would mail him copies of the pictures I’d taken. He didn’t have an email address, and only his son had a computer.
He took out a stack of old photos and told us a story of how he and a couple of tourists he met a while back had been playing around with hanging cherries from their ears like earrings. His eyes were glittering pools as he spoke. I knew that someday he would be sharing our photos and the story of our meeting with another pair of travelers.
We parted with hugs and a Turkish kiss, once on each side of the face (even sweeter than the grapes), and for the first 100 feet, he kept shouting blessings after us and waving goodbye. He hadn’t sold carpets for many years, but still there was so much hope in hello.