The relative leisure of my Turkish detour, and the hospitable café hangouts with endless glasses of tea, have given me the opportunity to work on my correspondence. While family and friends have received frequent e-mails, it has been a challenge to reply to all the mail from folks I’ve met along the way. In the past few days I’ve made some headway, often with the help of Google Translate, sending thanks and photos to those who have made my road easier.
The process has inspired this post, a general thanks to everyone, with a call-out to those who went beyond hospitality and courtesy to provide real support and friendship. It would be a cold, lonely and less meaningful journey without you, and I promise to spread the love as far and wide as my limited abilities allow.
You will notice that as we go back in time the photos are fewer. I lost some in a software glitch, but mostly I was reluctant to hold up a camera in people’s faces. I’ve overcome that reluctance now, and I truly regret having no photos of some people. If you are mentioned below with no photo, please consider sending me one. Thanks. Dank u wel. Merci. Gracias. Moltes Gràcies. Grazi. Hvala. хвала. Mulţumesc. дякую. Teşekkür.
In something like reverse chronological order:
Erol guided me to lodging, interpreted, shared dinner, tea and conversation, for no other reason than because he saw my need. Kandira,Turkey.
Atilla saved my ass! Why did he go to the trouble? He’s a good person with a big heart. Istanbul.
Omer and his boss didn’t have to befriend me, shelter me from rain, watch my bike, feed me good food and free tea. They wanted to. Istanbul.
Yunos offered inside info on ferries, and extended an invitation to visit, without a word of common language between us. He also helped to break the ice with the truckers on the Black Sea ferry.
Daniel So shared so much! A true gentleman. It is my crime that I have no photo of him. I will correct that oversight when I visit him in his Hong Kong home.
Igor Tudoran and Tanya. With little privacy to begin with, they took me in, fed me, and really went out of their way to help me in Odessa. Igor spent an entire afternoon helping me with visa errands (while he should have been studying), but more than that, he shared his hopes and aspirations, fears and frustrations, like an old friend. Igor is a major inspiration for this post. He’s the next Steve Jobs. Tanya is simply as sweet as honey.
Andrey Ivchenko is the man most likely to show up on my doorstep some day. And I will be hard pressed to repay the kindness he showed me in Odessa. He was just a long-haired dude on a skateboard; now he’s a friend for life.
Florentina asked ME for help, with a soft tire on her bike. My pump didn’t speak Romanian, but she and Andrei befriended me, put me up, and introduced me to the coolest people in Constanta. We still e-mail frequently, delightfully.
Luci & Vali, Cazinesta, Romania. Before I met this family I passed hundreds of little farms wondering what life was like for the families there. If these folks are typical, life is rich and good and happy. It’s hard to convey just how much we shared in our sixteen-hour relationship. Just look at the love on those faces!
Livru, Mihaela & Lucien. I soiled Lucien’s car seat with my bike chain; no problem. I screwed up his work schedule; no problem. I got drunk and told coarse jokes in Mihaela’s kitchen; no problem. I am convinced that I met the finest, funniest and most interesting folks in all of Bucharest.
The Guys, somewhere in Serbia. No nonsense, just good food, abundant beer, and a bed to sleep in. Hello, welcome. Goodbye, good luck. There’s a lot to be said for that kind of hospitality.
These guys, Mladen (with the white stripes) and his twin brother Marko, changed my scoring of Serbia from C-minus to A-plus. If they didn’t have such a good Dad already, I’d adopt them.
Ervin & Arnela Kulašić. The lunch was great, but the least of their gifts. They opened my eyes, in one hour. I promise to keep them open, and never forget.
Nedeljko. Thirty kilometers of climbing makes for close ties. You are looking at a very real, sensitive, thoughtful man. Croatia.
Peter dragged me off of a dusty Croatian street and brought me home. I’m sure glad he did. A sincere, happy, humble and dedicated family man; we need more like him.
Matea (AKA Alex), Gordana and Josip sent me off with homemade bread and booze, after a home-like stay in Croatia. I’ll never forget how natural and comfortable it felt to get up early and sit in our pajamas on one big couch, with the whole family, while the fire crackled in the stove. No photo, my bad. Alex, send me one!
These two, Simon and his dad Stane, dropped everything for two days to show me Slovenia’s beauty, history and cuisine. Ill never forget my hike/history tour with Stane. I miss them still.
Ailene in Venice rocked my world. Rocked it so much I came away without a photo. Don’t need one; I’ll never forget.
Another crime: no photo of Peter van der Straaten. Like a son, you drove me nuts for four days; now I miss you all the time! Really, send me a photo.
Chris, an unforgettable character. Kind, sensitive, generous, real. Thanks for sharing. I wanna be like you when I grow up.
Claudio, near Bologna, Italy, gave me a tent site on his farm, and in the morning honored me by letting me help with chores. Then he thrilled me by bringing me into the kitchen, playing his violin, and giving me a bottle from his wine cellar. Much more, he told me his wonderful story.
Jordi in Girondella, Catalonia, Spain. The best, the most, the standard to which all others must be compared! That goes for the boys, too. If I return anywhere, it’s Girondella.
Francis and Irene. I devoted an entire post to my stay in Saint Jean de Luz, and my gratitude still flows. See you in December!
Lydie Giraud. The picture tells it all. I’ll never forget sitting on the couch, drinking wine, listening to jazz and…checking our e-mail!
Catherine Rabier. Ever feel right at home the minute you step into someone’s house? Visit Catherine and you will. Generous spirit.
Lionel & Sophie encouraged me to stay three days. Without their special brand of hospitality and caring help, I might have missed Paris altogether. And what super kids! An inspiration.
Jean Claude Lecompte. Former world’s luckiest man, until I awarded myself that distinction. We shared our love of jazz and grand bicycle adventures until past midnight. Way past.
Carine and Aniel, living consciously and traveling widely, have developed big hearts and a knack for hospitality. They had good food and good advice for this would-be world traveler.
Francis Tabouret, Lille, France. Google Zingaro: that’s him. He deserves special mention; he cycled 25 kilometers with me, in the snow! I am very happy that we keep in touch.
Christel & Michiel. Elegant home, fine dining & wine, and genuine, down-home sharing and friendship. My Facebook friend. I wish I had half Michiel’s smarts and a wife like Christel.
Time & Tim, Ghent. I’m still using gifts and advice I received from these two world travelers and young lovers of life. Natural born hosts, funny and smart.
Marc and Christie, Wuustwezel, Belgium. I arrived at a difficult family moment, their first Warm Showers guest at that, wet and cold and full of needs. Their gracious welcome and hospitality was a godsend. Marc, remember that cold, pre-dawn 20 k ride to Antwerp? Crazy!
Simon Commercial. Now here’s a friend for life. He insisted I stay three days, encouraged me to start a blog, and shared his life story in the most heartfelt way. Thanks to his frank sharing and gift for communication, I KNOW this guy like I know few others. I am honored to be Simon’s pal, and I promise to live up to the honor.
Martin & Lucie, London. Long before you invited me to stay, I knew you would! You’re a cool family, with cool friends, and I really enjoyed the morning ride, an adventure and a pleasure. But your damn e-mail address is a dud! Send me a note, and give Lucie a kiss for me. Two kisses!
Imelda & David, Staines, England. I have mostly forgotten the pain of the accident. Never will I forget being a part of this incredible family for three days. A Few weeks ago Imelda e-mailed me and said little Orlah still asks, “Is Billy is going to make it to King Kong OK?” I almost cried. I love you guys.
Simon in Basingstoke. Still sorting out my bike fit, I stayed with Simon, one of the few I have met who knows more about bike fit than I do. And a fine, generous host as well.
Fay & Kate. My first hosts. Their first Warm Showers guest. You set the bar pretty high, girls, for future hosts! I should have listened to you and stayed another night. But Hong Kong seemed so far away! Thanks for keeping in touch. I think about you often.
Steve Thomas scooped me up off the road and cared for me when, on my second day out, I bit off more than I could chew and choked on it. What a fine gentleman, what a fine family.
Finally and firstly, Steve, David and Josh at SJS Cycles sent me off on my first wobbly kilometers with professionalism, warmth and British wit. And they still look out for me with support and advice.
The love you are stirring up wherever you go is making ripples for us all. Thanks for taking time to look back at all the gracious people who have helped you along your way.
thanks for being such a great U.S. Ambassador!