It's a shame as, with my head down, I was able to whizz along the pavement (for obvious safety reasons) largely oblivious to the world around me. Now that I'm reduced to walking pace, and nervous of tripping because of my back, I am more that ever aware of the hidden dangers lurking on every trip.
It's not a long walk -- maybe two kilometers -- with only three busy roads to cross. Crossing any of these roads is, however, extremely hazardous and frequently extends the length of the journey by precious minutes. Forget any courtesy from the drivers of the cars, motorbikes, buses and trucks hurtling their way down the roads. If it happens to have rained and puddles have accumulated, I have learnt to stand well back, as the passing vehicles will show no mercy and leave me drenched in muddy water. But the drivers show their disrespect for mere pedestrians most obviously in their inability to pause, even for a few seconds, to allow anyone on foot to cross the road. Even on side roads drivers, determined not to lose their place in the stream of traffic surging past on the main road they are attempting to join, refuse to give way to pedestrians. If I am foolish enough to make a dash for it between waiting cars, the chances are that they will blow their horns and rev their engines to show their disgust at the potential impediment to their progress.
There has been some progress crossing Burhanettin Onat Caddesi, the most major road en route to my workplace. This road was recently resurfaced following the laying of natural gas pipes into the city and on one side of the road bright yellow and white stripes have been painted -- suggesting a safe place at which the road can be crossed. And yes, there are traffic lights and a green man shows up at the appropriate time allowing me to cross half of the dual carriageway. There, however, the markings stop and I must wait for the next green man to light up -- this I know from long experience is only lit for a matter of seconds -- so it's necessary to stay vigilant in order not to miss the opportunity. In addition to the ubiquitous green man, sound effects have now been added -- a series of bleeps. However, as the bleeps from the other side of the road can also be heard, it is definitely not a good idea to rely on these.
The unpredictable nature of the pavements is a well-known characteristic of Antalya. I have lost count of the number of times that the pavements between here and work have been dug up for reasons unknown. This generally happens without any prior notice -- I recently witnessed a car being hefted by eight men to the other side of the road to enable some unexpected work on the pavement to start. Nor are there ever any warning signs surrounding the potential danger zones -- such as large holes, piles of sand or cement, wet tarmac, etc. So these require that full attention is paid to each step. When the work is complete the levels are invariably awry and a certain rustic unevenness has crept into the way the cobbles have been laid. Having witnessed my step-father come a cropper on just such a fault in the pavement, I now take no chances. I remain on red alert the whole way.
As well as keeping my eyes peeled to the ground, I also make sure that my ears are tuned in to any life-threatening obstacles. My husband walks and cycles around with his hearing blocked by the headphones on his iPod -- more fool him. In Antalya the sidewalk is seen not only as a thoroughfare for pedestrians, but also for motorbikes (including the very motorcycle cops who should be enforcing the traffic rules), scooters and even the occasional car. In Antalya, even on the sidewalk vehicular traffic rules, pedestrians beware.
Rubbish and concrete mushrooms
One of my main bugbears, however, has to be the quantity of rubbish strewn liberally on the street. To be fair, this problem is largely confined to my own street, where my neighbors spend most of the day sprawled around in chairs, discarded sofas or squatting on my doorstep, liberally covering the road with sunflower seeds, chewed corn cobs, crisp packets or drink cans. The communal bin is only a stone's throw away around the corner, but this fact seems to have escaped their notice. OK, this does not present any physical danger to me, but it does serve to raise my blood pressure at the outset of my journey and put me more at risk of tripping over one of those randomly placed concrete mushrooms erupting forth from the middle of the sidewalk to stop naughty motorists parking their vehicles there. Surely a little enforcements of the rules and a stiff fine for offenders would be a sufficient deterrent without having to make the sidewalk into an obstacle course?
Flowers, frogs and buns
Perhaps, however, it is these inherent dangers to my short commute to work that is one of the many factors that continue to make life so interesting in Antalya. I am continually kept on my toes, often literally, and by the time I reach my destination I am well and truly awake. Maybe it has the same effect on my mental state as the process of doing a crossword puzzle. There are, of course, other compensations along the way. First there are the delicious and mouth-watering smells emanating from the bakers of freshly cooked poğaça, açma and simit, frequently necessitating a quick detour to supplement my breakfast. Then there is the friendly face of the florist setting out the gloriously colorful display of begonias, petunias, marigold and many more blooms. Not to mention the shortcut I am able to take through the recently renovated park area, complete with babbling brooks and the croaking of a multitude of frogs, which I am occasionally privileged to glimpse on my way through. And of course, almost every morning, unlike back in the UK, the sun is shining and the sky is blue.