We had driven through Istanbul and around the Izmit Inlet through non stop fog and smog from belching factories and traffic on our way to the Aegean Sea. We knew we were going to have to free camp so when we spied a large lake off in the distance just outside Bursa, we made a quick left turn and headed the 5 Km toward it hoping to find a quiet spot out in nature for the night. Little did we know what was in store for us! We arrived at the small village of Gölyazi and after a very bad decision to drive through the town (the streets were about a foot wider than our vehicle) we parked in the centre right beside the lake. It appeared the entire town was out sitting in the sunshine drinking tea out of the little tulip shaped cups - or just coming in from fishing in their small, noisy boats.. The tea shop is to the Turkish village what the bar is to villages in every other part of Europe! We walked around the beautiful little town marvelling at the brightly coloured houses: terracotta, ochre, Danish yellow, lime green, etc. and wondering about the interesting art pieces placed around what appeared to be a very traditional Turkish village.
We were inside playing cards after it got dark when there was a sharp rap on the door. We opened the door and were greeted by a very Canadian voice saying, "Are you really from BC?" Lorraine, and her husband Roger, are from Halifax and have been living and working in Istanbul for four years. They were in Gölyazi visiting their friend, Gül who had an amazing story to tell. She is an artist and came up with the idea to paint the town - literally. She put forth her proposal and got a paint company to sponsor the project, gathered 60 volunteers and they painted 200 houses in the village two years ago. Subsequent to that, she hosted an artists' retreat at her home last summer and invited 20 artists (including more Canadians!) to come and create sculptures that were mounted around the town: in the old ruined walls, in the old abandoned church, and on walls of houses. We kept shaking our heads at meeting Canadians in this out of the way little village and to find such a gem of a place filled with these vibrant colours and interesting sculptures. After weeks of "just us", it was such a treat to hear Lorraine and Roger's story about attending a Job Fair in Halifax and ending up teaching in Istanbul - and Gül's story about painting the town.