Over 2 months on the road now and we reached all the way to Central Anatolia in Turkey. Ramazan has started the day after we entered, yes here they call it ramazan and not ramadan. The percentage of muslims in Turkey is very high. During the ninth month of the islamic lunar calender they abstain themself from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight. It is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on god and practice self discipline and sacrifice. Although in the west part of the country most people do not practice ramazan or they do a different version where they do eat and drink. The more east we go, the more conservative the muslim religion becomes, meaning we would enter places where they have a stripped down menu or only chai (tea) People still remain very generous cause several times people gave us water, chai or food for free.
Before we entered Turkey we met an old guy (Karl) from Germany who was walking from Frankfurt to Jeruzalem. Cycling such a long distance may seem a crazy idea but walking this distance is insane. He was pulling a cart behind him and had wheels to add when he goes downhill (brakes included)
The next day while cycling to the border we saw the trucks lining up at least 2 km before the border entrance. The benefit of bicycles is cycling in between all cars and trucks in line to get to the first checkpoint. There were six in total of which 2 just let us pass through without looking. Sailed smooth into turkey and cycled immediately to Erdine where we met up with Engin at Trakya bicycle store. He is also our first warmshowers host. On the way huge mosques and old remains of the ottoman empire were visible. Calling of the muslim prayers are broadcasted through speakers all over the place. This was totally new for us. At Trakya bisiklet they received us very warm and we needed to do some maintenance and upgrades on our bicycles, so this was a perfect timing. Tarek is the smiling bike mechanic who has a hearing and talking disability but he has worked all his life on bicycles. We stayed a day extra in Erdine to learn more about a new culture and do some sightseeing. This day another cyclist arrived who is already a year on the road and his stories were amazing. Gute reise Matthias!
Next day we rolled up and down hills getting all the way to Çorlu. It was a long and a bit boring day cause we were following only the motorway. The last 50 km we had only mean headwind and a dog attack. Exhausted we arrived at another warmshowers host to find a couple we knew from instagram there (Globebiking).They are traveling now from Istanbul to Amsterdam. Safe travels!
After a good sleep it was time to really hit the direction of Istanbul. This big city of more than 14 million people is the 5th biggest city in the world. Many stories we have heard of the very busy roads entering Istanbul but we haven’t felt it yet. It was about 100 km away but soon we realize the infamous D100 road is turning busier, noisier and more dangerous. We have an Aruba flag high up and neoncolored jackets to be noticed and hoped for the best. Most of the time there was a hard shoulder to cycle on. Sometimes we decided to go off the main road and ride the smaller ones. After 65 km we had enough and set camp next to the beach on the roof of an abandoned building. Suddenly this dog appeared and didn’t leave us till the next morning. You could say we had our own guard cause he was barking at other people who came close.
Determined to reach Istanbul the next day we took another road closer to the beach and got paid off with very steep hills and brakegrinding downhills. We took it easy cause we were already in Istanbul but there was still 30 kilometers to reach the center. That’s how big this city is. Unimaginable big suburbs, high traffic and crowded places. We even thought of taking a ferry to the city center but the waiting time was too long. In the end we made it all the way to our hostel alive! There we met two cyclist going the same direction. Domenic from UK and Everhard from The Hague. Can u believe he started from the same city, just 2 days before us? Everhard has cycled almost the same route untill now as us. Domenic started walking from UK to China. He is totally nuts but then he realized it was going to slow so he started cycling in Italy. You can support his cause on facebook: long walk home. They left the day after we arrived and we took a restday to see a little bit of the city and wash our bikes. Istanbul has so many historic buildings and an outstanding architecture. There’s literally a maze of bazaars in the city center where you can buy everything. Maybe it was because we look like tourists or not but we were getting approached by almost everyone. This was definitely a downside and it is something we see only in the big cities as we go more east. Everybody wants something, but it all comes down to them wanting you to spend money. As quick as they come, as quick they lose interest in you if you deny. Only the beggars try harder.
We enjoyed the big crowded city for a day though and it felt great to be leaving it the next day too. The plan was to take a ferry to the south of marmaris sea to Mudanya and cycle from there in the direction of Ankara. On the way to the ferry we met a cyclist from Poland (Lukasz) going in a little different direction than us. From Mudanya we felt the heat we are going to have for the coming months. It was a hot day and the wind was on vacation. We cycled through lots of olive tree farms with an unpleasant smell. Most of the farmers have a tractor with a carriage spraying pesticide over the trees. At the Iznik lake we searched for a place to buy some cold drink before we set camp so we rode into Taygun. We wanted to have a cola and sat down as he was talking good english to us. He immediately made us feel at home and brought a delicious catfish caught in the Iznik lake. Rahmi Baba is the name of the restaurant and it is just on the shore of the Iznik lake. You have an amazing view over the lake from there. We got introduced to his cousin Rahmi and a friend Emre. As he was showing us the place around we stumbled upon this abandoned boat who needed some cleaning so we offered to clean it. A few moments later we were all in the boat rowing on the Iznik lake and taking dives in the cold water. They offered us to stay there for a night and have dinner with them at sunset. During Ramazan it is tradition that the whole family and friends sit down together to eat. The time to start eating is when the prayers begin. The prayers begin when the sun is down. All the mosques in the neighborhood broadcast it at the same time on big speakers. We felt honored to be invited to eat with them. There was traditional pide (Bread with meat on it) çorba tarhana (very old ottoman soup with sourdough and tomato) and more food on the table. At night we made a campfire and sat down to exchange stories. In the back of the lake you can see the lights of tiny villages and dark montains. After midnight we came up with a crazy idea to go get kokoreç (multiple grilled rolls of a lamb intestines on a stick) Kinda sounds disgusting but I was up for trying cause you can’t say so if you haven’t tried! The place was closed so we went for some Iskembe (soup made of cowstomach) Bet you made a weird face again but this one was really good! In Aruba we have something similar called sopi mondongo, only we use different spices and we throw the stomach in as chunks.
Next morning we had breakfast after a few hours of sleep and set off to cross the mountains going in the direction of Eskişehir. We want to thank Taygun and the boys for a wonderful turkish experience..
Crossing the mountainrange was hard for me. I was feeling feverish and did not have much sleep the night before (The price you pay after a night of fun) but I kept myself going. We were both tired and maybe it was a blessing that after passing the city of Inegöl William’s derailleur cable just snapped. We stopped by a farmer selling fruits. We sat down next to him and there was no word of english coming out of his mouth. Even though by now we know a few words in turkish doesn’t mean we can have a conversation yet. Google translate is one app that saved us lots of times.
Our tool wasn’t able to cut the cable so the farmer grabbed a big knife and a hammer and did the job. Brilliant man! We kindly asked him if we could pitch our tent next to his booth and he was totally fine with that. He gave us a big tomato for our dinner.
We left early in the morning trying to go all the way to Eskişehir and climbed 700 meters altitude with headwind in the heat. I was feeling a lot better than the day before but William was struggling this time. Not that I had it easy but I think we just have to adapt a little more to the heat. At Bözöyuk we decided to let a bus take us to Eskişehir to meet up with our friends from Istanbul. The next day was a restday for all of us. We are 2 months on the road now so I decided to go to a barber cause I looked like a werewolf. This guy did a great job trimming my beard and mustache but there was a language barrier. I just let him give it a go. Without my glasses i couldn’t see what he is doing anyway. At the end he even washed my hair and styled it. Don’t know if it was me but after I was done there was a line of guys waiting their turn at the barber and they all had this hairstyle too. A real turkish pompadour hairstyle! Guess I fit in now. That night the football team of Eskişehir had to play in the first division and if they win they would promote to the süper lig. The city was crowded with a lot of fans in the streets during the day. I decided to watch a little bit of the game on tv. This was one of the craziest i ever witnessed. Flares and garbage was thrown on the field. It was hectic. The first half had 17 minutes overtime.. seriously 17 minutes! I fell asleep and heard the next day they lost the game in penalty shootout.
After a proper breakfast the whole squad of 4 started cycling and this time no main road but more into the tiny villages. It felt good to cycle with Everhard and Dom. We had good company and there was a good pace. The landscape changed from city to scenic mountainranges, valleys with little to no vegetation. Almost sureal like in a movie scene. We stopped at a gas station to let a fierce thundercloud pass and continued cycling with little showering. It was very beautiful to cycle in between these huge formations of mountains and rock. There was a lot of low growing vegetation and almost no trees. In the little town of Yunusemre we found a guy we named turk Ramsey who cooked us a very delicious meal. Camp was set on a abandoned playground where we had water. The mosque was so close we heard the whole ceremony that night.
Turk Ramsey arrange breakfast for us before we continued in the deserted valleys again. This time there was also lot of mud of rain from the day before. I liked the small villages and seeing people who are living in small communities. Even though in most of the small villages we almost don’t see people eat because of ramazan but most of them can make something to sell. It has its charm to see them in a kind way with their simple food and drinks. We have had lots of chai and çorba these last days.
This day we were supposed to go to Gordion museum in Yassihuyuk but we took a wrong turn and ended up going on the main road. We cycled almost 200 km in 2 days and everybody was getting really tired. After reaching Polatli it took more effort than we thought to get a place to sleep. I was so tired I could barely fall asleep.
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and is a big city housing more than 5 million people. This is where we were going the next day. Ever was going to continue on his own cause he didn’t want to go to Ankara. We split up but might meet later on this trip again. Have a safe trip Everhard.
The city of Ankara has a prominent presence of authority. There are military and police camps in the city center and around it. After 1 day we decided to move on to the salt lakes. Domenic left to stay in the south with some friends. Just before we started cycling we met this guy called Edgard from Brazil. He had some days to spare in Turkey and he was also going in our direction. We might meet up with him later on the trip.
When cycling highways not a lot happen on the road. Truckers and cars greet and the roads are smooth. The view is mainly asphalt next to the hills but it takes you where you want to go faster. This day we looked for a good camping spot on a hill and the views were amazing and lonely.
While cycling the next day on the highway again to reach the salt lake we met Edgard on the road heading the same direction. He travels on a motorcycle. After getting some real turkish coffee from Mustafa the truckdriver we met up with Edgard right next to the salt lake. He is directing the civil march to Allepo where a few thousand people walk from Berlin to Allepo as a protest against the inhumanity of the Syrian war. Right now he is in Turkey to try to arrange some things for the march.
This guy is inspirational and we arrange to meet up again in Cappadocia after 2 days. Me and William slept this day right next to the salt lake. The lake is very shallow and very salty and big so the scenes are breathtaking. I have never seen anything like this breathtaking before. There were 2 sofa’s in the water and we just sat there for a few hours and enjoyed this magical scene.
Heading to Cappadocia was reachable by the highway but also through the villages. Well, when we decided to head of the highway into the villages I regret the hills up and down immediately but the people, happiness, loneliness, quietness and charm make the effort worth it. We even got invited for food but we really had to continue cycling. Campsite was set next to a lake where we swam and filtered water for drinking.
Its getting hot now in Turkey and at 8 am you feel the sun burning! Determined to reach Göreme this day we cycled rolling hills through beautiful rock formations and desolated areas meeting only farmers on the road. Göreme is the main town in Cappadocia region and lies in a valley. While going downhill we witnessed the unique landscape what makes Cappadocia look like a fairy tale. It was formed millions of years ago by volcanoes in the area and eroded by winds and rivers. The soft rocks made it easy to shape and form. Cone-shaped rock formations where people build houses and caves to live in in the 8 and 9 th century are still there. It is known as one of the best places to do a hot air balloon ride cause of the scenery at sunrise.
We met up again with Edgard and shared roadstories. At night we witnessed the sunset over the valley from a high point up and decided to do a hot air balloon ride the next day.
At 4:20 am we got picked up for a light breakfast and head to our balloon. We went up in the red valley to witness the view of intensely big rock formations, moonshaped landscapes in different colors. There were lots of other balloons. We counted more than 60 around us and the view of the valley. I am short in words to describe the feeling this gave me while watching the sun rise in the back. There was so much to see and so little time. After this we took a tour to see underground cities, a monastery made of fairy chimneys and walk in the Ilhara valley.
Lukasz whom we met in Istanbul also arrived here so we had great company for the following days.
This made us decide to stay for a few days with Edgard to enjoy this bizarre natural landscape as there are many trails for hiking and exploring around the town of Göreme.
In the meantime our visa for Iran is ready for pick up so our journey will continue. There are still weeks left to spend in Turkey and we are even learning the language. Just basic stuff and names of traditional food. Give us some time cause the grammar is pretty hard. It is very handy cause the more east we go, the less english people speak.