Turkey – or: the country of gast-FREUNDLICHen people

Our trip to Turkey starts with a 20-minute ferry ride from the beautiful little Greek island of Kastellorizo to Kao at the southwestern tip of the mainland. The plan is to drive north to Istanbul on the west coast, with a detour to Pamukkale, the snow-white lime sinter terraces that adorn every Turkish guide. From there we continue towards Cappadocia and then back up to the north to the Black Sea coast, from there to Georgia, leaving the country. So far and only so rough the plan.

The arrival in Kao is very cordial. We have to hand over our passports for stamping and get them back with a smile after a few minutes of waiting. The captain and the crew say goodbye to us and wish us a nice trip through Turkey. We replenish our water supplies, explore the city a little and make our first fruit and vegetable purchase at our first Turkish market (in Turkey). All kinds of fruit and vegetables as well as olives of various quality are offered in large barrels. We quickly learn that in Turkey food is preferred in large quantities, so that only 2 apples are rarely a good deal. No problem, we have large packing bags and sturdy luggage racks at the front and back of the wheel. From now on, we’ll just keep buying a little more. During the subsequent visit to the amphibian theatre we find: in the undergrowth around there are some young people who seem to camp there. Since it is getting dark, this only suits us and so we just pitch our tent right next to the still lively visited amphietheater.

Our route to Fethiye is a newly built road with many curves directly along the sea, on which the wheels fly despite many hills. The next day it leads us past the widest and longest beach in Turkey (16 km long), which is located near Patara. We camped one night high up on the dunes, from which it takes more than half an hour to get down to the sea. The next day we look at the well-preserved ruins of Patara and move on to the turtle beach a few kilometers further. One of the few places in the Mediterranean where the endangered Caretta sea turtles come ashore for egg laying. These hatch about 50 days later at full moon and crawl for their lives towards the sea. Therefore, the beaches are only accessible to visitors during the day. Rain is predicted and we are lucky: on the edge there are abandoned fishing huts with covered veranda. So we can survive the next two days full of severe storms with lightning and continuous rain.

Continue to Saklikent Gorge, an extremely deep canyon and a waterfall nearby. Barefoot we wade along the riverbed through grey mud, which squeezes velvety through the toe spaces. A fun for us dirt patties.

In Fethiye we decide to make a detour to the Butterfly Valley. As we make our way to the abandoned Greek village of Kayaköy, we regret this decision a little. The mountain is insanely steep. With the luggage almost invincible. But a passing Turk on his electric bike gives us respect. And even as we roll down the mountain to Ölüdeniz (the horror tourist hell par excellence), the very unpleasant feeling comes over to us, that we have to drive this route the other way on the way back. But first we continue towards the Butterfly Valley to the village of Faralya. The coming night lowers the temperatures a little and we would like to put the climb behind us. So we step ourselves and the bikes with all their luggage in the darkness several steep serpentines and 300 meters of altitude up the mountain. In the distance, the lights of the tourist hell glisten. Sweat bathed, but happy we arrive on top of a cliff and spend the night next to a water source near the road. The next morning we park our packed bikes at a guesthouse and walk only with a backpack down the valley (and later up again). Via ropes, you walk along the steep cliffs into a green paradise with a waterfall, which you can climb up a bit. Signs are everywhere that this path is life-threatening and that appropriate footwear is necessary. Accordingly, we follow the path empty and rejoice in the idyll. But there is no trace of butterflies far and wide. With luck we spot a whole 3 pieces. As we approach the small beach around noon, suddenly huge crowds come to meet us. The bay is a popular day trip destination. Countless large sailboats in the style of Curse of the Caribbean with loud, bad animation music spew hundreds of tourists to the beach. No wonder the butterflies have taken a break. Too bad for this beautiful place, which is so ruined by tourism.

On the way back to Fethiye we try to stop a truck or pick-up truck in Ölüdeniz and thus avoid the fatal climb. We are waiting less than an hour, but it does not seem to be the case, so we have to prove ourselves capable of being able to cope with such inhuman eclimbs of up to 33%. We finally made it to 5 breaks and 200 meters later. It was and should be the steepest climb of our whole bike trip so far.

Back in the big city we meet a friendly tandem couple. We met the two Argentines already in Greece at a warm-showers host in Athens. (Warm Showers is an online sleeping place community for cyclists and always a pleasant thing to find a warm shower and a place to sleep, as well as to delve deeper into the national culture.) Now we are very happy to see them again. They have become part of our little cycling family during the trip and a great friendship grows out of it. It’s nice to meet other cyclists. Often they have good recommendations for routes and it is fun to talk about the challenges of everyday cycling and to exchange some good tips. Unfortunately, our route leads us in the opposite direction for the time being, which is why we stay in touch via the mobile phone and agree to a reunion for another country, Iran.

In order to reach our further goal, the limestone sinter terraces of Pamukkale, we have to conquer further very steep mountains. The roads of Turkey are often, despite good asphalt, very direct built. After we were spoiled with slight climbs in Greece, the stages of this route are so strenuous that Anja almost loses the desire to continue at all. But there is no giving up! A small ray of light is a Turkish family who give us a few treats from their picnic in the late afternoon to strengthen. And further we slowly climb up the mountains a total of 3,560 meters of altitude. When cycling, it is usually not so much the distances that cause problems, but rather longer ascents of more than 10%. These are always a welcome challenge for body and mind. After overcoming the initial hog dog, one steps up the mountains in a truly trance-like manner in the same time of the pedals, feels every muscle of its legs, the mass of the bike and all luggage and drifts again and again in thoughts to beautiful places and moments. Mantra-like we pray songs in our heads in front of us. It is like the feeling of meditation. Arriving at the top you are overjoyed and is often rewarded with a magnificent view. Since it is cool in the mountains in the evening, we fill a canister with hot water at a mosque and are already looking forward to the warm bottle shower.

It’s a wonderful feeling to finally roll downhill to Denizli and know that we’ve made it! The evening in Pamukkale is very rainy, so this time we just cook under a canopy of a closed shop in the middle of the city, next to restaurants and hotels – to the greatest surprise of all tourists and locals around us. The night before our visit to the ruins and limestone terraces we spend almost directly in front of the west entrance. Practical, because we only have to cycle for a minute in the morning before we can explore the place before the tourist rush. We have to park the packed bicycles outside, but the entrance seems almost unused and is also monitored by video, which is why we pack only the biggest valuables in one of our backpacks and go on a discovery tour.

In the late afternoon we visit the hot springs in Karahayit, the Pamukkale of the local population. The small place is so charming; we still stock up on fresh produce from the market, taste a treat here and there and go to eat tasty gozleme with spinach, a kind of Turkish savoury pancake. In the hot springs we water our feet in the sunset and hold a chat with interested people. Everywhere in Turkey we get applause from passers-by that we travel their country by bike, cars often even honk to us several times joyfully. Every now and then we meet German-speaking people who can’t believe that we have already cycled all the way from Germany to Turkey.

Our next big goal is Izmir. For days we drive along a main road. Quite corrosive and boring. But the road is fortunately flat and rolls quite well. In addition, we have to take a day off to cure an acute gastrointestinal infection.

A ray of light are the ruins of Efes, which are truly impressive, as an Austrian team of archaeologists has done a lot to reconstruct the old buildings. On the way to the targeted sleeping place on the beach we drive past some wedding shoots. Arriving at the sea, there are 5 more such photo sessions. We really wonder how often the Turks get married and divorced and remarry again, at this high number of weddings.

In Izmir we have organized via Warm Showers an overnight accommodation for two or three days and look forward to putting our dirty laundry in a washing machine again and letting ourselves drift through the streets of the big city without luggage. We enjoy the many freshly squeezed juices and feed here and there on the street some sweets, e.g. Halva or baklava. In the district of Basmane we even find an Arab, where we can taste hummus and falafel. A welcome change from bread with spicy breakfast paste or eggplant spread, as the widespread meaty kebab is not quite on our menu. The delicious vegan Turkish food that we know from home in Berlin is, with the exception of Cig Köfte, unfortunately not to be found here on the streets.

On the way to Istanbul we visit Bergama. At the cable car station we park the bikes and hike up the mountain. Down we take the cable car, juhu! Anja is looking forward to the whole trip to finally ride the cable car. Now we have finally made it.

Since these days we only drive along a large main road, we ask at gas stations for a campground on the meadow. After all, we are allowed to set up our night camp even in unused rooms and thus save the tent and are warm. The Turkish hospitality is truly exceptional. Some culture could still learn a lot. Everywhere we are offered a’ay, but unfortunately we usually have to refuse, because we simply can’t sleep after caffeinated tea in the evening. Are both simply not coffee drinkers.

Since the streets don’t promise much and we are looking forward to an early concert in Istanbul, we take the train from Soma to Bandirma for the last piece and from there the ferry. The huge city devours us for a few days. The most beautiful mosques in the country with filigree patterns that adorn the walls and ceilings want to be admired by us. All over Turkey you will find many mosques, some of which are quite newly built, in whose buildings sometimes even supermarkets or similar are integrated and so we get used to the muezzin calling to prayer several times a day. Funnily enough, however, this does not seem to interest the population in Turkey, and so we do not see once that someone is aligning themselves with Mecca, let alone having a carpet with them. We assume that the Turks consider it similar to Islam as the Germans do with Christianity. Finally, there are also Turkish alcohols and beers. Raki, the Turkish equivalent of the Greek Uozo, we can enjoy a traditional “ilingir Sofras” with our hosts in Istanbul. “Ilingir” they explain to us, means “door opener”, like a key service (meaning the raki), which figuratively opens the mouths and hearts. It is a kind of ceremony with lots of delicious food and of course a lot of raki.

After not too little bribe for our excess baggage we find ourselves on the bus to the salt lake (Tuz Gölü). Since winter is in our necks and Turkey is quite big, but we want to see as much as possible, we cross the country in a zigzag, skipping one or the other passages by train, ferry or bus. We have the crystal-sown salt lake all for ourselves and even camp one night directly on the lake. As we move on, Gnubbi, with his eyes immersed in the circuit, drives on a straight highway over an old truck tire lying around and crashes. Immediately two ambulances and two police cars appear uncalled and escort us with wheels to the nearest hospital. According to the X-ray, nothing is broken and so fortunately we can continue the next day carefully.

When we arrive in Cappadocia, the nights are already icy and our thick things, which we have been carrying in our packing bags since Germany, are finally being used. Anja’s feet still need half the night to get warm. A hot water bottle must be here soon. Temperatures are now below freezing at night. But the morning compensates for all the cold of the past hours: hundreds of hot air balloons rise from the valley in front of us and some even fly right past our tent. What a magical moment.

After exploring the surroundings on foot for a few days, we take the night train from Kayseri towards Erzurum, but get off one station beforehand in Aékale. From there we want to drive over the mountains to the Black Sea coast. Temperatures drop deeper and lower at night in early November at an altitude of 2,000 metres. Packed in all our warm things, we crawl into our sleeping bags. But it is not the cold that keeps us awake for half the night, but small mice that want to benefit from our warmth and food supplies. Again and again they truncate over our inner tent and rustle around, just don’t want to be scareed away. The next morning our tent glistens in the rising sun; it is covered with Rauhreif. A quick check of our supplies shows: a rubber seal of our pot lids tasted good for the mice. But best of all, we haven’t frozen.

Our next destination of the day is a last pass in the mountains, before it should only go downhill to the Black Sea. The climb is steep again and the road soon turns into a muddy slope. For hours we step up and look soon 1,200 meters down to the plateau from which we come. At an altitude of 2,500 meters, we pass through the pass, thickly wrapped and sniffing, and are rewarded with snow-capped mountains, deserted villages and unspoilt nature. The houses and mosques are ghostly in a landscape of white mountain peaks. We are surrounded by snow and can hardly believe our luck. We are even above the clouds. So magical! We quickly forget that there were once again several short sections where we only had to push the wheels up the mountain with a lot of force in pairs. Unfortunately, there is little time for breaks, so as not to cool down too much and the night also slowly breaks in. When we roll down the long, all the steeper descent into the valley with the headlights on, one would actually have to say “brake down”, Gnubbi also has a plate just before the finish. Presumably the rims became too hot due to the brakes, so that the hose tears directly at the valve. Shit happens! But luckily it is quickly replaced and we can roll the rest of the piece on to our destination Uzungöl. At the end of the day, our bike computer shows a pure travel time of 7.5 hours. New record for us. The days are now only about 10 hours from sunrise to sunset. We fall totally exhausted, but overjoyed in our bed, that we indulged in an apartment.

The place Uzungöl is called the Switzerland of Turkey. It is located in a valley on a small mountain lake, the Uzungöl (Long Lake) and is surrounded by over 1,000 meters high, very steep slopes, which are overgrown by dense coniferous and deciduous forests. We stay a few nights at the accommodation by the lake and experience a winter break. It snows continuously for two days, which wraps the whole village in a thick white blanket and makes us worry a little if we can get away with our bikes the next day.

But the way to the Black Sea leads downhill, which is why we can soon take off our sweaters and let the warming sun shine on our skin. The snow-capped mountains are swapped for green tea-covered hills and tropical-dripping lianas on the roadside. Waterfalls of mountains shoot in all places.

Arriving in Rize on the Black Sea, Erdogan’s hometown, we have a wonderful experience of Turkish hospitality: we stay overnight with Mustafa, a teahouse owner who likes to invite cyclists to his home. He welcomes and cares for us as warmly as we had imagined Turkish hospitality all the time from listening. But until now, people had never really met us in this way. Although he doesn’t speak a word of English, we try to communicate and communicate as much as possible through a translator on his mobile phone. It is also a lot of fun for us to watch the action in the tea house: Early in the morning, the first old men come and solve crossword puzzles or play cards at a ‘ay’ . Many questions we have about our origins, what we have already seen in Turkey and where to go. Since Gnubbi still has problems with his arm due to his accident, Mustafa and his friends take us to a friendly doctor who sends us to the hospital again. After another X-ray, it is now apparent that the arm is broken. We, as well as the doctor, are laughing and not quite clear how we could ride a bike with our arm for another 2 weeks. But no matter, now a plaster comes around and nothing stands in the way of healing. When we leave after two days in the tea house, we all do a huge selfie session and finally cross the border in Sarp.

We leave Turkey with a pleasant and warm feeling and the pockets are full of confidence to discover a new country unknown to us. Georgia, we’re coming.

In total, we have received from 28.09. until 18.11.2018, i.e. on 52 days crossed Turkey in a zigzag and covered about 1,800 kilometers by bike.

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