In year 2002 I cycled in Turkey on two separate occasions - trip 1 and trip 2, totaling 4601 km. It was quite easy being tourist in Turkey - no problem finding inexpensive but good accommodation, the same goes for the food, climate is pleasant and there is no shit-bureaucracy or taxes at the borders. I.e. the basics work well, very well actually. Turkey is also a beautiful country, and extraordinary things happen, as I experienced on May 11th. What is then bad in Turkey? Millions of honking truck drivers and reckless driving. On the whole: the longer I stayed in Turkey the more I liked it, I'll probably go back for more one day. Some basic info is included at the end.
Trip 1 started April 19th and ended May 22nd 2002. I stayed the first week in Marmaris in the SW-corner of Turkey as the ticket I had bought in Copenhagen included hotel there for one week. I rode 268 km around Marmaris to acclimatize, get tanned, and work out where to ride next in Turkey. After this week I first rode 862 km eastwards along the Mediterranean coast to Tarsus, then 800 km across the country to Bafra at the Black Sea, and then 593 km westwards along that coast. The itinerary (or places I slept) was: Marmaris-Fethiye-Korkuteli-Antalya-Alanya-Mellec-Mamure Kalesi (Anamur)-Tasucu-Tarsus-Ciftehan-Nigde-Sinasos-Avanos-Yozgat-Alaca-Havsa-Bafra-Ayancik-Inebolu-Cide-Bartin-Eregli-Aksakoca. It was 2523 km and took 25 days, on average 101 km a day. A loose estimate is that I 19 days climbed >500 m, 12 days >1000 m, a few days probably 2000-2500 m.
Left Denmark by plane in the evening and reached the Dalaman airport in Turkey in the middle of the night. Got through customs without any trouble. Reached hotel Sarba at 4.30 in the morning and went to sleep. Didn't do much that day, tried getting decent map but in vain. I hadn't planned anything from home as I didn't know where I would go - only that it should be sunny. Later got a haircut for about 4 mio Lira. When I was in Turkey one US$ equaled about 1.6 mio Turkish Lira. Assembled the bicycle in the evening, a process taking about 2 hours, then a short ride to check that everything worked, it did. In a restaurant I had a grossly overpriced meal, obviously I had a lot to learn about where to eat and how much to pay. Outside the tourist resort restaurants there often stands a waiter trying to lure in customers, they talk like this "Hello where do you come from?", if I said Denmark they continued in the most sleezy way "Hellooo my dear Danish friend, I like Denmark veeeery much" and so on. I assume they do it because it works. Are the Western charter tourists really that easily manipulated?
April 20th, Marmaris-Bozburun-Marmaris, 108 km, 1000 m climbing.
Rode to Bozburun, hard but beautiful ride in the sun. Saw frogs, 8 turtles, a heron, a hoopoe, a little owl (probably Athene noctua), 4 lizards two of which were road kills, a bat and a big unidentified predatory bird. In Bozburun a shipyard makes the beautiful wooden yachts, which can be seen in most Turkish Mediterranean marinas. Rested for a while and bunkered up for the way back. In a village close to Bozburun an idiot shouted something, maybe about my uncovered legs. Later I met an American couple on bicycles. They rode on yellow dedicated touring frames from an American frame builder "Mikkelsen", had Phil Wood hubs, Shimano XT-transmissions, Tubus racks, yellow Ortlieb panniers, i.e. high-end gear where it matters. They asked if I had covered my frame with tape so as not the text on it might offend local tribes. That is not the case, I've taped the frame to avoid scratches, and to make it look less flashy. Contrary to me they wore helmets, indeed a safety minded couple. They had a slightly better map over the peninsula than the one I had. They had bought theirs in the Marmaris tourist office forking out a minor fortune. Rode through Bayirkoy and Osmanniye on the way back. That involved steep ascends and descends in beautiful surroundings. Back in Marmaris I bargained with map seller using the flip-coin method, I won and got the map about 50% cheaper. In Turkey it is possible to squeeze prices on just about everything.
April 21st, Marmaris.
Rode aimlessly around in Marmaris and tried staying as much out of the sun as possible. Near the eastern end of the town there is a pond with plenty of turtles, frogs and small fish, unfortunately people have also thrown in a lot of garbage. Passed restaurant with prices 50-75% below the tourist traps that mostly litter Marmaris. Fixed a problem with the inadequate mudguard clearance by fitting longer stays, first shop wanted 5 mio Lira, the shop owner thought that I would happily pay his extreme overprice because I was a stupid tourist. Left and bought identical stays for 2 mio Lira in another nearby shop. They consistently overcharge tourists in the Turkish tourist resorts, not just 10-20%, but 200-300%. One tried selling me a banana for 2 mio Lira. Yet again, they do it because many tourists just pay. I got the impression that in the tourist resorts Westerners are regarded as naïve idiots. Some are, but far from all.
April 22nd, around Marmaris, 85 km,> 1000 m climbing..
Rode westwards towards Datca. Saw in the morning snake in a river. When the sea appeared to the north I turned that way on a dirt road following the coast. Don't know where I was as the road was not on my map but beautiful it was. Half an hour later I rode into a valley with a creek full of turtles, frogs, fish and extremely fast small animals that got away before I identified them. One of them hid under a stone in the creek and I got pinched when I reached for it, so left it to itself. The water was crystal clear and most of the animals hiding there could easily be seen. The whole place was exceedingly beautiful, simply one of the most beautiful places of that kind I've ever seen. Back on the road I came across a crab, a land crab. First time I've seen such one. 10 minutes later when starting riding uphill I met the first of about 10 land turtles that day. They were about 1.5-2 kg and grassing along the road. One of them had once had its shell fractured, but it had healed. Saw also a hoopoe, and later two big green woodpeckers. Got back on the D400 road at Degirmenyani and turned towards Icmeler after 6-7 km. Saw very big lizard running in the grass. From the bottom bracket area I had endured a click noise that would drive me crazy if nothing was done. Tried fixing it by wrapping the BB-axle in Teflon tape, unsuccessful though. Also tried getting better maps as the ones I already had were lousy, to put it mildly, and road-signing often lacking, yet again unsuccessful.
April 23rd , around Marmaris, 75 km, >1000 m climbing.
Rode uphill towards Mugla and eastwards when reaching the pass. Came unexpectedly to Ovacik and later to Karaca - the maps sold here are simply worthless. I'm good at reading maps but didn't get much help from the Turkish ones. Continued southwards and reached the coast, on an empty beach I had a swim but water still a little too cold for my taste. Continued and got unexpectedly back to Karaca, then back to Ovacik, and from there on a good paved road (that was not on the map) back to the Mugla-Marmaris road. Much of the day I rode through areas that had recently been forest, but now it was gone, maybe burnt. Saved small turtle that was lying on its back with a bloody nose, probably caused by a car. Saw that day also squirrels, frogs, more turtles, an ordinary blackbird, most likely a couple of quails, and several magpies. The mud here is extremely sticky, I found out of that after having passed a 10 m long muddy part of a dirt road, after which my bike was ready for major overhaul. Bought kerosene for bicycle cleaning purposes, they call it paraffin in Turkey. On Turkish trucks and buses is often written "Allah Korusun" which means something like "trust in allah", and several times a day I heard a howling imam from the loudspeakers mounted on the minarets. It strikes me that islam in many ways resembles socialism and nazism - everybody all the time have to listen to and see the religious/ideological sounds and symbols, respectively.
April 24th, Marmaris.
Heavy rain and thunder during the night, had also nightmare about ending in wheelchair. Rode around in Marmaris and surroundings while trying to work out from where the clicking noise came from. Tried loctite on the bottom bracket shell threads but to no avail. Wrapped the right pedal thread in Teflon tape. That worked partly for a while. Then wrapped both pedal threads in loads of Teflon tape. That worked, the clicking noise was gone and didn't come back. The heavy rain had caused minor flooding east of Marmaris. Saw two small white herons - possibly egrets, and plenty of turtles and frogs. As my stay in hotel Sarba would terminate next day I decided to ride eastwards, along the Mediterranean coast.
April 25th, Marmaris-Fethiye, 141 km, >1000 m climbing.
Rode first towards Mugla while noticing a lot of police along the road. After an hour or so I passed village where a lot of people had gathered along the road. Seconds later I was passed by a group of about 100 riders and numerous following cars and buses. Saw that day many storks, the usual turtles and frogs, and 4 flattened hedgehogs. Saw also several mountains high enough to still being snow-clad. After 141 km of hard riding in splendid weather I reached the outskirts of Fethiye and went into "Pansion Alperen" - 12.5 mio Lira for a good room with toilet, hot water in the shower, supper and breakfast next morning. The supper was rice, kidneys, salad and some kind of yogurt-drink. Very friendly people in that place, one of them spoke a little German. In retrospect this pension was the nicest one I stayed in in Turkey. Later I watched a Turkish soap about a father gone insane after having discovered that his daughter maybe had had pre-marital sex - at least that was what I imagined. They also have "Who wants to be a millionaire" and "The weakest link" in Turkish television. I also watched another soap from time to time when a TV was available. It is called Cocuklar Duymasin which means something like "not for children's ears". It is about a married couple with two children. The couple has quarrels each day and always ends in the kitchen where the quarreling continues for a while after which matters are settled. I felt this soap had an educating purpose - there is no need to beat up the wife just because she disagrees?. I wish I could understand their dialogue.
April 26th, Fethiye-Korkuteli, 125 km, 1500 m climbing,
Left the pension at 9 o'clock and rode towards Kemer. Was a little later overtaken by the 100 or so riders from the day before, and their polluting followers. I managed to keep pace with them for quite a while. They continued to Finike while I turned NE up into the mountains. 4 hard hours followed and I was about to hit the wall as there was nothing to buy for 40 km. Met a Dutch salesman that warned me about dressing lightly - I would be turned away in restaurants and hotels if turning up in shorts, sandals and T-shirt. That never happened, I was never denied anything on that account in Turkey. Had lunch just south of Oinoanda. Reached village and went into a café for tea. Met there big English woman married to Turk. They had a daughter and would soon return to England - the woman was tired after one year in Turkey, tired of being subordinated men. Continued towards Korkuteli through wide flat valleys, the surrounding mountains were snow-clad and about 3000 m high, simply a very scenic area. Saw 4 hedgehogs - all flattened, and very skinny horses and donkeys. Never seen that skinny animals before, no doubt they starved. On one of the skinny donkeys rode a big fat Turk, poor donkey. Passed through plenty traditional Turkish villages where people stared at me as if I was extraterrestrial. This part of Turkey is completely different from what I had seen along the Mediterranean coast. Found accommodation in shitty but cheap (5 mio Lira) hotel Konak in Korkuteli. Had supper across the street while talking with three friendly Turks managing about 50 words in German and English. The hotel is very close to the minaret, and four times during the night and early morning I was disturbed by an imam howling through loudspeakers. I slept badly also because I had not bathed after the many sweaty hours on the road, and because linen in the bed hadn't been shifted for weeks it seemed.
April 27th, Korkuteli-Antalya, 60 km, <500 climbing.
Left the hotel at 7.30, it was a cold morning. Reached Antalya 4 hours later - 50% ugly tourist resort, 50% interesting Turkish city, and with dense traffic. There were not many tourists, too early in the season I guess. Got installed in a pension for 8 mio Lira, a quite dirty place it turned out, though the linen was clean. Saw a small kingfisher (Alcedo atthis, most likely) in creek 100 m from the pension and in a very inhabited area. Good view to the snow-clad mountains to the west. Went to the huge Migros shopping mall, completely modern and with plenty good-looking Turkish women walking around in tight-fitting clothes leaving nothing to the fantasy. I don't think their male relatives took that with islam that seriously. Old scarf-clad Turkish women sat here and there and observed. I wonder what they were thinking, they didn't look approving. They must have been sweating like pigs, wearing as much clothes as they did. There are huge class-differences here, not to speak about the giant regional differences. Some parts of Turkey are completely modern while other parts are third world, in another era. Had coffee in McDonalds later, always nice going to its clean toilets. The weather at the coast was good but farther inland it looked threateningly dark.
April 28th, Antalya-Alanya, 134 km, <500 m climbing.
Left the pension a 9 o'clock and got lost in the ugly concrete suburbs NE of the center. Picked up a big turtle, possibly 2-2.5 kg on the highway. Rode on the boring D-400 most of the day. Saved a swallow lying on the road from again being hit by cars, I don't know how seriously it was harmed, maybe it had been better just leaving it, but at least it got a chance to recover. About 40 swallows had already been killed in this particular place. Saw numerous turtles, frogs, big lizards, and possibly 2 types of thorn birds along the road. Along certain stretches there were also plenty of hawks. Passed several smaller tourist resorts that day, all ugly, and garbage everywhere. It's a pity, from natures hand Turkey is an extremely beautiful country but they certainly do what they can to destroy it. Got a close look on big lizard that insisted on remaining on the road shoulder despite me trying to chase it away, it was very fast and moved in opposite direction of what I anticipated. Stopped at a carpet factory and watched two good-looking young female carpet makers. After a short while I was addressed by a German-speaking salesman that invited me into a show room with plenty of carpets. The Turks really make beautiful carpets. He offered me extremely expensive carpets - 10.000 Euros or more, despite I told him a couple of times that I had no intention of buying a carpet. He also offered me tea. I asked him why only women were making carpets in Turkey. They have more time, he said. Being naturally polite I didn't say that it is because the women don't sit in cafés all day and sip tea and smoke, as most men there seemingly do. It quickly turned into a discussion about islam and whether or not there is a god. I said that gods are created by talented and power-hungry people, not the other way around. Then he moved towards the door and said that now he would prove the existence of a god. That was interesting, I have never seen a proof. He grabbed the door and said that even if he filled this room with wood, there would never be a door like this. Of course not, you need a carpenter, I said. Then he said that even if he filled the room with flesh, there would never be a me. Of course not, humans don't come into being this way, I said. He continued, and even if he filled this room with wool, there would never be a carpet. No, you need a carpet maker, I said. Then he claimed that Muhammad 1600 years ago had said that the Mediterranean doesn't mix with the Atlantic. He denied that Turks regard Ataturk as a god. I said that gods are for children only, like Santa Claus, witches, angels, wizards and so on. He asked me to respect his religion, but after having listened to the above nonsense he was far from getting my respect when it came to religious matters. When having lunch in a tourist trap a bus-load of Ukrainians arrived, they were from Dniepropetrovsk. Ukrainians have trouble getting visas to the West, but in Turkey they are welcomed, so go there. There are numerous gas stations between Marmaris and Alanya, but half of them are closed or were never finished. Arrived in Alanya in the early evening and paid 10 mio for good room with hot shower in pension. When buying a new and possibly better map in a bookshop, the English-speaking owner told me that Turks don't read books, he sold maximum 2 books a day, and that he had tried selling his bookshop for years, but nobody would buy. But they read a lot of newspapers, I said. Yes! But only the sports pages, he replied. He is partly right, they are crazy about football, but at least some of them also read - in both Ankara and Istanbul there are excellent bookshops. Later I nearly got into fight with a Turk, but having once seen the American movie "Midnight Express" I withdrew, although I was quite upset. Then went out to get something to eat. Met a sympathetic Scottish woman that happened to own the restaurant "Lantern". Had an excellent meal there, 6 mio Lira for all I could eat. Too much traffic this day.
April 29th, Alanya-Mellec, 108 km, >1500 m vertically.
Left the pension at 9.30 but cycled around for a little while. The old part of that tourist resort is good-looking with a fortress, old houses and so on, but else Alanya is an ugly place, as ugly as some of the tourist resorts on Tenerife. After Alanya the traffic was again on acceptable levels. Saw purple heron (Ardea purpurea) at creek shortly after. Whenever there is water in Turkey, there will also be interesting birds, turtles, frogs etc. Saw also two Golden orioles (Oriolus oriolus) and two big predatory birds, plus several minor ones. Met three ornithologists with whom I initially spoke English, but they turned out to be Danish. They identified a bird I had seen some days before, it was a roller (Coracias garrulus). Later a car stopped in front of me, and a passenger came out and handed me about 15 big delicious strawberries, don't know why. Some Turks are simply just very friendly people. Still later another car stopped in front of me, it was a young Dutch that had seen me the day before. He said that due to the hilly riding ahead, I would never reach Anamur that day, and that I would do better if I got accommodated in Gazipasa as there was no accommodation to be found before Anamur. I felt confident that either I would find accommodation before Anamur, or I would reach it before sunset, so I continued. Very scenic ride after Gazipasa, with two 5-600 m climbs, and several minor ones. The road goes down to the coast, then up in the hills, down to the coast etc. On the whole, the riding and the scenery along the Mediterranean reminded me about the riding I had done in Crimea, Ukraine a year before. Met also a Russian hitchhiker from Moscow. Reached at 17.30 the village Mellec. It is at the sea and I got accommodated in what they called a bungalow, I call it a cabin though. It cost 8 mio Lira, and supper in the same place was 3.5 mio Lira. Very nice place, glad that I didn't follow the advice I got from the Dutch - there are accommodation at least 3 times between Gazipasa and Mellec. Was that day hit twice in my right eye by insects, painful so I decided to wear sunglasses onwards.
April 30th, Mellec-Mamure Kalesi, 30 km, <500 m climbing.
Left Mellec after breakfast consisting of two eggs and two tomatoes costing 1.5 mio Lira. E-mailed in Anamur. It is rarely a problem finding internet cafes in Turkey, neither was it expensive, usually less than one US$/hour. A little East of Anamur there is a fortress - Mamure Kalesi - at the sea. The fortress isn't very interesting but the water-filled trench around it certainly is. It teems with aquatic life - three kinds of turtles, frogs of course, millions of fish, crabs, not to mention the birds some of which I haven't seen before - one was a heron though (Ardeola ralloides). The animals rest on the algae and the water is crystal clear. Best place for watching turtles and frogs I saw in Turkey. The English and German texts on the sign at the fortress are interesting and in a language that I at first thought was Finnish. It goes like this "this part of the cave in which the stalactites like fan formand stalegmite like tave is drided in twopats this part is pat her clam its named from the pressure" or in German "die hohle befindensich in nohe des dorfes ovabasi nord westwind von anamur das klima inder 225 million jahre alte hohle ist sherhilfre ich (incay:80 der hohle) gegen asthma und andere bronchi alleiden sowie gegen unfrocht bareit bei frauen das indere". There is no such thing as a 225 mio years old cave. Neither did I understand what the sign had to do with the castle. Continued, but only for two minutes after which I was persuaded to stay in a nice motel costing only 5 mio Lira, incl. breakfast. The two young Turks working at that motel did nothing but trying to lure passersby into the motel. Had a swim in the still chilly sea. Met a German woman there and had a 3 hour long conversation with her. She was 60, leftist, and strongly sympathizing with the Kurds. She claimed that there are 20 mio inhabitants in Istanbul, half of them Kurds having been driven away from Kurdistan by Turkish military forces. She also said that the pollution in certain areas near Istanbul is so intense that no foreigners are allowed to see them - it would be counterproductive to Turkish attempts to enter the European Union (according to a Turkish tourist hand-out I got in Copenhagen, Turkey is already a member of the EU). Turkey had colonized N-Cyprus and turned it into one big casino, she said. The first statement is right, don't know about the second. She claimed that USA wouldn't allow Turkey to exploit it huge oil and gas fields - I heard that three times when in Turkey, wonder where they get it from? We discussed islam too, I said that islam reminded me about nazism and socialism, and that intelligent people shouldn't believe in ideologies or religions. Being leftist she didn't reply, she just looked sternly at me - an atheist. In the evening I watched a gekko walking on the wall in my room. First time I've seen such one. 400 m vertically.
May 1st, Mamure Kalesi-Tasucu, 122 km, >1000 m climbing.
Got up relatively early and left motel at 7.40. Didn't see many animals that day - only a turtle, some woodpeckers, cormorants, and a couple of predatory birds. Had by the way also seen ravens the other days. When stopping in village to buy refreshments the woman in the shop also gave me water, 2 cucumbers, 4 tomatoes, nuts and bread. Yet again one of these incredibly friendly Turks. Beautiful riding, plenty of good views over the Mediterranean. Reached the ugly town Tasucu and went to a pension the German woman had recommended, but at 10 mio Lira I found it too expensive. At another pension I met a Russian family so took the opportunity to practice the little Russian I know. Got installed in OK 5 mio Lira pension but as usual only cold water in the shower. It is cheaper to eat and sleep in this part of Turkey than westwards. Very hot day, got slightly burnt.
May 2nd and 3rd, Tasucu-Tarsus, 119 km.
Continued as usual on the coastal road. Saw many Roman/Byzantine ruins after Silifke, but mostly riding was uninteresting - modern concrete housing areas, too much traffic, and garbage everywhere. Plenty of beer bottles too, despite Turkey being a muslim country. In a supermarket I was addressed by a Turk managing some German, "I have been working in Germany at a machine for 30 years" he said. That was a sentence I heard several times in Turkey, always in broken German. Bought at the roadside half a kilo of extremely tasty strawberries, the sweetest ones I've ever had I think. Saw about 100 turtles in less than 20 minutes in canal parallel to the road. Certain parts of Mersin look very affluent and modern, very good-looking actually. In the big port there were hundreds of Danish Maersk containers. Shortly after Mersin I rode into a thunderstorm. As the traffic was heavy I was sprayed again and again, so decided to look for alternative road farther inland. There I rode into muddy stretches and the bicycle got unbearable dirty. Met crab in the canal where I washed the bicycle. Reached Tarsus at about 20 and got installed in 12 mio Lira hotel Zorbas, nice room so stayed there for two days. Went across the street and bought a 1 mio Lira kebab, a good-looking woman there gave me a rose for some reason. Later, when in the hot shower I realized how dirty I actually was, also washed my clothes. There were two beds in the room, the first one collapsed when I entered it, the second endured though. Tarsus is a nice town with some Roman/Byzantine ruins and plenty of sweets-shops. Strolled around and ate here and there, was at a time approached by five children and a grandmother, they managed a few English phrases. Also found quiet place to clean and lubricate bicycle, a two-hour process during which I was watched by a growing number of young Turks, all friendly and sympathetic. As anywhere else in Turkey I noticed how beautiful the Turkish women are. Lost my only underpants, I had hung them out for drying but they slid down the wire to the floor below. There was no easy way of getting them back so I bought new ones - good Turkish ones costing 3.5 mio Lira. I also bought a Turkish water boiler. Both items still work to my full satisfaction. As all Turkish towns there are also here hundreds (literally!) of small workshops making, repairing and selling a huge range of items. In some of these workshops they have lathes, milling machines, shapers, grinders, welders and much more. If I had had any serious problem with my bike in Turkey, I'm sure I could have it fixed, one way or another. People here in Tarsus are friendly and honest, no overpricing and so on, quite unlike the tourist resorts westwards. Flat road.
May 4th, Tarsus-Ciftehan, 100 km, 1500 m climbing.
Got early out of Tarsus and headed northwards. Removed land crab from the road by making it enter my Nike shoe. Went the wrong way and ended on the toll-highway. That was good as I minutes later saw four big kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis) sitting on a bridge. When coming to the toll-station they wouldn't let me continue, claiming it would be dangerous, the police wouldn't have it and so on. I did continue though, and had no problems but left the road as soon as possible. Picked up a little turtle and placed it in my handlebar bag. Later passed a suitable place to release it but at that time it had shit in the bag, and when I reached for the poor animal it got even more terrified and started urinating, but I got it out of the bag in time. Riding was uphill most of the day, highest point was 1370 m south of Pozanti. Didn't find suitable accommodation there as first hotel was closed and the second wanted 15 mio Lira. So continued on the unpleasant road (numerous honking trucks) to Ciftehan. There, a boy followed me to the small hotel Meral across the railway station. Got a 5 mio Lira room. In the corridor there are two kinds of toilets - the squat type and the European type, luke-warm water in the shower. The man showing me my room later guided me around the village for a while. He was quite funny - trying to outpace me on a long uphill street, he was of course chanceless. Bought coffee for him in one of the many cafés in Ciftehan. There the boy from before approached me again. He wanted me to join him on a trip up to a small summit outside the village. I said that we would never get that far before darkness but he insisted and we went. When halfway up it was dark and we returned to the café, and had several small glasses with hot milk. I've developed a taste for hot milk since Ciftehan. When in the café the imam and several others came by. The imam was only 24 and didn't speak any language that I understood, but he was very friendly and sympathetic. He invited the boy, his uncle and me to visit the mosque. We went and watched the ceremony, there were not many worshipers that evening, and it took only about 15 minutes. In the meantime the two others and I had walked up in the narrow minaret and looked out over the village. The boy said several times while looking down on the street below; "there goes the teacher, there goes my neighbor, there goes this one, there goes that one", he probably knew everybody in the village. It was very dark and we looked up to the thousands of stars above, we could also hear the countless frogs in the nearby creek. When having finished his prayer the imam came up, and later he called us down by using his microphone and the loudspeakers mounted on the minaret. Back in the café we had more hot milk and tea, and I don't know how many locals that passed by to say hello. Nobody spoke English except for the few phrases the boy knew, but it was a very nice and interesting evening. Ciftehan is beautifully situated among high snow-clad mountains, and there is a hot spring and several pensions. When I was there the hot spring was "closed" for some reason. Anyway, it is a nice place for a stop-over, could have stayed longer, had I had my alpine equipment.
May 5th, Ciftehan-Nigde, 105 km, >500 m climbing.
Continued next morning without knowing where I would go that day, only that I would try to avoid the heavy traffic that had bothered me the day before. So after 23 km I turned right, tired of the f****** truck drivers. Why on earth did they think they had to honk when passing me? It might be meant friendly in many cases, but is extremely irritating. Shortly after turning towards Nigde I saw the first wild-living mammal in Turkey - a small marmot-like animal, don't know what it is called. I lured it out of its hole with a bisquit - a Turkish Ulker bisquit. It was a very fast animal and I didn't get a good picture of it. Across the road a young fox had been killed by a car, first fox I saw in Turkey. Saw a little later some storks too, a hoopoe, and yet a road kill - a big snake. Around the 1600 m pass there is plenty of pillow lave - best outcrop of that kind I've seen. After the next pass at 1490 m I turned west on the huge plain that is surrounded by snow-clad mountains on most sides. Passed through villages built of sun-dried mud. Saw at a trench yet one of the small marmot-like mammals, later two more of them, and 6 big predatory birds. Later reached Kemerhisar, which I thought I had passed long ago, went into a photo shop and bought a film. Then the shop-owner let me use his internet connection. After a short while three young ladies had gathered, one of them treated me to a big portion of potato-salad while I looked in their high-level English-books, nonetheless they would hardly say a word in English. The young girls had funny names: Punar, Gozde and something like Fahorkel. Yet again, the Turks I met in this shop were very friendly and sympathetic. Next town was Bor, there are numerous Ataturk statues, pictures and quotes of him there. Ataturk has the same status in Turkey as Lenin had in the Soviet Union. One of Ataturks famous quotes is "Peace in Turkey, peace in the World". That sounds good. Another common Ataturk quote is "Ne mutlu Turkum diyene" meaning something like "it is good to be a Turk", another interpretation I heard was that it means "be proud to be a Turk". There are pictures of Ataturk in just about every shop in Turkey. They are building multi-story housing in Bor and literally everywhere I've been riding in Turkey. Reached Nigde and discovered that I had a minor flat. Looked up a quiet place to fix it, but within minutes three young Turks had gathered. Unable to say anything in English, they instead asked me questions in Turkish. One of them continuously touched my bicycle, to see my reaction, until I sternly told him to stop, which he did. Left the place but minutes later one of the three caught up with me on his bike. I told him several times that I was not interested in his company but he continued following me around like a dog. When I passed a police station I asked some policemen standing outside to relieve me of him, then he quickly vanished on his shit-bike. Having looked around for a hotel for an hour I finally found an inexpensive one - hotel Stad, costing 6 mio Lira for an adequate room. The hotel is run by friendly people that later served me strawberries, cucumbers and tea.
May 6th, Nigde-Sinasos, 95 km, >500 m vertically..
Continued after cold shower. At the price I was willing to pay for accommodation I never expected hot water, but it was nice when there. Turned left in Ovacik and in Golcuk towards Orhanli, which really is Turkish countryside. 10 km after Orhanli a spectacular canyon-like valley suddenly appeared - the first I saw of the strange area called Cappadokia. Down in the deep and narrow valley lies the village Soganli with numerous caves dug out in soft tuff. Rode down and met Spanish tourists explaining what it was I was seeing. They directed me to an old Christian church that as everything old in that area is in a cave. Not that interesting but plenty of lizards there. Continued in the valley to Guzeloz and had lunch there. Had a conversation with the restaurant owner. I told him that he should not throw stones at the chickens outside his restaurant, as they are descendants of dinosaurs. He was skeptical but I had a Dutch tourist confirm it. Later a Dutch couple arrived, had long conversation with the husband about bicycles, he had a lot of high-end stuff back in Holland. The woman claimed that the Koga Miyata touring bikes are of Dutch make, I thought they were Japanese, judging from the name. She is right however, Koga Miyata is Dutch. Rode up on the plain again, several small volcanoes there, and an excellent view to the 3916 m high volcano Erciyes Dagi SE of Kayseri. Also good view towards a snow-clad range towards SE. Turkey really is a beautiful country. Saw fox running on the plateau, the only live one I saw in Turkey. Rode down in another canyon-like valley and was back in Cappadokia, yet again with numerous caves and chimney-like rocks, plenty of old picturesque villages with steeeeep streets followed. Reached good-looking Sinasos (The Turks call it Mustafapasa) and got installed in nice hotel Pasca for 12.5 mio Lira incl. breakfast. There was also hot water in the clean toilet/bathroom. The tourists I met this day were all slim and fit, and looked high-brow, contrary to many of those I had seen down at the Mediterranean.
May 7th, Sinasos-Avanos, 20 km, <500 m climbing.
Only got as far as Avanos, then I was too tired to continue. Avanos is 20 km from Sinasos and similarly nice but bigger. Stayed in hotel Duru costing 10 mio Lira, and the best accommodation I had in Turkey. Not least because of the splendid view over the surroundings. Strolled around, had a film developed, e-mailed, etc. Saw that day a huge beetle, Procerus scabrosus.
May 8th, Avanos-Yozgat, 170 km, >500 m climbing.
Left at 7.45, headwind much more forceful than previous three days. Also some 5-10 km long climbs. Was at Hinnetdede followed by to young idiots on a moped, at a store I aggressively told them to stop, which they then did. Had lunch in Bogazlian at 13, then headed for Yenipazar, assuming there was accommodation there. Very tiresome riding followed due to the headwind, 12 km/hour was all I managed. Yenipazar turned out to be a village only, there was no hotel. Instead I was followed around by three screaming lunatics on bicycles. There was nothing else to do than continue to Yozgat 60 km to the north. That was unpleasant as the clock was already 17.30 and the head wind still strong. When I was about to overtake a tractor trailer the women sitting in it got terrified and threatened me with a thick pole, they must have thought I intended to board their trailer. Later a car with 3-4 young males passed me as close as possible, for fun I guess. Reached Yozgat at 20.45, seriously freezing. As soon as it got dark it became very cold. First hotel wanted 20 mio Lira, the next only 5 mio Lira. But then it was also shitty - nearly the worst I've ever slept in - stinking toilet, dirty linen, no shower, shouting people during the night and so on. I should have taken the dearer hotel. The 170 km that day, the head wind, the hills and the coldness made me sick and I could hardly eat anything that evening. Back in the hotel it took me hours to regain normal body temperature.
May 9th, Yozgat-Alaca, 50 km, <500 m climbing.
Left the shitty hotel at 7.45 without breakfast and headed for Alaca. Found good hotel there for 7 mio Lira, that included hot water in the shower in the corridor and the room was nice and clean. Strolled around in Alaca while longing for the coast where riding had been easier.
May 10th, Alaca-Havsa, 140 km, >500 m climbing.
Left early at 6.45, only cold water in the shower in the morning. Outside it was also cold and I wore gloves. Terribly heavy traffic followed on the 140 km to Havsa. Saw eagle just outside Corum, also some storks and herons that day. In Corum there are plenty of big enterprises making roof-tile, brick stones and other building materials. Big airfield outside Merzifon with F-16 fighterplanes - American, I assume. Found ok-accommodation in hotel Zeybek for 7.5 mio Lira in Havsa. I saw seven other hotels in Havsa but there are no doubt more. Talked with the friendly English-speaking son of the owner. He told me about a less trafficked road from Vezirkopru down to Bafra at the Black Sea, so that I could avoid all the F****** trucks. The road was a dangerous road however, he said. What that meant I experienced the following day, though I rode a different road. Anyway, I strolled around in Havsa where Ataturk once stayed for 18 days, and where he is especially worshiped. Ataturks bed and some furniture have been preserved and there is a museum.
May 11th & 12th, Havsa-Bafra, 120 km, >1000 m vertically.
Left at 7.00. Rode first 27 hilly and beautiful kilometers to Cakiralan after which there were no more road-signs, so continued following the compass. Met two uniformed and armed forest guards. Also saw a big beetle (Meloe prosecrabeus) that emitted yellow fluid from its joints. Ended on dirt roads and rode through villages where numerous children followed me, at times actually preventing me from riding by grabbing hold of my rack, not out of hostility, just incredible curious, as if I came from another planet. I felt like John Merrill (the Elephant man), maybe I too should have shouted "I AM A HUMAN BEING". There are numerous children everywhere in Turkey. On the outskirts of another village a young man and two boys quickly pulled up their pants when I approached. Had a long ride on a washed out dirt road down in narrow valley. Took a picture of the opposite hillside where there are a few houses. Down in the bottom I carried the bicycle over the stream and started the long strenuous ride uphill on a similar washed out dirt road. A few minutes after the stream I passed a house in front of which some peasants worked on a small field. They shouted something at me in a rather aggressive tone but I continued. After a few bends I met the boy from the field, he had run straight up the hillside. A few seconds later a man came down the dirt road, maybe he too came from the house, I don't know. I had a short conversation with them despite we didn't understand each other. I asked how far there was to a paved road - that is just over the hilltops he explained. I somehow felt he tried slowing me down. Anyway, I took a picture of both of them and continued. After one hour I had passed the hilltops and were on my way down. Then two men (hill-billies no. 1 & 2, respectively) about 25-30 years of age came up the dirt road. One of them was the one I had met an hour earlier. They must have followed the stream down the valley, whereas I had to ride over the hills. They told me that Bafra was in the other direction and a lot of other shit I didn't understood. The situation was threatening, and I was thinking about what to do, about how long time it would take to reach for my Swiss knife, unfold it etc. I could easily handle one of them, but maybe not both. In the end I acted instinctively - pushed away the one that had grabbed my handlebar, he nearly fell to the ground, then I jumped on the bicycle and sprinted down the bumpy road. When for a split-second looking back a few seconds later, hill-billy no. 2 was running after me with a knife in one hand and a big stone in the other, hill-billy no. 1 was standing still, I didn't see what he was doing. The dirt road turned north and after maybe yet 10 second I heard a shot, the only one I heard that day. My cap had blown off and a plastic water bottle had fallen off, else everything, myself included, was intact. Ten minutes later I passed a village but as there was no police station there, I hastily continued, now on a paved road. Less than an hour later I went into a "Jandarma" - a kind of militia/police station. Nobody there spoke English but they picked up the English teacher from nearby Kolay. I explained what had happened and how easy it would be to catch the two hill-billies - I knew where the boy came from, he knew hill-billy no. 1, I had pictures etc. They asked me what I wanted them to do about it. I said that I wanted to go back and beat them up, in the Turkish way. After all, they probably intended to kill me. The commander decided that we (himself, the English teacher and me) should drive back to the village I had passed 10 minutes after the event. So we did - painstakingly slowly as it was a civil car that probably belonged to the commander himself, and he was afraid of the potholes and the trucks loaded with big rocks from a quarry. Not that I blame him for that. In the village he inquired about the dirt road I came from, they told him it was very rough. He then said that it was out of his jurisdiction and started driving back, slowly as before. A few minutes later the second interesting event of that day happened. At the roadside a shepherd was raping a goat! Both moved slowly forward during the act that seemingly didn't bother the goat. Maybe it was used to it. The sodomizer had a firm grip on the goats tail and was in close contact with it. I didn't see if it was a male or female goat. This happened in full daylight, at the roadside of a fairly trafficked road. Still, nobody interfered, suggesting that it is not an uncommon procedure in that part of Turkey. None of us in the car said anything - it was too embarrassing. I wonder what Turkish women say about this practice. I would have liked to have a photo of that event. Back on the "Jandarma" our conversation continued, in as friendly an atmosphere as before, but by then I had realized that nothing more would happen. I left a little later, after having promised to send the commander the relevant pictures. He would then hand over the case to a neighboring commander. I rode down to Bafra and installed myself in nice hotel Sevgi. 12.5 mio Lira for good single. Strolled around and ate a couple of times. The shop-owners were very friendly. Saw bat in the evening. Thus ended my most dramatic day in Turkey. Was tired next morning and extended my stay in the nice hotel, in order to service the bicycle, wash my clothes and recuperate. When cleaning the bicycle I was addressed by the daughter of the hotel owner. She had a fairly grasp of English and was a very nice woman. "By night the streets are very dangerous, especially for women", she said. I asked if they had many Western tourists. That was not the case (no wonder, if they kill them), but from time to time groups of ornithologists came to watch birds in the nearby Kizilirmak delta, where Turkeys biggest river empties into the Black Sea.
May 13th, Bafra-Ayancik, 160 km, >1000 m climbing.
Started at 7.00. Crossed the Kizilirmak, which had less water there than when I first saw it in Avanos. After about 40 km riding got hilly, like at the Mediterranean but traffic lessened too. Saw on the road two dying mole crickets (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) - an animal that has always fascinated me - front legs like a mole, head like a shrimp and body like a locust. Saw also several turtles and many frogs and lizards, and a purple heron. Passed pensions at the coast a couple of times, so it is no problem finding accommodation there too. Reached Gerze and found well-situated restaurant run by among others a beautiful woman. There were no staring people. Good view over the bay to Sinop. Got a big portion of Turkish ravioli for 2.5 mio Lira. Rode up in the hills 15 km before Sinop, on the road to Erfelek. Got back to the coastal road about 20 km west of Sinop. Met a Spanish cyclist on his way to E-Turkey and warned him about hill-billies. He in turn warned me about the hard riding I would face the next several days. Reached Ayancik at 17 and stayed in hotel for 10 mio Lira. There was hot water, view to the Black Sea and breakfast was included. Gave a stray dog a piece of Turkish Ulker chocolate after which it followed me around like a Turk until there was no more chocolate. There are millions of stray dogs in Turkey, many of them infested by scabies, a skin-disease that kills slowly. Had tail wind most of the beautiful ride.
May 14th, Ayancik-Inebolu, 86 km, >1000 m climbing.
Saw three dolphins just east of Turkeli. I never saw any dolphins in the Mediterranean, maybe because I didn't look for them. Beautiful riding all day, several >400 m ascends but I was used to it by then. The hill-billy episode affected me as I paid much more attention to all the people that stared at me all the time - wherever I was, whatever I was doing. I thought they looked like hill-billies all together. They sit and stare, always in small groups. Had lunch in Abana in small restaurant run by woman in headscarf. There were no other customers - the reason why I had went in to this one. A few minutes later an old man arrived. "Baba?" I whispered to the woman. She nodded. He had probably seen me enter and was worried that I would harm his property - his daughter. It was good that he arrived, else I would have done? god knows what I would have done. Saw 5-6 more dolphins after Abana. Got to Inebolu at about 17 and found hotel Altinoz for 6.5 mio Lira, incl. TV, and lukewarm water. There is yet a hotel 50 m away, and 5-6 more hotels on the western side of the river. Strolled around in the pleasant town and looked at the old wooden houses in advanced decay. Some are beautiful in their decay.
May 15th, Inebolu-Cide, 99 km, >2000 m climbing.
Got out at 6.40. Rode through beautiful dense forest with plenty of flowering rhododendrons. It partly looked like a rain-forest. There's a hotel and a pension in the village Ilyasbey 12-14 km west of Doganyurt. Saw dolphins several times that day - in total 15-20 animals, always followed by seagulls. Reached Cide at 16 after 99 km and god knows how many vertical meters - more than 2000, but it was as usual beautiful. An American cyclist writing on the internet calls the riding along this part of the coast "the worlds hardest", and hard it is. Paid 7 mio for room in hotel Ece. The hotel owner called me "my friend" all the time. Teenagers followed me several times, when I strolled around. There are several hotels in Cide, both along the coast and in the center of the small town.
May 16th & 17th, Cide-Bartin, 90 km, >500 m climbing.
Next day I realized that I should not have stayed in Cide, instead I should have continued the easy 28 km to Kurucasik, which is a much nicer place. Saw an egret. Reached Amasra and rode around for an hour in the partly good-looking old central part of the town. Found no suitable accommodation so continued to Bartin, which is much bigger. Paid 10 mio Lira in hotel Bajal for room with ample hot water and clean bed. Had the film with hill-billy no. 1 developed. The house from where the boy came, and possibly hill-billy no. I, could be seen on the other photo. Decided to stay in Bartin for two days, as it is a nice city with narrow streets, hundreds of small shops and stores and so on. Met English-Turkish couple (the male being Turkish, needless to say). I talked about Turkey with them. The Turk was nationalistic and defended the bad things (e.g. that there is no edible wildlife left) in Turkey in the most ridiculous way. He was socialist he proudly proclaimed. I asked if he could mention just one single socialist success story. Cuba!, he nearly shouted. He was partly right, if comparing with N-Korea. There was no point in continuing that discussion so I left. Ate a lot to bunker up for next day.
May 18th, Bartin-Eregli,119 km, >1000 m climbing.
Rode to Eregli. Hilly riding except first 40 km. There is a particularly big climb after Zonguldak. Passed several coalmines that day, incl. one run by "privates". Their coal seam at the road was only about 5-10 cm wide, low-grade. Worst of all the wall rock was unstable, only slightly harder than a dune. Glad I wasn't making my living this way. The coal from this region is shipped from Zonguldak. While sitting at this harbor I watched two female partly insane beggars with three incredibly dirty children. The smallest child, a 3-5 year old boy, wore trousers that were 30-40 cm too long, with the consequence that the trousers also acted as shoes. He actually walked on them. I wonder why these women hadn't been sterilized long ago. On the whole I didn't see many beggars in Turkey, though. Anyway, terrain was beautiful this day and it was hotter than for long. Was tired when reaching Eregli and got installed in the first hotel I passed - hotel Etas, 20 mio lira incl. breakfast and with hot water in the shower. Had conversation with two journalists in the evening, as usual in Turkey it turned into a discussion about religion. They were firm believers - brainwashed. I also asked them what they thought about the inaccessibility of Turkish women, they didn't like it. One of them came from the eastern part of Turkey, "the women there did not even look at me", he said. They didn't look at me either.
May 19th, Eregli-Akcakoca, 37 km.
Only managed to ride to Akcakoca, on flat road along the sea. I was tired of the unpleasant riding caused by the millions of truck drivers and decided not to ride the last stretch to Istanbul. Paid 10 mio Lira for good room in pension and packed down the bicycle in the back-pack. Strolled around in the town and was stared at as usual - even without the bicycle they stared at me. They don't see many western tourists dressed in what they regard as strange clothes, I guess. Saw seahorses in the harbor, first time I've seen them live. At the harbor there is a funny park with concrete deer, concrete lions, concrete storks and concrete fountains. The water in the fountains was dense with baby frogs.
May 20th, Akcakoca-Istanbul (bus)
Took comfortable Mercedes bus to Istanbul, 10 mio Lira for a nice ride, cheap. Arrived in huge bus station west of the Bosporus and started looking for a bus up along the Black Sea - I wanted to go to Ukraine. A Georgian suggested that I instead went down to the harbor, there would be a ferry to Ukraine next day. I did as told after having installed myself in a 20 US$ hotel in the bus station. Took the metro down to the center and walked to Atakoy on the other side of the Golden horn. The Georgian was right, I got an 85 US$ ticket to the UKR-ferry "Caledonia" departing next day. When buying the ticket I said that I would be most grateful if I didn't have to share the 4-berth cabin with alcoholics. Strolled around in Istanbul rest of the day. Saw well-stocked Shimano dealer in street with minimum 10 bicycle shops, most of them with lower-end gear though. Saw some of the big mosques too, also parrots a couple of times. Sent a letter to the commander in Kolay with photos of the boy, hill-billy no. 1, and the house he probably came from.
May 21-22 nd, Istanbul.
Rain until 12. Strolled around in the huge bus station from where buses go to literally every corner in Turkey, and neighboring countries too. Watched man being beaten up by the police, seemingly a common practice as only few stopped to watch. I would have liked seeing this happen to the two hill-billies too, incl. some high-voltage electrotherapy. Took metro and cab down to the UKR-ferry office and deposited my luggage in the office there. Then strolled around in the impressing Istanbul. There are huge districts where all kinds of equipment is sold, in one street it is cartridge ball bearings of one million different types, in another street it is electro tools, in a third plastic hoses, bicycles in a fourth etc. There was also a shop with geodetic equipment, GPS's, plumb bobs, teodolites, compasses etc. I was impressed. Istanbul was also nice because nobody stared or asked questions. For the first time in weeks I could walk around unnoticed. Boarded the ferry at 16 and immediately the Soviet atmosphere appeared. The English-speaking steward checking in passengers asked if I had the necessary hotel voucher and the compulsory Ukrainian health insurance. I didn't have any of them, and didn't want them either, I only had the visa. "They will ask for them and if you don't have them, you will with 99% likelihood be sent back", the steward said. Well, then I might as well not go to Ukraine at all, I said. He got less secure then, and said that he would see what he could do. I went to the cabin. Later it was announced that the ferry would be delayed one day due to storm on the Black Sea. That was not bad news, as I would get yet a day in Istanbul. The "Caledonia" is a comfortable ferry with nearly boiling water in the shower in the corridor, air in the cabin was good too. Not to speak of the excellent food that three times a day was served in the restaurant. I was really positively surprised. Next morning the steward said that he had been in contact with the customs authorities in Odessa in Ukraine, and that there was a chance that he could "disembark" me there. Sometimes during the day 41 young women from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova entered the ferry. They were prostitutes and were to be deported by the Turkish authorities. Deporting them probably meant more work for the Turkish goats, I'm afraid. On the ferry the 10 Kurds lived up markedly and the prostitutes made some extra money. The ferry left Istanbul in the afternoon. Nice sailing up through the Bosporus. I did not have to share my cabin with anybody else, and thus had a nice trip to Ukraine. Got into Ukraine without one single bureaucratic problem, or tax for that matter. But that is another story.
Trip 2 started August 2nd and ended September 5th. I started riding in Igdir in E-Turkey, from there I rode straight westwards. The itinerary (or places I slept) was as follows: Igdir (Ararat)-Kagizman-Horasan-Erzurum-Erzincan-Imranli-Sivas-Akdagmadeni-Yozgat-Kirikkale-Ankara-Sivrihisar-Bozhuyuk-Eskisehir-Bursa-Bandirma-Gelibolu-Uzunkopru-Edirne. That was 2078 km and took 20 days in the saddle - 104 km a day on average. There was less climbing than on trip 1, only few days involved more than 1000 m climbing.
August 2 nd, Istanbul.
Came back to Turkey with a Ukrainian boat from Skadovsk. The ticket cost 95 US$, all meals and a nice single cabin with sea-view included. Saw hundreds of huge luxurious villas along the shores of the Bosporus. Got through Turkish customs without any troubles or shit-taxes. The Ukrainian passengers on the other hand had to pay 10 US$ and stand in line. Took taxi to the other side of the Golden horn and got installed in hotel Erbazlar, 11 mio Lira. The other guests in this hotel were mostly prostitutes from the former Soviet Union and its satellites. They never closed their doors so I couldn't avoid seeing some of them in natura. The inaccessibility of the Turkish women has obviously created a huge market for prostitutes. I saw no erotic, let alone pornographic magazines in Turkey, but they sell pornographic CD´s. Strolled around in Istanbul which really is a fantastic city. Bought ticket (40mio TL, 24US$) for a bus next day to Igdir at the foot of Ararat.
August 3-4th, Istanbul-Igdir (bus).
Left Istanbul in the late afternoon. The Turk sitting next to me managed some German so we had a long conversation. He had two wives and claimed that 20% of Turkish men had that. I doubt that. He was dissatisfied with everything, wanted a revolution and wanted to kill the rich. Unemployment is 50%. He hated USA and "satan Bush" which he claimed prohibited Turkey from exploiting its huge reserves of oil, gas and metals. He claimed 75% of Turks share his opinions. What interested me more was that he said that Turkish women are not completely inaccessible, but they are not really good in bed, European women are much better he said. Unfortunately I have no experiences with the former. There was also an imam on the bus, and his wife and two children. Similar to the imam I had met in Ciftehan, this imam was a very gentle and sympathetic person. The bus stopped now and then to allow passengers to stretch legs, get coffee etc, but it is never pleasant sitting in a bus for about 20 hours. Two times the bus was boarded by soldiers checking passports and identity papers - they didn´t bother with me though. Rambo 3 was shown in the bus-TV, and another violent Turkish movie. Saw a vulture from the bus. After Horasan east of Erzurum the landscape became very beautiful, before Erzurum it was only beautiful. In Igdir I got installed in hotel Barbaros for 7 mio TL - cheap for a good room with shower, toilet and TV. Strolled around in Igdir. There is a heron colony in a tree right in the center. There wasn't many herons in the nests at that time, but in spring there are probably more than 50. Was also followed by stupid boys begging for money, I told them to find somebody else to bother but they gave up only when some old Turks and a soldier interfered. Across the street from hotel Barbaros there are a couple of tea-saloons in which about 200 male Turks are sitting all day long doing nothing. Could see the 5165 m Ararat to the SE. It is a beautiful mountain and I decided to ride up to it next day. Tried finding decent cereals in a lot of stores, but found only Nestle's extremely overpriced sweetened sugar bombs. There are many hotels in Igdir, one of them is named hotel Alkis, which in Swedish means hotel alcoholic. Most bicycles in Igdir are decorated with names of the Turkish football clubs - Fenerbache, Trabzon, Besiktas etc. From Igdir I could within hours have cycled into Iran, Armenia or Azerbaijan but as these countries require expensive visas I didn't bother.
August 5th, Ararat, 60 km, >500 m climbing.
Extended stay in hotel and rode south towards Ararat. The area is truly beautiful, with fresh-looking lava fields, several small volcanoes etc. Saw also 2 rollers and 4 vultures. Passed a dead stinking horse lying at the roadside, its belly had swollen enormously and looked as if it could explode any moment. Saw other extremely skinny horses and donkeys which starved and looked dying. When reaching a point west of the Ararat summit, some boys and young men came running out from their mud-houses and started throwing stones at me. I hastily continued for a km or so. The wind was coming from the south and clouds formed continuously around the glaciated Ararat summit. The scenery was breathtaking, a world-class tourist target with no tourists at all except me. The bad thing was that I had to return the same way I had come. When on my way back the scene repeated itself. At a point 4-5 of the morons had gathered at the roadside with stones in their hands. I shouted that if any of them threw a stone I would kill him. Being morons they didn't understand my English, only my facial expression. When passing them I looked back to see if any one of them were about to throw a stone, but when turning my head my cap blew off. One of the morons picked it up and started running back towards some mud-houses. The cap was a gift from a former colleague and I decided to try to get it back. Rode over a bumpy field with the morons running ahead of me. An old woman emerged from one of the mud-houses and said something after which the moron with the cap threw it on the ground. I picked it up and rode back to the road, with the morons five meters behind. Back on the road I stopped and repeated the threat - first one throwing a stone would meet allah prematurely. Got safely back to Igdir. Despite the beauty of Ararat it was a depressing experience. I would have rode further uphill that day, but because of the crackpots along the road I gave up that plan. According to a Turkish tourist handout the people living on Ararat are famous for their friendliness and hospitality. I didn't experience that. I rather think the Turkish army should instill a small-scale holocaust. In the afternoon I had a long conversation with a German-speaking Turk with a lot of opinions: The West is the cause of all Turkey's problems. The West defends the Kurds and wants the formation of an independent Kurdish state as a buffer between EU+Turkey, and the Arab world. The West is in the hands of the zionists. The Turkish army is the world's second strongest and has nuclear weapons. Turkey will soon take the Greek islands. All Turkish factories are actually owned by Western capitalists, and this is the cause of the high Turkish inflation. Turkey makes no money from tourism because the tourists buy their tickets in Europe. Hitler made Europe great. If all Chinese jumped up and down they could cause earthquakes everywhere on the planet. Turkish women don't do it orally. Every muslim hates the West. What happened Sept. 11th was well-deserved. And so he went on. He was quite friendly and funny, and spoke from his heart. Much of what he said I've also heard from Scandinavian socialists. He also told me that there are 55 hotels in Igdir, 40 of which are brothels populated by women from nearby Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. I was surprised hearing that also muslim women are among the prostitutes
August 6th, Igdir-Kagizman,110 km, >500 m climbing.
Left at 6 but after 7 km I had to return for my passport which I had forgotten in the hotel. Rode through beautiful areas with several volcanoes. Could see two huge cooling towers over in Armenia, wonder if they have nuclear power plants. Saw 50 (!) rollers, 15 quail-like birds, a hoopoe and some other unidentified birds. Plenty of military vehicles and facilities along the road, and only little traffic. I saw several military installations every day during my months in Turkey. That's good - it would be very difficult, if not impossible to cycle in Turkey if the army was not there to upheld law and order. Followed the Aras river most of the day and reached Kagizman. As usual staring men everywhere, and very few women. Paid 6 mio Lira for room in hotel Polat. There are 27000 inhabitants in Kagizman but I only saw 2 hotels, usually a town that size has several hotels.
August 7th, Kagizman-Horasan,109 km, >500 m climbing.
Left at 5.30 to avoid the worst afternoon heat. Continued along the Aras river. Again the scenery was beautiful, with 2500 m high mountains, and sometimes with caves reminding me about Cappadokia. Two times Turks in remote places jumped up and ran after me for a few meters while shouting something, but I hastily continued. I don't know what they had in mind but they had aggressive facial expressions. Had tea and cold water at military check-point. The sympathetic English-speaking officer warned me a couple of times, while making the cut-throat sign, from ever leaving the asphalt. He no doubt knew what he was talking about. I offered to buy his gun but he wouldn't sell it. When in this part of Turkey I often stopped when seeing soldiers along the road, not only were they friendly and gave me tea or water, they also gave me a sense of security. Saw that day 10 rollers, an eagle, maybe a black stork, about 50 bee eater-like birds, but less colorful, and hundred's of rose starlings. Also picked up a giant green caterpillar, the biggest I've ever seen. Reached Horasan with its four hotels around the central square. Paid 6 mio for very basic room in hotel Karaca. There was a flee in the bed, only time I saw that animal in Turkey. Was in a restaurant addressed by two Russian-speaking Turks. They wondered why I could go to Turkey when they couldn't go to Denmark.
August 8th, Horasan-Erzurum, 82 km, <500 m climbing.
For the third day I rode along the Aras river, and as usual through beautiful scenery. Passed good-looking 800 year old bridge. Saw vulture, rollers, some hoopoes, and turtles and egrets in a creek and a pond shortly after Pasinler. Didn't see any hotels in Koprukoy but several in Iskenler. Met German couple on bicycles. They had heard about a German backpacker that had been taken hostage in a remote area, but had escaped. They had a quite telling name for the Turkish brothels - Natasha-hotels. That day I passed a road sign with an add for hotel "Oral", wonder what that means in Turkish. Reached Erzurum in the afternoon and paid 5 mio Lira for good room with TV in hotel Bayburt. Erzurum is a big and nice city, and only few people stares. Strolled around. I always liked strolling in the bigger Turkish cities, they are full of life, there are small shops, stores, restaurants everywhere.
August 9-11th, Erzurum-Erzincan, 188 km, >500 m climbing.
Continued riding in the more or less wide valleys which the E80 and E88 roads follow. 10-12 km long climb after Askale. Met two Germans on bicycles on their way to Iran, they had experienced stone throwing but were more afraid of bears and wolves(!?). They had initially attempted the road along the Black Sea but found it too hard. Saw as the other days vultures, rollers and hoopoes, also some egrets and 4 big predatory birds on a power line. After noon weather got less pleasant - heavy head wind and showers. When sheltering in a shed a hawk took a sparrow 3 meters from my feet. The victim hit the ground as a last escape but in vain. It all happened incredibly fast. Reached Erzincan at 18 and got installed in hotel Hanedan, 10 mio Lira for excellent single with toilet, shower and TV. Saw in the evening a Turkish movie from the seventies. It depicted laughing christians/Europeans torturing muslims in medieval times. The heroic muslims, using karate, of course fought back and eventually won, rather ridiculous. Had diarrhoea next two days and had no energy for riding. No idea about what had caused it.
August 12th, Erzincan-Imranli,139 km, 1500 m climbing.
Still diarrhoea in the morning but felt better and left at 8. My intention was to ride only as far as Refahiye with 2500 inhabitants, but I continued because about 500 male Turks sat along the street and stared. I have never understood why a bicyclist is so interesting to them. Anyway, there are at least two hotels in Refahiye. Saw two times a little marmot-like mammal, and some predatory birds. Rode over two passes that day, first 2160 m between Erzincan and Refahiye, later 2190 m 20 km before Imranli. The latter pass was as high as I got in Turkey. It was about 1500 m climbing that day, long tiresome climbs. In Imranli I got a good and very clean single room in hotel Isleyen, 5 mio Lira (3U$) with toilet and shower. About the best price/quality ratio I had in Turkey. Vomited after shower despite I hadn't eaten anything the whole day, also diarrhoea. Found a pharmacy (there are millions of them in Turkey) and got some medicine costing 12 mio Lira. Ate lightly in the hotels restaurants. Also ate a lot of yogurt.
August 13 -17th, Imranli-Sivas, 107 km, >500 m climbing.
Diarrhoea in the morning but decided to continue as there was no TV in the room - if I am to be sick and stay in bed I need a TV. Besides, the road to Sivas is mostly downhill. Saw black stork in beautiful lake. Also heard the marmot-like mammal a couple of times. Furthermore several predatory birds, 2-3 vultures, rollers, and a hoopoe. First town was Zara that looks big enough to have several hotels. Next town was Hafik where I had some kind of vegetable soup and Ayran - a kind of watery yogurt. Despite 7000 inhabitants I didn't notice any hotels, not that I looked hard for them. The longer westwards I came in Turkey, the more big cars with German, Dutch, French etc number plates I saw. They were all full of Turks on their way back to Europe. The 1300 m pass east of Sivas is 1450 m according to the road sign. 10 km from Sivas I got water from a police man at a checkpoint. When riding into Sivas I was exhausted and felt dehydrated. There are plenty of hotels in Sivas. When passing hotel Kosk a piccolo came out and urged me to come inside. I paid 30 mio Lira for two days in an excellent single on the top floor. It was relatively expensive but I needed to recuperate for a couple of days. Weighed myself two times on the street (people sitting on the streets with weight scales are common in Turkey). Both showed 71 kg, normally I weigh more than 80 kg. Next day the diarrhoea continued. In the early afternoon the receptionist called and asked when I was going to check out. Due to a misunderstanding somewhere, it turned out that the 30 mio Lira I had already paid was for one day only. After a friendly discussion with the manager I agreed to pay yet 5 mio Lira for the coming night. Still sick next morning but moved to less expensive hotel Fatih costing 15 mio Lira for good single with everything. Weighed myself - 69 kg. I hadn't been that skinny since I was 15, my skin also folded in an unusual way. Went to a doctor who called a specialist doctor who advised me on the kind of medication I needed to treat the diarrhoea. The consultation was free of charge and there was no bureaucratic shit. Bought the medicaments which started to work next day. Saw a couple of bicycle shops with 1-2 MTB's with 8-speed LX-XT components. They were dusty and had probably been in the shops for quite a while.
August 18th, Sivas-Akdagmadeni,125 km, >500 m climbing.
The diarrhoea which had lasted a week was almost over and I felt much better. I was also tired of strolling around in Sivas - despite it is a nice city. The bicycle had been stored in a room adjacent to the reception, and clearly somebody from the staff had pilfered with the shifting pods - shifting was bad and needed adjusting. 20 km west of Sivas I passed Kalin - a thermal spring resort with several hotels. Regrettably I didn't knew about this place, else I would have recuperated there for a couple of days, instead of in Sivas. Didn't see any hotels when riding through Yildizeli, but there almost certainly is one. Rode over a 1520 m pass that is not on the map. Reached Akdagmadeni at 17 and felt exhausted. Got good single in hotel Mutlu, it cost 10 mio Lira and was clean. No TV, though. Had funny discussion with a German-speaking Turk living in Holland. He didn't like Ataturk - only the army likes Ataturk, he claimed. To me it seems Ataturk was a great leader, without him Turkey would probably just be another muslim disaster story. Ataturk also replaced Arab letters with Latin letters - making it easier for bicyclists to read e.g. Turkish road signs. I asked the Dutch Turk if he could mention just one islamic success story. He couldn't. What is islam then good for? I asked him. He replied that islam was misunderstood and that its leaders were bad people, if people just followed the word of islam everything would be good and so on. I've heard socialists and nazists defend their shit-ideologies the same way. I told him it is better when religions and ideologies are kept at arms length from power, and that it would be even better if people stopped believing in mumbo jumbo. The good thing with the big Turkish army is that it is strictly secularist and sees to that the islamic parties are kept from power. He disagreed.
August 19 - 20th, Akdagmadeni-Yozgat, 100 km, >500 m climbing.
Left Akdagmadeni at 7.15. Hilly riding as the other days, but no big climbs. Saw that day about 100 hawks on telephone lines along the road, some lizards too. Had a flat for the first time in many weeks. Sorgun 22 km E of Yozgat has 54000 inhabitants despite being marked on the maps as a town only. (Igdir with 40000 inhabitants is marked as a city). Anyway, there are plenty of hotels in Sorgun. Reached Yozgat at 14.30 after having endured some minor showers. Last time I was in Yozgat I stayed in a terrible hotel, but now I got installed in nice hotel Hitit on the central square. It cost 13 mio Lira for a single with everything. Next morning rainy and chilly so extended stay. Strolled around, was in the big Yimpas supermarket and ate there. Watched in the evening Turkish movie about evil christian crusaders torturing muslims while smiling and laughing. The muslims put up heroic resistance despite being outnumbered 1 to 10, and in the end they naturally won. As in the other movies of that kind the muslims fought with a combination of karate and boxing, and the christians were hopeless soldiers.
August 21st, Yozgat-Kirikkale,142 km, 500 m climbing.
Downhill first 20 km and for a change no head wind. Passed Yerkoy, a big town with 32000 inhabitants and no doubt several hotels. Saw stork, about 20 rollers and a big dead turtle that had been run over. Along the road I passed at least 50 melon sellers. A big tasty water ore honey melon costs about 1 mio Lira. Reached Kirikkale with 206000 inhabitants and tens of hotels. Got into hotel Barin - 10 mio Lira for good single, but only one TV-channel and no remote control, but for 6 US$ the room was a bargain. Ate again in the local Yimpas supermarket.
August 22-24th, Kirikkale-Ankara, 85 km, >500 m climbing.
Left early. One 20 km long climb to Elmadag, also very heavy traffic and polluted air. Not long after Elmadag the first suburbs appeared. Ankara is a big capital with 6 mio inhabitants. Rode into center and had trouble finding an inexpensive hotel. Found after a couple of hours hotel Hayal, a good single there, with toilet and shower, but no TV, cost 15 mio Lira. Strolled around in Ankara, bought plenty of American and English newspapers, was in 2-3 McDonalds. Took the modern and clean subway out to the Ataturk mausoleum - a quite impressive place with a big temple-like building where Ataturk is worshiped. Ataturk had a Lincoln and a Cadillac. There are paintings of Ataturk receiving foreign heads of state. King Edward visited in 1936 and is depicted looking down as if he felt subordinated to Ataturk. Ataturk on the other hand is as always depicted with burning staring blue eyes. Ankara is a very modern capitol, and seemingly quite affluent. Most people there dress western-style - not least the extremely good-looking Turkish women. They are more beautiful than anywhere else I've been. In the evening I was addressed by a young Turkish woman trying to hand me a pamphlet called "antikapitalist". I asked her what was bad about capitalists, "they kill" she said. Had her English been better it could have been an interesting discussion. Except for six Japanese women at the Ataturk mausoleum, I didnt see any tourists in Ankara. Strange, as it is such an interesting capital. I could easily have spent a week there. Western tourists in Turkey are largely concentrated along the SW-coast, in certain parts of Cappadokia and in Istanbul. Elsewhere I rarely saw any tourists.
August 25th, Ankara-Sivrihisar, 143 km, >500 m climbing.
Got lost in the morning and ended in an area with embassies, also saw the Iraqi embassy with its two big pictures of smiling Saddam. Later rode through affluent suburbs where people were cycling and jogging etc. First time I saw that in Turkey. The road to Sivrihisar is an excellent motor way, nobody bothered with me riding on it. The police even said hello a couple of times. Why aren't we allowed to cycle on the motor ways in Europe? There are plenty of space on the road shoulders. Bought refreshments on the Shell petrol station in Polatli. 3 mio Lira the moron at the desk said. Knowing he was trying to cheat me I asked him to write it down. He changed his mind and I paid the 1.7 mio Lira. I asked why he tried cheating me, but he claimed his calculator wasn't working. Around that time I had read that the Malaysian tourist minister wanted to execute taxi drivers that cheat tourists. Really a good idea as it no doubt works. Turkey should immediately turn this fine idea into law, unfortunately Turkey recently abandoned capital punishment - forced by naive European politicians. In Sivrihisar with 10000 inhabitants there is only one hotel, a very basic single costs 6 mio Lira. The shower with cold water is in the corridor. The old part of Sivrihisar has many abandoned houses and is quite picturesque, the newer part less so and mostly inhabited by soldiers. It is a somewhat atypical town with just a couple of restaurants, usually a Turkish town this size has at least 10 restaurants. Perhaps the many soldiers only eat in cantinas?
August 26th, Sivrihisar-Eskisehir, 97 km, <500 m climbing.
Left at 7. Saw roller, dead hare and 3 eagles. Flat road all the way to Eskisehir. On the road sign I saw that the number of inhabitants in Eskisehir had been changed from 309400 to 483000! Passed a huge industrial area. Got installed in hotel Billur costing 10 mio Lira. The receptionist was female!, one of 2-3 I saw in the about 50 hotels I stayed in in Turkey. Strolled as usual around in the nice central part of the town, ate, watched Turkish women etc. Fighter planes constantly flew over the city.
August 27th, Eskisehir-Bozhuyuk, 45 km, <500 m climbing.
Was tired in the morning so didn't ride more than a few hours, only got as far as Bozhuyuk. Saw sparrow being either hit by truck or just paralyzed by its turbulence. The sparrow wasn't dead so I placed it off the road. Hardly any road shoulder along the road so riding was somewhat unpleasant. Stayed in hotel Nadir, one of about 8 hotels I saw in Bozhuyuk. 10 mio Lira for ok-room, no TV though. There are two big open air markets selling clothes and all kind of foods, as usual inexpensive.
August 28-29th, Bozhuyuk-Bursa, 103 km, 500 m climbing.
Left at 8. After 10 km it was downhill through beautiful forest. Saw a weasel crossing the road. Passed Inegol and had lunch there. Pleasant town, many hotels. Was given a cigarette and tea at petrol station, friendly people. They wondered about the hole in my saddle, I told them the saddle doubled as toilet but they were sceptical. Reached Bursa in the late afternoon. Bursa has 1 mio inhabitants, a huge bazaar, big mosques, a McDonalds, western newspapers and plenty of hotels. It is also beautifully situated with 2500 m high mountains right to the south. I immediately liked it. When walking around with the bicycle I was addressed by a Swiss man. While talking to him a good-looking Turkish woman came over. After 5 minutes she gave me her e-mail address. I was stunned, could hardly believe I was in Turkey. Stayed in old charming hotel Lal costing 12 mio Lira. The attractive woman in charge of that hotel wore tight-fitting jeans and walked ahead of me up the staircase. The room turned out to be rather basic and the bed squeeked. Moved to hotel Paris next day, costing the same as Lal but the single-room was incl. everything. BBC and CNN were among the TV-channels, and I was news-starved. Could easily have stayed longer in Bursa.
August 30th - September 1st, Bursa-Bandirma,105 km, <500 m climbing.
Left at ten because I had watched a Steven Seagal movie and BBC during the night. Terrible traffic between Bursa and Karacabey. Rode down to a village on the shore of the Ulubat lake. After modern Bursa this village felt like third world - everybody stared. There were hundreds of frogs on the shore, and different types of herons - egrets and the common heron. Saw also several storks nests but the storks had left. When later crossing the Ulubat river I saw plenty of herons and storks. Should have had a binocular as there were other birds I couldn't identify from the bridge. Had tea and yogurt in Karacabey and was invited in for tea in a shop. Friendly people. Plenty of hotels in that town. A few minutes to the west of Karacabey I crossed a small river. At the bridge process water from a tomato ketchup (?) factory is emptied into the river where about 20 big turtles make a living from the tomato residue from the factory. Saw later two turtles about to mate - the male loudly rammed the female. Unfortunately I had disturbed them with the consequence that they split. Showers in the afternoon. Bandirma is at the Marmara Sea and has 90000 inhabitants and minimum 15 hotels. Stayed in hotel Cetin for 10 mio incl. everything and breakfast. Went down to the harbor from where there are ferries to Istanbul on the other side of the Marmara sea. Rain now and then next two days so extended stay in the nice hotel, I was also tired and had little energy for cycling. Saw a movie about a shark slaughtering young Americans by the number, they were so stupid that they actually deserved it. Also saw a (Turkish?) movie about muslims massacring western soldiers in a desert environment. I guess it was made after the Gulf-war.
September 2nd, Bandirma-Gelibolu, 130 km, <500 m climbing.
Left at 8. Passed several hotels and motels along the road. Good view over the Marmara Sea and its islands, Europe could also be seen much of that day. Saw several turtles in ponds that day. A friendly hotel owner gave me tea in Gureci. Sailed over the Dardanelles to Gelibolu from idyllic Cardak. The trip cost 1 mio Lira - 0.6 US$, really cheap! Gelibolu is a nice place with a picturesque harbor. Got a single in hotel Dilmac (one of 6-7 hotels) costing 10 mio Lira. The clean room was on fifth floor, had toilet, shower with hot water, TV, and a balcony with beautiful view over the town and over to Asia. Just about the best accommodation I had in Turkey. In the hotel also an English couple had installed themselves. They had an Australian Greenspeed tandem trike with 5 S&S-couplers. First time I've seen such a machine, quite impressive. They had rode from Beijing, about 9000 km. Gelibolu is Turkish for Gallipoli. It was here that Turkish forces assisted by Germans and led by Ataturk resisted mainly Australian forces. The Turks lost ten times a many soldiers (250,000) as the Australians but the battle is hailed as a giant victory anyway.
September 3rd, Gelibolu-Uzunkopru, 118 km, 500 m climbing.
Left at 8. Saw little owl on the outskirts of Gelibolu. Met 3 Australians on Koga Miyatas. They had started in Perth in Scotland and was on their way back to Perth in Australia. Saw 10 storks and herons, and about 500 flattened frogs on the road. A depressive sight, not least because it really shouldn't be a problem for drivers to avoid running them over. I also wonder about the many flattened hedgehogs on the roads - if a driver can't see or avoid a hedgehog, he shouldn't have a drivers license at all. There is no excuse for killing all these animals. Strolled around in Kesan. Some young women in a shop asked "where are you?" "I am here", I replied. Plenty of hotels in Kesan, but continued to Uzunkopru. Paid 10 mio Lira for ok single there, but no TV.
September 4th, Uzunkopru-Edirne, 70 km, <500 m climbing.
Left at 8. Passed plenty of hotels in Havsa. Saw little snake and a roller. In Edirne most of the hotels are relatively expensive - 20-30US$, but after a while I found a reasonably priced single-room in hotel Kent. TV, shower and toilet for 10 mio Lira. Strolled around, big mosques, old good-looking houses and so on, the city is a former capital. In the evening a German woman on bicycle arrived in the hotel. She came from Bulgaria and had at that time no Turkish money. A young Turk offered to pay for her room but I lent her the money instead. She was on her way to Iran and Pakistan - quite an undertaking for a single woman on a heavily loaded bike.
September 5th, Edirne-Bulgarian border, 20 km, <500 m climbing.
Left early after having changed the rest of my Turkish Lira. No shit at the Turkish side of the border, but on the Bulgarian side there are loads of socialist-style bureaucratic shit - they told me that if I didn't have a certain stamp on a piece of paper when leaving Bulgaria, I would face a fine between 200 and 2000 US$! The Bulgarian hotels also double-charges westerners. What a shit-country. Had I known that, I had gone through Greece instead.
As usual I rode my dedicated touring bicycle from Thorn in Bridgwater in England. What is important in Turkey is to have adequate gearing. My chainset is 48-36-26, the cassette nine-speed and 11-34. This coupled with 26 inch wheels hardly sufficed - the Turkish roads are steeper than anywhere else I've cycled, at times I could barely turn the pedals. A smaller chainset had been better. I had 1.9 inch tires, a rough one rear and a smooth in front. I suffered only 2-3 flats in Turkey. I had basic spares, and the special tools needed. As usual I also had a kerosene-filled Sigg bottle in which I cleaned the two chains I switch between (it extends life of whole transmission). Having bicycle torque couplers on my frame I had no problems transporting the bicycle to and from Turkey, or on board buses inside Turkey. The Turks ride two kinds of bicycles: a good-looking one-speed roadster called Bisan (it has two top tubes), and a 21-speed mountain bike, the rear derailleur of which sometimes is called Shemeno, Quick, Newage, Shine, Litang or other names I've never heard of. Outside Istanbul I rarely saw bicycle shops with high-end gear, but in Istanbul such shops occur. There are plenty people on bicycles in the cities but I saw nobody out on the roads in the countryside, except the 100 riders in the competition. I got the impression that bicycling is rarely done for fun, poor people ride bicycles, rich ones have a car.
That is a serious issue in Turkey - as I experienced on May 11th. I thought a lot about that event, and should something similar happen again I'll be better prepared. The other problem in Turkey is the numerous ruthless truck drivers, they are actually more dangerous than the hill-billies as there are more of them. Many of them seem to think that bicyclists simply shouldn't be on the road, and that they must definitely not in any way slow down the trucks. The event with the hill-billies wouldn't stop me from riding in Turkey again, but the truck drivers certainly will affect where I would ride. I think the Turkish towns and cities are very safe, the dangers are rather on the roads and in the countryside. When in shops I noticed the guards, and the staff is on the look-out all the time - they probably have their reasons, so I never left my valuables out of sight. On the other hand I don't think bicycle theft is a big issue in Turkey. I never told strangers where I was heading next, instead I told a lie. From a safety point of view it is of course better riding with others, not alone as I did.
Food and water
One of the good things about riding in Turkey is that food is readily available everywhere, and cheap too. Fresh and cold water for drinking is also readily available from numerous taps along the roads. As is in the agricultural areas fresh fruits and vegetables. I suffered from diarrhoea only one time during my ten weeks in Turkey, suggesting that food and water hygiene is mostly adequate. Musli is not available everywhere, but kebab and doner definitely is. Kebabistan.
They are of either squat or European style, and sometimes stinking. The squat type toilet is the more hygienic as one doesn't have to touch anything. I had my own toilet paper.
Not many Turks are able or willing to communicate in any European language, not even in the bigger cities - despite what the Turkish tourist handouts say. At best they manage some English and German. Many Turks have been working or living in Germany, so often German is more useful than English.
Except in one single village I always found accommodation within a quarter of an hour, and it was never expensive, from 5 to 35 mio Lira (3 to 20 US$). A few of the cheap hotels or pensions I stayed in were shitty, but still the price/quality ratio was good. When paying more than 10 mio Lira (6US$) I got good single rooms everywhere. Breakfast was mostly not included, and when it was, not adequate for my needs. I brought my own cereals and milk. When I rode in Ukraine in 2001 it was often a problem getting my bicycle into my room. That was never a problem in Turkey, where the admirable receptionists had no problem understanding that my bicycle of course not could stay on the street or anywhere out of my sight. Neither did I in Turkey have any problems with receptionists trying to overcharge me for being Westerner. That is a serious problem in Ukraine (be warned! Ukrainian receptionists are the scum of the Earth!). Sometimes in other countries the receptionists have found me suspicious - coming on a bicycle and dressed lightly, but that didn't bother the Turkish receptionists. Turkish pensions are not pensions sensu stricto as meals are mostly not available. Villages rarely have hotels but in towns with more than 2-3000 inhabitants there will usually be at least one hotel, a city like e.g. Sivas has at least 20 hotels, probably many more. On the whole the Turkish hotels and receptionists are really good.
There are cash dispensers and currency exchange offices everywhere. US$ may sometimes be used in lieu of Turkish Lira. I spent about 20 US$/day. Ataturk is of course on all notes. I always asked the prices specifically for everything ordered in restaurants. It is also practical to pay immediately after ordering, then there will be no strange additions. In about one in four transactions they tried cheating me, no great amounts but it is still irritating.
I had good weather just about every day, and temperature was ok for riding. It was hot but rarely too hot. I rode in sandals, shorts and T-shirt. In the inland I froze a couple of times in the evenings. I had some warm clothes, but not much as weight had to be kept down - I had hilly riding almost every day. I wouldn't like doing the coastal parts of trip 1 in July-August - it's probably too hot by then.
Varying quality. Road shoulders on bigger roads are sometimes narrow and bumpy, or even absent, at other times it is smooth sailing. Sometimes far too much heavy traffic on the larger roads. On smaller roads there are no problems, though. Road-signs sometimes difficult to interpret as they have been shot at. Along the roads, even the most scenic parts, there are loads of garbage. I've never seen so much garbage before, not even in Tenerife. Not that there are no garbage bins, there are plenty actually, people just don't use them, had Ataturk been alive he would have done something about it. I particularly noticed the huge bags filled with spent diapers - a consequence of the high Turkish birthrate. At the city limits there is mostly a road sign with the name of the city, its altitude and the number of its inhabitants. The latter number has often been adjusted, upwards of course. The Turkish population increased from 14 mio in 1927 to 70 mio now, and each year 1.1 mio new Turks are born. There are numerous stinking dead dogs along the roads, passed 5-10 each day.
The Turks are smart enough so as not to require visas from Westerners. There were no shit-bureaucracy or strange taxes at the borders, everything went smoothly. The border guards are friendly and sympathetic - as every other civil servant I met in Turkey.
Don't know much about it as I only took a bus on two occasions. It was cheap. I asked about bicycles but got a negative reply. Whether they don't take bicycles on board buses in general, I don't know. The buses in Turkey are of good standard, fast, and go to nearly every corner of the country. I saw that when in the huge bus station (Otogar) in Istanbul. From Istanbul to e.g. Igdir in the other end of Turkey there are minimum 5 buses a day.
There are plenty of interesting birds, insects, amphibians etc. in Turkey. Whenever there is water, there is plenty to look at - at least for a Scandinavian like me. I never saw any edible wildlife in Turkey, as in Ukraine everything edible has been shot long ago.
One of the troubles I had in Turkey was getting adequate maps. I never found them during trip 1, despite searching everywhere. Maybe I should have tried getting the maps in Denmark instead. The lack of adequate maps affected my riding negatively - forcing me to ride on the bigger roads mostly, and then in the company of millions of f****** honking trucks. I was also deprived from calculating the vertical meters I rode. Good maps are available however: they can be obtained from Kartographischer Verlag, R. Ryborsch, P. O. Box 2105, 63170, Obertshausen bei Frankfurt am Main, Germany. I also saw these maps in central Ankara, in a bookshop with a large selection of foreign literature.
There is probably something printed about the subject, though I never read it prior to going. Along the way I read the few internet-texts there are about cycling in Turkey.
P. Wulff, E-mail: email@example.com