Istanbul is within sight as I saw the first road sign yesterday saying only 770 kilometers. And so far cycling through Turkey has been delightful! It’s the last ‘Silk Route country’ for me to cycle through and I enjoy it as much as I can.
Although the ‘welcome committee’ in Turkey was quite hostile, the more I cycle to the west the more relaxed the kids and dogs seem to be. The route brings me through remote parts of the country with beautiful views and small villages. Every village has a mosque and where ever there is a mosque there is a usually a place to drink tea! My Turkish is very limited but it happens quite often that I have a conversation about where I’m from and where I’m going. The older men usually understand why I’m cycling; the younger men usually ask why I’m not traveling by car… Having a cup of tea with Hannah or John, somewhere is a small village makes me perfectly happy! An old man brings us an apple and hazelnuts adding to that happy feeling. Just being there and enjoying the moment!
I can see that everyone in the group is enjoying our last few kilometers more intense. Partly because Istanbul is within reach, partly because it’s all mountains we cycle through. With days of up to 2.000 meters of climbing at the end of a four month journey, I can feel the tiredness in my legs. But at the same time I have so much energy that I can’t sit still. I’m helping Mun Yew with organizing birthdays: balloons and Bombay toast for John, wine and Turkish cookies for Hannah, beer for Dudley. Not sure if the beer helps me up the mountains, but it seems to have a positive effect for Dudley. Apparently he didn’t mind taking a bath with me on the top of a hill on a hot day… And although temperatures were in the high twenties, it was clearly getting autumn. Leafs were falling down the trees and the smell when cycling through the forest is typical for the time of the year. Fog was hanging between the trees as in a Robin Hood movie. In the evening the grass was wet and clothing and sleeping bags became clammy. But the water in the Black Sea was still warm and after the deserts in Iran and Turkmenistan, a swim was a real treatment!
Along the way we passed the towns of Amasya, Safranbolu and Şile. Great places for a good meal, a glass of wine, a walk through narrow alleys, a cup of tea or a visit to an old castle. One of the most interesting archeological sites I visited was the ancient city of Ani. It’s one of the most important Silk Road cities of the Middle Ages and there are still traces of the Silk Road visible! The photo on the left shows the ancient road into the town coming from Armenia. Camel caravans have been walking over this road centuries ago! Despite several earthquakes, a few churches and city walls have survived more or less; thousands of stones give an impression of how big this city must have been.
Traveling this ancient road not only shows me the past, it also shows me the wonderful people still living along this road. And it’s great to share this experience with my fellow riders. Istanbul is getting closer and I know already that it would be difficult to say goodbye to fellow riders and traveling. But there are still a few hundred kilometers to cycle over these small back roads in Turkey!