The Asian side of Turkey awaited us directly with a huge climb uphill to the ruins of an old castle that provided a wonderful view on the Bosphorus. Luckily two young sportive guys helped us pushing our bikes the two steep kilometers on the ascending cobbled path since our legs were not in their best shape due to the two week break.
We continued our way through the hilly back-country until we finally rolled down two our first black sea beach where we wanted to take a small road along the coast to reach our destination for this day. Unfortunately a military zone was lying behind us and the last 5km of this day. Entry was strictly forbidden and even Gui’s charming powers of persuasion couldn’t make them change their mind. But at least it resulted in some fresh water and sesame pretzels for free 🙂 Since we couldn’t cross the area it meant for us that we had to go back the last 10km we just rolled down to make a big detour around the forbidden zone. I guess you can imagine our frustration.
Our detour lead us deep into the nearly uninhabited back-country and when the sun was sinking we were relieved to reach a little village. As every village in Turkey, no matter how small, it had a nice mosque with a high minaret. Close by there were two old men sitting on a terrace idly steering in their ҫay. When we asked if they knew a place for our “ҫadir” they were livening up and invited us to stay in the garden. 15 Minutes later we found ourselves on the family table of the local muezzin, well wrapped up in hand-knitted jackets and the mother served us one homemade delicacy after the other one. And when Gui then started to teach the children how to juggle they were overjoyed to host such rare and peculiar guests. What a great first (out of many) warm welcome in this hospitable country!
In the next days our way continued to lead us through the mountainous back-country and although it is physically and mentally exhausting to climb one pass after the other one just to roll down again on the other side, the landscape and rich vegetation full of shady pine forests, blooming meadows and hazelnut and strawberry field is really rewarding.
From time to time we passed through small villages where groups of old, well-dressed men with weather beaten faces are sitting at the village square greeting and waving to us to invite us for ҫay. They always give us friendly, nearly toothless smiles while the major is curiously asking questions whose meaning we can only guess and we try our best to answer them with hands and feet. In those situations our little point-it picture dictionary has already proven itself to be worth a mint.
The Turkish people, no matter if young or old, are really friendly and open to foreigners. Once we stopped late at a mountain hut alike house on the top of a pass and although it was actually a (completely empty) restaurant we shared dinner together while petting their little goat that obviously fancied itself as a dog and therefor followed its master everywhere, including the house 🙂 And even in bigger towns the first guy that we ask for the way to a hotel doesn’t hesitate a second to act as our guide showing us the way through the ally labyrinth to the only hotel.
On our fifth day after Istanbul we had our first flat tire – as chance would have it – in the middle of a small hamlet. While Gui was repairing the tube all the children of the surrounding houses came running to watch these two aliens with their weird bikes. They were really shy at the beginning but curiosity won and they started to push each other forward to try out the few English phrases they knew. In the end they even gained enough confidence to share some cookies with us before we continued our way.
This night we stopped in a nearly untouched nature reserve along a sullen river where a young and generous Turk who had grown up in Hamburg had built a little café & pick-nick place and he offered us to stay in his new built tree house! The one night we had planned to stay turned into three because it was raining the next days without cease and we were happy to have a roof over our heads while watching the falling rain and listening to the never ending frog concert.
When the weather finally got better we continued to Akҫakoca and since it was the night before my birthday we afforded a 4-star hotel with pool, Hamam and sauna! Thanks a lot to our generous sponsors 😉 Halil, the friendly and nearly over-endeavored sales manager of the hotel even invited us for dinner (and breakfast) in honor of this occasion, so that I’m inclined to forgive him the embarrassing situation when he started to sing happy birthday for me in the elevator 🙂
We started the next day, my 30th birthday, with a late and sumptuous breakfast accompanied by the sound of the sea, an extended walk on the long, sandy beach, a relaxing visit to the sauna and completed this perfect day with a delicious fish dinner on nice terrace topped off with ҫay and cheese cake – even with a candle and sparkler!