Sunday, 3 November 2013

Western Turkey

Bullet points and route description:
-  We road west for 8 days from Antalya to Fethiye, Datca, Bodrum and Kusadasi.
-  From Kusadasi we visited Ephesus, and then bused and ferried on a side trip to Istanbul.
-  We returned to our bikes at Kusadasi and rode to Cesme to catch the ferry to Athens, finishing 2500km of riding in Turkey!

Photos and some choice details:
Leaving Antalya we chose a route heading through the hills, looking for relaxed rural Turkey again after the somewhat touristy coast! We found it, in narrow winding lanes through the forested hills, in classic wee villages, and in amazing hospitality yet again! Being put up in the village cafeteria was a highlight, and we spent that evening celebrating the second night of Bayram Kurban, their four-day holiday. 

Riding the windy hill roads from Cameli to Fethiye

About to tuck into the third course, pomegranates, apples, peanuts and seeds. With a wonderful extended family gathered in Kizilcadag for Bayram

After three days through the hills we popped out on the coast again, straight into bling marina towns and wide roads cutting, instead of winding, through the hilly country. After some adjustment, we again found peaceful places to ride on the Datca Peninsula. The forested hills, calm water and idyllic inlets and islands reminded us a bit of the Marlborough Sounds.

Peaceful late afternoon at our campsite, Datca Peninsula

Beautiful boats in bling town Bodrum

We made our way north up the Aegean coast to Kusadasi, including in our journey a fun ferry ride across one great inlet. In Kusadasi we were lucky enough to stay with a WarmShowers (couch surfing equivalent for cycle tourers) host called Ege Ertas, a really top-class guy and brilliant host. We shared wonderful meals, conversations and laughs. He is studying to be a tour guide and is an enthusiastic fountain of knowledge about his country, as well as being a critical thinker about its future. It was great to get an insight into student Turkey.

Visiting the ancient city of Ephesus was really special. Inhabited since about 1000BC, for a while the Roman capital of Asia Minor, it was abandoned in around 600AD because its harbor became progressively more silted up, thus cutting off the city’s transport and trade means. It now stands 10km from the sea. It is also amazing to imagine the Apostle Paul preaching in the city, and the early church that grew up there through some pretty hard times.  We stayed right up until closing time, and as the cruise ship crowds gradually cleared off for their dinners, we had the place to ourselves, and wandering through the quiet, spacious streets was wonderfully atmospheric!

In the Grand Theatre, Ephesus. Trying out the great accoustics!!

Wandering the great streets in the early evening quietness
Leaving our bicycles and luggage at Ege’s place, we made the pilgrimage by bus and ferry to the great city of Istanbul. For us this has always been a special destination in our journey. Since Shanghai we’ve been on the road to Istanbul, with plans beyond that a lot more fluid. So it was very special for us to arrive here, coming in by ferry to the mouth of the Bosphorus, with the Aya Sophia and Blue Mosque forming our skyline.

For five wonderful days we wandered the narrow cobbled streets of the old city, gazed up in wonder at the high domes of the mosques and churches, rode the trams, buses and Bosphorus ferries, and sat by the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn with the fishermen, food sellers and the coursing bustle of city life moving all around us, listening to the call of the gulls and the call to prayer.

Downtown Istanbul and the Golden Horn

Fishermen on the Galata Bridge

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Camii) by night

On the Bosphorus

Now we've just completed our final stage of Turkish riding, from Kusadasi to the port town of Cesme where we catch the ferry to Greece. Our last day in Kusadasi we headed out with Ege and a friendly Austian cyclist named Ursie, cruising happily on our light bikes in the Dilek Peninsula National Park for the day. Special stuff!

The bike gang!

Ege, Ursie and Anna picnicking in the National Park
We are sad to leave Turkey, in that happy thankful way! It's been a wonderful country to ride across these last seven weeks. When I think of what I'll miss most, I think straight away of the Turkish chai (cay) in it's trademark small curved glasses. On my first days in Turkey I thought these were rather a silly idea, but now whenever I see these glasses all the Turkish chai memories come flooding back into my mind and heart. Memories of being welcomed, of being cared for, of being allowed to share in conversations and village life, of being given shelter from storms and refreshment in the heat. Special times spent with incredibly generous and welcoming people. We are once again feeling so very thankful to have been able to journey here.


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