Entering Turkey meant a new stage in our journey, not just because we left Europe for Asia, the continent we’ll be cycling for the months to come. Sure, Europe – even in its Balkan way – is familiar to us whereas Turkey is new. But there’s more.
First: hospitality. We had been told about but we weren’t expecting what we’ve found: Turkish people are welcoming and warm and helpful beyond imagination.
And second: letting go (or how our minds changed after about two months on the road). We used to have plans, we changed them. Because what’s the point in meeting people and talking to them if that doesn’t change our mind – even just a little? And now we experience what we thought before leaving: destination is not so important, the main thing is to be on the road. And the road can take you where you do not expect.
Oh, yes, there’s a third: çay. As a tea lover I couldn’t be happier: in this country nothing happens without tea.
We’ve been traveling Turkey for three weeks now. Here are just a few sketches of what happened on our route.
#1 Our first Warmshowers host, Devrim, wrote a post about us in a Turkish cycling forum: we ended up being “famous” with people reading about us and contacting us to host us on our next stages (like Murat, whom we met in Istanbul).
#2 Cinati café in Izmir and the people we met there who led us to Parkur Bisiklet shop (thanks for the coffee and lunch!) and to the first changes in our plans. And thanks to Cem who lead us to the train station on his bike.
#3 It was already dark and our bikes were covered in mud when we got out of a trail in the middle of olive orchards to find Emine and her family: they opened their house to us, they gave us warmth and food, they washed our clothes and gave us a bed and helped us clean our bikes. All this without speaking a word of English. Our gratitude won’t ever be enough!
#4 Troy archeological site. It was just a name on history books and Homeric poems; now it’s a real city, with walls and houses and temples. Stunning. And that damned time machine we still do not have!
#5 The tent was already set up in a beautiful spot by the sea and we were enjoying a bottle of wine and some chips when two girls passed by on the shore, we waved hello, they came to talk to us and… Melis invited us to stay in the family hotel for free! We decided to stay in the tent (everything was already set up for the night) but we joined them for breakfast the day after!
#6 Gursel who welcomed us in his bike shop in Istanbul when we were looking for a spare part for one of my Ortlieb bags; thanks to him we met Basak and Rahman, fixed the problem and changed our plans: another detour we are happy about!
#7 Climbing under a light rain (which sometimes turned into sleet) for about four hours. A flat tire and a brake pads replacement that was harder than expected. Our waterproof gears starting to let rain through. Aygenc called us from the side of the road, we entered his place and we were offered tea and food and our clothes were put next to the stove to dry. We got back on the bikes when the rain was over, with a smile on our faces and a beautiful sunset in front of us.
#8 Standing in front of 31 eight years old kids during their English lesson to meet them and answer their many questions about us, our trip and Italy. Thank you all and thank you Ruzgar for asking us to visit your class! It was fun!
Much more happened. There’s a lot that we forget or that just stays with us and does not become a picture or a text.
And many more people we met: teşekkür ederim, thank you.
Winter is coming, plans will change again. Even if in the beginning we wanted to cycle it all, it doesn’t make sense to spend days or weeks in bad weather conditions just to say “I did it”. We’ll keep adapting, being flexible. And if this questions our way of traveling, our idea of journey: even better.