As you may have noticed we are a little behind with our updates given that we couldn’t get internet access in Turkey outside Istanbul. We were really spoiled since we could connect almost everywhere in Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria, but even though Turkey feels much more modern, WiFi is still a foreign word, at least on the countryside.
Our first night in Turkey wasn’t really great, we slept in a horrible hotel in Kirklareli, really disgusting, and we were once again glad that we could use our own sleeping bags.
The weather was still great, sunny and warm with temperatures of up to 27 degrees Celsius – we cycled in short trousers and T-shirts again – and decided to wild camp the following nights before Istanbul.
The roads continued to be perfect traffic-wise, the festivities went on until 29 October and there were again no trucks on the road. The asphalt changed again and became very rough with no hard shoulder anymore, which made it slightly more difficult to cycle.
The landscape is unspectacular, with oak and beech tree forests as well as some farm- and grassland. It continues to be very hilly though. We climb two kilometers and descend two kilometers, we climb 500m and descend 500m, whatever we gain in altitude, we loose again. The second morning in Turkey I decided to count the climbs, but after ten I gave up, couldn’t remember it anymore.
The villages and towns we are passing are quite ugly – except the mosques – with concrete buildings, a lot of blinking advertising, countless kebab eateries, mini supermarkets and other shops along the main streets.
Five times per day we hear the muezzin praying, wherever we are, even in the forests we can still hear them. This feels quite exotic and makes us realize we are leaving the Western world. In almost every village we got invited for a cup of tea, everybody was waving at us, children admired our bikes, one was even putting on Johan’s helmet while we were eating our Köfte, the most heard sentence these two days was “Hello, what is your name?”, if asked back for their names, they didn’t know what to answer. Hilarious! Most of the older people want to know where we are coming from, at a bakery I get the bread for free, the owner used to live in Germany. Something I need to get used to is that Turkish men usually only address Johan, they shake hands with him, talk to him and mostly ignore me. If he is cycling ahead of me, men would always say something in Turkish to me, wave and laugh, as soon as he cycles behind me, nothing happens. The constant honking is something we couldn’t get used to – every other car honks, it’s mainly friendly honking and meant to greet and encourage us, but if you are in your thoughts, thinking about food for example or the next blog headline, you are petrified.
To safe a bit money – Istanbul will be expensive for us – we decided to pitch our tent in the forest. The first night we found a spot which wasn’t really ideal since we were visible from a nearby path and while we prepared everything, one car and two tractors passed. However, time was ticking, at 6.30pm it is pitch dark, so we decided to stay instead of looking further for a better spot. By 8pm we were laying in our tent, listening to all the unknown noises around us. Knowing that Johan didn’t feel comfortable made me worry all night and I slept very badly. I even dreamed that a group of people attacked us. Very early in the morning, it must have been around 6am, we woke up again from barking dogs and shooting. At first we thought these are either shepherd dogs or some stray dogs having fun in the forest. But then it turned out that these were hunting dogs, hence the shooting, and we were sitting in the middle of it. While it was slightly getting light and one of the dogs checked our tent, we stayed silently in our tent to wait for the hunters to be gone. By 7.30am we still heard noises and Johan the brave, got out of his sleeping back to check if it was safe to pack and leave. We still heard the dogs barking somewhere. I got the green light and we started our morning ritual: tent packing, breakfast and washing. Suddenly a hunter came our way with his gun hanging around his shoulder. Even better than a dog, I thought! But all he did was looking for game and his dogs, while smiling at us and wishing us a good morning in Turkish. While we continued packing, some of the dogs passed several times, but they didn’t even bother looking at us, they were busy looking for their prey.
When we finally finished packing we pushed our bikes back through the forest onto the small path which turned out to be an extremely muddy clay path on the last 25m to the main road. After a few meters in the mud, my bike got stuck, it would just stand by itself and became to heavy for me to get it out again. I was ankle-deep in the mud as well and it took Johan half an hour to get our bikes out of the mud, an hour for the both of us to get the clay off the tires, the chain, the rest of the bike and our shoes and another hour to clean the bikes at a gas station that was just around the corner! By the time we could finally start pedaling it was lunch time again :-).
The second night in the forest went much smoother, we found a perfect hidden spot in the forest and slept through until dawn to finish the last part of our journey into Istanbul.