Turkey, Side to Fethiye

Well after our epic day into Side, we weren’t in any hurry to do much the following day, thankfully the hotel was a pleasant place to sit and do nothing and with good Wi Fi that nothing became my Cappadoccia blog.

We did however venture out later that day to explore the historical element of Side, I never knew there was an ancient theatre and ruins here complete with temples and huge arches in and out of the town, quite wonderful. We spent a couple of hours just mooching about taking photos before heading towards the beach.

Saw it, liked it, took the photo…enough said !!
A few photos of the general area, quite impressive and you can wander at will…fantastic !!
As you’d probably guessed, the ancient theatre, really impressed with this, cost a little bit to get in but worth it I think ;-)

Now Side or at least part of it is on a small tip of land that makes it easy to walk around or across from beach to beach. It’s very busy here and as you’d expect in a tourist town there are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops, but be warned, it’s not cheap. In fact it’s equivalent to UK prices in most places and you will get hassled quite a bit. There are cheaper places to eat in the back streets and to be honest probably better food and service. That said it is a pleasant enough place, just not my idea of a holiday !!

Looking out over the beach and bay to the Antalya side of Side ;-)
Slightly further round we find the marina.
And further still, on the other side of the spit of land is this quite beautiful temple !!
The flower was another of those, it’s beautiful moments just before I took the photo at dusk across the beach ;-)

From Side we headed west to Antalya, an easy enough ride but without much of interest to look at. We started out through the suburbs, all resort hotels and shopping malls before they fell away and agriculture took over for a short while before the next town with yet more hotels hove into view, this just repeated until we hit Antalya. It’s a big city with over one million people so the traffic and chaos started quite a way out and it was quite a tough ride into the old part of the city where we wanted to be.

Our bikes were quite comfy in the reception at our hotel, and very safe !!
The Tuana Hotel, lovely quiet place, great staff and very friendly ;-)
A few photos of the scenery on our way to Antalya, didn’t think you’d want to see high rise hotels !!

We passed the usual high rise apartments, hotels, shops and all the usual modern city stuff but as soon as you enter the old city it’s like you’ve been transported to a different country. It was amazing, everything was finished, clean, tidy and beautiful and as you walk around no one hassles you. Seriously you can look in shops without someone immediately trying to sell you something, just makes being a tourist a pleasant experience.

Looks like a fort but it’s actually a mausoleum, impressive none the less !!
Some art along the seafront, always a nice touch !!
Back to the mausoleum, great door, looking up and the view from below !!
Sorry, I have a thing about doors, I love the shabby chic !!
Several photos from around old town Antalya, absolutely loved it !!

We ate out, we had a couple of beers then wandered back to the sea front for sunset, not to bad at all….

Great sunset, the mausoleum provides a nice sillouette ;-)

After what was a fairly late breakfast for us we set off for Olympus, it’s near Cirali about 80km south of Antalya. In fact to get to where we wanted to be it would end up being closer to 90km, and we were back in the hills !

Our pansiyon in Antalya, clean, friendly and helpful…what more can you ask ?

The first 60km out of town wasn’t so bad but you could see the huge granite edifices looming large in the distance, again I’d checked the elevation app and knew we were in for a tough day. From sea level up and over 450m but then down and up a few times before plummeting to the coast. I’m glad we have another day off as the thought of cycling back up the hill frankly doesn’t impress and I’m hoping I get a bit of short term memory loss !!

Heading out of Antalya, high rise hotels and shopping malls can’t hide the huge hills looming in the distance !!
Prickly pear fruit, you can eat them but you need thick gloves and a delicate touch to get in !!
A dry riverbed on the way up, I can only imagine the force of the water that carved that out !!

After the first 60km we stopped for lunch, a good plan as we knew what was coming and decided we needed fuel. Lunch was wonderful, lentil soup, fresh bread, cheese and spinach Gozleme, tomato salad and plenty of water, finished off with a good cup of coffee…fantastic and only 33lira. Naomi paid 35 and told the lady to keep the change. We cycled off but hadn’t got more than a couple of km before the guy that served us pulled up in his car, handed us 5 lira, apologised and sped off. This country really does amaze me sometimes, in Side a waiter tried to charge us 20 lira for a bottle of water and two cans of pop (less than 10tl anywhere else) but we just paid 10 and left then this guy drives 4km in total because he thinks he’s overcharged us….wonderful !!

No shortage of view or inspiration on this trip !

As for the rest of the ride, to make things even harder, now we’re on the Mediterranean coast it’s even hotter than it has been elsewhere in Turkey so as we cycled up the biggest climb the sun was straight at us and we were constantly drinking water but it was just leaking straight back out. We were so relieved when we finally started the downhill and with hills come views and today was no exception…

The view from the top and a couple as we start the descent into Olympus ;-)

The run into Olympus becomes unpaved the nearer you get to the park entrance, we picked the last pansiyon before the gates and to be honest we got lucky. Clean room, the cheapest beer we’d seen and the choice of either dinner or breakfast included. We picked dinner and boy oh boy, result….it was fantastic and so much of it, heaven !!

Arriving in Olympus, towering cliffs, unmade roads and that first beer….fantastic end to a tough day !!

We chilled for the afternoon knowing we’d be in full tourist mode the following day, a little blogging, emailing and drinking…a very pleasant afternoon, oh and that fabulous dinner, mmm !

We were still full from dinner so not having breakfast was ok for us and with free coffee or tea anyway it meant we got our caffeine fix to get started.

We bought our ticket, stepped through the turnstiles and headed for the beach, now along the way you pass through the ancient city of Olympus, much of it ruins now but some rebuilding and stabilisation has been done and for the most part you can wander at will. There are a few bits that they’ve deemed unsafe and are now fenced off but you can certainly get a feel for it. We walked slowly, peering in and around the ruins, photographing much of it as we went. It’s a very pretty place with a river running through the valley, tall, sheer cliffs covered in lush growth and trees that seemed to part slightly on the lower slopes to allow space for the ancient buildings.

It’s a prickly pear flower, who’d have thought something so prickly could produce something so beautiful ?
Some photos of the ruins and the fantastic views along the river !
Almost missed this little fella, camouflaged butterfly !
Some plundered toombs and more beautiful views ;-)

The day was already hot when we started and after an hour or so the time had come to get wet, we quickly found a quiet spot on the shale beach and headed for the clear, warm waters. It was wonderful, neither of us are that fussed about beaches or swimming but today was an exception, we needed this, we’d earned it and we very much enjoyed it.

The beach, the beautiful clear waters and the views behind the beach….fantastic setting !!

About an hour later we’d had enough of doing nothing so headed further along the beach for much needed sustenance, a light snack and cold drinks and we were off again. More meandering through ruins, more photos, then back to the pansiyon to shower and relax, good Wi Fi is always nice and this would be a quiet time what with everyone else at the beach. We found a comfy spot and spent a few hours just relaxing, a light breeze from the sea and a few beers turned it into a perfect afternoon !

More ruins, note the photo of Naomi in the temple doorway, now that’s a big door !!
I was just chilling out in the afternoon, drinking a beer and noticed how the sunlight was lighting up this leaf….just love it’s simplicity ;-)

The following morning we set of, the garmin programmed to lead us to Demre. I’d also checked the route on google maps and we knew it would be a tough climb out and over to Demre. We set off up the unmade road, which after a few km turns into a sealed road then about 3km later we turned left and headed out of town. By looking at google I was expecting to turn right up the hill to eventually meet the main road but the garmin kept going straight. Usually I’d be worried but it’s been reliable so we kept going. We ended up in a sweet little village called Cavuskoy, we stopped for breakfast at a little cafe, the owner actually went to the shop to buy us some Nescafé and with the bowl of lentil soup and fresh bread that was our breakfast….superb !!!

More dry river beds, quiet forestry roads and more hills !!

Now we were set for the climb, it was a lot easier than the route google had suggested and we were soon over the top, the view across the valley was of greenhouses and poly tunnels, thousands of them all twinkling in the sunshine, I guess this is the garden of Antalya !!

Some of the fantastic scenery as we climbed our way out of Olympus, shabby cottages, small farms, Naomi cresting one of many hills and views of the sea through the trees…fabulous ride !!

We ride into the valley and through the greenhouses to the coast where we turned right and headed for Finike, nice easy riding now so we stopped for drinks and snacks before we tackled the coast road round the headland to Demre.

I’ve never seen so many greenhouses in my life, amazing !!
Naomi spotted this little fella just before we stopped for a drink, not the first encounter we’ve had with a chameleon !!
More greenhouses as we ride through and out to the coast at Finike.
The marina at Finike, of course Kylie wanted her photo taken with all the yachts !!
Just loved this section of coast, not a straight bit if road for 20km…loved it !!
The lagoon just as you enter Demre.

It was a beautiful ride despite the now persistent headwind, not a straight line to be seen, clear turquoise waters lapping at the base of the base of the small cliff that keeps the road out of the water. Fantastic little sheltered bays with small sandy beaches and colourful fishing boats going about there business, just a fabulous days ride !!

We weren’t looking for anything specific to do in Demre so we stopped at the first hotel, The Winecity, and got a good deal so we stayed. It was an ok hotel with a pool, Wi Fi and cold beers, what else could you want. Sadly the restaurant had all the charm of a shoebox so we walked into town for a bite to eat at a nice shabby looking local eaterie…..perfect.

The Winecity Hotel, nothing more to say !

Morning arrived all to soon and with it came more hills and another 85km ride to Kalkan, it was a mere 2km out of the hotel before the climb started. It was another 30km before we reach the very top and began the descent towards Kas. In the meantime we were stopped by a reporter, interviewed and told we’d be in the paper, only thing is we had no idea which one ;-)

Starting the climb and we’re less than 2km into our ride !!
Some of the views, climbing hills can be worth the effort sometimes, note the greenhouses, definaletly the garden of Antalya !!

We stopped a few times to take photos or for drinks and snacks, it really was a tough climb and we never thought it would end, then we arrived at a lookout and knew we were over the hill !!

This cute little bugger attached himself to Naomi at a drink stop and wouldn’t get off !!
More hills and more fantastic scenery, you don’t get a chance to get bored in Turkey, your either going up, down or just looking at incredible scenery, brilliant !!

Going down was fantastic, Kas with it’s marina and expensive yachts all bobbing gently on the clear waters was there in front of us and the coast road we’d be taking was snaking off around another headland. By the time we reached the bottom and started round the coast road the wind was up again, fortunately it didn’t spoil our ride and yet again we marvelled at the beauty of the area.

The view from the top, looking back to where we just came from !!
And finally the sea comes into view, the view point is right on the hairpin bend, we stopped of course ;-)
Looking back up the hill from the viewpoint !
The views from the viewpoint, looking down on Kas and it’s marina ;-)
And finally we descent down the hill past Kas and on towards Kalkan ;-)
More wonderful coast road, sadly more headwind as well !

We arrived in Kalkan and decided not to proceed to the bottom of the hill but to look for a pansiyon nearer the top, we had yet another huge climb out to Fethiye in the mornng, no point making it worse !!

The pansiyon we found was lovely, clean and smart and there was a footpath straight down to the marina. We headed out for a walk and took a wander round all the expensive shops, bars and restaurants before heading back up the hill for somewhere slightly cheaper. The food was good, the service was also good and the bill was reasonable considering where we were. We stopped to pick up some beer and water from the supermarket on the way back to the room and had a little Wi Fi time before bed !!

Our pansiyon in Kalkan and looking at the hill we’d climb in the morning !
A few photos from the wonderful coastal town of Kalkan, lovely place with some great shops, bars and restaurants, it’s also great if you want to keep fit as it’s on a fairly steep hill ;-)

Breakfast was fantastic, well cooked, well presented and lots of it, really fuelled us up for that climb out of Kalkan, it’s 83km into Fethiye our next stop and it’s by no means a flat road. As with all hills there are views and looking back over Kalkan was one of those moments when the climb was worth the effort !!

Looking back to Kalkan as we climb yet another hill, sadly I became ill so not to many more photos from today, I just didn’t have the energy !!
Just a couple of photos as we climbed higher, I was finding it really tough by now !!

Sadly as the day progressed I began to feel terrible, everything started to ache, my knees were really bad and I felt sick and had no energy. We stopped at a garage after about 55km and tried to hitch a lift but no one was stopping so I had no choice but to carry on. There was a small climb after the garage which normally we’d cruise up but I was at less than walking pace and drifting into the road, by the time I got to the top I was physically drained and just lay down on the road to sleep. Yet again Naomi tried to get a lift but after 20mins…nothing, so yet again I had to carry on. I managed another 15km or so but by then I was in a terrible state, I collapsed onto the floor again while Naomi yet again stuck her thumb out….success, I truck actually stopped. I’ve never been so pleased in my life, I cried with relief as the driver and his mate loaded our bikes onto the truck. He only took us about 10km but we were out of the headwind and by the time he dropped us at the left turn to Fethiye I’d recovered enough to carry on, it was a slight downhill and without the wind I managed to cycle to the pansiyon we’d booked. I spent the rest of the day and all next day in bed, only surfacing for meals which Naomi had been to the supermarket for, bless her ;-)

Our pansiyon in Fethiye and the views from the breakfast terrace, taken when I felt better !

Well if you want to find out what happened in Fethiye, you can read all about in my next blog but for now, take care and keep reading ;-)

 

Posted in Antalya, Cycling, Demre, Fethiye, Kalkan, Olympus, Side, Turkey, world cycle tour | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey, Goreme to Side

After four wonderful nights in Goreme it was time to leave, we said our goodbyes to the guys at the view Cave Hotel and set off up the hill to Uchisar. It’s a fairly steep climb and about 5km in length, the sun was already up and hot by the time we crested the hill and turned right on the main road to Neveshir. We had numerous toots from passing tourist coaches as they sped past us up the hill, they probably felt sorry for us, but they couldn’t stop and take photos…so who’s sorry now ?

One of the wonderful guys who looked after us so well at the View Cave Hotel ;-)
Even the camels seemed intrigued as we cycled up the hill !!

The main road into Neveshir is slightly downhill but as you exit the town you pay for it with an even bigger hill going up, the views are as you’d expect….wonderful. Sadly though this is pretty much the only interesting part of the days ride because after that it’s flat and rather dull on the way to Aksaray, 95km of hot dull road. So it was left to an old man with a bucket full of grapes to end the misery, we’d just stopped to fill our water bottles from my spare bottle when he wandered over and thrust large bunches of very sweet grapes at us. My grapes rested on my handlebar bag brackets and I quite happily munched them as we rode.

Neveshir from a distance as as you enter it .
Free grapes = happy cyclist ;-)
Pretty much a featureless landscape and very hot !!
Entering Aksaray.

Our journey as usual was broken into segments, we stop occasionally for snacks and drinks, the petrol stations out here are the travellers friends and we’ve always been well received and looked after by them and there’s generally free chai on offer to ;-)

Before we left Goreme I’d been having issues with my rim tape, it’s started to cause punctures, now normally this wouldn’t be an issue but in Turkey it is, there just not that into bikes and there aren’t many good bike shops here. That said the owner of the restaurant we’d been using in Goreme gave us an address in Aksaray of a bike shop that might help. He’d written the address on a slip of paper and something else we couldn’t figure out. Anyway on entering this large city we stoped a guy at a petrol station and gave him the slip of paper. For the next 5km we followed him in his car as he drove very slowly so we didn’t lose him, he found the shop for us and just bid us good day and left….what a guy !!

So we’re in the shop and it’s obvious they can’t help, they sell motor bikes and scooters and some really bad bikes, but they haven’t a clue about rim tape. As we were leaving a young man helps with the translation and the next thing you know we’re following him on his bicycle around Aksaray looking for rim tape, despite his valiant efforts we didn’t find any and the best I could do was a roll of PVC tape !!

Mustapha our cycling friend then invited us for lunch, it was only Pide but it was good, we washed it down with fanta and water and then we tried to pay…not a chance, more genuine Turkish hospitality !!

We agreed to meet him for dinner at the same place on the condition that we’d pay, we turned up with baklava and fresh peaches and they provided the Pide and drinks…lucky we took gifts as yet again they refused to take any money, thanks guys we really did appreciate it !!

Mustapha and his friends, Bahri, Coskun, Bayram and Seref.

So having tried hard to help with the bikes, sorted lunch and dinner, oh, and found us a cheap hotel we bid goodnight to Mustapha who very gentlemanly walked us home…top guy !!

From Aksaray to Konya is 160km or 100miles, we’d decided to split it into two days and headed out into the flat lands that separate these two cities. The boredom was set to be broken by a caravanserais that we were looking forward to seeing but we passed through Sultanhani and the directions boards just stopped and we never found it. The day wasn’t going well and when there was not hotel at the halfway point it got even worse. We stopped at a petrol station cafe to get lunch and they told us there was nothing until Konya, it then dawned upon us that we were going to have to cycle it in one day. My poor old legs were already tired and I wasn’t that keen on the idea but there was not choice !!

Sultanhani, first it was there…and then it wasn’t !!

Naomi as per usual just got on with it and I with my lights burning brightly followed in her wake, the miles or to be correct kilometres passed by slowly but within each peddle stroke we gained on Konya until finally we hit the outskirts. I was feeling a little more energised by now and with the Garmin pointing the way we headed into the city, man this was one day when the GPS really paid for itself !!

We stopped at the first hotel, we were both knackered and we just wanted to stop, why is it the first hotel is never the cheap one ? Oh well at least we’d made it and we had a day off the next day. Time for showers, food and bed, to tired for anything else and we can’t even get a beer to celebrate the fact that we passed our 30,000km mark on the way into the city. Konya is one of the most religious cities in Turkey and beer is really hard to find, no worries, we’ll just celebrate another day ;-)

A significant moment, the garmin with 1083km on it, this added to our exciting total meant we’d done 30,000km and selfie taken at the moment and of course one of the bikes as well ;-)
Bike lanes on the way into Konya, that was a surprise !!

Our day off consisted of visiting a few museums, one that specialised in wood and stone carvings and one on tiles and ceramics, both museums were interesting as were the buildings housing them, I hope you’ll agree when you see the photos. We also visited the Mevlana Museum, home to the Whirling Dervishes and burial place of Sufi Poet, Rumi. Again, a wonderful building, lots to see and look at but also very busy, it’s definitely a tourist hotspot. Talking of hot, we were both sweltering in the heat and after a relaxing cold drink and a light snack in a shaded spot we headed back to the hotel until it cooled down a bit. We went out later for food and strolled in the direction on the Mevlana until we found a suitable place. It’s so much nicer to eat when it’s cooler, we find cycling in the heat relatively easy but walking around in it is really hard work !!

The Mosque next door to the Mevlana, beautiful building with a stunning ceiling, such a shame they were doing construction work inside as I’d liked to have had a closer look !!
A few photos at the Mevlana, another beautiful ceiling and some lovely architecture !!
As I said it was the training ground for the Whirling Dervishes, a tough and long road to become fully trained, this is a mock up of part of the training !!
A few random photos on the way to the next museum, Konya had a lot to offer !!
The wood and stone carving museum, not only does it house some great works but the buildings is fantastic as well !!
More wonderful exhibits, amazing colours and detail and another fantastic building !!

Konya to Seydeshir was our next ride, getting out of Konya wasn’t to bad as we made the effort to start early before the roads got to busy, well that and a few unexpected cycle lanes !!

Leaving the Hotel Selcuk bright and early !
More of those unexpected bike lanes, good try Turkey, all you’ve got to do now is stop scooters, motorcycles and pedestrians using them and if you could also stop parking cars, bins or anything else on them it would be great. Oh, one more thing, when it comes to a road that we have to cross, could you lower the curb please ??

The ride was wonderful, we were heading into more hills and the scenery was so much better than the last few days, hard work but so worth it. We started climbing almost immediately but once up the first big hill we stayed on a plateau pretty much all day and from then on it was just rolling hills with great views. We stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe, nothing more than a few old tarps and some plastic chairs but the Gosleme the lady made us was fabulous, loaded with good strong cheese and still hot…wonderful !!

Some of the fantastic scenery before our lunch stop !!
Lunch stop, it might not look much but the food and welcome were second to none and so very cheap ;-)

From lunch it was plane sailing into Seydeshir, we found a hotel but were put off by the price and cycled further to find a cheaper alternative and succeeded, 60YTL and it included breakfast !!

The afternoons scenery was still good, certainly got my attention ;-)
On the outskirts of town, never looks pretty, all those pylons !!

We didn’t do much here, just rested and ate, we were saving our energy for the next days ride into Side. I’d checked the route elevation profile and it said it was 146km but the first 35km was all up hill from our 1100m to 1830m then once over the pass it looked as if it was 85km to the coast at 25m then about 25km along the coast to Side !

Our hotel in Seydeshir, cheap, welcoming and comfortable…perfect ;-)
Leaving town and the hills are staring straight back at us, we know we’ve got to get over them !!
A closer look at the hills as we start to climb !!
Starting to gain some serious elevation, but we still have a very long way to go !!
A quick pit stop before the final assault on the hill !!
Finally made the summit, tough going but we were so happy, sadly it was short lived as we had to work so hard on the descent !!

Well the climb up to 1830m wasn’t just one climb, it was three, first up a bit, then down, then up some more…well you get the picture, by the time we finally got to the top we were knackered and we still had 111km to go. And then it all went wrong, that lovely downhill all the way to the coast wasn’t all downhill, it was down a lot but then up a lot, six times we dropped serious elevation only to climb back up, sometimes 200 or 300m at a time. By the time we stopped for lunch at the 75km mark we were both ready to drop but were revived by good food and a few sweet drinks. There was an option to stop at a hotel a little further on but being the stubborn little sods we are we both agreed to carry on. If we’d known what was coming we certainly wouldn’t have done so, I’ve never worked so hard on a bike in my life, there was one uphill where they were just topping the road, hot tar followed by lots of large pieces of gravel, they’d laid it on so thick that as you peddled your rear tyre spun and you had to literally spin up the hill, tough going on a 60kg tourer !!

It was a long way down and bloody hard work, we still had 111km and a lot of climbing still to do !!
Lunch stop at 75km, I was tired at this point but after lunch we cracked on with another 71km of hard won road to Side !
Great views, lush valleys and more hills….aahhhh !!
And finally flatter roads as we hit the main coastal road for the last few km into Side !!

Anyway we finally had the downhill we’d waited so long for and the ocean was there in front of us, only 20km or so on a flat busy road separated us from the hotel we’d booked in Side. I’ve never been so pleased to arrive, that first beer barely touched the sides and the second and third followed quickly after, the host was quick with the food to, good Turkish Faye and lots of it, seems we’d booked a good place to rest up !!

Well more about Side and perhaps even a photo of the sea in my next blog, but for now, take care and keep reading ;-)

JC

 

Posted in Aksaray, Cappadocia, Cycling, Goreme, Konya, Mevlana, Seydeshir, Turkey, world cycle tour | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey, Cappadoccia and surrounding area !!

Cappadoccia, meaning either “low country” or “land of beautiful horses” depending on where it's name originally came from sits in Central Turkey. It is in Eastern Anatolia and is primarily in the Nevshehir Province. It's a volcanic region sitting on a 1000m high plateau pierced by high peaks, the largest of which is Mt Erciyes near Kayseri which is a ski resort in winter.

Historically the region has been fought over many times but was in the hands of the Anatolian Seljuks in the 12th Century but as they faded away the region came under the Ottoman Empire but is now firmly part of modern Turkey.

The area comprises many towns and villages the best known and from a tourist point of view the best landscapes, monasteries and fairy chimneys are found in the following places :-

Nevshehir, Goreme, Uchisar, Avanos, Urgup, Ortahisar, Zelve and Ihlara Valley, also there are several underground cities which were used by the locals to hide from invading armies and later during times of persecution the Christians used them to hide in as well, two of the best are, Ozkonak to the north and Derinkuyu to the south. As the whole area is now heavily dependant on tourism there are plenty of trips available to all the major sites or alternatively you can hire bikes, scooters, ATVs, jeeps, horses or use public transport. There are also specialised trips and safaris available for those into photography, ballooning or cooking.

The whole area expands way beyond the listed areas above and is made up of sedimentary rock, it's softness allowed people to carve homes, chuches, monasteries and storage rooms into it, sadly as the rock is easily eroded the buildings do have a relatively short life and the landscape here is for ever changing. The rock is full of minerals which in certain light conditions seem to change colour, beautiful pinks, soft greys, blues, whites and off white amongst them.

Also the time of day and sun play a big part in how the landscape looks, early morning and late evening are the best times for photography as the landscape seems to glow almost golden, however some of the valleys here are so deep that the midday sun is needed to penetrate to the bottom and give your photographs the light they need.

Talking about photography, the area has been used in many adverts and also feature films, most notably Assasins Creed : Revelations, there was talk of some Stars Wars movie being made in the area but apparently no permission was ever granted !!

Many of the rock formations are still lived in and it's quite normal to see satellite dishes and solar panels fixed to what look like rocks. Many of the hotels here, Goreme alone has over 140 of them are cut into the rock and use ancient caves as bedrooms, quite a novel experience for a night or two.

The summer tourist season here lasts for about five months and in that time many people will work 15 hour days to try and make enough money to provide for the rest of the year, this isn't the case everywhere as I've already mentioned that the area also has a winter season…yes it snows here and can be very cold.

So that's a little about this area, now for a few photos :-

The local carpet shop doesn't seem to mind you walking across his wares, a colourful display !!
The tallest “fairy chimney” in Goreme town just happens to be near our hotel, a great landmark when trying to find our way back !!
The photos above are local hotels, they really are quite remarkable and very beautiful !!
Three photo of our hotel !!
And a few panoramas taken from a local viewpoint !!
All the above photos were taken just in Goreme while walking about, however we'd booked a photo safari and the following photos are from our day out with Jules. She's originally from the States but after several countries now lives in Goreme. I was a little disappointed with the trip as I expected far more tuition but it turned out to be more of a taxi service to some of the beaten track parts of the area. That said we both enjoyed our day out and I think we got a few good photos !!
Our first stop was to a view point, one we'd not been to yet, just to get an over view of the area….stunning !!
 
Lots of grapes in the area, most are tended but those that aren't you can help yourself to ;-)
More fantastic views, the last photo is looking across to Uchisar fort !!
I do love a good doorway, the more character the better, this one led to a wonderful garden where we were given tea and allowed to photograph the flowers ;-)
Three photos from the lovely hidden garden ;-)
Three photos from a very old village, certainly not a tourist spot, great character in the houses though ;-)
I found this open door so intriguing, it had to be photographed !!
More doors, there will be more yet, so fascinating, just want to know what's denied it !!
No place to small, lovely detail and a splash of colour !!
Love the silhouette on this !
Not sure who put this here but it got my attention !
As I said, more doors ;-)
A tumble down street and a chimney, looks so cute !
The detail suggest this was once a prominent home, sadly now a ruin !
Once someone's home, now a playground for kids and a photo stop for us !!
Now this fella just wouldn't leave us alone !!
A typical home in this area, part cave, part stone…all interesting !!
A close up of Uchisar Fort and the block houses that surround it !!
The lunch stop provided a few more photos, I love the jeans and flower pot and as for the sunflowers, just look at the colours and shapes…beautiful !!
The very top of Uchisar Fort, not for the faint hearted !!
The landscapes hear are far from normal, it's like Mother Nature woke up one day and said ” to hell with convention, let's shake things up a bit ” !! Just look at the shapes, the way the rocks seem to move and the colours, during the day they change, it's brilliant !!
 
A few photos from Love Valley, any guesses how it got it's name ;-)
I love the way the path wanders through the rocks, just leads your eye on a virtual tour !!
 
Stopped here on the way to Uchisar, the sun was shining straight at it, what a fantastic little village !!
The sun was setting as we arrived here in Uchisar, the light was fantastic and it lit up the rocks perfectly !!
Looking up at Uchisar Fort, bathed in golden light it really is quite special !
The rock formations with the fantastic views in the background, incredible !!
Detail on the Fort wall ;-)
I love the way this path leads you into the photo !!
Jules really did save the best for last, just look at the way the rocks just soak up the sun !!
And the end of the day, the sun setting over Uchisar, the minarets sillouetted against the layers of hills, fabulous !!
In terms of a photo safari,mi think it could have been better but perhaps it was my mistake, maybe I needed to ask for help. Either way I'm still pleased with the results ;-)
 
Day two in Goreme started very early for us as we'd decided to get up at 4.30 to go and photograph the morning balloon flights ! Every morning in the summer season 100 hot air balloons set up and take off for an hours flight over the area, passengers fill the baskets, cameras at the ready for what must be a fantastic trip, although certainly not cheap it surely must be…..fantastic !!
Anyway we cycled the few kilometres out to the take off point and tried to capture the spectacle, once in the air we rode back into Goreme to photo them as they flew over the town. It really is a quite remarkable, colourful spectacle !!
The morning sun sillouetted the first balloon !!
Getting under way !!
More sunrise sillouettes !!
Balloon over Uchisar Fort ;-)
 
Like I said, a fantastic spectacle, almost unsurpassed anywhere else in the world !!
 
Once back at the hotel we managed a quick breakfast before we were picked up by the mini bus for the ” green tour “, tours here are colour coded so everyone knows what's being sold, what's included and where your going. The green tour goes out to Derinkuyu underground city, The Ihlara Valley, the Selime Monastery and stops at an opal factory and view point on the way back.
I have to be honest here, this was not a great trip, it felt rushed from the start, we had no time to stop and enjoy the valley and even when we had to queue for the toilets we were being told to hurry up. We basically speed walked the four km through Ihlara valley just to get to lunch, it was so picturesque and we really wanted to enjoy it but our guide just kept on going. I fell out with her big time and very nearly lost my temper at her attitude but Naomi calmed me down and we continued. With all the rushing through the pretty bits I was even more annoyed to find we'd left time to stop at the opal factory, it wasn't even on the itinary !!
Oh well, rant over, let's get back to some photos :-
Arriving at the site, amazing to think that some guy renovating his house stumbled across this by accident when he was knocking down a wall to make a room bigger….got more than he bargained for !!
We were in a queue, they were beautiful…enough said !!
Several photos from underground, a real shame you don't get to much time to set up photos properly !!
 
Our next stop was Ihlara Valley, a few photos taken in quite a rush follow….
Shots of the valley from above, from there we climbed down the stairs to first visit a church before our speed march through the valley !!
We just couldn't believe the intensity of colour in these frescos after so many years…amazing !!
Wandering or should I say marching through this valley with it's towering sides and clean river, abundant trees and shrubs really should have been a pleasure but we literally had to run to keep up !!
The above photos are at the lunch stop, very nice setting, excellent food, it's a shame that yet again we were rushed, no time to enjoy the meal or surroundings. Seriously we were no more than twenty minutes from the time we sat to when we left, we thought we had forty five mins !!
From here it was a short drive to Selime Monastary, carved into a huge rock this place is amazing and has exceptional views. It's several rooms, some decorated other more plain but most gave carvings if not paintings, just fantastic. It started life as a Caravanerai and you can quite clearly see that the tunnel on the way up was built for these huge beasts, it's been several other things throughout it's life but is remembered best as a Monastary. Here are a few photos :-
Our first view, looks amazing from here but it gets so much better ;-)
Tunnels, rooms and corridors just lead of in all directions, I especially like the fact that the tunnel is camel shaped !!
Just look at all those rooms to go and explore, they linked together with even more tunnels !!
Oh, I did mention the views right….stunning !!
Inside was just as impressive !!
Naomi sillouetted taking a photo of the view ;-)
More tunnels, more views, fantastic place but again, so little time to explore it properly !!
From here it was back in the bus for a 90 minute drive to an opal shop / factory, no I didn't buy anything as I was still pissed of at having to rush the good bits to make time for this….aaaahhhhh !!
A panoramic view point was next, we'd already done it before, then back to the hotel. We'd be leaving in the morning so it was time to pack and settle the bill. All in all I enjoyed Cappadocia, it's a fantastic landscape and if you can get your head around the fact that it's just so much a tourist hotspot then it's a great place.
Oh well, that's another blog done and dusted, keep reading and enjoying and take care ;-)
JC
 
 
 

 

 

Posted in Cappadocia, Cycling, Derinkuyu Underground City, Goreme, Ihlara Valley, Selime Monastary, Turkey, world cycle tour | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey, Sarkisla to Goreme…Turkey’s Jewel !!!

Again we were well rested, fed and ready to ride the following morning, it was to be a tough day but it started well enough. We clocked up the first 50km fairly quickly and decided to make a small detour to see a caravanserais, it was only a couple of km of the road so not to bad. We were greeted by an old guy who took a few lira off us and then let us loose to wander round this incredible place. In days gone by when the camel trains used to criss cross the country there many such places to stop at for food, water, shelter and to rest the camels. This particular one has been quite well restored and is one of the largest, it really is an amazing place !!

Some of the glorious scenery from the first 50km of the days ride ;-)
Arriving at Sultanhani and the Caravanserais ;-)
The front entrance and central mosque.
One of the covered porticos, the bedrooms and washrooms are of to the right, this goes along three of the inner walls.
A window in one of the bedrooms, you can see how thick the walls are, despite it being the hottest part of the day it was still cool in here.
Inside the camels quarters, they were prized animals and were treated very well !
More covered porticos, they make great photos with the light coming through ;-)
Close up of the central mosque and a photo of it taken from the roof, incredible building which you can still get into, there is also an access stairway to the roof, and yes I did go up !!
Some photos up on the roof, the whole building has had some renovation, so pleased they saved it !
Back on the road we’d not gone far when a guy on a motorbike stopped us, he invited us to his home for drinks, how could we refuse. Again we were humbled by the sincerity and generosity, we met the family and tried to make conversation, then we were given the guided tour of his garden. He kept giving us fruit and vegetables as we made our way round, I’d forgotten how good fresh tomatoes taste…they were fantastic. With the tour over and photos taken we said our goodbyes and were back on our bikes, one more good climb then turn left for the run into Bunyan, 90km in total and a fair amount of climbing, oh and yes it was hot !!
More amazing scenery on the road after the Caravanserais.
Naomi and myself photographed with our friendly Turk in his well stocked garden ;-)

We were both relieved to have reached Bunyan but we were both very thirsty so we stopped at the first place we could find that sold drinks, it was a kebab shop. I took a litre of juice and a small water and Nao took a can of pop and a small water, we sat inside in the shade and quenched our thirst. Sated, we got up to pay but the guy wouldn’t take our money, he basically told us that the pleasure we’d bestowed on him by stopping at his shop was enough….I nearly burst into tears…what incredible people !!!

A few photos from the final run into Bunyan, note how black the road is, pretty much melted and was very sticky !!

 

The hotel was clean, friendly and once again our bikes were untouched when morning came. For dinner we’d eaten well at the kebab shop next door as it belonged to the hotel owner and we were back again for breakfast, Chorba or soup is often eaten for breakfast here and my personal favorite is lentil soup with lots of lemon and chilli flakes, that and a few chunks of fresh bread are a great way to start a day !!

Having done 90km the day before we now had a very short day into Kayseri, most of it was also downhill, we were making such good progress that we had to stop a few times just to waste time. In the end I actually stopped for a haircut and a shave on the way into town as we still needed to waste time. The haircut was also required as we wanted to visit the Hilton Hotel roof bar and restaurant, it has the best views in town and I wanted to smarten up a bit.

Like I said a short ride in so not to many photos from the journey.

Thanks to my GPS unit we found our way into the town centre and the hotel without any difficulty, I hadn’t realised what a big place Kayseri is, we were on the outskirts of town 12km before we got to the centre. It’s a rich town with plenty of manufacturing and is noted for carpets, and pastrami amongst other things !!

The hotel was well located only a short walk from the central mosque, caravanserais (now an indoor market) and the citadel (sadly closed for building work). We had decided long before we went to Kayseri that we’d treat ourselves and have dinner at the Hilton, as I said the views are the best in town, we made our way there to make a reservation. We went to the 12th floor and did just that, asking for a table on the terrace if possible. While there we stopped for a couple of beers and sat outside, it was great to relax with a beer ( we’ve only had two since we arrived in Turkey ) and take in this magnificent view…

Photos of Kayseri from the roof of the Hilton Hotel….fabulous ;-)
Top photo is a close up of the caravanserais roof, now the bazaar, next one down is the clock tower and monument, next is Naomi relaxing on th hotel roof with a beer and finally the Hilton itself !

We went back to the hotel shorly after to relax and freshen up before heading back later for dinner, as expected the food was good if not cheap and the view at night was fabulous and our table was perfect…what a great night, and the views at night….wow !!

Self explanatory really !!

The following day was a day off and we spent it drifting round the markets, and taking in the sights from ground level, to be honest it looks better from the top of the hotel !!

Monument and clock house from ground level.
A fabulous tile mosaic covering the whole end wall of a multi level building, looks great !!
The central mosque and foot washing facilities, very important in Muslim religion !!
Part of the citadel wall, sadly closed to visitors due to building work !
We did however visit a carpet shop where after some ferocious bargaining Naomi came away with a piece she liked, it will be sent home by the shop and will be there when she gets home at Christmas, a nice gift to herself from Turkey ;-)
Top photo is inside the bazaar, the guy on the right is who Naomi bought her carpet off, the next photo is in his shop and just a small sample of his stock !
One of the many shopping streets and a little shabby chic !
And finally the ski resort in Kayseri is located here, unusual to see it this clearly in summer because of the heat haze !!

Finding our way out of Kayseri was easy enough but the roads were very busy and there wasn’t a shoulder, 10km of this and my nerves were beginning to fray, the traffic really don’t give you much room and are continually on the horns !!

At about 10km the road we wanted was straight on but there seemed to be a no entry sign, cars were going that way so in the end we followed. Three km later we had to turn back as the road was actually closed…bugger ! This small roadworks cost us a 15km diversion, well that and the hotel address being wrong !!

Still it was a good ride and although we ended up doing 85km rather that 69km we still managd to get to the hotel in good time.

Packed up and ready to leave the hotel in Kayseri, great hotel and wonderful, helpful staff !!
General photos of our ride into Avanos, note how the landscape is changing as we approach Capadoccia !

We’d booked the Stone Concept Hotel in Avanos because it had a pool and we felt like a bit of a relaxing afternoon, sitting in the shade with a beer by a pool ;-)

Hmm, the hotel had all the charm of a shoe box, the pool bar was like a greenhouse, the pool area looked like a building site and the tables and loungers were broken and had no cushions, there were no towels and no shade…anywhere !!

Not impressed, the only thing that was good about the hotel was the food, buffet dinner and breakfast which was included in the room rate and both were fantastic !! Other than that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone !!

Needless to say neither of us was to upset to be leaving in the morning. We’d planned a 25km route to get us to Urgup and our next nights accomodation. Our route took us through the Zelve valley and we stopped to look around the open air museum, it’s a large village built almost entirely into the rock, it even had it’s own winery. Although originally a monastic retreat it remained occupied in some parts until 1952 when now deemed unsafe the villagers were resettled in Aktepe. Great place to look around and as you’ll see it gives great photo opportunities !!

Riding into the Zelve valley !
Some photos from the Zelve Valley open air museum, it’s like walking into a fairytale landscape, nothing quite repairs you for it, fabulous place !!
From the Zelve valley into Goreme !

From here we road into Goreme for lunch, we didn’t look around to much as we have three days here later. Next stop Urgup but to get there we had to cycle out of the valley. I can say with my hand on heart that this road, covered in square cut black stone blocks was horrible even when flat but the hill out was also paved in them and it was so steep that just for once Nao actually walked up one of the bends (this is a first, I’ve never seen her beaten before) !! I got a round of applause from a car full of people as I rounded the last bend onto a slightly flatter bit of road, my poor little legs were spinning just to keep my balance !!

Note, this photo taken the following day on the way back down, it shows how bloody steep it was !!
Starting the hill on the block paved road, the ridge we need to cross visible in the distance !!
And some views from it !

Well after that bit of extreme hill climbing we enjoyed the ride into Urgup and found our pension in the old part of town quite easily. A friendly welcome, a cup of coffe with no charge, a large room with ensuite, made a welcome change from our previous nights hotel !!

The views from the top of the hill before riding into Urgup !

We showered and then took a walk into town, a quick stop for drinks and ice cream then we headed up the hill to find a restaurant with a view and boy did we score !!

A few photos from around Urgup, lovely place if you like hills ;-)
Naomi enjoying an Efes dark….mmmm ;-)
As I said the views from the restaurant were pretty good !
And as darkness fell over Urgup, it just got even better ;-)

It wasn’t cheap eating at Dimrit Cafe and Restaurant but we were made to feel very welcome, we enjoyed the banter with the waiters, we very much enjoyed the Efes dark and the food was fantastic. Added to this that we were also sitting at the table with the best views and you’ll understand why we had such a great night !!

When we arrived back at the pension, we stayed up chatting to the owner, lovely guy, he’d spent a few years in Germany in his early life and has taught German in schools until recently. More coffee and tea was offered and accepted, a pleasant way to end a lovely day.

Morning started with more tea, your never far from a teapot in Turkey and it’s generally given free or at least very cheaply !

Our ride into Goreme was even shorter than the day before, a mere 10km, most of up it uphill or so it felt. Not to many photos taken on such a short ride but now were settled in our hotel for four nights well certainly be out doing tourist things, tomorrow is a photo safari, very much looking forward to that.

This wasn’t the only photo taken on our ride back to Goreme, but for now it’s the only one that matters. More to come in the next blog !!

We’ve travelled almost a 1,000km in Turkey and enjoyed it immensely, the landscapes, hospitality and general feeling of warmth in this country is fantastic.

Suffice to say that Turkey’s biggest asset, it’s real jewel isn’t Cappadoccia or Pammukale or any other tourist location, it’s not the landscapes, the coast, the turquoise seas or the brilliant blue skies…..no, Turkey’s real jewel is it’s people, there generosity is like none I’ve ever encountered, there humour, passion and honesty is to be admired, I for one am humbled by them and am thoroughly enjoying my time in there country.

If you’ve never been, then all I can say is your missing out !!

Keep reading and look out for the Cappadoccia photo blog.

Take care

JC

 

Posted in Avanos, Bunyan, Caravanserai, Cycling, Goreme, Hospitality, Kayseri, Sarkisla, Tashan, Turkey, Urgup, world cycle tour, Zelve | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey, Tokat to Sarkisla

Day four and we bid farewell to the wonderful staff at the hotel and set off on one of our toughest days cycling in Turkey so far, I thought the ride up to Akkus was tough but man this was worse. It started with a nice little 550m climb over the first pass, some relatively flat or rolling hills for a while then we dropped about 200m before climbing another 650m to get over the second pass at 1650m, at least from there it was downhill to Yildizeli !! Never before have I been so hot, it was like riding in a furnace, I just couldn't quench my thirst !! We certainly earned our fellow road users respect that day !

Saying goodbye to the wonderful staff at our hotel in Tokat ;-)

Needless to say with such altitude comes great views and photo opportunities and yes I stopped quite often to capture them for your entertainment, nothing at all to do with me needing a rest of course !!

The climb out of Tokat, the views from it and the sign to say we'd reached the top !
Enjoying the flat roads between the climbs ;-)
Seeing the second climb in the distance really didn't help !
Looking up and grinding away, we were so very hot but had to keep going !
The views from the summit and the photo to prove we made it, courtesy of a passing motorist ;-)

On the final flat ride into town Naomi got a puncture, I started to fix it and as I did so a car stopped. The guy got out and offered to help but we were ok so after a brief chat he left. As we got into town Naomi's tyre went down again so we pulled into a side street to fix it and guess who came down the street, yep the same guy who stopped on the road. Next thing you know he's bought us ice cream and water…man the people here are so generous ;-)

Tyre fixed we went in search of a hotel, we pulled into a police station hoping they might be able to help, they pointed us to a Teacher House across the road. This was our second stay in one and this one certainly equalled the first for friendliness, cleanliness and cost but it also came with WiFi, hurrah !!

Enjoying the downhill and final run into Yildizeli despite the puncture, and our helpful policemen !!

Yildizeli might have been an interesting town but to be honest we were both tired and all we wanted was a shower, food and bed, so we didn't really explore the town to much, sad really but we can't see everything.

Well rested we set off to Sivas, a fairly short day, staying quite high most of the day, we were only on our bikes for just under three hours. But first breakfast, a truckers cafe did the job nicely although having to cross the main road to get there wasn't so good.

The main road we had to cross to get to the truck stop,worth the effort, great breakfast !

Again like all days here, there were great views the scenery really is fantastic, the patchwork of colours in the landscapes are just amazing !!

Just a small sample of the scenic views along the way ;-)

We also came across the railway, there aren't many in Turkey which is a surprise considering it's size but I guess when your country is so mountainous it's tough to put in the infrastructure. We road along side the railway most of the way into Sivas, stopping occasionally to photograph it's journey through tunnels or over bridges.

Bridges and tunnels, must be tough putting a railway through this country !

We turned of the main highway for our run into town and stopped for coffee and baklava while we sorted out directions. The garmin I bought before coming has certainly helped with this and I wouldn't be without it now !!

The run into Sivas, modern city despite it's history !

With the GPS providing the route we were soon on the street our intended hotel was on, however we came to another hotel first. Naomi went in to check prices, we liked the rate, dropped our kit, parked our bikes, filled in forms, went to our room and showered. It was a few minutes later that Nao said she'd inadvertently paid for two nights, odd, why I asked ? She was a little confused as to what she'd done and went to see reception, they then told her that the rate given was per person and not for the room, that's why she'd ended up paying double what she thought she should have paid, oh well it's still fairly cheap and we learnt a valuable lesson !!

Well at least having had a fairly short ride in we now had some time to take a look around town. Sivas is geographically in the centre of Turkey and is as old as the hills that surround it, it's also an important trade centre due to it's location. The mix of Asia, Africa and west meet here and create a unique, diverse culture which is quite simply, wonderful. We took a walk into town and quickly located a cafe with what we hoped would be great views of the Mosque, Tashan and several other historical buildings, we were right…..what a view !!

After coffee we took a closer look and despite it being a very busy city and also very hot I think we did well….

A collection of photos from the very heart of historical Sivas, lovely place to visit but not really a tourist hotspot !!

Our next ride took us from Sivas and on to Sarkisla, 84km but very little climbing so we kept up a good steady pace. Out of Sivas we headed south and for quite a while we were caught up in roadworks, this meant having to share one side of the highway, so no shoulder to ride on and busy roads !!

It wasn't pleasant but thankfully most drivers gave us plenty of room and eventually we could return to our own side and the safety of the shoulder. More trains, tunnels and bridges, more wonderful colours in the landscape and yet more fantastic Turkish hospitality !! We'd stopped at a petrol station for drinks and got invited to an early lunch by the manager, he spread newspaper on a table and started bringing out bread, cheese, honeycomb, tomato and cucumber and before long we had a feast. We'd helped ourselves to drinks from the fridge and expected to pay for them…not a chance, it seems that yet again we were humbled by a complete strangers generosity !!

Packed up and ready to leave the hotel in Sivas, very nice but pricey !
Some of the wonderful scenery and a fleeting glimpse of a Turkish train, rare indeed !
Our generous host, what a feast and so totally unexpected ;-)
More glorious scenery as we continue towards Sarkisla ;-)

As I say we made good time into Sarkisla and were soon on the last little downhill into town, at the T junction we looked along the high street and spotted the Otel sign and made our way along the pavement towards it. There was a note on the door with a phone number and thankfully one of the guys from the cafe across the road came over and made the call on our behalf. A guy turned up fairly quickly after that and we were soon in, washed, dressed and back out for a little walk up to the monument at the top of the hill, great views but man it was hot. By now we were hungry so back down for a light snack, we prefer to eat later when it's cooler, and this is precisely what we ended up doing !!

The monument and subsequent views, worth the climb I think ;-)
So, another blog finished, more to come I'm sure…oh and plenty of photos….!!
Take care and keep reading ;-)
JC

 

Posted in Cycling, Hospitality, Sarkisla, Sivas, Tashan, Tokat, Turkey, world cycle tour, Yildizeli | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey, Unye to Tokat

So my last blog ended at the Black Sea town of Unye, the easy part of our trip was now at an end, it was time to head into the hills !!

It had been pretty flat along the coast road from Trabzon, through Tirebolu, Ordu and into Unye, the miles almost effortless but now it was time to work. I'd checked on my routing app for the elevation profile for our first day up to Akkus, 60km, the majority of it uphill from 0ft to over 4000ft. Now bearing in mind our bikes weigh in at a staggering 55 to 60kg depending on food and water so it wasn't going to be easy !!

The route and elevation for our first day in the hills !!

We left early after a substantial breakfast and cycled out of town, it was at least 3 or 4km before we'd left it behind and got into open country. The road to start with was gentle as we passed the old fort that overlooks Unye. Sadly as we climbed higher not only did the road gain in severity but the sun just got hotter and hotter. There was one particular stretch of road where it was all concrete walls, it felt like riding through an oven, every time you tried to draw breath it was so hot !!

The old fort overlooking Unye, just a few km out of town !

We were on our bikes for nearly 7 hours that day, just grinding away slowly at the hill, we were lucky that the views were incredible and of course we had to stop to take photos, not because we were tired ;-)

Some of the views from the early part of the days climb !

Not only were the views amazing but also the people, be they in cars, trucks, buses or standing in their own gardens, we were cheered on, waved at, had “merhaba” Turkish for hello shouted at us, and on several occasions we were treated to Turkish hospitality at it's best, let me explain..

Our first rest stop was at a garage, mainly to use the toilet and buy water, we also had two cups of tea each, we tried to pay for the tea and our money was refused ! Our second instance was when a family who were enjoying there alfresco lunch invited us to join them, embarassed by the hospitality we stopped but only for tea, politely refusing food but asking if there was a restaurant close by. There was, 5km further up the hill, we pulled in, tired and hungry and approached a table to sit and devour whatever was put in front of us. Before we had time to sit we were beckoned by three guys to join them at there table. Not wanting to seem impolite we joined them and for the next hour or more they fed us, watered us, gave us Ayran, cooked our food and generally took care of us. The restaurant is no place for vegetarians as it's BBQ at your table, the host just brings, out slabs of beautiful lamb, tomatoes, onions, chillis and a hot BBQ, the rest is up to you.

Our family who were enjoying lunch and invited us to join them !
 
The restaurant host piling the lamb onto the BBQ !
Naomi, myself and two of our benefactors relaxing after a huge meal !!

Well, we stuffed ourselves, drank litres of water and Ayran and when it came to pay the three guys wouldn't let us pay a single cent !! Now I've encountered hospitality in numerous countries and the closest to this was in Australia with the Grebert family but this was just amazing and something I will never forget but will try to emulate !!

Another 14km lay ahead and with a belly full of lamb and Ayran we were ready for it, “it” didn't get any easier but we did eventually cycle into Akkus, we asked around and were pointed in the direction of a building that we later found out is a “Teacher House”, it is what it says, teachers stay in these places as they normally live miles away and can't travel to the school and back everyday. This was the first one we'd stayed in and have since stayed in one other. This one was clean and cheap, not to mention friendly and our bikes were left in the reception area and were perfectly safe.

Three photos from the last few km into Akkus, such great views and what a relief !!

Having scrubbed up and changed we ventured into town, there was a lovely sunset so we wandered out of the back of town to get photos. On the way back Naomi and a group of women got into a conversation based solely on gestures and mime, they thought us cycling home to the UK was hilarious !!

Sunset over Akkus and looking back at the town !

On our way back into town we were stopped by a couple of guys outside a shop, chai was offered in exchange for conversation so we rattled on about our trip and they filled the cups. After a couple of cups we said we were leaving to go in search of food, with that one of the guys led us to a kebab house, promptly ordered our food, paid for it and waited until we'd finished so he, his daughter and friends could walk us back to the Teacher House. Well, we were both gob smacked, we'd had one hell of a day on the bikes what with the climb and heat but the Turkish hospitality certainly made up for it, we were both humbled by the generosity we received that day and to be honest every day since in some degree or other !!

What a lovely man, Ahmet Akkaya, our friendly Turk who bought us dinner in Akkus !!

Our second day had us riding to Niksar, only 41km and 400m of climbing and with a 10km descent into town at the end it was a much less demanding day. The scenery was still breathtaking, the road wide, smooth and sometimes nearly empty. The hellos, waves and toots from passing cars were still encouraging us on and as we reached the view point overlooking Niksar it was good to know that our day was almost over and it was all downhill to the hotel. The bad bit was that our next day would start with a climb back up the other side of the valley. Firstly though more generosity from a passing motorist, we were looking lost, he stopped and when we said we were looking for a hotel he said to follow him. We followed him slowly for 3km and arrived at a quite posh hotel whereby we were greated like old friends and before we knew it a fruit plate and coffees had arrived at a table outside where we were relaxing, none of these items appeared on our bill !!!

Just some of the great views on our way to Niksar !
Atop the hill looking down into Niksar, what a great descent !
Some of the old houses and the views between them, it has a very Mediterranean feel about it !
Across from the hotel was this lovely park and plenty of places to eat !
Top photo is our posh looking hotel and below is the view down the valley !

The following morning, suitably refreshed after a sumptuous breakfast we tackled the hill towards Tokat, after about 5km of grinding away at it we arrived at a coffee stop and with fantastic views it seemed wrong not to stop and take photos, the very large dog “Pamuk” also got his photo taken, he was gorgeous !!

The ride started with wbout 10km of flat roads with views of the hills looming ahead !
Top two photos are Naomi on the climb, then three of the view from the coffe stop and finally Pamuk the dog, he was huge but very friendly, I think Nao wanted to take him home !!

After coffee we continued up the hill, crested it and made good progress for a while. We stopped for fruit from a lovely old guy before continuing on our way. Roadworks slowed us down a bit as they were resurfacing the worn out road, this involved spraying liquid tar and dumping huge amounts of very large chunks of gravel on it. Really hard to ride on and especially on the next 3km climb into Tokat.

Top photo is the fruit seller, had to beg him to take money off us !!
The other photos are the run into Tokat !

We found a really nice hotel in the centre of town but not until we'd been plied with yet more chai from another friendly Turk. The hotel was the sister hotel of the large 4 star place across the road and when we'd finished with our bikes two guys disappeared with them and locked them in the hotel basement across the road….brilliant !!

View of the old town and part of the fort taken from our bedroom window !

We had two nights in Tokat, this gave us a whole day to be tourists and boy did we make the most of it. We walked for miles, up through the old town to the base of the old fort, back down through more interesting little streets before climbing again all the way to the top of the fort….the views were amazing !

Some photos of the old town on our way up to the fort, some photos of the fort above us and what looked like a burial chamber below. Sadly to way into the fort from here so we had to go back down and find another way up !
Some more of the wonderful old town, taken on our second attempt at getting into the fort, loved this part of town, so photogenic, so much life and history !!
Naomi playing football with the kids on the way up ;-)
And one of my favorite photos taken on the way back down, just love the bike in the foreground and the slightly shabby buildings ;-)
Naomi arriving at the fort, the fantastic views from it and the last photo is the Tashan, more photos to come !

After that we found our way to the Tashan, it's basically a very old indoor market with a central courtyard, for coffee and ice cream and in Naomi's case a little jewellery purchase !!

The Tashan, very old but still being used pretty much as intended, fantastic place !!

Museums, mosques, clock towers and beautiful old houses filled the rest of the day, Tokat was certainly a real jewel and definitely worth a visit if your heading that way, it has so much history and a really good vibe !!

So there you have it, a collection of photos in no particular order of Museums, Mosques, Clock Towers, Doors, old buildings and just about anything else I found interesting. Fantastic place, great vibe, loads to see and do and so far the best bit by far !!
So that's it sar far, more to come soon, keep reading and take care !!
JC

 

Posted in Akkus, Black Sea Coast, Cycling, Hospitality, Niksar, Tashan, Tokat, Turkey, Unye, world cycle tour | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey, Trabzon to Unye

Our first real day in Trabzon, well we’re not counting yesterday because we were both knackered and spent most of our day catching up on sleep, night flights are a pain !!

Anyway back to our first day, we’d booked a trip into the mountains to see a monastery, The Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary at Melá Mountain within the Pontic Mountains range, in the Maçka district of Trabzon Province in modern Turkey.

It’s about an hour or 46km up into the mountains and the drive up was quite pleasant. It didn’t take to long for the temperature to drop and the rain to start, almost a relief after the hot weather in Denmark !!

We stopped just once on the way up to take pictures at a waterfall, nice to get out of the minibus for even a short time. The road up gets very narrow and also quite steep with sheer drops, it’s amazing how the drivers manage to get up without accident.

Once at the top there was a little confusion about how long we had or where we needed to get back to so we stuck with a family from Saudi Arabia, Abdul, his wife and daughter. Lovely family and as they spoke the language they were also very helpful.

From the carpark it’s only about 300m to the monastery steps, but it’s an unmade path that winds round the mountain and is in itself quite lovely, there are also places to get a good view across the forested hills.

The steps up are steep and crowded, we realised early on that British reserve wouldn’t work so we went with the elbows out strategy and were soon pushing our way through the doors at the top.

As you emerge through the portal your faced with the inner courtyard which is down another steep flight of steps, there are rooms of to the right hand side, guard rooms, library and stores. At the bottom is the bakery, dining room and of to the right the accomodation. In the centre built into the steep cliff is the church, it’s beautifully painted both inside and out, although it’s been neglected and vandalised over the years you can still see how amazing it would have looked.

We spent about 45 minutes checking out the monastery out before heading back to the tea rooms at the bottom of the steps. We met up with Abdul and his family and chatted until it was time to leave. We found the mini bus and as we still had time we walked further up the path to get photos of the monastery from a distance, impressive looking place !!

Once back in Trabzon we asked if we could get out in the centre, firstly because we’d not been there yet but also because we needed to eat and felt there’d be a good choice. As luck would have it we were dropped if right opposite the Tourist Info. We wandered in and got a few tips on what to see and do with our next day off.

The helpful man suggested several museums, one of which was local so as we still had time we walked in it’s direction. We found it easily enough and paid our tiny entry fee to go look around.

The museum is a mansion was built in the beginning of the 1900s as a private residence for Kostaki Teophylaktos, a notable banker of Greek origin. It is known that the architect was of Italian origin and many materials used in the building were brought from Italy. However, the name of the architect is unknown.

As Teophylaktos went bankrupt in 1917, all his properties were confiscated, among them his mansion. The building was acquired by the Nemlioğlu family.

During the timespan of Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923), the mansion was used as the headquarters for the military in the region. In 1924, it was prepared for the first visit of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the Turkish Republic, to Trabzon. Between September 15–17, he and the First Lady Latife stayed in the mansion.

In 1927, the building was nationalized by the Governor of Trabzon Ali Galip Bey, and served until 1931 as the Governor’s House. Between 1931-1937, it was used as the inspector’s office.

The Kostaki Mansion was assigned in 1937 to the Ministry of National Education, and was used for fifty years long as a vocational high school for girls. Finally, in 1987, the building was handed over to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to be transformed into a museum.

So basically it’s a huge slightly neglected but otherwise beautiful grand house full of stunning furniture and objects. The areas are roped off to help preserve them but the access is still quite generous and as museums go it gets my vote !!

Well after that we found a great buffet for dinner, lots of vegetables, salads and bread….just love Turkish food, especially the olives and soft cheeses ;-)

The walk back to our hotel was both needed and interesting and now we have a much better idea of what to do, where to go and how to get there, one more day then it’s back on the bikes so we’d better make the most if it !!

 

Ok, day two in Trabzon, let’s take a little tour of the town. We start with a short walk up to the main shopping street, past the Tourist Info and just under the bridge we find the Dolmus that will take us up the hill to Boztepe. It’s listed in the guide book and on the local tourist map as “the view point”, guess it’s not hard to see why….

The views from here and slightly further back down the road are amazing, I especially like the view from Trazbons Hollywoodesque sign, shame about the rubbish.

We carried on walking back down the hill, stopping to photograph more views, mosques and rooftops were in plentiful supply and look very colourful.

After walking for quite a while we hopped back on a dolmus to get back into town, a quick coffee in Maccy D’s and we were off again, but wait, panic !! Where’s Naomi’s camera ?? Back to Maccy D’s, grateful to the lovely family that were looking after it until our return….love turkey !!

Ok, back on a dolmus and across town to the Hagia Sophia Museum.

The Church of Saint Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, meaning “Holy Wisdom” Turkish: Ayasofya), formerly the Saint Sophia Museum, is a former Chalcedonian (Greek Orthodox) church. It dates back to the thirteenth century when Trabzon was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond. It is located near the seashore and two miles west of the medieval town’s limits. It is one of a few dozen Byzantine sites still existent in the area. It has been described as being “regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture.

Lovely little place, tranquil despite it’s location and beautifully decorated with vibrant paintings. The views from the rear of the garden show just how busy this location is !

From here we walked back towards the ancient city walls, stopping on the way for lunch. The local delicacy is kofte, they were very cheap, very tasty and the people so friendly, fantastic !!

Approaching the city walls and fort we of course stopped for more photos, we crossed the road into a park and found a tree house, statues and a clock, all worthy of a photograph….such a wonderful space in a busy city !

Crossing the busy road to continue on into the city we crossed a bridge, and more surprises awaited us, the views from the bridge were stunning and not what we expected at all. A beautiful park, it stretches right the way back under the busy overpass, the water runs through the middle and there are plenty of places to stop and relax. The view of the other side is equally good, the old wall flanks the right side while on the left are old houses, in the middle more park, more formal here but just as good.

We continued our walk past more mosques, busy shopping streets, urban decay, quirky alleys, neglected tired buildings and frantic bazaars !!

I think the photos will show what a vibrant, exciting city this is, it’s given us a few surprises but I think we like it, the people are so friendly here, especially the guy in the cafe next door, his name was Ishmail and he refused to take payment for our teas and water on our way back and never fails to great us with a cheery hello and a handshake. I’m looking forward to our trip through this wonderful country and hope to meet more people like him !!

 

 

We were up and away early for our first bike ride in Turkey, we said farewell to the two guys that run the Bulvar Palace Hotel, a cheap, no frills basic hotel in the old quarter about 1.2km from the centre. It was clean and despite the shared bath and erratic water supply we liked it. The guys were friendly and looked after us and our bikes without question, top guys.

So check out complete, breakfast done we set off, I little nervous but after a km or two we were back in the rhythm and rolling along quite nicely. The road out of Trabzon was busy and to start with there wasn’t a shoulder to ride on but we were soon on a bigger road and the shoulder was plenty wide enough. The surface was smooth and relatively free of debris so we managed a good pace.

We passed by the Haiga Sophia museum we were at yesterday and then we just seemed to have the road all to ourselves for a while. We passed this sign a few km later and suddenly realised just how far from home we are, and we’re going the long way round…gulp !!

We passed forts, boats yards and plenty of hazelnuts while riding and after about 50km we stopped for a drink. We got chatting to the owner of the stall, Ardem, and next thing you know he’s plying us with food. Hazelnut and Walnut spread, cheeses, bread, tea and water….such generosity, we even had to force him to take money for the coffees and water we already had !!

We were going to stop at Basikduzu but we’d got ther by 10.15 so we pushed on a bit further to Gorele but yet again we were far to early. We pushed on yet again and finally came to rest at Tirebolu but not before some tunnels and fantastic roads that just seemed to go on forever. What with the sea to one side and mountains on the other we’d had a great first day and yet again had sampled Turkish hospitality…long may it continue !!

 

 

Day 2 of cycling in Turkey saw us up and away early, stopping only for some bread to add to our cheese and fruit we bought yesterday. We headed out on the D010, not much choice here….correction, no choice at all !!

Now the Black Sea coast from Trabzon to Samsun may not be the most beautiful bit of coast but it’s certainly not dull, lots going on so always something to keep your mind active. Add to that the tunnels, lots of them, over 8km of them in today’s 95km ride. I guess it takes the hills out but man some of them are scary on a bike and there’s no choice. One of them was particularly bad and we hit a pothole, my rear pannier fell of and I didn’t even notice. Thankfully after we emerged into the light a car stopped us and told me. Luckily it was only about 100m in and undamaged !!

We stopped for a picnic breakfast after about 20km, cheese, bread and fruit, oh and I got the trangia out and boiled some water for a brew, Nescafé, ahhhh !!

Apart from that we stopped in Giresun for a coffee and kunefe ( a local sweet ), very sweet and very nice, we won’t be having to many of them though as we’re both trying to lose weight !!

I guess Giresun was trying to promote it’s local produce with these odd little places, shame they didn’t finish them, I guess it wouldn’t be Turkey if they did !!

There were a few great little bays along the route, and even some that weren’t strewn with litter, one of my pet hates, just can’t understand why people can’t use a bin or take the rubbish home, oh well !!

So after lots of good roads, wide shoulders and sometimes little traffic we arrived in Ordu, a very together looking place, a real holiday vibe about it. It even has a cable car up the mountain, and yes of course we went up, fantastic view….

They even have a spot for paragliders to take of from so we stood and watched for a while before heading back down for food, I must admit that we also both had our first beer in Turkey, it won’t happen often as like I say we’re watching our weight.

Ordu is perhaps the most together place we’ve seen since we landed and if your thinking of heading to the Black Sea Coast you could do far worse !!

The ride from Ordu to Unye would have involved one of Turkey’s longest road tunnels, at over 4km it was certainly one we wanted to avoid ! Lucky for us then that we could take the coast road round the headland through Persembe, Mersin, round to Yalikoy and Bolaman before rejoining the D010 for the last 25km into Unye. It added considerable mileage to our route but to avoid the tunnel we thought it was worth it.

As it happens it was a great ride, our first bike lane got us out of Ordu and onto the coast road, now much quieter roads take us along the coast and although there are still tunnels there very small on this road. The sea is never far away and little coves appear through the trees and brush giving tantalising vistas.

Despite there being no shoulder on this smaller road we were never troubled by traffic but there were more hills and it was hot and muggy.

We did meet other cyclists, a German couple Bert and his wife Ricky, they were travelling from Istanbul to Armenia, we had a brief chat, took photos and carried on. A couple of Km later we took a side road for Jason’s church…

Lovely little place by the sea so after a few photos we had a quick cup of tea before cycling back up the hill to the main road. We stopped again only a few km later, primarily to use the toilet at a gas station but yet again we drank tea and bought water, we’re not in any rush so may as well relax now and again.

The further round the headland we went the longer the hills seemed to get and as we approached Yalikoy Naomi ran out of steam so we stopped for lunch. A roadside cafe, doesn’t look much but the food was fantastic and so cheap, £8 for what you see on the table and that includes drinks !!

After lunch Naomi felt much better and we pressed on to Fasta, now only about 20km from Unye, it was busy going through the town so we took to the wide pavement for a while. As we crossed a side street a guy in a cafe called to us to have tea with him, he seemed pleasant so we sat and drank tea for a while. He showed us his photos of Capadoccia a place we said we were going to. We drank more tea, and Naomi took his American 32″ wheel street cruiser for a test ride, can’t see her doing the whole trip on one but she certainly enjoyed it !! After that we tried to pay but Mahmut wouldn’t take any money, another example of the generosity of the Turkish people.

Here he is in a selfie with Nao and myself, thanks Mahmut !!

From there into Unye it went ok, good to have some interesting stuff to look at though as we were both getting tired by the end. We found a hotel in Unye without to much trouble, showered and went out for a walk. We took a stroll to the end of the pier and got talking to Turguy, he owns a boat and runs short trips round the bay. Despite not wanting a boat ride we were invited on board, given coffee and left to chill out and relax, more genuine hospitality, this country is amazing !!

Just a few photos from the pier…
And finally one of perhaps the most prolific buildings in Turkey, the Mosque, I think they save there best work for these places, they’re all stunning !!
 

So what a day, what a week, it’s been fantastic so far and tomorrow we head south into the hills, direction Capadoccia !!

For now though I wish you all well and hope you continue to read my blogs and look at the photos !!

JC

 

 

Posted in Black Sea Coast, Cycling, Ordu, Trabzon, Turkey, Unye | Tagged | Leave a comment