Heart to Beat #11 Anatolia (1)

Published at September 6, 2018 at 7:00 PM

We have left Europe behind us. From Gelibolu we cross the straits of the Marmara Sea by ferry. Across the street we buy some groceries and see a barber shop next door. Harry needs a haircut and is turns out not only to be a haircut, but also extensively massaged, washed, eyebrows and nose hairs are trimmed and the hairs at the ears are scorched with a lighter. Afterwards we get tea, there is some communication via Google Translate. We have to pay the small amount of 2 euro …

We cycling along the coast with a strong headwind. As we stop for water at a mini-market along the road, an incredibly sweet little owner lends us a peeler to cut the bought peaches, offers coffee on the house and an extra peach and two hugs at the farewell. He also gives us a plasticized map of Turkey on one side and the world on the other side. We can probably use that often.

It is hot today. We have not experienced this hot yet. At a petrol station we buy cold water and are called by Ismail. He owns an outdoor shop in Bursa and invites us to come by when we are there. He also warns us for the traffic. You might feel safe on the emergency lane, but it is not unusual for motorists to use it to overtake.

In the town of Biga we again check in at a hotel. The lira is so low, that a hotel costs so little that we allow ourselves to take a warm shower, have a clean and private toilet, sleep in air conditioning and get an extensive breakfast for 20 euros. We need to make a choice in Biga. We cycled all day on a D road, a wide motorway with relatively little traffic but also a bit boring. We can continue on that same D road and go to Erdek to a good campsite or we choose an unknown route more inland as suggested by routeplanner bikemap. We choose the latter and head to the town of Gönen.

It is another hot day. Fortunately, the climbing is at the beginning of the day when it is relatively not so hot. Shortly after leaving the town, a stray dog ​​is annoyingly in our way as if he would not let us through. When we carefully pass him, he follows us on the back wheel, in front of the wheel and next to the wheel. We climb and do not go so fast and he keeps up easily. Over a distance of 10 kilometers we are suddenly a pack of three: Harry, Roelie and doggie. Actually, that is exactly what we wished for. We would not be the first to go on a bicycle trip with a dog. On the way the dog is attacked by two herd dogs, but he bravely passes through and stays with us. Before entering a village we can descend strongly and make some speed. That will not be the only reason that the dog stops following. In the village we see some more possible hostile four-legged friends. End of journey with dog.

We turn down the invitation for tea at the village with our hand on our heart, as is customary here. We have to go further up along a reservoir. At the reservoir we find a nice picnic area with tables and spring water. An early lunch but we can use it well. After the reservoir we leave the good smooth asphalt and continue on a completely deserted and steep forest road. This time no dog, but the known tiny flies which want to get in eyes, ears and nose, accompany us on the climb. When descending they immediately disappear. Roelie accidentally finds herself in the clicks in the descent. She has not used it until today. The click under the betwin shoes can be adjusted under the ball of the foot, but a bit to the back and that does not cycle nicely. She already fell over once when she was in the clicks and could not get out. Now she cannot get out either. Apparently she lost a screw. With unified strength Harry gets the shoe loosened and we can continue. Time for new cycling shoes!

We stop in the town of Gönen today. Roelie’s mother has her birthday today and the warm congratulations are being called. Everything good back home in Grou. Everything all right with us. We choose to stay in a hotel again. That costs even less than the last nights. We are therefore not surprised if it turns out that there is no private bathroom. We check whether there is a communal bathroom in the corridor, but can not find it. Just before we inquire at the reception, we discover behind our room door another door to a spacious bathroom. Super!

In a restaurant we order a number of typical Turkish dishes. Especially the Iskender kebab is awesome. We ordered far too much, but we finish everything.

The next day starts with a wash of our bikes. Today’s route is then somewhat boring, flat and paved. The rinsed bikes therefore stay clean. The route seems to go along a lake, but there is not a single moment to see a glimpse. Apparantly it is a bird paradise, but everywhere around the lake we hear that farmers have poppers to chase birds away. On the last part of today’s route we first cycle over a tomato road and then a bell pepper road. Overloaded loaded trucks drive up and down between the fields with tomatoes and bell peppers and with every bump and bend tomatoes and bell peppers fall from the trucks. And since there are quite a few bumps and turns, the road is full of beautiful ripe and perfect tomatoes and peppers and a part of course crushed.

Today we stop in the town of Mustafakemalpasa. We think the name is beautiful and jokes that it should be a translation of a sentence: “Mustafa, that does not happen”. Very strange how that goes with us in terms of remembering place names: Mustafakemalpasa is right in our memory without error and Bursa keep calling Busra. Later we will learn that Mustafakemalpasa is the name (and rank) of Atatürk.

The scale rises in terms of size of cities: Biga counts 43,000 inhabitants, Gönen, 73,000 and Mustafakemalpasa 100,000. Bursa counts more than 2 million. At least, that is what we can read from the search results on Google where a short excerpt of Wikipedia can be read. Wikipedia is blocked in Turkey, just like the dutch news site NOS.nl.

After Mustafakemalpasa we drive out of the valley. The fields are full of olive trees and figs. A man offers us figs that he gets from the tree on the spot. Every time we take a few, he goes back to pick more. What a nice man. We just do not know for certain whether we like figs and how to eat them. We will learn that later in Bursa. They turn out to be absolutely delicious!

At some level in our climb we finally see the bird lake behind us. It is enormous and in our view there is enough space to indeed be a paradise for birds. On the other side of the hill there is another lake named turtle lake. It looks green and from a distance we suspect that the green color comes by millions of swimming turtles. The only turtle we see is when we are close to the campsite in Bursa. He (or she) is standing in the middle of the road and Harry picks him (or her) up to take him to the opposite side of the road. A minute later a car tears past and we feel super good that we have saved one.

We have written a separate blog about our time in Bursa, named ‘Misa paradise’. Roelie leaves Bursa on new Shimano shoes where the clicks are in the right place. Again we cycle through the olive and fig trees. a few miles outside the city, a man stops and invites us to take figs from the back of his pickup. We do not refuse that offer. The only other traffic on the road are farmers, who transport workers in pickups and carts to the fields. Merhaba (meaning hello) is often called. At the top we eat half a melon that Ece gave us in Misa and the figs we got on the way up before descend to the coast. At the coast we buy a loaf and crash on a bench by the sea. Three cheerful ladies in colorful boerkinis step into the sea in front of us. The place is so peaceful that we both do not feel like cycling any further. We get back on the pedals and cycle for miles alongside the sea, shops, restaurants, houses and mosques.

When we leave coast we are overtaken by a scooter driver several times. He occasionally stops picking figs and occasionally comes to ride next to us. He speaks German well. When we arrive in a village, he is waiting for us. He would like to offer us a cold can of soda. It is in his opinion too hot to cycle. We do not decline his offer. After a fanta and icetea he also buys cold water for us. Again such a sweet man.

The rest of the route is tough. We are back on a wide and somewhat busier D road and when it turns into a normal road the road is narrow, there is only truck traffic and there is no bend in it. The intended destination is a campsite on the westside of Lake Iznik. We can not find it until we see a sign with camp on it. It is a spacious restaurant with chickens and a sheep where we can pitch the tent in a distant corner. It costs € 10 and there appears to be no shower.

At a nearby table is a good English speaking Tuna and owner of a nearby new restaurant sits with the owner of the “camping” and a friend. The last two man do not speak English. We are invited to sit and have tea. We ask if there is a supermarket, but we are told that if we want to eat something, that can be taken care of by the restaurant. We would really like to barbecue. The disposable barbecue is taken from Bursa. We ask if we can buy a beer somewhere near and get the answer that if we give money to the owner that he could get it for us, probably a bit more expensive. However, they will first will have diner themselves. When the tent is put, we see on Google maps that the supermarket is only 3 kilometers away and go there by bike. Now that we are the only ones in a restaurant area we find it inappropriate to go barbecuing and opt for bread and melon and we buy ourselves a beer. When we return, Tuna and his wife are sitting nest to our tent. We’re chatting a bit. He is a kind of celebrity in the area, has traveled a lot and likes to meet people.

We cycle from the west site to the east side of the fifth largest lake in Turkey. On the way we are stopped by Ali. He sells the products that grow all around in a stall along the road. He offers us apples and olives and asks a lot about our journey and what we do for work. Everything is written in a notebook. We may only leave after a selfie where Roelie needs to hold a big jar of his olives.

The town of Iznik on the east side has been capital of the Ottoman Empire before Bursa and there are also many remnants from the Byzantine period. Only two years ago, in the lake near the town, the foundation of a basilica was discovered with a drone. Tuna showed us the pictures. South of Iznik there is a camp site, but it can not have the name “camping” and is even more sombre than that of last night. We decide to find a hotel in Iznik. In the evening we barbecue at the lakeside between all Turks and decide that we will stay one extra day. It will be a very hot day tomorrow and our hotel has a swimming pool. Iznik is also a very cozy small-scale town.

The next day we meet a nice young Dutch family from Zeist. It’s nice to speak Dutch again. In the evening we use the barbecue again. For the meat we go to a restaurant where we try to buy a package of meat. An English speaking clerk is brought in and it seems like she understands us. Yet we feel that this is not the case when we have to wait and get tea. A German-speaking Turk offers his help and confirms that it is all right and must be patient. But it is not good. They are already grilling the package. The manager comes in and does not speak a word of English. The German-speaking man has left. Eventually we end up at the cash desk with an unbaked package. They want to put the difference in price back on the credit card. An uncomfortable situation because we do not speak Turkish and end up paying habbits for the package of meat while the same package is being baked on the grill.

When we are grilling at the lake afterwards, we see lightning all around and above the lake. Rain had been forecasted, but we could not imagine rain until – when we get back to the hotel – it rains heavily. It rains all night and the weather forecast shows that it continues to thunder and rain throughout the next day. Late in the evening our friends from Misa paradise Aydogan and Ece contact us via FaceTime. We chat for a while and laugh out loud again. Fortunately, Aydogan is completely happy and fit again.

If it rains cats and dogs in the morning, we decide to book another day at the hotel. We can work nicely on this blog while the storm is gathering around us again. To make it up for last time we have dinner iat the restaurant we bought the bbq meet package before.The rain has stopped, the sun is back and we are looking forward to the next day to discover a new part of Turkey.