Heart to Beat # 12 Hospitality at its best (Anatolia 2)

Published at September 13, 2018 at 9:00 PM

What unprecedented hospitality the Turks know! From the picturesque and old little İznik, where our previous blog ended, we cycle to Sakarya, a city with approximately 1 million inhabitants. After 20 kilomters we buy bread and cheese a supermarket. The owner invites us for a cup of tea. A few kilometers further the owner of a stall along the road gives us grapes and a peach. In Sakarya we are approached by a German speaking man in front of a car garage and we end up on invitation of the man and the owner of the garage at a restaurant. That is quiet convenient: it just started raining and the bikes parked save in the garage when we set of to a nearby restaurant. The 67-year-old German-speaking man is visiting from Istanbul. He studied mechanical engineering in Munich, traveled extensively, had many different jobs and companies and wants to live in Malaysia next year and export teak. Maybe we’ll meet again there.

After dinner the sun is back again and we cycle to a brand new hotel in a new part of the city. The coffee is ready. However, we feel like having a beer and walk to the supermarket across the street. The next morning Roelie wants to pour the coffee, but it is old and cold in the can. Turks do not drink coffee in the morning. It is cay (tea) they drink.

We hope that we will reach a small lake high up in the mountains where we wish to camp. After a kilometer or 20 we stop in a tiny village at a minimarket and buy a bottle of water and plop down on a bench. Eventually we drink 3 cups of tea and eat walnuts. Everything offered by different villagers. In the next hamlet a kickboxing car wash owner stops us and we get coffee with Turkish fruit. He says that two days ago he spoke to two cyclists from Barcelona. They cycled the same way we are heading.

When we buy bread in the nest village, the baker warns us that the road we want to take is blocked (or something). If we want to eat the bread on the sidewalk in front of his shop, we are asked to enter. In the middle of the bakery where the loaves of bread are just removed from the oven, a table is put down and two stools. Owner Salih even buys us coke, water and grapes.

Meanwhile Salih calls his sister in Rotterdam and we speak to her via FaceTime. The bread is still warm and is eaten in no time. Salih puts down a new loaf on to table. We may not pay for it. It is then 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we have only cycled 44 kilometers and almost everything was flat. The big hill is to come.  When we thank Salih extensively, he invites us to come to his home for coffee, dinner and overnight. ‘Tomorrow continue cycling?’  For a moment we don’t know whether we can accept such great hospitality. After a short hesitation, we accept his offer. His wife Aynur and their 2-year-old grandson await us for their self-built new home. After the coffee and a delicious shower, we are picked up by a Dutch speaking cousin. After living in the Netherlands for 10 years, he wanted to return to Turkey. After 3 weeks we start to understand that it is difficult earthing in the Netherlands for Turks. We eat at his mother’s restaurant. We eat too much and the (double) bread lunch is only two hours ago. But it is also all too tasty. If we continue like this we will gain multiple kilos in Turkey.

Once again home Roelie goes out with the 20-year-old daughter Merve to buy a drink at a little shop down the road. Harry gets the offer from Salih to go back to the bakery. He understands that Salih will return at 2 o’clock at night and turns down the offer. However, Salih returns 2 hours later. A small error in the communication that mainly takes place via Google translate. Communication is a lot easier when Aynur’s brother walks in. He lives in Frankfurt and speaks German. With cake, cookies, nuts and of course a lot of tea, it ends up to be a very nice evening. And large-scale hazelnuts ends up on the table. They grow everywhere here. Harry has learned from Salih to crack the nuts with his hands. That still needs some practice however.

The next morning, Aynur presents a delicious breakfast, almost everything herself made. Completely stuffed her brother brings us back to the bakery. We are happy to see Salih again to say goodbye. When we just cycle out of the village, he gets back from his trip to bring bread around. We say goodbye to the very nice and hospitable man.

The next morning, Aynur presents a delicious breakfast, almost everything herself made. Completely stuffed her brother brings us back to the bakery. We are happy to see Salih again to say goodbye. When we just cycle out of the village, he gets back from his trip to bring bread around. We say goodbye to the very nice and hospitable man.

The road, which would be barred, is indeed not entirely suitable for cycling. To get from one road to another we have to push the bikes up over a steep gravel path. We cycle through small villages and sometimes climb ridiculously steep sections to end up on a wide, but fairly quiet, D-road.

At 2 pm we arrive in a nice village and meet two boys from Izmir, Samet and Eren. They are traveling by car through the Bolu area which is rich in forests, mountains and many lakes. They too camp and go to Abant Gölū where we also want to go today. They also tip us to go to Yedigöller Milli Parkı. They probably go there a day later or already today. Maybe we see them in Abant, perhaps in Yedigöller. They plan to stay in Yedigöller a few days.

Meanwhile it has started to rain and it seems a bit late to cycle to Abant Gölū. It is only 26 kilometers, but it is still 920 meters higher and we already have quite a bit of altitude meters ‘in the legs’. We ask the man who gave us tea if there is a hotel in the village. He really does not speak a word of English and eventually brings us to an small office. The man in the office also does not speak a word of English either, but there is a large poster of a resort at the wall behind him and folders of it on his desk. According to Google maps it is 52 km away. We use our Ismail helpline, but the office man calls in his own helpline. Obviously there is no hotel in this village. It does not rain anymore, the temperature is very pleasant and we decide to continue cycling to Abant Gölū. The road is beautiful and / but especially the last part is horribly steep: over 12 percent.

After the summit we descend to the lake at 1400 meters altitude: it is cold and it is already starting to twilight. We see that a chic hotel offers a room for 50 euros and check in. It turns out that we also get dinner and breakfast for that. We thought we would appreciate the hot shower the most, but the food is – again – incredibly good. In the evening we check whether we have broken our record in altitude meters today and yes, we have: 1770 rise meters! Finally burned some calories. The wine bottle dragged by Harry is uncorked but will go through the sink almost entirely the next morning; early, very early we fall asleep like a log with a glass of wine next to the bed.

The next morning we first walk to a higher point for a nice viewpoint on the lake. At the reception we asked for walking routes or a map of this National Park, but it does not exist. On maps.me we see a walking route and follow it and climb to the top of a mountain at an altitude of 2000 meters. We can already clearly see the dark clouds that are approaching. A lot of rain is predicted for this afternoon.

Once back at the hotel, it will start to draw. It is only 35 kilometers downhill to town Bolu but we wait until the rain is less. After a drenched and cold descent we can not find the hotel in a sunny Bolu. When we sit down on a bench in the shopping street (where a bike path goes by!), we are immediately offered tea from Haluk, the owner of a trinket shop. He drives a motorbike and has old timers as a hobby. He also advises us to go to Yedigöller Milli Parkı. We already have that plan because Harry has agreed with Samet via Instagram that we will meet them tomorrow.

After some wanderings we find the hotel a stone’s throw away from the bench we were on. After a shower we look for a restaurant and meet Haluk again. He goes to dinner and invites us to join him. Another offer that we are grateful for. He consults with the waiter and we get a three-course dinner of soup, kofte with pilav and dessert. The kofte seem to be made slightly different in every town. Again the food is great.

So we go to Yedigöller and weather forecast for Bolu looks excellent for the climb 920 meters higher to get to the other side in to the National park around 7 lakes: about 22 degrees and half cloudy. In Bolu that might also has come true, but higher up hill, it is cold, dark clouds hang and it starts to rain. Just before the rain falls we drink a cup of tea at a primitive road teahouse without a house but with hot tea. It will be the first time in all these weeks and the many glasses of tea, that we pay for 😉

When we approach the top of 1700 meters it stops raining and the sun breaks through and because we cycle so high we enjoy a great view over the valley. It is still cold and in the descent can we need more clothes and thick gloves. While getting dressed, a young girl less than 10 years old gets out of a stopped car and gives us apples. In neat English she asks the questions her father in Turkish asks from the car. After the apple and after being well packed, the descent appears to be postponed and we climb almost as much as we descend. After the entrance of Yedigöller, we descend over cobblestones. The road is breathtakingly beautiful! The trees on either side of the narrow road entwine above us. It is a green corridor that only opens after miles of descent at the first lake. There is a sign with entrance fees and a man who int. He just gestures us to continue cycling without paying. Fine, of course we won’t contradict on that. At the third lake and a good deal of descending, we are at the campsite.

Via Instagram we find the boys from Izmir and then we set up the tent next to theirs. At nearby lake number 4  we warm up in the sun. Then the 5 gets in the clock (time for a drink) and we go back where the boys collected a pile of wood to barbecue in the evening. But first comes mezze (Turkish tapas) and Turkish raki on the table. It is only allowed here after sunset to light a fire. That turns out to be a difficult job because here too it rained today and the wood is humid. Samet, however, turns out to be an excellent  fireman and gets the fire started. Fires are laid out all around. In the twilight the damp of the humid wood envelops the campsite in a thick cloud of smoke.

On the wood fire Samet and Eren bake kofte and sucuck. The meal that we have been transporting for five days and now and then refreshing, remains untouched again. After the delicious food, Samet conjures up a typical Turkish water pipe and we chat till late around the campfire. The guys, who are allowed to work as general doctors, celebrate today that they have passed the entrance exam so that they can specialize. Samet still doubts about his specialization, Eren wants to go to specify in eye and skin surgery.

We expect a cold night and a rain in the morning. After a long time we will use our sleeping bags and we sleep like roses until 8 o’clock in the morning. When we drain our tent the sun shines. There is no cloud in the sky and we pack the camping gear dry again. Another cup of coffee with the boys and we continue on the descent, which yesterday was beautiful and that just 16 km seems to last. It is impossible to describe as beautiful and untouched nature is in this park!

After 30 km Samet and Eren overtake us (the first car we see in this whole descent) and propose to take a break. Good idea. They park their car on the border of the National Park and make coffee. It is then another 30 kilometers to the village of Mengen, where we think we will spend the night. After the long descent we have to go up hill again. The road not only goes up but also often down again. All in all a nice afternoon of cycling before we arrive in Mengen.

At a shop in Mengen, a young man tips us to stay in a bungalow just outside the village. We cycle to it and even though it is a bit above our budget, we choose to spend the night there. The lady who receives us speaks almost no English and switches on a helpline. She laughs sweetly and happily. The adjacent hotel is also more expensive. There is no WiFi and because of a malfunction a cold shower but who cares: we have our own Tiny house for 1 night!

Roelie drops the toilet roll holder into 4 pieces. When Harry is peeing and as a multitasker simultaneously tries to close the bathroom window, the window shoots completely out of its frame and Roelie has to help him to put the window back before it falls on the tile. Oh well it looks nice, but it is a quality of the materials used is cheap.

In the morning we can take a hot shower, there is also WiFi and a good breakfast. While it rains a little, we say goodbye to the nice people and hear it already thunder. A day full of rain and thunderstorms awaits us. We want to cycle to Safranbolu, but we know that it is actually too far and there is also a big bump with 900 altitude meters.

After 16 kilometers we hide from a downpour at an abandoned gas station. Soon three ladies arrive who entre the office. They look a bit sullen but the third says Merhaba back and then brings us tea and cookies. When the heavy showers are over we start pedaling again. Around us thunder and lightning constantly. We take a second pause at a newly built covered picnic spot. We play a game with dice for the first time this trip. Roelie wins, Harry blames the crooked picnic table. The showers have changed again in rain and we can continue again. It does not really work out that way and destination Safranbolu is of out list for today.

The top is at 1440 meters and the road is slippery wet and the trees cover the low clouds. It is quite a pretty face. On the other side of the summit there is a completely different landscape that is open and rocky. It seems like we ended up in a completely different country. Dark clouds are gathering above us again and thunder is approaching. It thunders all around us and during the descent it starts to rain again.

We arrive at Eskipazar at 5 pm. A lively village despite the rain. Cold and hungry we stop in the center at a dönerkebab shop and attack a hot meat sandwich. Afterwards, tea is taken for us. We ask the boy who brings the tea – the only one who speaks a little bit of English – if there are overnight possibilities in the village. No, they are not, but there is in Karabük (another 50 km away!!!). The boy of the kebab shop shows on a translation text on his smartphone: “there is a guest house in the village, do we want him to take us there to see it?” Yes, very welcome!

The guest house is located on the 2nd floor of a interesting complex with varying use of space. It looks most like a multi-company building. After first having enjoyed tea on the ground floor, our bikes are lifted to the first floor with combined strength. Then we can get to our room at the second floor. There are 4 beds in the room and there is a shower with hot water, towels and a very sweet little woman who spontaneously gives Roelie a hug and welcomes her once again. Hospitality at its best.