The Turkish Bath
Receiving the traditional scrub down
Mad dogs and Englishmen, or perhaps it should be the other way round...... mad Englishmen and bloody wild dogs! As I continue on my route through Turkey the temperature is hotting up and I am regularly experiencing temperatures in the high 30s. I have hence had to adopt my routine a little and now rise at 4.45 in the morning for a 5.30 am start on the road, usually finishing no later than 1.30 pm in the afternoon. From predominantly riding on flat roads throughout Europe, I am now having to regularly get out of my saddle to scale the hills on the coastline. I know I have much worst to come when I start heading inland, but hopefully the heat will be less stifling when I gain some altitude.
Istanbul was my first major milestone and as I alluded to you in my previous blog it also became a bit of a mental hurdle to overcome. Luckily I had my friends Joe and Neil joining me for a weekend out there and we took the opportunity to see all the usual tourist sites such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia as well as a boat trip on the Bospherous.
"When in Rome do as the Romans do" so we also partook in a traditional Turkish Bath, followed by a haircut and cut throat razor shave, which I must add the Turks are extremely good at, and drank plenty of Turkish tea and coffee.
Of course we also visited Taksim Square where all the riots had recently taken place and so it appeared things were beginning to quieten down. Unbeknown to us was the fact that the Turkish Police were going to storm Gezi Park, Taksim Square on the very evening we were there and we were on site literally 10 minutes before the Police began their offensive. We watched the scenes unfold on the television from the comfort of a restaurant literally two minutes away from the troubled area, however then things began to escalate and some of the unrest began to unfold in the streets adjacent to Gezi Park. We could hear the chants and whistles of the protestors and we could also see people beginning to run as things intensified. We vacated the area in which we were in and felt the presence of tear gas in the air.
Not wishing to panic ourselves we
In Taksem Square, Istanbul
With my good friends Neil and Joe who flew out from England
settled down for a beer and some food in a restaurant a few hundred metres away and held conversations with some of the locals regarding the protests. Having enjoyed some traditional Turkish food, it was time to move on and this time the effects of tear gas were more evident as we stepped out onto the street and it was time to make our escape plan. A few sprints here and a few sprints there and we eventually ended up in the safety of a cab, who drove the three of us out to the hotel where Neil and Joe were staying a long way away from the troubles and I settled down for a comfortable night's sleep on the floor of Neil and Joe's room.
The following morning as Neil and Joe departed for their flight back to the UK, I made plans to return to my hostel. Unfortunately the Metro only ran a short way due to certain stations being shut down. What would normally take 20 minutes ended up taking 3 hours as I walked around the streets of Istanbul trying to avoid both rioters and police who were still fighting it out in certain parts
In the old part of Istanbul
of the city. Suffice to say that the previous evening's protests had left the city looking scarred and something resembling a war scene. Banging of pots and pans was audible throughout the city as people joined in with the protests from the balconies of their flats.
As things began to return to normal the following day, peaceful and silent protests took place in the vicinity of Taksim Square and somehow I even managed to get myself on the front page of the Turkish newspapers behind a girl blowing some soap bubbles with riot police staring on.
The more I travel through Turkey, the more I fall in love with the place. It is the mixture of old and new which I love so much and the hospitality of the Turkish people continues to amaze me.
Having read many blogs about the traffic in Istanbul, I opted to leave on a ferry from Istanbul to Yalova on the Asian side, a trip lasting approximately 70 minutes. It was here whilst minding my own business that two guys came up to me and presented me with a fresh cup of coffee. This generosity was again experienced a few days
later whilst camping in Erdek. I was reading my Kindle in the campsite when a lady came up and gave me a cup of coffee. A few minutes later another family presented me with a roll and a Kebab and then a further couple of minutes later another family gave me some salad and some more fresh meat.
Accommodation wise, I have camped more during the past two weeks and have ended up sleeping in someones boat, in somebody's unfinished building and on one occasion I slept out under the stars next to a dilapidated building in a field. Unfortunately this time I was rudely awaken by a shepherd at 0015 in the morning when he decided to take his flock of sheep right past me. It was the barking of the his dogs that first alarmed me and I quickly rose and armed myself with my stick in case the dogs attacked me. Fortunately, they didn't although I experienced the dog's wild instinct the following morning when the Shepherd returned at 0530 just as I was pushing my bicycle up onto the main road and it was a firm loud command by the shepherd which stopped the dog
from getting hold of me.
I had read in several blogs before embarking on this journey about the wild dogs of Turkey and fortunately up until now when I have been chased by the dogs a quick stop and a loud shout deters them from coming any closer. That said I was on the main road yesterday driving past an outlet when a dog on a chain, which I hadn't seen, jumped up wildly and tried to get hold of me. Fortunately I was able to swerve out of harms reach but nearly ended up going into the side of a bus.
My journey this time took me past Canakkle which is situated opposite the Gallipoli peninsular. Having been to this Aussie, Kiwi pilgrimage site on a previous occasion I opted not to see the memorials and Anzac cove this time. However, it is evident when cycling through Turkey that Ataturk is considered a real hero by the Turkish population and his famous speech which he said during the battle for Gallipoli is truly inspirational, so I have reproduced it below:
In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk wrote the famous words that reached out to the mothers of
his former enemies.
“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours,
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well”.
As I proceed further east, communication has become increasingly difficult. I have learnt a couple of words along the way, but with modern technology such as I-phones etc, I have been able to communicate to the people I have met with Google translate. Interestingly enough, some people will continue talking to you in Turkish for up to 10 minutes even though you have shrugged your shoulder several times and tried to explain to them that you haven't got a damn clue what they are going on about.
Finally, my trip around Turkey has allowed me to visit some of the famous architectural sites such as Troy, Assos, Bergama and of course Ephesus which have been truly magnificent.
My bicycle (touch wood!) continues to ride extremely well. As yet, I have only had to replace one set of tyres, one set of brake blocks and a new chain.
I am currently holed up in a beautiful hostel with a swimming pool, ice cream and many other excellent facilities such as a volleyball court, pool table
BBQ etc. Tomorrow I move on in the direction of Pamukkale which is a few days ride to the east and will provide me with some more amazing sights and experiences. Long uphill stretches beckon......roll on!
Tot: 2.271s; Tpl: 0.09s; cc: 16; qc: 76; dbt: 0.0574s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb