Now that we have rendered the namesake of this blog inaccurate, we have enjoyed the comforts of a car and found ourselves dismayed by the lost pleasure of being on a bike.
To catch up the saga though:
Kirsten and I met in Thessaloniki at 3AM after my ferry arrived in the west of Greece and I blasted through the night across the country to meet her, sadly missing all the beautiful landscape to the dark of the night. We had been missing each other and were eager to get our European adventure under way. I met her lovely hosts and quickly fell into a grateful slumber. The next morning Kirsten’s CS host took us for breakfast: a lovely sampling of flaky Greek pastry with cheese and spinach within, all washed down with a frigid Coca-Cola. We then made a trying attempt at navigating through the city of Thessaloniki and finally began heading eastward towards Turkey. The landscape was infinitely pleasing with rocky crags, sparsely situated trees and bushes and an uncountable number of red poppies. The next two nights we camped close to the coast, the first place a designated camping area with only one other customer, the other a once thriving camping area transformed into a derelict plot of land. Our diet mostly consisted of Greek cheese and bread, tomatoes, olives (for me), pasta and the occasional Gyros. It was a pleasure to note the remains of Ottoman Empire constructions, a few towers and walls. We spent three lovely days observing the Greek culture before we came to the border of Turkey. Happily the crossing was relatively unhindered and we were glad to see that Turkish is written with the Latin alphabet as Greece could be problematic at times when attempting to decipher their written language.
At first glance the Turkish landscape was already quite beautiful but we realized we knew neither the currency or its value and we were getting hungry and tired. The rain was coming down in torrents and we thought a hotel might be nice for a change. Hoping that it wouldn’t be too expensive (and after taking a few 100 lira notes from an ATM 1 lira = .75 dollars) we stopped at a hotel a stone’s throw from the sea of Marmara. The view was fantastic and Kirsten upon demanding the price heard 18 from the hotel worker. unfortunately the common error of turning “80 to 18” or “15 to 50” for non-English speakers transformed quite a desirable price into a wallet washer. We weren’t so fazed though as we were able to take a nice hot shower, sleep in a comfortable, soft bed and devour a delectable Turkish breakfast. Breakfast consisted tomato slices, cucumber, goats cheese, black olives, bread with olive oil, yoghurt, a hard-boiled egg each and of course all the Turkish tea we could drink. It was indeed satisfying!!!
We then headed for Istanbul where we were to meet Niko and Jasa. We wrestled through the traffic and eventually met up with our CS host, a very nice, French-speaking Turkish law student. That night he introduced us to Turkish “pizza” and Ayran. Turkish pizza is a flat bit of elongated bread with a thin spreading of tomatoes, onions, peppers and ground meat with copious amounts of spice (though not hot). You then roll your pizza up with lettuce, parsley and other greenery and then chomp away at it in one whole piece. Ayran is essentially yoghurt, water and salt mixed together to make a spice defying drink. Kirsten enjoyed it quite a bit. I didn’t really like it as my one taste aversion is milk/yoghurt. The next day we ventured into old Istanbul via boat taxi and foot. We explored one or two of the various mosques in the area but the highlight for us was the old cistern under the city, built by the Romans to supply the city with water. It was fed by an aqueduct with a water source about 9 kilometers away. The Muslim tradition of praying 5 times a day creates a city-wide “clock” as the speakers of mosques all blare their prayer to the masses at a fixed time. We finally met Niko and Jasa and made a plan of where to meet the next day outside of Istanbul. We had different pursuits ahead of us (they went to a drinking contest and we got a good nights rest).
Because of time constraints I fear we must now provide only the highlights of Turkey. We were hard-pressed to find internet cafes along the way as this country is still in the process of modernizing.
So over the next 2 weeks we traveled across Turkey. Niko and Jasa by bike and we by car (who was dubbed “The Red Hornet” and nicknamed “Horny” for short). Little Horny has served us well thus far having clambered up many a muddy mountain trail full of pot-holes, rivers and other obstacles. We ate our weight in kebabs, drank buckets of tea and were welcomed by all villagers and town folk alike. The children were most fascinated by our inability to speak their language, the bikes and my tattoos (marking of the body is forbidden in Islam and though Turkey is quite a liberal Muslim country it is still culturally taboo).
The main points of interest we visited were:
Cappadocia- this is a region of Turkey which has been inhabited by people 2000 years BCE (before common era, the believed birth of Christ). The landscape is covered in beautifully shaped rock structures which have been carved from the inside out to form the homes of these people.
The Cave of Seven Sleepers- this is a cave thought to be sacred by both Christians and Muslims. It became a place of refuge and a holy site for believers of both religions.
Mount Nemrut- this is a common reference point for the image of Turkey. It is a mountain top at 2200 meters of which the last 50 meters was created by King Antiochus and is composed of crushed rock. King Antiochus wanted to honor the gods of both the east and the west (of this time) and so created numerous, giant statues of himself seated next to the gods. The heads have toppled to the ground but are displayed around the peak.
We must now go take a Georgian lunch so we will continue the saga at the next opportunity.