Tag Archives: turkey

The last 3 countries

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A very bloody hello from Romania!!! HA HA HA!

Hold on I’m getting way ahead of myself here. I still need to fill you in on the three countries in between. Firstly, I want to apologize again for not posting as often as I would like to but Internet is a hard thing to come by, especially if you can’t speak, or read the language. But Will and I have finally found a place to stay that has a computer as well. So where did William leave off last time? I think he was giving you some of the highlights of Turkey? I really loved Turkey. The landscape was so beautiful and there was something for everyone. Beautiful beaches, high mountains (which horny got to experience first hand several times) and the greenest farmlands that stretched for kilometers. And the people were so friendly. We didn’t stop at any hotel or gas station where we weren’t offered some chai and smiles. The weather on the other hand did not seem to really play along. it occurred to us one day that we hadn’t really seen many sunny hot days and that the rain was never far behind us. For William and I it wasn’t so bad but for poor Niko and Jasa on the bikes it must have been horrible. It did provide them with some adventure riding though. So after Nemrut (where it actually started snowing/hailing on us) we started our way to the norther coast, or the Black sea. After yet another extremely terrifying mountain pass where the road mostly ended in a cliff, we camped in a construction site on the side of the road. This seemed to be becoming a trend as this was our second construction site. Luckily we weren’t woken up too early this time by the bulldozers and trucks, last time it was at 7, this time 8. We then arrived at the coast and made our way to Georgia.

We sailed through the border with the help of some Turkish guys who ushered us through, letting us skip all the ques. but as we foresaw this was too good to be true and they demanded we pay them when we were on the other side. The price ranged from 15lira to 15 euros to 50 euros. But after some wheeling and dealing from Will they settle for 20 lira which is about 10 euros between the 4 of us. We were then officially (and without me having to buy a visa for some reason) in post soviet Georgia!

Georgia was a stark contrast to Turkey with less warm welcomes from the majority, a lot more alcohol drinking and finally significantly cheaper gas prices.  Our first night was spent at a botanical garden in the city of Batumi. Batumi is the late president’s pet project turning it into a tourist hub, lucky for us as we got the low-down on what to see in the area. Our night in the botanical garden was graced by a poor little puppy who we donned “Kaya”. Kaya was visibly emaciated and terribly distrusting of humans. With a bit of bread, patience and careful movements we won the trust of this little pup who we quickly fell in love with. She gratefully spent the night in our shabby little hotel room after being fattened on bread and other tidbits plus a little de-ticking from Kirsten. The next day we were already thinking of ways we could take her back to Niko’s step-father who is a dog-lover and would have taken the poor little dear in. After a long discussion we decided that unfortunately we couldn’t help this little mongrel as our funds were on a strict budget as it was.. and we all know dogs drain the money sink. So with a heavy heart we left Kaya in her paradise/hell of the botanical garden.

Our main mission in Georgia was to take the ferry across the Black Sea to Bulgaria in order to avoid the high fuel prices of Turkey and to discover a totally unfamiliar country to all of us. It was necessary to inquire in the port town of Poti as to how we could traverse the great sea. This became quite an exchange of uncertainties, changed plans and unforeseen circumstances. To make a long story short we made a loop through Georgia exploring along the way and came back to Poti only to find that we had another 10 days to wait until the ferry arrived. This led to a further string of events but I would first like to describe to points of Georgia that I particularly enjoyed. The first was in a small village in the middle of Georgia. It was getting dark and we needed to find a place to stay. It had been raining rather furiously all day so we were reluctant to camp but were hard put to find a lodge. Finally Niko asked a local policeman who took us directly to a woman living alone in a rather large country house who had converted it into a sort of bed and breakfast. She was expecting company but agreed to let us stay for the night for the small fee of 40 Lari. This is the equivalent of about 20 euros, therefore only 5 euros each.. very agreeable indeed. We enjoyed a very pleasant evening buying a few necessities from the local grocer (a small shack on the side of the road) and enjoying another fine meal from Kirsten cooked the old way over a wood oven. The electricity had gone out in the whole village so we drank home-made Georgian wine while talking about the contrasts between the Soviet way of life and the modern capitalist way. The woman spoke English very well and had quite a number of splendid tales to tell. I was most struck by her story about supporting her family at the beginning of the fall of the Soviet union when power was changing hands quickly and one was left to their own devices instead of the support of a government. The woman, living in the Georgian capitol (Tbilisi) was forced to smuggle goods all the way from China and sell them in the city in order to warm her house and feed her family. She described such nights that were so cold that they would change into their bed clothes under the covers of the bed, the whole family snuggled together for warmth. It was quite a different picture of reality all together for me and made me understand how lucky I had been throughout my life.

The other more memorable moment for me was at a nature reserve called Mtvala National Park. We took a splendid hike there to a waterfall and I was struck by the quiet beauty of the place. The waterfall fell thunderously into a pool and was quite cool to the touch. We drank its sweet water and climbed to the small ledge behind to take in a moment of raw sound and power. We then found a nice sitting spot further on and enjoyed a William Wallacesque game of throwing stones at targets. Amazing how with a little imagination and returning to the mind of a child one can be amused  for so long. Upon our return to the visitors cabin where we were staying we made lunch and were invited to a toast with the local rangers. One toast turned into fifty and soon we were all dancing in gaiety together. The drink of choice: Georgian Schnapps, home made liquor made from grapes (in this case) and with a powerful sting to the throat that sends your eyes watering and your vocal chords singing. We guessed it may have been about 40 percent alcohol. Niko’s russian came in handy once again as he continued to translate the great deeds of these fellows, including drinking 10 liters of wine (as if it were water), battles (one of them was an ex-special ops) and Soviet era truck off-roading. As the night wore on, the strong brew took hold and I happily took myself to bed with Kirsten’s encouragement. I was sad to hear the next day that I had missed a whole episode of the evening as a series of brawls broke out between the rangers and some local fellows. To the extent of clobbering each other with stones and madly shouting insults concerning death threats. Luckily their cordiality remained for the present tourists who were privy to these theatrics.

As the ferry was to come in another 10 days we decided to bite the bullet and head west by road across the whole country of Turkey once again.

So I thought I’d let William describe Georgia for you but I’ll do a quick update of the rest of the trip. And I’ve just been asked to get off the computer so this is going to have to be quick. William and I decided to race across Turkey making kilometer more important than sight seeing. After all, who can say they’ve been to Turkey twice in one month and crossed the entire country both times. So we rushed across, making it in a record time of about 24 hours. Our tactic was one sleeps the other drives. And amazingly our little horny hit the 1000km mark with one tank!! so it’s safe to say we all worked very hard. Bulgaria was very beautiful as well. we stayed in a tiny town the first night just to catch up on sleep then traveled all the way north the next day. It was a pleasant country but i think Will and I were more interested in Romania. We did love the forests in Bulgaria.

Unfortunately I’ll have to stop there for today. My spot here at the computer is being eyed very angrily by a short little Romanian girl and I don’t want to find out what she is capable of. So maybe I can try again tomorrow morning! Till then!!!

2 on 4 wheels

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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.