Stockholm-Beijing 2008/09, Turkey

Ankara, Turkey

From the bustle n hustle of Istanbul followed two weeks of cycling through the green north of Turkey. The Black Sea coast was really surprisingly unexploited – maybe thanks to a somewhat less clear and less warm water than the of the Mediterranean Sea.

From Izmit, I soon detoured one of the roads to the coast, and each day gave wonderful meetings. First one night in village Limandere with one of its three muhtari (mayors). An evening spent at one of the central chai saloons (tea saloon) together with more elder men – cigarettes and tea by turns – and soon an invitation to harvest hazel nuts one day’s cycling east. In Acmabasi, same-aged Erdem – also fluent in English – welcomes me. After tea, nuts, fruits and his mothers homemade “Turkish delights” (sweets) on a carpet at the front yard, followed packaging of his neighbors hazel nuts in 80-kilo sacks. A pleasant calm and an instant feeling of being one with the family. Beautiful hillsides covered by the green hazelnut trees.

Two days later, I meet Ahmet along a minor coast road. 70 years old and active cyclist – this day from his summer house in Eregli – he guides me the whole day along even smaller, even more coast-near roads, that wind through small villages and beautiful green. We part at five pm – another near tearful goodbye – as Ahmet bikes back to Eregli and I continue east.

The two sites that I wanted to visit along this rote – famous island-town Amasra and well-kept old town Safranbolu – both end up being disappointing though. Hotels and restaurants with tourist prices meet the visitor, and Safranbolu is still the only town so far in which I’ve seen street children. I think that says a lot.

Instead, it was the meetings along the road that gave the most and made the effort worth. Camping with the gendarmerie in Ovacuma and three nights with a wonderful family in Karabük.

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