Istanbul to Erzurum..

After having spent 10 days in Istanbul we felt that it was time to move on and so on one way too early morning we left Istanbul by taking a ferry to Mudanya, some 30km from Bursa. Leaving Istanbul can be a real headache.. We experienced the traffic frenzy on our way to get in and we didn’t quite feel like getting into that mess for a second time.

Bursa once used to be the capital back in the days when the Ottomans ruled (after Bursa they moved it to Istanbul) Bursa is a fairly pleasant city with some nice old monuments. Not in the quantities one can find in Istanbul but its way less touristic and after the massive crowds, the small scale of Bursa is rather charming. We stayed with my good friend Onur who runs a beautiful cafe in the old town center where we tried to set a new record for how much tea one can have in one day.. All in all it was a very pleasant stay.. Being lazy on the roofterrace playing our mandoline and baglamadaki, and finally had a great camp out high up in the Uludag Mountains.

After a week we finally managed to cycle off. We initially planned to cycle nonstop for 2 weeks but that was before we found out that Eskisehir is one helluva fine spot to hang out. So after two days of cycling on a road thru Hell.. big intimidating trucks, smelly roadkills, nasty polluting factories, strong headwind, one industrial area after another.. We finally made it to Eskisehir and got welcomed by Super Mario, the friend of our couchsurf host who with his cap and moustache looks quite alike. Super Mario turned out to be the one who knows just about everybody in Eskisehir and so right the first night we took a deep dive into Eskisehir`s partylife.. Next day we were not quite able to get a moving on and so we decided to leave the next day. Eventually that next day became a week later.. Its all part of the trip! Like we mentioned before on the outset of our trip; there shall be no fixed itinerary and we will go accordingly to whatever happens on the road and all the people we meet..

With having had our big chunks of lazy procrastinating, we finally hit the road again for good this time.  We decided to head out for the small backroads to get a taste of the real Turkish countryside. For the first time since our arrival in Turkey we were blessed with a delicious backwind and so we rolled smoothly towards the East.. After some 100km we left the big highways for smaller roads and boy oh boy.. what a pleasure that was! Instantly we were the only ones on the road and we didn`t have to bother with getting pushed off the road by them big trucks or getting annoyed by honkhappy drivers (even though some of them might be meaning it in a good way to motivate us or something) All the silence we encountered was so overwhelming and it really took a moment to adjust.. Passing through small villages is also something very exciting; aside from all the looks as if we are two aliens (which might actually be true) there are also the many invitations to sit down for tea and what not more. We permit ourselves to accept those invitations only so many times a day as otherwise we wouldn`t make any progress at all.. For the people inviting us over its usually a little event in itself. Relatives and friends come over to see those two freaks on wheels, pictures of our families go around and we have a great laugh without understanding a bit of eachother`s languages.. Its mostly non-verbal communication supported by big amounts of delicious food. We just sit, throw some words at eachother we hope they make any sense, but most of all we just enjoy being with eachother and the experience of the exotique.. which goes in both directions of course!

Where do we sleep nowadays? Well, little has changed from how we rolled thru Western Europe. We still sleep outside mainly.. Things have gotten quite bit colder of course so we do have to take adequate measures. During summer we had till 10pm to cycle and we could sleep out pretty much everywhere. Nowadays it gets dark around 5pm and we need spots that provide some bit of a shelter for wind, cold and possible showers. So far our favorite spots are deserted highway tunnels (i recall how one night we were preparing ourselved for the night when we were spotted by a bunch of Kongals, the big dogs they use to herd sheep, and we stood there half undressed with pepperspray and a dazzer in our hands.. fortunately the herdsman also noticed us and calmed his dogs after seeing us and saying Allah.. Allah.. Allah.. what a bunch of idiots he must have thought..) there are the blessed deserted gas stations with great roof terraces or just any spot where we are out of the chilling wind. During daytime the sun is out a lot and great for cycling but at nighttime it gets frigging cold so we have to see how far we can stretch it. Fortunately there is lots of great hospitality out here and starting tomorrow in Iran the hostels will become in reach of our wee tiny budget.

Initially our plan was to cycle down to Cappadocia and then slowly head up towards Erzurum where we would apply for our Iranian Visa and hitchhike up to Georgia for some weeks. After doing a bit of calculating we came to the conclusion that this route would take too much time and we`d probably have to skip Georgia in order to be in Iran in time so as not to get stuck in heavy snowblizzards. So we decided to make a bit of a circle around Ankara (we had our cups filled up to the max of big cities) and head straight for Erzurum without seeing Cappadocia. Bit of a pity but we really wanted to get to go to Georgia and so we had to make some cuts. The road to Erzurum has been long and tiring. The landscapes don`t change that much.. Vast voids of aridness and the occasional tree just makes you realise all the more how depressing it all looks. Fortunately there`s the locals and they really make all the difference! Many smiles and be welcomes as you go along and plenty of occasions to set new records for how many tea one can drink in one day.. In Sivas we had a weekend of resting a bit and stayed with some awesome couchsurfers who really gave us a home away from home..

Its funny how each town doesn`t think too highly of the next town.. “Oh.. So you go to Durkdurk? Well, I wouldn`t do so cause the people are no good over there! Here have some tea, cookies and please have more!!!” Arriving at Durkdurk.. “Oh.. So you go to Durkdurkdurk? Well, I wouldn`t do so cause the people are no good over there! Here have some tea, cookies and please have more!!!”  Arriving at Durkdurkdurk.. “Oh.. So you go to Durkdurkdurkdurk? Well, I wouldn`t do so cause the people are no good over there! Here have some tea, cookies and please have more!!!” and so on and so on.. Most Turkish people have told us we are outright crazy for going to Iran but its the same all over of course. We have been hearing it since we started this trip although it really started to kick in at the Balkans.. Their troubled past is a quite recent one so the people over there really have their blood boiling when talking about their neighbours.

Arriving in Erzurum was a bit of a milestone for us. We were still waiting for the authorisation codes for our Iranian visas to come in and so we decided to first hitchhike to Georgia and take care of the rest later. We left Dervla and Grace Jones with a bunch of nice couchsurfers and made our way up to Sakartvelo – Georgia. Once in Georgia we got word from our contact in Iran that the codes had gotten in and our visas ready to be collected in Erzurum. In Georgia we had a great time.. I was there some 7 years earlier and lots of things have changed in the meantime. The country saw the regime change of Sheverdnadze to Saakasvili and with it the country became a lot better in my opinion but i`m sure there`s still many gaps to fill.

Somehow i even ended up staying on the countryside near Segovia for a week with a beautiful Spanish lady i fell in love with some time ago.. But that`s a whole other story………………

Gule gule