First time Turkey

Passing the Greek border went smoothly, so we moved on to the Turkish border. Here it was less easy. First we had to receive a stamp at the Health Center. Without asking any questions we got one. We must have looked very healthy! Then we had to arrange a visa. The man of the visas was celebrating his lunch break so we had to wait. We were not the only ones waiting and it was nice talking with other travelers. After everybody received his visa we found out that the prices were very different. We only had to pay 10 euros, Americans 20 euros, Englishmen 15 euros and the Germans could go into Turkey for free. After some more stamps we were allowed to go into Turkey!

The first cycle experiences in Turkey are great. The people are very hospitable. Everybody is waving at us and the trucks blow their horns if they see us. When we are standing still there is most of the time someone coming to us to have a chat and before we know it we are surrounded by a lot of curious people. We were hoping to catch a boat to Istanbul by cycling to a harbor on small roads. But when we arrived at the village there was not a boat which went to the capital, so we cycled further. A fantastic, but hard dirt road through the mountains brings us finally to a small harbor. During this day we were treated with a lot of fresh grapes. Many times people gave us grapes, so our bags are loaded with them, when we step on board of a ship which brings us to a small island in the Marmara Sea. It’s a nice small island with a lot of Turkish tourists. We stay here for one night and leave the island the next day to take a ferry to Istanbul. The view is amazing when we enter the big city. We see enormous mosques rising above the other buildings.

In Istanbul we try to arrange a visa for Iran. To visit the embassy we have to prepare a little: we buy a nice scarf for me at the bazaar. It is not a problem to buy a scarf in this city, but there are also a lot of women walking around without wearing one. We also have to make pictures with the scarf. When the photographer sees me stumbling with the scarf he helps me carefully.
Before opening time we are ready to enter the embassy. After waiting for a while someone tells us that it is a religious day and the embassy will stay closed today. The next day we try again. Before entering the embassy I put on my brand new scarf. Steven has to go through a body check, I don’t. We have to fill in some forms and we have to go to the bank at the other site of the street. We are told to come back after 10 days.
We don’t stay all this time in Istanbul. We waited in Thessaloniki long enough and we don’t want to stay at one place for this long. So we decide to cycle to Foca where we will meet the parents of Steven. We take a boat to Bandirma. While we are waiting to go on board, a Turkish woman brings us some apples and some candies: “Welcome, welcome!”
The route to Foca leads us through mountains and small Turkish villages. We see here the hospitality as well; after 101 km of cycling we arrive in a village in the hope to find a hotel. A man tells us that the only hotel in the village is closed. Soon we are surrounded by people and they start to make some phone calls on their mobile phones. A man who speaks German comes to us: “We will arrange a place to sleep for you, don’t worry”. We spend the night in the guestroom of the flower factory in the village.

It’s great seeing Stevens parents again in Foca. We make some nice trips in the surrounding area and we have a lot to talk about. We hire a car for two days and Steven drives us around. While Stevens parents stay in Foca we go by bus to Istanbul for a few days to pick up the visa for Iran. We take the night bus and we are just in time in Istanbul to go to the embassy. We were welcomed here with a big smile. We were welcome in Iran and were told to come back the next day, when the visa would be ready. The next morning when we stepped into the office the ambassador was waiting for us: “You’re very welcome in my country and have a safe journey!” That was fine with us. During our second stay in Istanbul we discover a lot of nice new places. It is a great city!

Marlous celebrates her anniversary at the 30th of September, which we celebrate together with my parents (Steven is writing now) Together with Dr Oetker Marlous makes a delicious pie. The presents and letters from the Netherlands make Marlous very happy and it is a good start of her 28th year of living.

After two weeks it’s time for my parents to leave and time for us to cycle again. On the day we wanted to get on the road we were both not feeling well so we stayed one more day. The next morning we waved my parents goodbye and started cycling ourselves.

It was a beautiful part and after two hard climbs the road was going flat. But I didn’t feel very well and the last kilometers to Manissa were very long for me. During our trip I didn’t felt like this before, especially not on a flat road. We stay one day in Manissa to get strong again.

After this day of rest we were both ready to move on. We cycled for two days through the mountains until we arrived in Karahayit. We thought we were in Pammukale but it appeared not to be. We found a great spot to camp and we loved to sleep in our tent.

Today we helped the boss of the camping translating a letter in German. He told us his live story and let us know that he is with the mafia in this area. He showed us his loaded gun he wears in his jeans. We both looked at him with amazement, but we feel fine. It’s a nice man and he can do what he wants. Besides, now we’re sure we won’t have any thieves around our tent. After helping the man out with his letter we went to visit the calcium rocks. We weren’t alone because it was loaded with busses and people. We didn’t have a bus and a tour leader which made us outsiders. But the rocks and the hot spring were nice to have a look at. The Romans bathed here and built a whole city in this area.
Tomorrow we go to the Far East!

Alexandroupolie – Kesan: 82km
Kesan – Sarkoy: 67km
Sarkoy – Turkeli Adassi: 57km
Bandirma – Balya: 101km
Balya – Bergama: 108km
Bergama – Foca: 92km
Foca – Manisa: 80km
Manisa – Alasahir: 115km
Alasahir – Sarakoy: 78km
Sarakoy – Karahayit: 25km



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