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TURKEY II: istanbul - goereme/cappadocia

22. October 2002

TURKEY II: istanbul - goereme/cappadocia

3050 km, goereme/cappadocia

after relaxing a few days in istanbul, bine and i began to think about our ongoing route through turkey. because of limited time - on 23rd of november - we will meet my parents in amman (JORDAN) - and because we knew that the route will be very mountainous, we decided not to go to the agean coast. the two main destinations should be pamukkale - at the edge of westanatolia - and cappadocia - famous or bizarre rock-formations and rock-houses. when exploring turkey on our map we realized how big this country is. when we will leave turkey near gaziantep to syria, we travelled just half of turkey!

two days later than originally planned (because of strong diarrhoea again) we entered a hyper-modern ferry, which looked like an over-dimensioned yacht, for going to yalova. the speed-ferry took just one hour to get there. so we avoided the traffic hell of istanbul; cycling the metropole by bike one time is really enough.

from yalova we cycled straight south, crossing the moutains to reach iznik goulue (goulue means 'lake' in turkish). going on roads which were not on the map, 40 km from yalova we ended up by pushing our bikes on a small sheperd-path. after a while we realized: it is impossible. so we turned back and tried to cross the mountain range on other roads - also not on our map. it was really hard work. one of the steepest road i ever cycled. so steep, that we were forced pushing the bikes DOWNHILL, because they slipped away on the wet asfalt. unbelievable! after 2 days we reached iznik, just about 60 km from yalova away on the main road.

the weather was not good in these first days after istanbul. it was very rainy, cloudy and quite cold. especially on the numerous passes we crossed, it was bitterly cold, and we were freezing in our wet clothes. nevertheless i enjoyed cycling, after hanging around in istanbul for 10 days. getting exhausted, getting wet... it does not matter. i was on the road again!

later on, the weather changed. the sun came out. blue sky the next days. we climbed up many passes, and the anatolian plateau was stunning! on the small roads we took, life was quite. most of the fields were harvested. the colours brown and yellow dominated the landscape, trees set nice accents. thats the type of landscape i love!

the friendly turkish people are really the reason, why i like this country so much. especially the pupils are most communicative. they seemed to like it very much it, testing their english, when such strange foreign people on those strange, overloaded bicycles are passing by. 'how are you?' and 'what is your name?' are the most common questions. sometimes also 'where are you?', or 'how are you from?'. one day, when we sat down in a park of a small town to rest, a few pupils - girls and boys - began to ask those questions quite shyly. ten minutes later we were crowded by about 20 kids, always asking for our names and begging for signature. i think this is the first time, that i felt like a popstar - surrounded by his fans after a concert.

the disadavantage of the mountains: cycling just 50 to 70 km a day was normal, so our time-table was to be collapsing. our mind got stressed and the mood sometimes very bad. we decided pamukkale to leave out. i do not want ending up by sitting in a bus. i hate other transportation than my bike. it is a cycling-tour, and not only beautiful sections should be cycled and all other abandoned. therefore our route to cappadocia became more and more direct. we passed ankara - the capital of turkey - just 40 km away.

in this area i had very bad luck: i got the first puncture of the tour! bad luck not because i had to fix it. no, bad luck because i lost a bet. those person who gets the very first puncture, has to invite to a really good dinner. that was the bet, bine and i agreed on before we started. since that day i lost the bet, bine often makes suggestions where to eat, when we see a three- or four-star hotel...

on 3rd of november elections are taking place in whole turkey. why does it concern to globebikers, who will leave the country in a few days? well, because of deaf ears we might have soon! in all villages and towns, even on the countryside, numerous vans of different political parties want to attract people by using hundreds of watts to make their slogans public. or even to make people look to the sometimes huge vehicle, decorated with lots of turkish flags, pictures of the chairman and logos of their party, by playing turkish music on full scale. totally overdrive. i hope we will survive...

we took the main road E90 to aksaray. the area was flat and we made a day of records: 120 km in distance, 19 km\\/h in average, 6 1\\/2 hour pure cycling time and the best: 64 km\\/h tour-speed-record! most of the route we had a wide lane just for us, later on a whole road - the old main road which was accompaying the new one. it was a pleasure to cycle, and the surrounding and weather was beautiful too.

about half a day we travelled along tuz goelue, which means salt lake in english. a huge, wide, white and flat basin. great. we also stayed in a town called 'sereflikochisar', which means 'salt lake city' in english. just before aksaray we left the main road and turned left - through a nice landscape to nevsehir - one of the four big cities of cappadocia (beside kayseri, aksaray and nidge). cappadocia is very well known in turkey, and many tours are offered to get there. in a spectacular landscape, entirely sculptured by erosion, the goereme valley and its surroundings contain sanctuaries hewn into the rock, providing irreplaceable evidence of byzantine art of the post-iconoclastic period. dwellings, troglodyte villages and underground towns representing a traditional human habitat, dating back to the 4th century, can also be seen there.

while staying on a quite cheap campground in goereme itself, we relaxed, got very good food and drinks. after staight cycling of about two weeks, mostly these things seem to be most important for us :) not until a while we begin really to be interested in the surroundings. we first just walked through the landscape. bizarre rockformations! one day we took an organized one-day-trip. this brought us to the biggest undergrundcity of cappadocia - derinkuyu. a 8-level city digged into the soft soil. up to 3000 people lived there. a complicated system of ventilation- and communication-shafts made it possible. amazing.

the highlight on this day - the lhara valley! an up to 150 meter deep gorge made by a small river during millions of years. the lhara river is accompayed by huge trees. though we walked a few kilometers through the valley, the most stunning view is from above - when we entered the valley. in the evening i saw the rocks, which look like mushrooms - again. after about 15 years (when i visited this place with my family) i recognized them at once. it is like a landmark of cappadocia - and for me.

the next hop will be to aleppo - the first city of SYRIA. a mountainous and partly remote route to the border. bine and i are now keen on getting to syria. we heard a lot about this country from other travellers. it should be very pleasant to travel. most of all, the people seem to be very, very friendly. perfect for us... ;))
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