As we were planning to go to Oslo for Christmas to take the direct flight from Istanbul, we needed to get from Lesvos to Istanbul. In view of the poor weather in northern Turkey we decided to park our bikes in Lesvos and get to Istanbul by boat & bus.
Gas bottles near our apartment
2014/12/15-23: Bikeless in Istanbul
We took a small apartment on the edge of the tourist area. This had the advantage that we could choose to cook simple meals, eat in local small eateries, or in tourist restaurants. Istanbul was surprisingly cold and the heating in our apartment was not always adequate; this provided a reminder that we had made the right decision not to ride to Istanbul. We spent a quiet week touristing in Istanbul. The highlight was the least touristy thing: we took a ferry across to the Asia side and had tea and cake with a local warm showers contact, Kerem. We learnt it is possible to safely ride through Istanbul, and of new route in Turkey for walking, riding a horse, or mountain biking: http://cultureroutesinturkey.com/c/evliya-celebi-way/ . After a week of being repeatedly approached by carpet salesmen, the trip to see Kerem was a breath of fresh air.
Fish market near our apartment
Cistern water storage facility built in Roman times.
Pool in castle courtyard, with view of the Bosphorus
There’s a set for each of Azerbajan and Georgia. There are several sets of Turkey photos: Turkey East covers the less-developed and mainly Kurdish region and which sits at the Armenian border; Cappadocia shows the area of “fairy chimneys” and early Christian history; Turkey Central covers our travels from Ankara southward to the Mediterranean, with the exception of Cappadocia; and Turkey Coast is the portion of our travels from Antalya until we crossed to Greece from Bodrum. Turkey Wild Flowers is Chris’s special collection in honour of his late mother. He mentioned it in a previous post, but has added quite a few photos added since then.
Apologies if some horizons need straightening and nothing is labeled yet. Such details can wait till we’re home.
2009/09/24: Day off in Marmaris We’d ridden for six of the last seven days, coming from Antalya. We had a day of reading, blogging, drinking freshly squeezed orange juice, and walking. We needed a day off. Marmaris is a major tourist centre, complete with nightclubs. We amuse ourselves by observing, identifying, classifying, and speculating about other tourists.
2009/09/25: Datca 77 km We set off from Marmaris along the hilly but spectacular Datca peninsula. In Datca, we found a beach bungalow.
2009/09/26: Day off in Datca
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRIS!
Much of the day was spent using the computer at a plastic table outside our bungalow, and making use of wireless from the cafe. The local tomcat adopted us and installed himself beside us, asking to be patted often.
We bought Lonely Planet in pdf for Greece, and examined an alternative to continuing north to Gallipoli along the Turkish coast. We had a dinner at a pleasant fish restaurant which overlooked the harbour and was frequented by yachting types. The peninsula is lined with coves that make it a desirable sailing destination.
Variant on Plan A We decided on a minor change to our plans from Chris’s posted Plan A.We’d already spent six weeks in Turkey, and the Plan A route would have had us crossing Northern Greece in under two weeks. The variant gives us a better balance between time spent and in Greece and time spent in Turkey. It offers both a change of scene and a change of pace.
A challenge of this new variant is that finding reliable ferry information is a frustrating endeavour. There are several different ferry companies, and we’ve also been warned there are touts who will lie and say another boat doesn’t run in hopes that you’ll take theirs. It’s a bit of a logistical exercise. We’ll most likely work our way north across the Aegean, however, and if things get too complicated we can return to Turkey on the existing visa.
2009/09/27: Bodrum 16 km and Ferry We made an early scramble across the peninsula to the ferry dock, thinking there was a ferry leaving at 8:30 a.m.. Upon arrival, we saw a sign announcing that it would leave at 9:30, so we settled down for glasses of tea. As 9:30 approached, very little seemed to be happening, so we made inquiries and were told that the ferry would leave at 4:00 p.m.. There may have been reduced service due to strong winds. We pedalled to the village for bread, and returned to locate a sheltered location to wait, read, and have our standard midday picnic. After a two hour crossing in rough seas, we found digs in Bodrum.
2009/09/28: Kos, Greece 31 km and Ferry We crossed to Kos this morning, so we’re now in Greece. We’re using Euros, but Kos and the Dodecanese Islands are so close to Turkey that we don’t plan to count ourselves as having “made it to Europe” till we reach the Greek mainland, which we plan to do at either Alexandroploulis or Kavala.
We fended off few pesky touts on mopeds trying to take us to “cheap rooms” as we arrived on Kos this morning, and pedalled off to a hot sulfur spring that flows into the sea. It offers a choice of water temperatures for therapeutic wallowing, as it flows through several pools across the beach. The island is full of tourists on rented bikes, and there was a veritable Critical Mass heading to and from the springs, where we spent some time before returning to the town to find digs without any “help” from the damned touts.
Back in the town of Kos, we paid our respects to the ancient plane tree under which Hippocrates taught his students. Kos is where Hippocrates was born and lived. The plane tree is unlikely to be the same individual specimen under which the “Father of Modern Medicine” sat, because plane trees last a couple of hundred years and Hippocrates was here about 2,500 years ago. Still, it was a venerable specimen, likely in its final years and supported by a sturdy scaffolding. We’ll likely take another ferry to Patmos, either tomorrow or the day after.
The Turks are preparing to join the EU so all road items, including car license plates, are EU-like. BUT they have left room for artistic expression. So they do not actually have the EU standard man with broken umbrella road sign (see right)… their man has a real shovel, rolled up sleeves, muscles, and appears to actually be moving dirt! Maybe someday the EU safety guys in Brussels will notice their worker is not wearing a safety hat, and a more Turk-like sign will be adopted!
The region we’ve been traversing for the past week was once a federation of ancient cities, and later a province of the Roman Empire known as Lycia. The coastline is now well-developed for tourism, and we’ve met more speakers of English here than during most of our journey so far. Numerous interesting extended conversations have distracted us from blogging for a while.
2009/09/17: Barking Cocker Spaniels Camp (Cirali) 86 km The road out of Antalya and west along the coast was too busy to be ideal cycling, but the views were pretty. From a high point on the road, we descended steeply 7 km to Cirali, a beach suggested by the Canadian family we’d met in Antalya. We were planning another day off, feeling we should enjoy some beach time having reached the coast. We installed ourselves at a resort which permitted camping. This meant our belongings were secure as we went for walks and swam, and there was shower for getting unsalty after swimming.
We walked along the beach to the ruins of Olympos in the evening, scouting for an exit back to the main road which did not involve ascending the full 333 m we’d descended. The exit from Olympos would be easier, so we wanted to assess the feasibility of pushing our bikes along 1 km of pebble beach to an exit route through Olympos. We swam at night, and could see some phosphorescence.
The lady who ran the place was pleasant and a fabulous cook, and doted on her dogs. The dogs were sweet, but frankly, they could have done with a little more discipline. They barked often during the night, and I haven’t yet learned how to yell “Bad dog! Be quiet!” in Turkish.
2009/09/18: Day off at Cirali with Barking Cocker Spaniels We set out to hike the 4 km to the chimaera, or eternal flame. The approach was along a hot dusty road that, in hindsight, would have been done more easily by bike. Climbing for 800 m, we arrived at the flames that may have been where Promethius stole fire from Zeus in the Greek myths. I didn’t really know what I was expecting to see, but each of a series of flames that appeared from the rock seemed to emerge from a pothole formation, and they looked for all the world like natural gas fireplaces. The Canadian kids from Istanbul had gleefully told us they made “s’mores” on the flames, which I thought was a superb idea. (“S’mores” are a North American campfire concoction of gooey toasted marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker; so good you want “some more,” hence the name.) I wished I’d brought something to toast! On our return, a downpour turned us into bedraggled pair, and we accepted the offer of a ride from a sympathetic Turkish family as we walked back along the road.
2009/09/19: Demre/Myra 89 km We pushed our bikes along the beach to Olympos, and started out on back roads. I was ahead of Chris when I came across a tiny tortoise, marching determinedly across the road. I stopped to watch it, then helped it safely along its way, wondering whether it was a recent hatchling, or perhaps only one year old. We reached Demre and visited the ruins of ancient Myra with its Lycian tombs. Here we met an American couple on a two year bike journey. We returned to a basic hotel in Demre.
2009/09/20: Kalkan 76 km We met two Canadian men when we stopped for groceries in Kars, and chatted. We were alarmed to hear that one of them had been bitten by a dog the day before, and seemed unaware of the risk of rabies transmission. You could see the canine had really sunk its teeth into his calf! We encouraged him to at least see a local doctor soon. (Hey guys: Please tell us what the outcome was? Are you OK?)
The weather pattern on the coast tends toward afternoon thunderstorms, and an afternoon torrent changed our plans to camp into a soggy dash for a hotel in Kalkan. There we met a lovely Dutch couple, and could have chatted forever.
2009/09/21: Big Pines Camp 50 km As we left Kalkan, the Dutch woman very kindly gave me a nazar boncugu or good luck amulet to help keep me safe as I travel. (After so much chatting we never knew your names. Please do email us!)
Later, at Xanthos, we met a couple of British hikers who were walking the Lycian Way, a great combination of spectacular coastal scenery and ancient history. At Letoon, a UNESCO world heritage site, we were the only visitors and were invited for tea by the ticket sellers. We wandered through the quiet ruins, realizing this was our fourth Roman amphitheatre in under a week. The place was built to worship Leto, Zeus’s mistress. Apparently Leto, fleeing with her twins, Artemis and Apollo, turned some unfortunates into frogs when they refused her request for water. In honour of Leto, the site includes a nymphaeum. What remains of this is a marshy pond, now more populated by turtles than frogs.
In the afternoon, we were cycling through pine forest on back roads when movement and noises among fallen pine branches caught my attention. We stopped to watch two busy adult tortoises. Judging by what was happening as we arrived on the scene, it must be mating season. I think we interrupted them, because soon one was lumbering off and trying to hide in the branches, while the other pursued and battered the first from behind, with a loud clatter of shell on shell. I think they were probably Spur-thighed Tortoises: (Testudo graeca ibera), and the baby one was as well.
At dusk, we found an idyllic camping spot among pine trees, and slept without the tent fly.
2009/09/22: Water Tank Road Camp 101 km We got an early start, and stopped for sustenance at a gas station. There we met a holidaying British couple leading to another good chat, and ending with them presenting us with a nazar boncugu bracelet, which Chris now wears (or we’ll share) since I was already protected. We soon had to climb a steep pass as bikes weren’t allowed through the 1.5 km tunnel under it. Later, we met the same Brits again. They’d rushed to the local airport to find their flight had left 12 hours earlier, so were forced to extend their holiday. This sounded like something we’d do!
At dusk, we found an adequate camping spot and slept without the fly again.
2009/09/23: Marmaris 74 km It was hot and humid, as it has been since we reached the coast. We’d been riding past citrus orchards, and stopped at a fruit stand to buy oranges. We drank fresh juice that was squeezed while we waited, served in frosted mugs and made with fruit that had been kept in the refrigerator. Ahhhhhhhh! We stopped near lunchtime at a kofte (grilled meatball) place, and ordered Cokes so we could use their wireless. We ended by staying for a large lunch and a conversation with Izzet, a white haired gent who’d lived in California for an extended period, and who also lived in West Berlin before and during the fall of the Berlin Wall. His recounted his poignant memories of changing times in Berlin in his fluent English, a unique blend of strong Turkish accent peppered with Californian 60s expressions such as “Hey, man!” Izzet provided us with the name of a suitable hotel in Marmaris, to where we headed, looking forward to day off before heading onto the Datca peninsula.