(written by Dave)
We’ve had a great first day riding in Turkey. After another excellent brekkie at the hotel and a send off from Emre (the hotel owner and wonderful host), we hit the road about 9AM. We didn’t make it far before the first stop at the tourist information centre. We were looking for a more detailed regional map but had no luck. The folks there were nice but they only had Turkey wide and local Cesme maps. Not to worry, our route was pretty straightforward all day.
We basically worked our way out to highway D300 and rode it for 45k to Urla. The scenery was quite stark, with very few trees, mostly just rolling hills. But you can sure tell that it is spring as the hills and roadside are covered with heaps of wildflowers – poppies, mini daisies, wild lavender and a bunch of flowers that we can’t identify.
You can tell it is windy here by the presence of numerous wind turbines. The scrub trees that exist indicate a typically northern wind, which is great as we were heading mostly south/southeast. We had little wind in the morning and a tailwind in the afternoon – perfect. D300 fluctuated from no shoulder to a very wide shoulder. Traffic was pretty light and very polite so it seemed overall pretty safe. We’d heard reports of Turkish dogs being mean and vicious but all that we saw were chained or fenced so that was not an issue either.
The road had a couple good climbs but our legs were fresh from being off the bike for 5 days. We made it to just outside Urla just on noon and stopped at a servo for snacks. Nancy found a couple nice new fastfood cake things and some nice fruit drinks. The sour cherry fruit drink was particularly nice, though bottled by Coca-Cola so I don’t know how local it is. While Nancy was using the facilities a police van pulled up and two officers got out. I wasn’t sure what to expect and when the Turkish only speaking officer started talking to me, all I could do was say “English, sorry”. He was looking at Nancy’s bike and smiling a lot so I figured that there was no problem. His friend returned with Nancy and we quickly learned that he wanted to know how much the bike cost. You never get this question in Australia, the US or western Europe but we got it a lot in SE Asia. We have a standard answer we use because our bikes are pretty old and you never want to seem rich. What the police officer really wanted was not the price of the bike, but rather a chance to ride it. He was very impressed that it weighted over 50kg and thought it only appropriate that he take it for a spin around the servo parking lot. What can you say when a police officer asks to ride your bike… So as we looked on nervously, he took off. In the excitement, we forgot to tell him how to engage the brakes and after his lap, he had to resort to “two shoes” braking but no damage was done and he was really smiling. No citation, no bribes, just handshakes all around. Quite entertaining.
From Urla we had a “short-cut” road. As you would expect with any line cutting straight across a map, it was quite hilly. We were basically crossing from sea level over the Cesme peninsula and being a minor road, it only had one switchback. It was not too long but it was steep. Nancy commented when we were half way up that she did not like “short-cut” roads so much anymore.
As we crested the top and started down the other side, we were reminded of why these back roads are actually much better. Nancy spotted a roadside stall that was selling gozleme. There is a troop of Turkish women in Sydney that hand make and sell fresh gozleme at all the weekend markets. How lucky could we be to find a roadside stand right on our lunch hour? The stall was really nothing more that some plastic to stop the wind and big tent that appeared to be the woman’s home. There were 5 men sitting inside when we arrived and one of them spoke English good enough to help us order, none of the other men, nor the woman, spoke any English at all. We ordered fresh gozleme and cay (tea) and watched as the woman made up a fresh batch. We were entertained by the husband as he tried to keep the family’s herd of goats off the road, out of the garden and generally in an area where he wanted them. The woman stopped cooking a few times to chuck her own rocks at the goats when they crossed her designated guard line as well. Eventually the 5 men departed and our gozleme was served, lots of fresh herbs, much less oil and cheese than we’d traditionally get in Sydney. The order was made complete by a glass of fresh yogurt drink – what a tasty lunch stop that turned out to be. The only problem was figuring out what to pay now that the English-speaking guest had departed – not a big deal as our phrase book has numbers. Had it not been for the mobile phones the husband and wife were using, the whole scene could have easily been 100 years ago, if not more. We agreed afterwards that we do indeed like these back roads better.
We had a short ride after lunch to Seferihisar – and made good time with the tailwind and downhill. We had trouble finding any hotels or guest houses and there is no camping. Eventually after consulting a policeman and a couple taxi drivers we figured out that all the places to stay are in Sigacik – really just a satellite town to Seferihisar. It was 5k away so off we went. Here in Sigacik we found several options for lodging. I walked main street going in several before we settled on the Hotel Three B Marine. The family running the hotel are very nice and the daughter speaks very good English. They had a room on the 1st floor but helped carry all of our bags up the stairs (the bottom floor is called ground floor here, as it is in Europe). The daughter was baking a cake (for the family, not guests). Nancy and I both independently commented on how good it smelled. Before we could say anything more we had invitations for tea and cake, after we showered. Post ride tea and cake doesn’t require second invitations for two tired cyclists.
It should be noted that while Seferihisar has no hotels, it is officially a CittaSlow town. CittaSlow is a spin-off movement from the slow food movement. They rank towns by 50 goals and principles that aim to improve its quality of life. I’m not sure where sleeping ranks in the going slow movement but it seems to me that not having a place to sleep would affect one’s ability to “slow down”. (not to worry, Sigacik is nice).
We are now sitting in the spacious hotelobby/restaurant, working on the blog with smiles on our faces. It’s hard to think how we could have made our first day in Turkey any better. Soon we will head off for the waterfront restaurants for dinner – rumor has it that there is a good kebab restaurant. We’ll report later how it pans out.