(written by Nancy)
We left Polantli just about 8am this morning under blue skies after a bit of a disappointing breakfast. This was the first place we stayed that didn’t have cheese out on the breakfast table – all we got was some packaged cheese spread. No honey either…. Dave is still thinking about his Turkish brekkie post.
We had a great downhill for almost the first 18k after leaving town. It had us both thinking, hmm, maybe we should just put our heads down and try to make it all with way to Eskihiser, the next stop, which was about 150k. But then we hit some rolling hills and our legs reminded us that we had done some hard miles the last couple of days and that 150k no longer seemed like a possibility. Perhaps if we’d been primed for it and had gotten an earlier start we might have had a chance but we weren’t really contemplating it when we went to sleep last night.
We were on Highway 200 (E90) for the whole day today. It is a pretty major road, dual carriageway, but like the road the last few days it had a very wide shoulder and was relatively smooth today. Around us were fields as far as the eye could see. Not necessarily inspiring landscape but at least it wasn’t just rocks and dirt. Just out of Polantli we stopped to take a picture of a very large statue up on a hill – from what we can find on the web it looks like it is called the Mehmetçik Monument, which marks the site of the Sakarya Battle, one of the bloodiest battles of the Turkish War of Independence. Apparently it was built at the site of greatest enemy penetration. It was a pretty impressive statue.
We passed some highway workers installing new guardrail at one point, and later on in the morning the same truck was on the other side of the highway and one of the workers jumped out and yelled at us to stop. He jumped over the guardrails to come over to our side, chattering to us excitedly and gave us both a handful of apricots. We couldn’t understand much of what he was saying, other than we do think he asked us if our safety flags were reflective (that was our guess anyway). The apricots are funny – they are green (unripe) apricots that many people here eat. We see them for sale in a lot of stores. We have tried one before – as you can imagine, they are pretty tart! I am not sure what my stomach would do if I actually ate more than one or two, but people here seem to love them.
By noon we had pulled into Sivrihisar and were rolling along the streets trying to see what might be available in the way of accommodation. We pulled over to a restaurant to have some lunch and ended up chatting a bit with the owner, who spoke pretty good English (if a little bit loudly!). He was very friendly and the restaurant was next to a hotel, though it looked a bit rough. We asked him if there were other hotels in town and he said he would take care of it for us. Hmm…. Well, after we finished lunch he called his friend who owned the hotel next door. Of course, we had to go up and take a look – it is as basic of a hotel as you can get and I am not sure the bathroom has been cleaned in many many many months, but it was a bit hard to extricate ourselves at this point. The restaurant man assured us that there were no other hotels in town and there was nothing along the road to Eskisehir either. So, what the heck, at least it will be an experience. We had to laugh a bit when he asked us how many nights we wanted to stay…. We are just hopeful no one else shows up to stay in the room next to ours as it is a shared bathroom.
We dragged all of our bags up a relatively steep flight of stairs and then brought the bikes up as well – they are being stored in the “lounge room”, where we are sitting now typing away. After cleaning up as much as possible while touching as little as possible in the bathroom (try it sometimes, it is very hard), we headed out to see what the town had to offer. Surprisingly, there is a bit here in this little town. There are several mosques, a beautiful old church that is being restored (they refer to it as the Ermeni Kilisesi) that was originally built in 1881, and some interesting old houses built in a style we have not seen before, with wooden framing and white plaster with bricks imbedded in it. They refer to these as Konagi and there are a couple of neat old buildings in the town built in this method.
The town sits just next to a craggy mountain range that is very picturesque. They have built a large clock tower just at the base of the hill so we walked up to take a look. After making our way down, we wandered through the streets a bit and while looking at another mosque we were surrounded by a group of kids that just kept getting bigger and bigger. They are so funny, as they really want to approach you to try to speak English but it takes one to be bold enough to start and then they all chime in.
As we left the hotel today to go walk about it started to sprinkle and we ducked into a little restaurant just up the road to wait out the rain and have some tea. When we tried to pay they said no, it was a gift from them. Then later in the afternoon we were walking by some shops and a fellow came out and insisted on getting us a cup of tea. We sat and tried to talk to him a bit, using google translate. He was very proud of his town, which was nice. We also stopped to buy some pastries and the lady at the shop would not let us pay for them – as with the other nice folks today, she insisted they were a welcome gift from her to us. When we got back to the hotel the proprietor was here and he insisted we sit down in the lounge room with him and have another tea. So, including the free tea we got with our lunch we think that makes four free cups of tea today and some nice pastries – this is turning out to be a nice little town (if only they could do something about the hotel situation…)
There are several statues around here of a fellow they call Nasreddin Hoca, usually perched on a donkey. He is apparently some kind of 13th century philosopher, which all Turkish people know. It sounds like he was a bit of a smartaleck as well, though from what we can read he is well known for stories that teach moral lessons as well. I cannot quite figure out his connection to this area – the town doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the stories about him so perhaps they have just chosen him as their patron saint or something.
We are off to get some dinner and then retire to our lovely room to watch a movie on our computer. Soon it will be the morning and we will have another crazy hotel story to put in our memory banks… Tomorrow we head for Eskisehir, a much larger town that even makes it into our guidebook. It has many hotels so I am sure we can find a place with a bathroom a bit cleaner than today.