(written by Nancy)
It was raining this morning as we packed up our bikes and the sky looked pretty grey and gloomy. We knew today might be a bit tough with lots of backroads to navigate and some climbing to get to our intended destination of Yalova. The rain had stopped by the time we set off though it did start up again about 10k into our ride – but thankfully it only lasted for about 20minutes or so and it wasn’t very hard so we didn’t get too wet – only 5% wet for those still thinking about fractions.
The terrain today was completely different than what we have seen in the last week or so. Lots of orchards, farms, and trees all around us. We took many backroads as we worked our way north from Inegol toward Iznik lake. Many cyclists who come across from Istanbul on the ferry ride along the northern side of the lake, but as we were coming from the south it was shorter for us to work our way northwest and hit the lake on the southwest side. We had a decent climb to get over the mountain range before we could head down to the lake. The road was narrow and windy, which kept the little traffic that was on the road with us as slow as we were.
The areas just below the mountain range were filled with fields of fruit trees and vegetables. We passed many fields that where women were working, planting by hand starter plants. It makes my back hurt just to watch them, bending over time and again to push a new plant into the rows that they have dug by hand. It is no wonder you see many of the elderly women bent over and shuffling along the streets after all that work.
We had a decent downhill down to Iznik Lake and contemplated stopping for some lunch in a little town. Unfortunately we landed there just as the prayer call started and it was so loud that we could not even think. I am all for people exercising their religious freedom but I must admit I do not see the need to have it blasted out of speakers in volumes so high you cannot have a conversation down on the street while it is going on. So, we got back on the bikes and continued on to Orhangazi, one of the bigger towns along the lake.
We pulled into a small little area lined with local produce shops and found a restaurant. I went inside with the proprietor to try to figure out what food options we had. We ended up with some nice fried eggs and bread and salad – hit the spot, as we were quite hungry by that time. There was a young girl running around the restaurant and she took a shine to us, chattering away at us and keeping us entertained while we ate. We think her name was Yarlin (or something similar). We obviously weren’t saying it right as she continued to correct us each time we said it. She was very cute and gave us a nice wave goodbye as we rode out.
We made it to Yalova about 3pm. Yalova is a port town on the southern side of the Sea of Marmara across from Istanbul. Many ferries leave from here for various spots around the Sea of Marmara so the city is a pretty hopping place. There are several hotels here so we pulled over after we got into the main city area and I walked to several hotels to see what our options were. After looking at about 5 hotels I found one that would do for a night. Unfortunately, by the time we got down there with the bikes an older fellow who seemed to be the owner told us we had to leave our bikes outside on the sidewalk, even though the woman behind the front desk had said we could store them in a room under the stairs. Well, that wouldn’t work for us, especially given the amount of traffic on the main street.
Despite trying to argue with the fellow he wouldn’t budge, so we ended up picking up our passports and walking back out and down the street to another hotel that I had looked. This place, the Hotel Oncu, is very nice – really too nice for us and our budget but they were very friendly, ha d a nice safe place inside for the bikes and a lift so we didn’t have to carry all of our bags up the stairs.
We cleaned up and hung out while Dave watched the rest of the stage of the Giro d’Italia on tv. We then headed off down to the ferry port to buy our tickets for the ferry to Istanbul tomorrow – we are on the 11:30 ferry, which is supposed to take about 1 ½ hours. Hopefully it will be a smooth ride, but I am going to dig out my wrist bands just in case!
We found a nice place for some lahmacun for dinner. They were doing a roaring trade and though they had other types of food it looked like lahmacun was the popular choice at most tables. In keeping with the theme from yesterday, here is a link to a recipe for lahmacun that I found on the web. I am sure there are lots of other recipes but this has lots of pictures so should be easy to follow: http://lola-elise.com/recipes/lahmacun-recipe.
So, tomorrow we are off to the biggest city we have cycled into – thankfully we only have to cycle from the ferry port to the Sultanahmet area, where there are lots of hotels and where we hope to find a place to stay for a few days. We haven’t worked out our schedule yet but we hope to see the major sights, plan our route out of the city (ackkk!) and make visit to a dentist to get our teeth cleaned and a checkup. It’s Dave’s turn to pick out the hotel so I plan on sitting in a nice café somewhere while he wanders the streets for a bit trying to find us a place to stay…
(junior editors note: sorry about the poppy photo overdose today – I only posted a few of the stack I snapped – they make sure nice subjects).