Well hello! It’s been a while.
I’ve got four days to cover – so if you’re pushed for time I’d suggest just scrolling through the photos then hopping back to Facebook, Insta, BBC Sport or – in the case of Nadia Mulliner – the Laura Ashley Home website.
We left the nice hotel on the 25th of April and ploughed on along the Black Sea Coast. It was a very scenic ride eventually, but the day started very misty-ly.
There were quite a lot of hills and we felt a bit pushed for time as we had a late start, so we were going at a fairly steady clip – until a madman on a motorcycle motioned for us to stop.
He took a shine to Sean (as most of these Turkish men do!) and told us about other cycle tourists he’d passed the day before, and that we should avoid the tunnel that was coming up and go around the side instead.
We don’t knock gift horses in the mouth so we did exactly what he said, and lucky we did as we bumped into the next Turkish madman (two in one hour – that’s a personal best!).
I was cycling along, minding my own business, when a six foot man ran out of his cafe, stood in front of my moving bike and shouted ‘Hallo! Wie Gehts?! Wie heisst du?!’ Eventually we got a word in so told him we were English. He then shuffled us into seats outside.
And thank god he did! As this became our first taste of Turkish rice pudding – aka fırın sütlaç. That is one good dessert! Not as good as my grandma’s but nice for a bit of variety.
In addition to the food and Çay, the second Turkish madman mentioned that he wasn’t a fan of the current man in charge of Turkey, due to tightening of rules on alcohol and the like, but he was a big fan of the man whose statue was parked on the shoreline – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He’s the founder of the Republic of Turkey who served as the country’s first President from 1923, until his death in 1938.
He’s been mentioned a lot during our cycle through Turkey, and 99% of the time it’s been very reverently. I read up about him in my trusty 2011 Lonely Planet Turkey (vintage, aren’t I?!), and I found it interesting. So I’ll do a lil recap for you!
Turkey has a history and a half. After being inhabited by early hunter gatherers in the Palaeolithic era, the Hittites took over in the Bronze Age, before being superseded by classical empires such as the Greeks, Lycians and Persians, before there were largely swept aside by Alexander and his ‘Macedonian adventurers’.
Then the Romans got involved, adopting the Greek language and heralding Christendom. The Seljuks rose up as the first Turkish Empire, bringing Islam with them – before they were swept aside by the Ottomans. Phew!
Whilst the Ottomans brought progress, more land, and a golden age of arts and architecture, all good things must come to an end. Eventually Turkey became known as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Then WWI rolled in, and Turkey picked the wrong side to be on.
Why have I told you all this? Maybe I miss my university paper-writing days – but also it’s to show the upheaval that preceded Atatürk.
The man had one main goal – to better the lives of Turkish people, create stability, and ensure Turkey become a player on the world stage.
To that end, he scrutinised the country; inciting national pride, adopting the Gregorian calendar, reforming the alphabet to bring it in line with the West’s, banned the fez, and made surnames compulsory.
He’s on stamps, buildings, brides, streets and the subject of museums, and many Turkish believe that without him there would have been no Turkey.
It was interesting to Sean and I as in the UK, we don’t have one person who is universally venerated – and as I mentioned in a last post, we can’t even look up to Saint George, as he isn’t bloody ours!
Anyway, history lesson over. I probably got it all wrong anyway. 🙂
The best campsite ever – Değirmenağzı
By this point we’d had two interruptions and were starting to get a bit worried about where we’d camp. Nowhere looked suitable for wild camping to our untrained eyes, and around five o’clock we started to get a bit anxious.
We decided to skip a tunnel again and headed around the side, and straight into the nicest camp site I’ve ever been in.
The snappily dressed proprietor took us to the nicest spot in the camp. We got a great position as there were no other campers that day. The perks of travelling in the off season!
There was however a couple having a romantic dinner using a BBQ nearby, which we rudely interrupted. In Europe, that would probably have gotten us the cold shoulder. In Turkey, we were rewarded with freshly barbecued lamb kofta. I ask you.
In addition to sweet views – the campsite also offered a washing machine. Which was great news for me as I love to put a wash on.
We quickly set up the tent and cooked on the camping stove for the first time, and enjoyed the views.
After sunset we read on the Kindles for a little bit and then bedded down. This is when Sean took one of my favourite pictures of myself ever. Putting here for the lols.
The next morning we were up around 8am but lazed around for a bit too long enjoying the site.
At midday we set off, for what we thought would be an achievable 60km ride to the town of Ordu to meet our first Couchsurfer host Kemal.
What we didn’t count on was cruising into a petrol station and meeting our first cycle tourists on the road! They were an Irish couple who had been cycling much longer than our two weeks, having cycled through China, some of the -stans, Iran, Georgia and now were heading through Turkey towards Cappadocia.
It was nice to have someone to talk to that was in the same boat/on the same bike, and we stood gassing for about an hour and a half. And of course took a quick selfie!
We started to think about the time eventually, so I dropped a Red Bull for energy and we set off. That’s when I realised that we wern’t actually being hosted in Ordu – we needed to go to the next town along the coast. Which was another 15km. Whoops! All in all this turned into my longest cycle ride ever at 84km, and we did it all in under five hours. Not too shabby!
There was some trepidation as we headed towards our first Couchsurfer host, but Kemal was an absolute legend. After helping us lug our bikes up the stairs to his family’s spare flat, he took us to a fantastic local seafood restaurant and got us our first raki’s.
And he’d even bought us a local speciality – a dessert called ‘princess cake’. It was lush. What a man.
As we’d already cycled on from Ordu, and therefore missed the tunnel that allows motorists to skip a winding section of coast, we decided to push onto Unye via the scenic route.
We’d been warned against this by Kemal, and by a random Turkish man the next day, but this time we were undeterred.
We set off, throwing around such comments as ‘this is lush’, ‘wow, this is amazing’, and ‘this is the best bit we’ve cycled!’. Famous last words as they say.
The pastoral daydream was interrupted by Yason Church – ie Jason Church, of Jason and the Argonauts fame. Who apparently sailed the Black Sea to search for a golden post (symbolising prosperity in Greek mythology) and must have landed somewhere around here.
It’s a rare example of a Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey, and was repaired in 2004.
This was around lunchtime, so we made time for a kofka ekmek – essentially little lamb burgers in bread. Was delicious!
After lunch, the fun began. Unbelievable hills the entire second half of the jutting piece of land.
In the end, we got to Ünye though. We’d read mixed reviews about a campsite there, but decided it couldn’t be that bad. We got there and – it was closed. However the one next door, though kind of closed, said we could set up for just 25 Lira. Phew!
There was one issue though – a puppy. Obviously this doesn’t sound like an issue, and at first I regarded him/her as a perk. That’s before it started jumping around our stove, biting up the tent, and making holes in the inner parts. Shame I’d forgotten the Turkish word for ‘no’!
The next day we sauntered around town, and made out way to a recommendation from Orkun’s friend, Cakirtepe Pelit Park. It was a testing time getting up the massive hill on kaput thighs, but definitely worth it!
Thankfully, we’d planned for a short day after eating a mammoth amount of food. Just 30km to get to Terme and to our next Couchsufer host, Yasmin.
It’s a tiny town, but with a pretty mega claim to fame. It’s purportedly the hometown of the bloody Amazons! Of breast cutting, male slave keeping, general bad-assery fame. I liked it already.
Yet again, our host didn’t disappoint. As well as being welcomed into her lovely flat, Yasmin cooked one of the best meals to date for us! Chicken on a bed of potatoes, onions and peppers, served with rice, bread, and cooked aubergines. And her neighbour had brought round probably the tastiest cookies this site of the Bosporous. Another winner. Thank you Yasmin!
The next day we got up early and set off for Samsun. My trusty LP didn’t say much good about this town, but as we headed in after 60km we saw a mall, and I got excited. It wasn’t for the Adidas, Puma or Zara signs – it was for Decathlon! I think I’ve passed the bicycle tourer test.
That aside, this town is nice, and the hotel is only £18 a night including breakfast, teas before bedtime, and that pinnacle of civilisation – a clothes wash. Loving life!
And now it’s 11pm and time for bed. Hope you enjoyed reading. Night night x