Week 4

May 28 to June 3

On 28th of May I departed with a slight feeling of sadness from the beautiful city of Istanbul. After crossing the Bosporus bridge, I went to Safranbolu, a small town well known for its traditional Ottoman houses and rich heritage.

I made the severe mistake to stay for an additional day in the mind-paralisingly, ass-cripplingly boring town of Safranbolu. Ottoman houses are nice and well, but you can only look at so many stone buildings before turning sick even thinking of them. The highlight was sharing beers with a Turkish soldier in the homestay.

Imagine this times one million and you have Safranbolu.

On May 30 I went on to Ankara. It was cold and raining, and I made frequent stops to drink tea to reheat my body to temperatures above 15°C. Parliament elections were set for June 7 and half the streets in Ankara were closed for rallies and propaganda, which made navigation even more interesting than usual. Under severe violation of a vast amount of Turkish traffic rules, I finally found my way to the hotel.

I shared the room with Turkish law student with an uncanny resemblance to Che Guevara and an insane German Christian fundamentalist who was cycling to Iran and visiting places that were historically Christian.

I went out with Gökhan, the law student, who turned out to be a magnificent conversationalist and person in general.

Next morning, an angry receptionist woke me up, telling me that my bike was about to be towed. I got up, hung-over and sleep deprived, half believing her, and parked the bike about 15 m from the original spot. Needless to say, no one was even thinking of having the bike, which I had parked snugly to the wall of our neighbor’s property, towed.

I stayed in Ankara for one more day and then went on to Cappadocia. Oh, Cappadocia. What a magnificent place! Breathtaking volcanic rock formations with ancient rock-hewn monasteries of early Christians as far as the eye can see.

On July 1 I took a balloon flight at 4:10 am. For a full hour the balloon with its 20 passengers floated above the phallic fairy chimneys, offering a splendid view of the unique landscape. The experienced pilot steered the balloon with great skill, sometimes touching trees, sometimes barely avoiding the rocks in narrow valleys.

Fire in the hole!

OK, it’s kitsch…. but it really looks like this!

In the afternoon, I did a tour to visit some underground cities and valleys in the region.

In the evening Anna, the hostel manager took me and another guest out for pottery kebab, a fabulous, saucy meat dish served in a pottery pot. The meal comes with a small hammer to break lid of the clay pot. Overly enthusiastic and mad with hunger, I almost smashed the whole pot.

The next day I went on to Sivas. On the way I got stuck in deep mud on a highway exit. Luckily, a local farmer with his tractor was nearby and agreed to pull me out. On the way to the site of the sunken motorcycle, the tractor, a German model built in the seventies, got also stuck in the mud. Apparently, the designers of this fabulous agricultural machine had deemed it unnecessary to include a differential lock in its features, so one of the rear wheels did not move at all while the other was freewheeling in an amusing fashion, slinging dirt and mud everywhere. I felt a bit bad that the man who had agreed to help me now needed help himself and shoveled dry dirt and stones under the spinning wheel with my bare hands.

In the end, a second farmer came down the road. With a lot of sensitivity, he put the machine in first gear and managed with great control over throttle and clutch to get the machine out of its miserable situation. An hour later, we arrived at my bike, and it was a matter of mere seconds to get it free. I thanked the farmer and went on.

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