Short version: climbed out of Ankara – had many chats over çay – slept in a cave – fled into a house – fled out of Göreme – checked out some valleys – admired chimneys – saw a balloon – agree with Ibn – still alive and kicking!

I had stayed in Ankara a bit longer than I had planned. All this had to do with my visa application for Iran which didn’t progress too much and communication with the tourist agency that works as intermediate wasn’t smooth to say the least. Luckily, after 2 nights in a hotel, I could stay the rest of the time with Evren. I hope I didn’t show too much of my frustrations about the visa. Thanks Evren!! Also, I had dinner with a couple who I had met earlier in Istanbul as well. We exchanged stories and they seemed to have much more luck with their visa for Iran than I did already having passed the first gate and ready to pick up the actual visa that very week.

In Ankara I had to make my first tough choice where it concerns the route. I had been following an easy historically interesting trail and now had the option to go to Amasya, which is more in the North of Turkey and is a town where in early times most Ottoman princes had their first go at being the boss and where Suleiman I once had a large scale peace negotiation event that mainly concerned peace with sjah Tahmasp of Iran. The route to and from Amasya didn’t seem too interesting though so I opted for route 2 via Cappadocia. This is hardly an off the beaten track area but the route to and from were more interesting.

Tuz Gölü

Tuz Gölü

Evren recommended me to take the big road around Ankara rather than going through the city because the big road was rather flat. I took my chances and my legs still hurt thinking about it. I went up some 500 meters within the city with an average climb of 9%. The good thing was that after descending a little I was now at the base level of 1000 meter at which I would stay for a while. Around lunch time I stopped at a little restaurant that didn’t look too proper but I was waved in immediatly by a friendly man. After a fairly decent güvec and chatting with a few guys I of course wasn’t allowed to pay. I continued the otherwise uneventful ride and made it to Tuz Gölü. This encounter must somehow make you think what i am actually chatting about?

Every now and then I meet people who speak a little English and sometimes even Dutch, but if they speak a foreign language it is mostly German, which is fine with me too. Most of the time though, they speak Turkish. My Turkish is non existent. So you might wonder how I get around here and have a genuine good time having lunch or tea while chatting with Turkish men. The below example is more or less a stereo type conversation.

Turkish man: Turkish Turkish?* Turkish Turkish
Marten: I’m sorry, I don’t speak Turkish.
Turkish man: Turkish Turkish? Turkish
Marten: looks rather helplessly.
Turkish man: Turkish Turkish Turish Alleman Turkish? Turkish
Marten: No, Hollanda.
Turkish man: Aaah, Wesley Sneijder!
Marten: Right.
Turkish men**: Turkish Turkish? Turkish
Marten: I came by biciclette.
Turkish men: oooh, Turkish Turkish Istanbul? Turkish
Marten takes out the map of Turkey.
Turkish men: looking as if I could also have shown the map of Russia
Marten: Amsterdam, Edirne, Istanbul, Ankara, here.
Turkish men: Turkish Turkish? Turkish
Marten: takes out the bicycle computer and shows the distance.
Turkish men: ooooh.
Turkish men inform many other men about all this.
Turkish men: Turkish Turkish (making signs to be interpreted as sleeping)
Marten: It took me about 80 days to get here.
Turkish men: Turkish Turkish? Turkish
Marten: I’ll go to Erzurum, then Tehran and then to the rest of Asia.
*to me it sounds as if the question mark is halfway through the sentence in Turkish
**note the single going to plural

Lunch at the Yayatan's

Lunch at the Yayatan’s

My Cappadocia experience might be slightly different from the usual tourist version. I entered Cappadocia from Aksaray from where I took a small road to Güzelyurt. After having been called over for a cup of tea at the first village I passed, it appeared to me that the road I was taking was leading straight into a thunderstorm. This didn’t look good and I started looking around for places I could shelter. I considered knocking on somebody’s door but, right as I was putting on my rain jacket, a woman at her house in the near distance was waving me over. I crossed the field in between and was invited in. Here I was led into the living room and introduced to the family. We took place on the cushions and, since we had no language in common, watched tv while lunch was being prepared by mother and daughter. They prepared a marvelous lunch and after this we had a good little photosession. By now the thunderstorm had more or less passed and I went back to the road waving for a couple of minutes. Thank you so much Yayatan family!

View from my cave

View from my cave

Güzelyurt I believe has a whole series of underground cities under it and must be great to visit were it not that I had a mission: finding myself a proper cave to sleep in. This turned out to be rather easy. There are signs to a place called Monastry Valley and I figured that there must be some decent looking caves there. I cycled into this pretty valley with rain falling and lightning and rumbling telling me I better find this cave soon. I picked a well sized cave with a pretty entrance next to one of the cave churches, watched the sheppards coming back from the hills with their cattle, made myself some tea and enjoyed the surroundings with a bit of a thunderstorm in the background.

From Güzelyurt the road goes up, up and up till I reached almost 1800 meters at the pretty village of Sivrihisar. On my way down I visited the little red church built in the 6th century which is one of the earliest surving Christian buildings in Turkey. I walked into the ruins and once standing where the altar must have been I found a grill and a solid looking knife; so it seems offerings are taking place here now.

Love Valley

Love Valley

All the time while I was cycling through the plains and valleys of Cappadocia I had hardly seen any tourists. This changed abruptly once I descended via a steep cobble stone road into the open air museum of Göreme. I don’t know how it is possible not to spot a single tourist in all of Cappadocia and suddunly see a very large collection ranging from Japanese to American to any type of European, all wearing shorts and shooting pictures of eachother. I payed up the entrance fee and had a look around. I still don’t understand what all these people were doing here while the true beauty of Cappadocia was out there, in the valleys. Sure enough, the fresco’s in two or three of the churches were fantastic, but the rest were just caves and less pretty than the one I had slept in. Of course to accomodate the tourists the paths between the caves were well laid out so you could drive a car around there if you’d be allowed to. After having seen most of it I fled back to my bike and cycled via a pretty road back to Avanos where I was staying at the house of Arif, who wasn’t there and who I have never met. Thanks Arif!

Most valleys around Göreme are of paradisiacal beauty. The Red Valley has nice white rock formations and beautiful flowers and part of the Rose Valley has a nice red colour. Then of course there is Love Valley where you can admire the “fairy chimneys”. I can tell you, we human men cannot compete with these fairies. Early in the morning there are many tourists that got themselves an über expensive ticket for a balloon ride. Some balloons just seem to go up, and then proceed to go back down, others have up and close encounters with a valley. I woke up early, didn’t pay anything, and got myself a nice picture.

A bit before Kayseri

A bit before Kayseri

From Cappadocia I moved on to Kayseri which is where I am now. Kayseri seems to be a nice and bustling town with a few ol’ mosques, a caravansaray, ye olde castle, and a nice big snow capped mountain in the back. I had planned to go to Sivas from here, a town that had been thoroughly ravaged by Tamerlane and many of the defenders were buried alive since Tamerlane had promised them he would shed no blood. I however decided to make my route through Turkey a bit longer (and with that hopefully also even more pretty) since I am still waiting for my visa for Iran anyway.

To end this post I am now also reading into what the earlier travel guides have to say about the lands I am venturing into. I have with me the with us well known travels of Marco Polo from the 13th century and the probably less well known travels of Ibn Battuta from the 14th century. According to my guidebook Mr. Polo says about the Turks that they dwell amongst the mountains and are rude people and dull of intellect. The words of Ibn Battuta are more favourable since everywhere he goes in Anatolia he is astonished at “their wish to shew us every respect and attention, although we were ignorant of their language, and they of ours.” I think I’m more in line with Mr. Battuta here.

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