Short version: checked out some carpets – went to an old B&B – made friends on the road – went to the police – cycled, hiked and swam in paradise – took a picture of a giant sugarloaf – still alive and kicking!

İshak Paşa Sarayı
İshak Paşa Sarayı

My last post from Turkey and I am confused if I like the place from which I am writing this post or not. I’m writing this from a town called Dogubayazit which is either getting covered by dust or crumbling to dust. Either way, it won’t be missed at least not by me. On the other side, just north of the town is the national symbol of Armenia and also the highest mountain in Turkey: Mount Ararat. While cycling from Agri it suddenly appeared from behind its lower brethren, looking like a giant sugarloaf. Also, there is a nice palace up the hill which was closed but offered  nice views. The last stretch in Turkey, from Kayseri to Dogubayazit, has been fantastic. It had everything the traveler would want. Beautiful valleys, narrow and wide, with swift flowing rivers with clear water, canyons, steep and forested hills and snow capped mountains. Cups of çay, picnics and wild camping, good company and the occasional cultural highlight.

Carpet auction
Carpet auction

I left Kayseri after having attended a 2nd hand carpet auction. Used carpets get transported to Kayseri, they get auctioned, then cleaned, then repaired and what not and then mostly shipped to Cappadocia and Istanbul to be sold to tourists. I somehow got myself invited to attend this auction after having had cups of tea with what turned out to be a carpet dealer. I assume he assumed I would at least buy a pillow case but he had made the wrong assumption. In the end he wanted me to name the price of a nice kilim so that I could take it and it would be a gift from Kayseri. Right….

From Kayseri I had a bit of wind in my face. I reached an old Caravansaray called Karatay Han. These places were used as B&B’s back in the days when caravan’s were going back and forth. One of the Habsburg envoys described a caravansaray as a big open courtyard where bagage, carriages, horses, donkeys and camels were parked. The guests slepped on the walls surrounding the courtyard. There was no privacy and apparently all the locals were staring at these weird Europeans. Upon entering I naturally asked the guys that were drinking tea and served as tour guides if I could sleep on the walls. I could not. There were however rooms available within the walls which looked quite cosy. I did have a look on the walls but these didn’t seem to be very sleepable. Not only did I meet tea drinking tour guides, I also met a friendly French couple Marc and Aurelie. They were traveling by tandem. Not just a regular tandem but one with a chair in the front. They were heading the same direction as I did, so regardless of their many warnings that they were very slow I joined them for the coming days. We set up camp at a little lake where much fishing was taking place. Of course the fishermen took interest in us and we had to decline an invitation to eat fresh fish from the grill because we had just been served a great köfte and plenty of tea by others already.

The days o’plenty had only just started. The day after we met a man at a water point and he invited us to have tea somewhere down the road which turned out to be some relatives’ house. We got plenty of tea and food there and after saying goodbye we went to the nearby jandarma to ask for a place to sleep. We could pitch our tents in a field next to their station and had to come back for tea, which we did. We spent a few hours talking to one of the captains who provided us with plenty of tea and dolma made by his mother.

At Muko's
At Muko’s

The next day we cycled to Darende and on the way under a a dark sky and some rumbling we met a cyclist from England on his way back home from Dubai and 3 German cyclists, Jakob, Rebekka and Hedwig, who I had met before in the bicycle store in Istanbul. The Englishman went up the hill towards the thunderstorm and we went down into a restaurant for lunch. We camped all together in a nice patch of grass next to a river sharing stories and food. Since I wanted to get to Malatya the next day we said farewell to Marc and Aurelie and cycled onwards through an amazing landscape. In Malatya I stayed with a friend (Caner) of a friend (Mustafa) of a friend (Evren) who are now all my friends as well. Mustafa owns a bicycle store in Malatya which is where I spent the next day relaxing and enjoying great hospitality. Also I met Marc and Aurelie again. We enjoyed breakfast together at Mustafa’s shop and then said goodbye again. They would take some more time to see southTurkey and I would be on my way to the east. Thanks Caner and Mustafa for your hospitality!

Paradise in Munzur Vadisi
Paradise in Munzur Vadisi

From here on out I cycled with my German friends untill Erzurum. I arrived in Elazig after having cycled exactly 5000km and stayed with a friend (thanks Murat!) of a friend (thanks again and again Evren!) who is now also my friend and from there onwards to Tunceli. I had never really thought of cycling this route but I would not have wanted to miss this part of Turkey…the area around Tunceli is absolutely fantastic. We spent two nights at the house of Seda who had a great rooftop terrace overlooking a town built in paradise. We joined her and a group of locals for a hike in stunning Munzur Valley and went for a few drinks along the river afterwards. The day after we camped in the valley next to the Munzur river and close to a nice little waterfall where we swam in the fairly warm water of the pool below. Thanks for the hospitality and the tip Seda!

Besides all the natural beauty of the area another thing that you notice while traveling around the area is the amount of police and army. It feels like occupied territory with daily protests, helicopters, armed vehicles, tanks and many fortified army bases. For the cyclist this is all no problem; whether it is a local Kurdish person, an ordinary Turkish person, the Jandarma or the army, they all wave at me.

The last bit to Erzurum was fairly nice and included an unexpected climb to roughly 2000m. Once in Erzurum my German friends took the bus to Trabzon where you can get your Iranian visa on a beer coaster while I picked up my visa the next day after a month struggle to get my authorization code. It’s ok, Iran is only a day away! From Erzurum I was once again on my own and cycled to Horasan where I stayed with Emrullah and his flat mates for the night and witnessed the well expected 5-1 victory of my countrymen over Spain. Thanks Emrullah! Onwards to Agri where I didn’t want to pay for a hotel and ended up sleeping behind an abandoned petrol station. Even there I got served tea and food.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat

So…I have crossed Turkey from west to east and then some. Turkey is beautiful; the nature is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the food is beautiful and the people that travel here are beautiful. Other things I noticed was that contrary to what I expected people did not get darker the further east I went. There are a great many people that could have just as easily been from the Balkan or other western countries. Whether right or wrong, I link this to the Ottoman empire which especially in the beginning was mainly run by converted Christians imported from those regions. Turkish people are beautiful; having said that they also have a large impact on their environment. Turkey is not clean, there is a rediculous amount of power masts everywhere, there are big highways to nowhere and there are countless abandoned petrol stations.

In west Turkey they had advised me that the further east I would go the less impressed I would be with the hospitality. In Pertek (that be east Turkey), I was informed by 2 Kurdish guys that west Iran was still alright, but further east things would get dangerous. I thanked them for paying my lunch and figured it would probably not be so bad. Tomorrow I will cycle into Iran and hope to tell you the stories of this land and its people! I am at least looking forward to it!

Teşekkür ederim Türkiye, As Salam Alaikum Iran!

For more pictures, click here!