Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Turkey, 13-09-2011 - 27-09-2011

Route changes in Istanbul
We had a great two days in Istanbul with local and foreign over-landers who we met at the biking club.
For us the nicest part of Istanbul was the staying over in a working class region where the club is located.   
During our stay we got some great advices from experienced local over-landers about driving through Turkey, Iran and Pakistan which changed our route in these countries.
In stead of driving along the black sea we traveled through the middle of the country passing some major touristic sites. It is also a warmer part of Turkey so we could enjoy good weather almost all the time. After finishing our trip in Turkey we need to admit that the route changing was a good decision. Only last days we spent in the Northern part of the country, this allowed us to see a totally different landscape of Turkey and meet Turkish autumn in the tea farming region.
The guys from the Istanbul bike club gave us as well a lot of advices about the border crossings and areas that should be avoided in Iran and Pakistan.
We left to discover Turkey with fully charged batteries.

Touristic Turkey
The main goal of our trip is to get to know the culture and meet locals by crossing the country. But we could not miss some touristic sites.
The fırst one of them was the famous region of Capadocia where the rocks look like termites' nests with perfect shaped windows and doors. It looks amazing! The region is very touristic, that's why the nicest parts are used to attract people and transformed to hotels, shops and restaurants. Some of them even have TV plates.
We also visited Nemrut - a park in the mountains where on top you can enjoy a great sun rise and sun set in the neighborhood of impressive statues. We arrived just on time for sun set and we stayed over on the top of the mountain in order to enjoy the most beautiful sunrise at 06:06 o'clock.
Another less touristic but for sure not less impressive place was Sumela monastery built in a rocky mountain in the North of Turkey. It's an amazing piece of architecture mixed with the nature. There was a lot of fog surrounding the monastery which made the environment very mysterious.
Despite of our main goal to be part of locals, in the eyes of Turkish we are just tourists who spent most of their budget in above mentioned places.

Eat, pray & love
We enjoyed every meal we had in Turkey. After Lithuanian kitchen Turkish food is so diverse and delicious. The most interesting for us was trying new food at locals' families - you never know what will be served in front of your eyes just on the blanket lied directly on the floor of the main room. Often the food is served in one bigger plate and each person takes it with a piece of bread. This gives a feeling of being part of the family.
We tasted all kind of home made cheese, butter and different bread. Whatever and whenever you eat in Turkey you get a cup of tea served in a small cup. Turkish love tea and this you can see on their brown teeth - if they still got'em.
In villages and towns it's common not to indicate prices of meals. First they ask 'where are you from' and only then they make a price. We were overcharged many times and learned how to negotiate - ask for Turkish and not tourist price.
Turkish people are reminded about their obligation to pray five times per day by an Imam who sings a chapter of the Koran from the mosque tower starting just before sun rise and finishing after sun set. Milda loves those prays!
We didn't get the feeling that people are strong believers and saw that they are quite relaxed looking to their religion. We also 'prayed' one time while visiting the blue mosque in Istanbul which smells worse than Johan's socks after a long sweaty ride.

We loved Turkey, its people and landscape!
The Turks are very warm and welcome. Wherever we stopped we (or more our bike) got so much attention that it was so easy to get in touch with them! Our goal to meet local people was totally fulfilled as we really felt being part of local culture thanks to the many invitations we got from Turks.
It was not always easy to communicate with them in English because of their quite poor language skills. In this case we used a very handy pictionary - a book with the main pictures that you might need during the trip. In this way the conversations were not always clear and with a big chance for miscommunication, but we had a lot of fun!
In general we saw that Turks are very close to each other as well. Even men are showing a lot of friendly sympathy for each other.

The diverse landscape of Turkey surprised us every day. It changes from dry fields to rocky mountain cliffs hanging over the road, from quiet mountain rivers to strong water falls in green tea farms.
We also learned that in one day and few hundred kms driven the landscape and even the climate can totally change. We were especially surprised while coming to the Northern part of the country that borders Georgia. Here we had the first rain during our stay in Turkey and we needed to dress up much warmer.

Staying over in Turkey
By trying to avoid hotels we camped, stayed at peoples place or made use of Couch Surfing. We used the tent the most during our stay in Turkey and camped in the most beautiful places - next to the mosque, a beautiful lake, on the top of the mountain, in front of an over 1000 years old castle, in Capadocia neighborhood.
If we stop for a night in a village people just invite us to stay over in their house. This allowed us to get to know how people are living, what are they eating and be a part of their daily routine. We were invited at an Imam's house where we got to know more about the Islam, a farmers house where we tasted the most tasty banana flavored butter and a Kurdish family where Johan parked the bike safely guarded by cows.
As at the end of our journey in Turkey the weather became worse we made use of Couch Surfing. We got an invitation to stay over at a tea farmer which was maybe the nicest staying over experience we had in Turkey. We had great laughs, nice talks and very good food in the primitive village that reminded a village described by Marquez in his book "One Hundred Years of Solitude". When we woke up early in the morning the only thing we could hear was hard rain. It felt like the rain season just started and it will rain for years and years. The time there stands still, there is only a father with his son doing their daily works in a tea farm.
Luckily it didn't rain for years and after a few hours we had a tour around the tea farm with Black power and saw the beautiful waterfall falling into secret Black lake. The first time during our trip it was hard to say goodbye and we really hope we come back to this mysterious place.
Because of bad weather and not so cozy border town the last night in Turkey we slept in hotel. But this experience is not really worth mentioning. 

Our daily routine on the road
Already after one week of traveling we totally lost the feeling of time. The pray and the sun are the best time indicators for us. Our day starts very early, we pack our stuff and go towards the next destination. While driving we stop to eat, drink a tea and chat with people as every time we stop locals come towards us. The bike is the most popular member of our team.
We always try to find a place to sleep at around 6 pm as it gets dark very early. Before going to sleep we make a selection of the pictures that were taken that day or sometimes watch a movie or a few episodes of Lost. Normally we go to sleep very early - at around 9 pm.
On the road we meet as well other over-landers and always stop to speak about traveling plans and share experience. It's so great to see people traveling in many other ways and even taking their babies with them.
In average we drive around 250 kms and tank one time per day. The roads in Turkey are pretty good and after Istanbul we didn't have any chaotic traffic situations.
We use so far all the equipment we took with us and we didn't need to buy anything extra, so the preparation was done good!
After three weeks of driving we can make the conclusion that we are a great team! As well the bike performed very well!

Autumn is coming to Turkey, last day a kid trowed little stones at us, a Kurdish man took away the sticker of the Turkish flag from the bike pannier so it's time to leave Turkey and go for the next chapter of our travel.
Milda bought a headscarf, Johan serviced the bike with help of Kurdish children - we are ready to meet Iran!

Some numbers:
Kms driven in total: 6550
Kms driven in Turkey during this period: 3540
Money spent during this period: 675 Euros (including benzine which is the most expensive in the world!)
Money spent for staying over: 28 Euros
Nights in hotel: 1 (see reasons mentioned above)

With love,
Milda & Johan


  1. Mildute kokia issisiepus ir laiminga! :) Dziaugiuos :) Labai patiko tas vienuolynas kalnuose - noreciau tokius vaizdus gyvai pamatyti...
    Sekmes keliaujant per Irana - labai lauksiu jusu nauju ispudziu, nuotrauku!

  2. amazing pictures. looks like you are having a wild experience.

  3. Hello!
    Thank you for such a great post - loved reading it! And pictures are AMAZING! Very happy for you guys! :)
    Can't wat to read about your Iran travel.

    Miss you both!
    Big hugs!

  4. Lieve Johan en Milda!!
    Thanks for your great stories, I really enjoy them and already look forward to the next one!
    Take care!!
    Veel liefs,
    Monique (en Huib, Mika en Elin)

  5. Hi Johan and Milda,

    SUPER!!! Enjoy it to the max :-)!

    Looking forward to your next post and pics!

    Regards Maarten