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Between Snow and Palm Trees

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After leaving Ünye we enjoyed cycling the comfortable and flat road right next to the Black Sea. In that area the landscape was quite different compared to what we had seen in the previous days and weeks. There we saw palm trees and for the first time in Turkey a very green landscape. The Black Sea area is known for cultivating tea and (hazel)nuts. The area is densely populated and the view is very beautiful: in the foreground there is the sea, behind it green hills (often tea plantages) and in the very background mountains covered with snow. Luckily, Laura was able to solve a small problem that occurred at Noemis Rohloff. Therefore we didn’t have to go back to Istanbul to fix it (as the next Rohloff service point would be in Bangkok).

Between Fatsa and Ordu there is a peninsula. At its top there is the small village Yason. At the very top of Yason you can find a church, a lighthouse and a cafe. Can and Petek from Ankara had recommended us to go there, try the delicious hazelnut desert and ask for a place for camping. When we arrived it was already dark and cold outside. So we first went in, sat next to the warm oven and ate something. We were allowed to camp, but a bit further out near the church. When we were already in the tent we noticed another visitor of the peninsula and we introduced ourselves. About half an hour later we heard there were more visitors outside. In this case it were two police men and a police woman (Jandarma). They told us it was too dangerous for us to camp there. We should strike the tent and they would take us to a hotel nearby. The police woman told us to be ready in 5 minutes time (of course it took us longer to pack everything again). Afterwards we and our bikes were loaded in the police car (like Tetris). On the way to a hotel in Perşembe we joined their nightly drive around the area. Luckily, Perşembe was the direction we had planned to ride the following day anyway. We never knew if camping there was really dangerous or if they just thought that it is generally dangerous for two women to camp somewhere. Later we were very grateful the police had come to pick us up as up as just some hours later it began to rain like cats and dogs. The next day the rain wouldn’t stop and it got just worse during the day. So we decided spontanously to stay another night at the hotel and spend a comfortable lazy day inside 🙂

The weather in the coastal area is ususally quite hard to predict and often rainy. Therefore we contacted hosts alongside the coast via couchsurfing and warmshowers. Generally, cycling along the coast worked out great: the roads are in good condition, we were lucky to get lots of sun, and there is no uphill cycling. That way we covered more than 200 km in two days (with a new daily record of 110 km 🙂 ). On our way we often passed tunnels which are lighted but are mostly very uncomfortable to pass for cyclists: it can be quite noisy and cars usually pass with even less distance than outside as it is more narrow.

When we arrived in Espiye we sat down in a small cafe to wait for our host Emre. There we met Ferda and her colleagues who welcomed us and would have loved to invite us to her house. Together with Emre and his friens Haluk we ate dinner and played a game. As they both stayed with their families we had the whole apartment on our own. The next morning we went back to the cafe and met Ferdas younger sister and their dad. They were very warmhearted and gave us some picnic for our travels. That evening we arrived in Trabzon at Tuğçe and Davuts place. Tuğçe cooked very delicious food, and we spent one day recovering from the cycling and walking around in Trabzon. Our next stop was Rize, where Burak, Sözer, Mustafa, Şamil und Hüseyin welcomed us in their student apartment. Together with their friend Emre they are like family to each other and also took lovely care of us. When Şamil had to go to hospital because of his appendix, the others made sure there was always on of them with him at the hospital. For a few days we felt home and became housemates and friends. We did many nice activities: we ate a very special milk rice (sütlaç), visited a museum and nice cafes (one had a very nice view upon the city and the tea plants), we also visited a learning centre for kids where they all worked as volunteers, we walked through Rize and had a great time playing cards together. Departing felt very sad. With a number of small gifts and a great lunchbag we left Rize; sad about the goodbye but very grateful for the good time we’d had. In Rize we sometimes travelled with mini busses. That are busses not much bigger than a family car and riding with an extraordinary speed and efficiency. They hardly ever stop, its just enough time to hop an or off. The passengers pay the driver during the ride. Often the money is given through many hands on the way to the driver or back to the person. The bus just stops when somebody requests it, there are no  certain bus stations (as far as we can tell).

The next place we reached is named Fındıklı, which means hazelnut. For two nights we stayed with Melih and his family. We loved their beautiful garden, the view on snowy mountains, tea plantages and hazelnut trees. In the garden they grow tea, nuts, kiwis, khaki fruit, grapes, mandarines and more fruit.

Our next stop was in Kemalpaşa which is at the Georgian border. Together with our host Yener we tried to reach a beautiful lake (Karagöl), took a minibus and hitchhiked. The last 6 km we had to walk as up there the road was full of snow. Unfortunately, we had to return home before we reached the lake as it had gotten dark already. Before we left we were invited for breakfast by friends of Yener. Afterwards we packed and passed a great number of trucks that were stuck in a queue before the border. It felt weird to leave Turkey after spending almost three months there. In that time we had seen and experienced a lot and had gotten familiar with the language and  the habits. At the border we didn’t need to wait as we were neither in the queue of pedestrians nor in the one of cars or trucks.

From the border it took us about an hour to reach Batumi – the so called Las Vegas of the Black Sea. We enjoyed the view on the sea and sunset on our way. As our couchsurfing host we were supposed to stay at didn’t reply anymore we looked for a guesthouse for the night. With the help of some staff members we brought the bikes and luggage up to the third floor. In Batumi we will plan our route to Tbilisi where we will stay longer to take a winterbreak.

The view from the peninsula.

During our walk throug Trabzon.

Walking around with Tugce in Trabzon.

Trabzon.

Our first evening in Rize.

Samil the day after his surgery in hospital.

Soezer and Hueseyin playing in one team. Sometimes its hard to decide.

Saying goodbye wasn’t easy.

The view from Melihs home in Findikli.

Grapes from Melihs garden.

Hitchhiking made Noemi tired. In the truck with Yener on our way to Karagoel.

Tea break at one of Yeners friends.

From here on we needed to walk.

Our first sunset in Georgia.

Bike path in Batumi.

Noemi is done for today.

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