After having a good time with Soner, Inci and Tibet our next destination was the town Bilecik, where Hakan, an acquaintance of the three would host us. Hakan texted us that there would be a surprise when we arrived. When we met him in the center we cycled together to a restaurant where a table full of Turkish dishes was awaiting us. Furthermore, some journalists were there as well as staff from the municipality who gave us a welcome present. Pictures and and an article about us can be found on http://www.bilecikolay.com/mobil/haber/16283/almanyadan-gelen-bisikletlilere-bilecikin-yoresel-urunleri-ikram-edildi.html. We were indeed surprised and happy about the warm welcome and the tasty food. Hakan told us he had hosted already more than 300 cyclists and he is doing a lot in the city in order to make it more bike friendly. He also trains a group of kids and visits schools to camapaign for cycling and explain safety rules in traffic.
We spent the night in the building of a small soccer arena (it was another job of Hakans to be the housekeeper of that arena). On the upper floor there was a roof terrace and a room we could sleep in. As there were just cold showers in the arena, Hakan had arranged we could take a shower at Vildan and Ilknurs place (friends of him). We spent a nice evening at their house and they even cooked some dinner for us. Another job of Hakan was being a tourguide on bus-sightseeing tours around Bilecik to some Ottoman historical places. Spontaneously he invited us to join the next tour. On the next day we had beautiful weather and visited several places including mosques, graves and a museum and got lots of background information about it in Turkish 🙂 Hakan made sure we got to know some more Turkish specialities as Boza, Salep or the soup Ezurgelin. On our day of departure the same bustour took place and as the bus was riding a few kilometers into the direction of Eskişehir (our next destination) we put the bikes and the luggage into the luggage storage area. That way, we covered that distance faster than expected and visited some of the historical places a second time.
It took us two days before we reached the lively student city Eskişehir. The night in between we camped next to some walnut trees and for the first time we felt the cold in the night in our sleeping bags (even while wearing lots of clothes). Via Hakan we had contacted Ali and his family in Eskişehir who invited us to stay with them. İn Eskişehir we spent some beautiful days and we soon took them and their crazy and likeable cat to our heart. Alis parents were incredibly patient communicating with us (with our few Turkish words and some English) and together we laughed a lot. Alis mom made very delicious food and Ali showed us around in Eskişehir with its many bars and cafes. At the moment he is doing his PhD in Archeology and coincidentally he knows Noemis aunt Alice from his lectures and some fellow students 🙂 One day we took the train to Ankara as we had decided now was the time to buy some winter equipment (gloves, winter sleeping bags, hats and warm socks). We hoped we’d be able to get everything as we had planned to skip Ankara and cycle directly to Cappadokia. Unfortunately, the sleeping bags needed to be ordered so we had to go to back to Ankara anyway. Nevertheless, this had been the chance to see how travelling by train works in Turkey which seems to be even more structured than in Germany. To be sure you get a ticket you have to buy it at least one day before departure as you need to have a seat and there are certain rules for seating. Men are just allowed to sit next to men and women next to women. This was the reason we weren’t able to book some of the trains as there were just free seats left next to men. The next day wen went together with Ali on a beautiful bike tour in the surroundings of Eskişehir.
In order to avoid the traffic of Ankara and to be able to reach Georgia in the time left of our 90-days visa we decided to take the bus for the 200 km between Eskişehir and Ankara. We had spent lots (and more than expected) beautiful days in Istanbul, Iznik and Eskişehir and now half of our time in Turkey is already over. Cycling from Ankara via Cappadokia to Georgia is still about 1300 km. After spending a nice morning with Alis dad and making menemen (Turkish omelette) for breakfast we cycled to the bus station. There, it felt lile being on a bazaar as employees from a lot of companies (it felt like at least 30) were trying to persuade us to buy a ticket from them. Luckily, Ali had already told us which company was bikefriendly. For the ride we had to detach the frontwheel and take all the bags off. All the time we are passing a sally port the bags also need to be taken off. On the bus everybody got a drink and snack and had a screen for himself (for watching TV, movies or playing games) like on an airplane. After arriving in Ankara we attached the frontwheels and bags and cycled to our warmshower-hosts Can and Petek. We had a good time with them, explored the old town of Ankara with Can and went up to the castle where you have a nice view on this big city. He also helped us a lot with buying our new sleeping bags, bargained at the shop and later at the postoffice where we sent our old sleepingbags back to Berlin. As Ali in Eskişehir, Can was now a great help as we wouldn’t have been able to do it that well languagewise. Together with Can we cycled in between the vehicles through the chaotic traffic of Ankara. In the evenings we sat together with Can and Petek, had lots of tea and delicious food and talked. The evening before we left we met Ali at the train station in Ankara as he studies there and was about to go back home.
The first 20 km we cycled together with Can. After drinking a goodbye-çay (tea) we went on seperately. The first night with our new equipment we were nice and warm and we were very glad we’d bought it. The next night we slept in a small mosque at a rest stop. At a lot of gas statıons and rest stops you can find little mosques or praying rooms. For women there is a seperate area (in our case it was the first floor) and when some employees of the gas station said we could sleep there we put our mattresses and sleeping bags in one corner. It wasn’t the quietest night we had as some people visited the mosque during the night and sang and prayed (just in the downstairs area). For the night we had put our bikes in the neighbouring restaurant. As we were following a highway to Cappadokya we often stopped at gas stations and were often offered some tea or coffee when we got there. The next night we put our tent up in the area of a gas station at the Salt lake (Tuz gölü) and therefore were able to use the bathroom and had access to water and electricity. If you want to hide your tent its also the best to camp at rest stops as the landscape is very flat and empty – lots of harvested fields and some mountains on the horizon. We had two very grey, windy and sometimes rainy days but on the third day the sun was back. It feels good to be on the road again and we’re very glad about our winter equipment which has kept us warm until now. After another night behind the hulk of a former restaurant we reached Aksaray on the following day. There we were welcomed by our host Turgay. Later we played table tennis in his huge living room together with his friend Gürkan. Afterwards we looked at maps of Turkey, Gerogia, Azerbaijan and Iran and were recommended some beautiful places to see.