On the Turkish boarder, the entire customs officers were busy on their handy and we had to tell them to give us the entry stamp. When we passed a school court in the city of Kirklareli, the school boys ran with us for a while. We are also an attraction for the car drivers and truckers and sometimes we fear that they could fall off the carbine or crash by watching us! As we learnt by our guide book, the tea houses are places for men and of course, Nathalie is always the only woman there. Nathalie bought a nice headscarf which has to be worn to visit the mosques.
In a local restaurant two English-speaking men sat to us and introduced them as animators from Antalya. They explained that they were waiting for their girlfriend who comes from France. In the meantime, another man came in and sat also at our table. They were all excited and we should meet the girl to talk with her in French. She should return from a journey that day. We’ve been waiting for a while and they got very nervous when we said that we’ll leave now. They made phone calls with their mobile all the time and we had the impression they’re trying to cheat us.
Quickly we said goodbye and disappeared in the crowd. However, something was wrong, but we couldn’t figure out what they wanted! Apart from this incident, the Turkish people are highly hospitable and always when we buy something small in a shop or at the petrol station by using the toilet, they offer a Cay (tea), which is delicious! Once at the restaurant when we had lunch, a local even paid for it...we asked why? A present, just like that, without any ulterior motive... Up to now we took always the small roads which are mostly leading to nice and remote villages. Also we get to know local people and we communicate with hands and feet!
By cycling to the city centre of Istanbul we got lost and we arrived late and tired in the old town. From far away we could see the illuminated mosques, also the famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. It was so fascinating to watch this by sunset and we enjoyed it very much. Although we had visited Istanbul before, we spent two days there. The atmosphere is very special: the oriental and western culture is so close together! On the way to the bicycle trader with our bicycles a traveller from New Zealand spoke to us. He is also cycling to Iran and Tibet. What a surprise to meet another cyclist going a similar tour as we do! He started the trip in February from London and planed to be in Tibet in the late summer or autumn.
After a typical Turkish breakfast which consists of Yoghurt, olives, sheep’s cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and bread, we drove over the Bosporus to Asia. It was worth visiting Bursa, the "green" city, which is located close to the mount Uludag and which counts 1 1/2 million of inhabitant. Finally we managed to find the book "snow" in English from the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2006. On the way to Ankara we enjoyed the changing landscape. Sometimes it seemed to be in the "wild west" with the steep canyons and otherwise it was very green and agricultural used.
App. 30 km before we reached the capital city it started hailing and the temperature dropped from 12°C to 2°C within a few minutes. Fortunately, the road went uphill and we were sweating even when it was snowing. At the Swiss embassy we had to get a recommendation letter for the "Stan"-Visas (like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan...). Before applying for several Visas, we had to fix our itinerary and travel dates. All “Stan"-countries have fixed entry and leaving dates! At the embassy of Uzbekistan we met again the cyclist from New Zealand we talked to in Istanbul. After a chase for all these visas all around Ankara, we had to wait a few days to finally pick them up!