Country Archives: Turkey

Taşucu – Girne/Kyrenia

The night was pretty rough. It was hot inside the tent and I discovered too late that outside there where too many biting insects to leave the door open.

I woke up before sunrise and watched it appear over the turquoise waters. First order of the day: swimming. Then: fixing the next flat tire. Another swim after breakfast.

Then I backtracked a few kilometers to the town of Taşucu to board the ferry to Cyprus.

Two hours later I was back in the EU! Hm, almost.

The island of Cyprus is home to two countries, but ‘country’ may not be the right word for Northern Cyprus.
After some clashes between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority in the 1970s, the northern part, then occupied by Turkey, declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 1983. So far, only Turkey recognizes the TRNC as an independent country. That leads to an interesting fact: The Republic of Cyprus (the southern part) is considered by everyone else, including EU and UN, as the country that has control over all of (the island of) Cyprus.
So, while I’m in the EU from the EU’s point of view, I’m not from the local government’s one.

I’m in Girne/Kyrenia, where the ferry dropped me off. It’s hot here.

Cycled: 8km

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Mersin - Taşucu

Today’s destination was the little port town of Taşucu. It has an official camp site nearby. The ride wasn’t spectacular in any positive sense. The road was a 4-lane highway all the time and more or less flat. That included a flat tyre after 45km. Hey Schwalbe, what happened to “unplattbar” (“puncture-proof”), eh?!

Somehow it took me ages to reach Taşucu. Actually, I was on the road for eight hours!

The campsite is located directly at the sea and an extended swim in the blue and warm waters was the first thing I did after arrival.

I was having dinner next to my tent (it’s pitched under olive trees directly above the sea) when a neighbor came over with a plate-full of water melon, some Turkish bred and yoghurt. “For you”, he said, smiling, and returned to his camper van.

Cycled: 99km

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Mersin

Mersin is a city of about 800.000 people, and Turkey’s biggest Mediterranean port is located here. Temperatures are warm (not hot) and very pleasant. I’m not sure I’ve actually found the city center, but the area I’ve spent most time in today (between the hotel and the sea) has everything I needed: plenty of opportunities to eat Turkish staples and drink tea, a fruit and vegetable market, hair dressers, etc.

Speaking of hair dressers, I finally found a theme for my trip(s): Going to a barber in each country I visit. I’ve been to one in almost every country so far (Slovakia, Romania, and Iraq are missing) but failed to describe most of my experiences here. Now it’s almost too late, but I’ll try anyway and start with today’s Turkish barber.

He started with the obvious cutting of hair and beard, then asked if I wanted the hair on my cheekbones removed. I’d seen that previously at a different barber, it’s a procedure that reminded me a bit of having one’s teeth flossed. I agreed, and I got more than I had bargained for. He put a ‘natural mask’ onto my face and after removing it he waxed cheekbones, nose, nostrils, and earlobes! Then he used yarn(?), both hands, and his teeth to remove any remaining hair below my eyes. Interesting indeed. Got a quick shoulder and arm massage as well. This was certainly one of the more elaborate hair cuts.

Later I tried tantuni, a regional speciality. A lady sitting there at a table next to mine started a chat, but the language barrier prevented us from doing any serious talking. She shared her roasted pumpkin seeds and peanuts with me, however. I tried myself at the art of opening the former with the teeth without crushing the whole thing, but didn’t quite succeed.

At another place I had künefe, a dessert the region (as in the Arab-influenced Near East) is well-known for.

In the hotel lobby I met two men from Cloppenburg, about 60km from my home town Bremen. They are of Turkish descent but live in Germany since 30 years and are here on vacation. They were curious about my trip and we chatted for a few minutes. At the end they said: “If you need any help, we are there for you.” I have encountered this kind of friendliness and readiness to help everywhere in the Caucasus and the Middle East throughout my trip. It is an amazing thing that has gone missing in the West.
I wonder if they had offered the same had we met in Cloppenburg or Bremen and not in Mersin.

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Unnamed rest area at motorway O-52 – Mersin

We left our rest place early in the morning, heading west.

In the early afternoon we met friends of Selim’s, left the truck behind, and made a 250km side trip in their car a an “archeological site” that Selim was interested in. Located on the bank of a tributary of a reservoir lake, it supposedly used to be a Roman settlement, but there was nothing to see at all. The only interesting things to see were a couple of natural springs.

We continued our drive towards Mersin at nightfall.
Selim dropped me off a few kilometers from Mersin’s city center after midnight. This guy left an awesome first impression of Turkey.

I cycled on and found a good hotel and even food! I <3 Turkey! Cycled: 12km Hitched: 638km [gallery]

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Shekhkaya - Unnamed rest area at motorway O-52

Everyone woke up with first light and Khalaf and I had breakfast. The girls and women, again, did not eat with us.

Khalaf mentioned that he had business to do in Dohuk, some 30km down the road and my planned destination from yesterday. He offered a ride and I happily accepted.

I decided to skip the visit to Dohuk, though, and instead go directly to Zakho and the Turkish border, which was about 50km from where Khalaf dropped me of.

Trucks started queuing up a couple of kilometers from the border. Border formalities where pretty easy on both sides, and a friendly Iraqi Kurd living in Aachen, Germany, and on vacation in Dohuk made things even smoother by negotiating customs and passport control in Kurdish for me.

I hadn’t even left the border complex on the Turkish side when I was approached by little kids shouting “Bakshish, bakshish”. Welcome to Turkey, eh?

Not 500m after that I was stopped by a truck driver. “Hey, you want a ride? I’m going to Mersin!” Mersin is one of the easternmost port cities on the Turkish Mediterranean coast and it’s en route for me, though about 900km to the west. Within a split second I ditched all my plans for eastern Turkey. “Hell, yeah”, was my reply, approximately, “but I have no [Turkish] money”.
“No, no! No money, no money!”, he said.

Selim is actually an archeologist, but limited employment opportunities in his field made him a truck driver. Our common languages are limited, but somehow we managed to make ourselves somewhat understood. In the afternoon we stopped in Nusaybin and I hoped he’d call it a day here. Nusaybin straddles the Syrian border and had I been on the bike, I would have tried to cross the border to have a look at a Kurdish-Syrian town for a day or two. Well, Selim just met a friend there and I was too hungry to not be eating. After about an hour we continued our road trip.

Until the last minute I did not have the slightest idea how far we were going to go today or where I’d be sleeping tonight. But that’s part of the adventure.

At 10pm we stopped at a rest area at the motorway and went to a hamam. Then we continued some 20km more to another rest station were Selim shared his dinner with me (I still didn’t have any Turkish money to buy my own).
I’m sleeping in the upper bunk bed in the truck. Another first.

Cycled: 60km
Hitched: 461km
Top speed: 72kph

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