Monday, December 8, 2014

Turkey - Riding in Ataturk's Shadow

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Goat herds, wide valleys, and evidence of Western civilization's influence (note the Pepsi sign) are common sights as we navigate Turkey's back roads.

Wednesday, November 9 - 31 miles

We leave the pansiyon early, head south and are walloped with headwinds. However, it feels good to be back on our bicycles. It's funny, but home is on two wheels, wherever we roll. After I fix a flat, we keep our spirits up as rain showers – a first in Turkey – threatens to beat us down. A roadside shelter made of rushes becomes a lunch sanctuary. I surmise it's shelter for goats while Andy claims it's a makeshift produce stand.

Every small community proudly displays serious-looking portraits of Ataturk, father of Turkey. His prominent face, dark eyed with bushy brow, graces their currency, bus shelters, stamps, and posters in restaurants. He was a general in WWI, defending Constantinople (Istanbul) from Allied attempts pushing into northern Turkey. I also overheard that any verbal slander towards Ataturk, even today, is cause for being thrown in jail. As with other interesting trivia, I mentally note this information for further research upon our return home. The more we travel, the more I want to know.

I struggle up a long hill, already gaining 1000 feet, when the pain in my gut (our diet lacks sufficient fiber) causes me to dismount and push my bicycle the remaining yards up to the summit. I am in tears. The road surface is rough asphalt, wearing as much on my morale as my indigestion, which is only alleviated by walking.

We coast into a large agricultural valley planning to find accommodation so I can rest, but Soke is an overwhelming city of 50,000 citizens. A choking thick sand cloud rises house-high while horse drawn carts, automobiles, bicycles, scooters honk, whiz around us, dodging parked vehicles. We concentrate on keeping a straight line. “Hello, hello!” pedestrians shout. We smile and respond “Merhaba!” but I am not in the mood to stop and converse. We consult a few pansiyons but they are full or too expensive. I start to feel better so we head out of town; we will make do with tenting if needed.

Later the sky looks ominous. In Gullubache we haggle with a pansiyon owner and secure lodging, complete with breakfast for 400,000 Lira. It is near Priene, another historic site. Over dinner we discuss our coastal route towards Greece's Isle of Rhodes and wonder about current news: Turkey and Greece are at serious odds over fishing territory. Turkey wants to expand their rights to 6 miles offshore, which impacts Greek islands situated close to Turkey. It seems like an age old problem, this animosity between the Greeks and the Turks. We can only hope this recent escalation is only verbal. Rain fell while we prepared dinner and thunder and lightening continued all night. I was happy to be indoors.

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