Cesme, waiting for the ferry to leave Turkey.

White horse.
White horse.

To all the people who I have taken to task for calling this a holiday, a small apology. We have, over the last few days taken an accidental holiday. You remember how I mocked the world of the backpacker until we had to take a couple of buses. We found that 18 hours in the close company of strangers was hard. Very hard, and apologised a bit.

Flowers and shadows.
Flowers and shadows.

Now we have had to spend a few days in hotels, in what can only be described as a ‘ holiday area ‘. You know what, that is hard as well. We have been very unlucky with noise. I know it is a recurring theme here. Hotel number 1, we were woken by the call to prayer, followed by a ‘ dawn chorus ‘ of the hotel parrot.

Scientifically, the most disturbing noise in the world is a baby crying. Nature has made quite sure that the little parasite gets your attention, and it is now hard-wired in us all in that hard to ignore double helix.

The second most disturbing noise, is a door being slammed shut. This is what young people do as a form of expression, rebellion and just out of habit. It takes just a few months to form your first words, and then learn to stand upright and take those first steps. But then it can take another 40 years to learn to enter or leave a room without slamming the door. We have had a short series of hotel rooms where we have tried to sleep in rooms adjacent to the young taking a bit of R&R. It;s bloody hard work.

Hill out of Manisa, a long 10%.
Hill out of Manisa, a long 10%.

The road to Izmir from Manisa would be a very hard commute if you had to do it twice a day. It is not that far, but goes up and over what in cycling terms is a Cat1 climb. Arriving in Izmir is like diving out of the clouds to land by commuter jet at a city centre airport. An exhilarating ride, that is best done without engaging much imagination at the consequences of a spill at speed.

Promenade in Izmir.
Promenade in Izmir.
The world above the bazaar.
The world above the bazaar.

Izmir is a wonderful place for sitting and watching. We did rather a lot of both, and slipped into a holiday mood despite the parrot. We pimped up the bikes with the help of PARKURBIKE, and suggest you do the same.

Izmir clock tower.
Izmir clock tower.
Old road at the water front, outskirts of Izmir.
Old road at the water front, outskirts of Izmir.

Leaving Izmir will almost certainly require you to ride into a headwind. We linked together small roads that came and went, using the gps to visit small fishing harbours and the posh house zone. It all settled down to one single road to be followed without any navigation. The mist burned off as we rode along the D300 to Cesme in a comfortable 32’c.

Views along the D 300.
Views along the D 300.
Freshly planted field.
Freshly planted field.
Dry land with Thermal Energy plants left and right.
Dry land with Thermal Energy plants left and right.

All coastal riding will find a hill. This one came along with the noon sun. The nasty headwind is now your personal friend. It stands between you and the cycling equivalent of parking up at the curb with the hood up and steam billowing out. Heat and gradients can, and will make your day miserable if you let them.

Before you get to the coast there is a zone of bleak, dry nothingness. It is inhospitable enough that you would be questioning your decision to come to Turkey, if you were riding the other way. There is also the very Asian zone of rubbish tipping, wild dogs and a few lost souls who call this home. Where they live out their lives at the very base line of society.

Blue on Blue.
Blue on Blue.

If you had not already seen Ephesus, you would be working your way slightly down the coast from here. It is a ‘100 things to see before you die ‘, sort of place, so make sure you do. We have booked into a cheap hotel on the coast, just before Cesme. There are big, and almost totally empty hotels. It is picture postcard perfect, but heart brakingly melancholic.

Back street in Cesme.
Back street in Cesme.
Palm tree - Sideshow Bob impersonation.
Palm tree – Sideshow Bob impersonation.

It has a 3 month season that is about 10 days from kicking off. This coast is the only place in Turkey that is tolerable in the summer thanks to a permanent and cooling sea breeze. The water the intense blue of Greek mens eyes. We are on holiday.

Door detail, Cesme.
Door detail, Cesme.

It is official, when we finally work out the error message on the ferry boat’s web site. There is no combination of times, routes or island hops that will get us away in under three days. A combination of Greece reluctance to work on the weekends and Turkish not wanting to do too much on a Friday, mean that we are here at Cesme for the best part of 3 days. We are trapped in a holiday paradise.

Old cut stone in a kitchen/cafe. Greeke style.
Old cut stone in a kitchen/cafe. Greek style.

We book into a cheap hotel. It turns out to be a mistake, but all is well now. The usual thing happens. You get help to your room with your bags as you arrive. You warn the guy that he is just about to attempt to clean lift 100Kg of startlingly coloured bike luggage. He goes ahead anyway. When you come down the three flights of stairs to leave, you will get crossed arm indifference as to how much you are carrying. This is strange, as you still have an online review to write. There is little sleep and much slamming of doors.

Door I, Cesme.
Door I, Cesme.
Door II, Cesme.
Door II, Cesme.

Hotel 2, and the same thing occurs. If anything there is even more hormonal force behind the slam. It is Saturday night. This being Turkey, the owner comes to you at 3 in the morning and takes you to another hotel he owns. You are given a massive upgrade and 100 apologies, along with his eldest daughter’s hand in marriage if appropriate.

Door III, Cesme.
Door III, Cesme.

In the background to the last few days, Turkey has been doing its best to have a revolution. People have taken to the streets in their thousands to protest at the government. They have complained to us that they are being turned into a new Iran by the people in power here. Every intellectual that we have met and particularly every woman with a degree and ambition is unhappy about the direction of their country. Even in the quiet streets of Cesme there was demonstrations on the streets last night. It got applause from the people at the pavement cafes who know that this will be a ghost town if a proposed ban on alcohol and street cafes comes in.

The protestors are drapped in the national flag and many carry photos of their founding father Ataturk. We wish them all the very best as they deserve a better government. The usual censorship of the WWW. and other media has been imposed and only we know what is going on by looking at the BBC.

Cat nap.
Cat nap.
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Manisa, nearing the end of Turkey and 34,000Km.

Seat for watching.
Seat for watching.
Bakeries are everywhere.
Bakeries are everywhere.

Facts are what people have instead of opinions. You could have looked up more facts about Turkey than you would possibly need. You would know then that it has more barbers and more bakery than could possibly make any economic sense. For both, we have seen three in a row, in the smallest of villages. Bakeries have been seen at the side of a dual carriage way, at least 10Km from anything. Facts are for quizzes, and getting jobs, and making sure you have the correct kidney removed. For opinions, you have to travel there. Facts will make sure that you have a good chance of getting to the moon, but only 14 people have ever had an opinion about it.

Turkish bread.
Turkish bread.

” Esther, can we have an opinion about Turkey yet? “. Insert the name of a different country as applicable, and we ask each other this question as we ride along. Does it take a particular number of days or distance to have a valid opinion. We are just about to find a ferry and head for Greece, having seen just a small percentage of Turkey. We have  loved our time here. That is just an opinion and others, as they say, are available. But it must be better than a Google of facts. You will have to come here with your bike.

Cooling down.
Cooling down.
Ripe fields.
Ripe fields.

We are turning back on our route, so I know with certainty that all day will be slowly going uphill. The fields near Pamukkale are full of fruit trees and they need things done to them. The headskarfed women are out in great number, working and chatting to each other. A battered black Ford Transit is parked up in the fields, all the doors are open and the radio is turned up distortingly loud. Turkish music is playing. It is complex, closer to jazz than anything. There is almost no western music played here and yet there is no silly French style law that dictates that every third track must be French. Here it is local stuff, and often very good. But that is just an opinion.

Wine.
Wine.

We join the 320 near Saraykoy. It is a bigger road, a main trunk route with many lorries on it. There is a wide shoulder, and it is good cycling and will give us easier grades to make the hight. In the spirit of 1976, the first and then quickly the second and just about every truck that passes, blows us a fanfare of air horns. Some are close to half a symphony. Where the hell did they get them from?

There are wine groves on both sides, and they will be with us for 100Km or so in this fertile u shaped valley. Mountains rise at the edges, going from what is for us 44’c, to snow on the highest peaks. There is little wind or it is from our backs and hardly moving the air. Exotic smells are coming at us in intense bundles. It is like riding around in a very large and insanely hot Body Shop store – think hippy skin care products here, and not auto repair those in the USA. The motivation killer is knowing that the steepest part of the day is the last bit, when we turn off the 585 and go back up the road to Buldan.

Same good cheap hotel as before, even the same room. At 4.45 am the call to prayer, and the stray dogs have congregate below our window, keeping taxi drivers company into the early hours. They are on their own now, and join in. Howling for all they are worth with tails wagging. Bad, over cranked PA’s, echoes from the buildings and dog howls combine in a unholly din, it is amusing as a one-off.

At the top of the climb.
At the top of the climb.

As we set off, the morning is cool, for which we are very grateful. Back to the 585, and turn left to begin climbing again. Today, the whole family is out working in the fields. Old men stand at the side of the road in what could be their wedding clothes. In one hand is a rope that leads to a cow, in the other a loop of beads that is being turned over in the hand. This could be the landscape of Tuscany or France or some other wine growing land. All morning people wave to us from the fields. We climb and then drop like a stone, losing in a handful of kilometres all our hight gains from a day and a half of riding.

Mosque in a small village.
Mosque in a small village.

We ride into the town of Alasehir. Like most owns it plays a trick on us, looking small on map and gps, but stretching in unexpected directions. We think we are in the middle, but the middle is not the centre, and almost never is in Turkey. We take tea with a citizen of the USA and listen to his view of history. ” This is all the land of the Christian, the home of the seven churches and is o our Lords and the home of the true believer “. He has come to find brothers of the Lord and to point the way. Credit where credit is due, he has learned Turkish, and is providing for himself, his new Russian bride, and a three week old daughter with a shoe shine pitch. Nice guy, but why oh why do you have to stick your nose in.

Old man and tree.
Old man and tree.
Vine leaves
Vine leaves
Packed for shipping
Packed for shipping
A wild camp in vines.
A wild camp in vines.

We camp wild. The wind has been from our backs thank goodness, and is now getting even stronger as we try to pitch the tent. Brewing tea, and a man calls by on a tractor. An agriculturally strong handshake and we explain what we are doing. He makes a sinuous motion with his arm, and points to the ground around our tent. We learn from our Turkish to English dictionary the Turkish word for snake. I mime ‘ bear ‘ and we are pleased to learn there are none. He has the strongest arabic features I have yet seen. This country can go from pale skin to this around the same cafe table. I wonder how many can trace their line back to the bones in an archaeological dig on a dusty hill. The Romans were a mercenary force from a vast geographic area. Did his ancestors come here to fight, to farm or as merchants?  He certainly looks at home here.

Clear morning light.
Clear morning light.
Renault 12 - powered by LPG here - there are thousands.
Renault 12 – powered by LPG here – there are thousands.
7,000Km in Asia.
7,000Km in Asia.

Before the heat builds and the dust gets blown around, there is a few hours of sharply clear horizon. It is smudged as the wind builds, and today it is a soding head wind. A celebration as we o through 7,000Km in Asia and move on to 34,000Km in total on our ride. Mostly, we have been lucky with the wind. Only in New Zealand did we have a day when it became impossible to ride. Wind is always has to be factored into the day along with temperature and gradient. By cyclists, the wind is called ‘ A Belgian Hill ‘. It can make a day memorable, becoming a legend. We did a 400 Km Audax in the borders of Scotland that is legendary for us. The weather forecast included the words ‘ wind strengthening, some structural damage may occur ‘. Mountains and hills fight fair and you know when they are done. They have books and guides written about them and cyclists travel to take holidays pitching their ability against the slope. No one travels to Scotland just to ride into a headwind. Wind has nothing romantic what so ever.

A strange landscape.
A strange landscape.
Buriel mound.
Burial mound.
Buriel mounds and cloud.
Burial mounds and cloud.

The road is straight. Two Storks pass overhead, completing a landscape where the architect may well have been Salvador Dali. He may have been thrown out of the surrealist movement, but he would have been welcome here. It is a mad landscape, and we have gone through a transition from vine to olive tree. You can now chew the dust if you open your mouth, and breathe too deeply. A minor left and we can pick up water from one of the many roadside wells and taps that Turkey has. This one has been here a very long time and the water tastes fantastic and is cool from deep rocks that could be kilometres away.

Landscape 1.
Landscape 1.
Landscape 2.
Landscape 2.
Straight road and pilons.
Straight road and pylons.
Headwind.
Headwind.

We are on the narrow road to Manisa. It is stunning enough to forgive its tendency to lumpyness and wandering. The village of Büyübelen, which looks only big enough to have one shop selling olives oil and bars of soap. Wrong again times a thousand. Just about everyone is having the afternoon off and comes to greet us at the council building. We had met some of them already at the well on the way into the village and now the invitation to tea is official. It would be a crime to be in any sort of a hurry in Turkey. We take tea and then are escorted to a restaurant for food. The council finances are going to have to wait for another day – the person who does them is our guide and interpreter. Such hospitality, no payment excepted and the village is just a small mark on our map. Two streets and little more.P1070936

Towards Manisa.
Towards Manisa.
Buyubelen.
Buyubelen.
Esther sketching.
Esther sketching.
Village oven.
Village oven.

We ride on a bit and then turn into the olive groves for wild camping. It is the first night that we pitch just the inner tent and a bright full moon spoils most of the star-gazing. It flickers, as olive branches are blown across it by a strong wind, bright as car headlights. It is a perfect camp, with water nearby and quiet. Having the wind pass over you takes some adjusting to, but is wonderful.

Bikes and olive trees.
Bikes and olive trees.
Camping amongst the olive trees.
Camping amongst the olive trees.

The road continues in the morning just as perfect. An unmarked village and we are invited for tea. We are starting to think the villages of Turkey are competing with each other to offer the warmest welcome. The road becomes the 45-03 and may even have been that from the start. To our left a mountain rises above the town of Manisa. It is big, very big and certainly big enough to hold its own white cap of cloud. We turn left onto a dual carriageway for the final 17Km. The 70Km we have just done is amongst the most perfect touring we have done. The outskirts of Manisa come up and we pick a quiet road shown on the gps. Still there are waves from cars and people on the street as we make our way into town. We find a cafe to sit and wait for our friend Ahmet to drive out to show us the way to his place.

Getting a lift to work.
Getting a lift to work.
Village architecture and Renault 12.
Village architecture and Renault 12.
Fertile land
Fertile land

Like every town in this area Manisa has history to spare. We take a trip into town to visit mosques and the museum. Artifacts spill out of the museum onto the dusty soil. It has more Roman, Greek and Hebrew things than it has space for. A strong welcoming handshake at the door and we are guided by the Iman on a tour of the mosque. Esther takes time to sketch and there is good food and glasses of tea.

Manisa wine region.
Manisa wine region.
Mosque interior and Esther with scarf, Manisa.
Mosque interior and Esther with scarf, Manisa.
Hand painted tiles in mosque. Manisa.
Hand painted tiles in mosque. Manisa.
Dome in mosque.
Dome in mosque.
Mosque door with mother of pearl.
Mosque door with mother of pearl.

I make notes as we travel, in the small book that sits in the handlebar bag. I have done this since we started, two and a half years ago. I type them up on the MacBook Air and put some order to them as they become this blog. I press PUBLISH. ” Top 5 blog again “, i tell Esther. There are over 150 of them and every one of them is ‘ top 5 ‘. Another country done, another place to have an opinion about. One strange fact however, there is absolutely no WD40 in Turkey – unless you know differently.

Amphore. study in light.
Amphore. study in light.

P1080064

Storage area at Manisa museum.
Storage area at Manisa museum.
Ancient grave stones.
Ancient grave stones.

Buying a Kilim in Turkey.

The ruins of Hierapolis.
The ruins of Hierapolis.

Do you know that problem when there is so little light. You catch a grey shape out of the corner of your eye, it is there. You turn your head towards it, and it fades away. It is all to do with the distribution of rods and cones on the retina, but lets not worry about that just now.

More ruins
More ruins
Pamukkale pool with calcium rich water.
Pamukkale pool with calcium rich water.

What I am concerned about is knowing something is there, but it remains hidden and out of reach. Finding a good place to buy a carpet in Turkey is a little like this. We have long had this dream of traveling here to buy carpets. The thing is, if you try to do it, it would remain quite impossible.

Ruins 3
Ruins 3

The only way to buy a carpet is to not try to buy a carpet. You have placed yourself in the very epicentre of the carpet world and now all that you can do is wait and hope. You may be quite a way down the path of buying a carpet without ever realising it. This is what happened to us.

We were eating breakfast at the hotel, when Huseyin turned up. You have begun to buy a carpet. ” Would you like to come to my village, it is very close? “. We are in the car, and on our way. It is just 5Km from Pamukkale, but a hundred years or more  distant.

Finds.
Finds.
Finds from the fields.
Finds from the fields.

You sit in the shade, under the porch of his house and drink tea. The snow on the mountains is crisp today. A pure white in a sharp horizon. The ruins of Hierapolis are just a few hundred metres away. ” Have you found things over the years? “, a casual comment that leads you to a neighbour’s home. He pulls from a bag and carefully places on the chair coins with the head of Alexander, followed by oil lamps and statues. These are all priceless, and you can not believe they are there for you to touch.

Huseyin's wife Emine, working on a Kilem.
Huseyin’s wife Emine, working on a Kilim.

Kilems 1.

The process of buying a carpet is continuing its almost masonic path. ” I sell carpets to places in Istanbul “. You were told he worked as a vet, which is also true, but not going to help you buy a carpet quite as much as this. ” Would you like to have a look at some Kilims “. Oh you are close, he said Kilim, but that means carpet as well.

Two of our carpets.
Two of our carpets.

Now is a good time to tell him that you do not want to buy carpets, just to guarantee that he will remember to show you them after you have drunk another tea. You all get into his car to drive the 400 metres to what looks like it may have been planned as a village hall, but was unused as every one prefers to just meet up at each others homes.

The three carpets - Kilems, that we have bought.
The three carpets – Kilims, that we have bought.

” Wait here one moment “. You are so close to hundreds of the most wonderful carpets, or kilims if you prefer. ” Come in and look if you like, let me show you one please “. They are simply stunning. You have never once asked to buy carpets or even look at carpets, but here you are.

Huseyin and Emine.
Huseyin and Emine.

An hour later you beg him not to show any more as it is just becoming too confusing. You want them all. He knows that and you know that. Thing is,

he knew it when he stood by your table at breakfast a couple of hours earlier.

Huseyin's home, a chair to think on.
Huseyin’s home, a chair to think on.
Prepairing for the mail.
Preparing for the mail.

We have bought three beautiful carpets or you could call them Kilims. They are in the post already and we have no idea when we will see them next. If you want to buy a carpet, let me know and I could give you his telephone number. Alternatively, you could just turn up here and see what happens.

Pamukkale asthe light goes.
Pamukkale as the light goes.
Sun set.
Sun set.