More Than Just a Bicycle Tour

Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Thursday, June 21, 2007

From mainland Greece we took an overnight ferry to the Greek island of Samos, then a shuttle boat to Turkey's port town of Kusadesi. The first leg of our Turkey visit brought us along the western mediterranean coast. Although there was some memorable riding, the highlight was definitely our time spent with some wonderful people.

Before we left on our bicycle tour we joined an organization called SERVAS (thanks to Chris & Sandy and Tracy for writing our letters of recommendation!). Servas is an organization made up of travelers and hosts around the world in support of peace. The idea is to enable hosts to open their doors to travelers for a place to stay, as well as the exchange of ideas and learning of one another's respective cultures. Before arriving in Turkey we looked through the Servas host list. We noticed one member listed cycling as one of his many outdoor sports interests, which of course raised our eyebrows. We emailed Bülent in hopes he was available to host us for a night or two. Apparently when he received our email and saw that we were cyclotourists it was a major reason he took time out of his busy life to host us.

After 3 days of riding in Turkey we arrived in Mugla, where Bülent and his family lives. He instructed us to meet him at his office. No sooner did we arrive in the parking lot did a police officer come to question our reason for being there (picture 2 sweaty cyclists in full cycling gear arriving at a very important, high-security governmental building). At a loss for turkish words we pointed to Bülent's name and position held that was written in our notebook. He  asked where we were from. He then raised an eyebrow and instructed us to put our bike on the side of the building and to follow him. We started to lock our bikes up when he told one of his partners to watch the bikes for us. We followed the officer into the front entrance where a woman was getting patted down after passing through the metal detector. The officer said a few words to the security check-in guy and we walked around the metal detector and straight to the elevator. In the elevator the officer mentioned 'We go to the 4th floor. Doctor floor.' When we met Bülent he was hidden behind a stack of papers. After pleasantries he immediately offered to show us pictures from a recent cycling vacation. At that point we knew it was going to be a good stay.

We stayed two nights with Bülent and his family. They were tremendous hosts. Bülent took us on a trip to the local bike service shop in town, where we met some of his cycling friends. We got to spend time with his wife, Gülnaz, and his son, Ege. They treated us to some great dinners and breakfasts. We talked cycling, Turkey, and of course some politics. It is interesting to hear the view of the world's politics from a turkish person. It is not like they were views we have not heard before. It just has a different impact when coming in a face-to-face conversation.

Before we left Bülent phoned a friend in the town we were headed to next. He informed us that she had a friend named Sevim, who said we could pitch our tent on her lawn. We thanked Bülent for his wonderful hospitality and left early the next morning on our way to Eski Köycegiz (pronounced completely different than it looks).
After asking directions 3 times we finally found ourselves on a dirt road, supposedly headed to Eski Köycegiz. How we were going to actually find Sevim's house in this maze of unmarked roads, with no signs of a telephone, was not determined yet. As kilometers passed and the dirt road got narrower, we began to wonder if we were really headed in the right direction. On top of that it was really hot and we were hungry. We finally came upon a head-scarved woman and her daughter. The daughter spoke a few words (not sentences) of english, so we attempted to ask for directions. Despite our appearance (2 sweaty, half-naked cyclists in lycra), they were very kind to us, and curious as well. They wanted to know if we were married, did we have children, etc. Luckily they knew Sevim by fırst name only (small place), and instructed us to follow them to their house. At this point we were handed over to 'Mustafa' (who we found out later does the call-to-prayer 5 times a day at the local village mosque), who escorted us by bike the rest of the way to Sevim's house. Sevim's house was situated in a citrus grove nestled between a few banana trees. When we turned the corner and saw her house it was like coming upon an oasis. When we got there Sevim was on her way out. After a glass of water together she mentioned she would be gone for the evening but to make ourselves at home and eat anything in the fridge.

Holly and I cooked ourselves a great fish dinner and had a pleasant evening on her porch. We were about to get ready for bed when Sevim came home. Before hitting the sack we stayed up to talk a little. Sevim has spent much of her career working in Berlin, but now spends most of her time at this house. We began to realize what a wonderful person Sevim is. We saw her as a humanitarian and nature lover that has an incredible aura about her that you don't often fınd.

What had planned to be a 1 night stay turned out to be 3 nights. We had such a wonderful time with Sevim in her community that when she offered for us to stay longer we could not help but say yes. We spent time on the beach, time with her mother, time with her friends, and time at the Monday market. Life with Sevim was very easy and comfortable.

All good times must come to an end, and so too did our time at Sevim's house. We thanked her for all she had done for us and begged her to come to Seattle one day where we could treat her back. On the third morning we got up early (to beat the heat), loaded up the bikes and hit the road.

Sevim mentioned she was thinking of turning her place into a bed and breakfast. Hopefully she does, as it is a perfect place that we would recommend to anyone for some rest, relaxation, great food, and the best of company!

The rest of our tour of the coast had its ups and downs. Some of the scenery was spectacular, the traffic treated us well, and the beaches were amazing. However some of the places were very touristy and it was HOT!! Too hot. The only way we would gain significant ground was to start at 6am because by noon temperatures would near 100F. By the town of Kas (3 days after leaving Sevim's), we had had enough and put our bikes on a bus to the Cappadocia region in central Turkey.
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