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Travel Blog
Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Thursday, September 2, 2010

No. No, not one more beautiful tiled harem room please!

If any of you reading this has ever been or even more amazing, ever driven through Istanbul you know the traffic is indescribable but I will try.

Everyone drives bumper to bumper at incredible speeds. Julia got some awesome footage of us crossing the Bosphorous Bridge. You can see me ball my fist in the air with a hearty "right on"!

There are 3 lanes. 
Right, slow, large trucks 50mph-70mph
Middle, for passing the large trucks on uphill. 70mph-100mph and get the hell out of the way fast (back into the slow lane)
Left, FAST, usually cars going 160-200mph. Cars whiz by us like we are standing still when we use the middle lane to pass slow trucks.

Believe me when I say no one dares drive slow in the fast lane here.

They don't bother painting lines because no one pays attention to them.
It's like playing ice hockey riding in this traffic and you are the puck.
The shortest measure of time is between when the light turns green and the car behind you honks.
So it was with some terror that we approached the city one more time.
At night but during the dinner hour.

We cross the Bosphorous bridge, it's like a small Golden Gate and affords the best views of Istanbul and is the most beautiful of bridges.

Back in Istanbul where I had a few days to rest....a lot of sleeping in a very comfortable bed with A/C, soft sheets and pillows!

So the sightseeing was easy this time as last year I was escorted everywhere so I could easily find my way around. Found a new place where there was an Egyptian obelisk. 

And this time based on some advice visited the Hagia Sofia 

Wandered around neighborhoods where I saw shops that each specialized in a different type of item.
Starters and Alternators. (I'm such a gearhead)

Then went to the spice bazaar to get ripped off but found Istanbul Rose oil that is exactly like the primrose oil that was discontinued years ago at the Body Shop that Monica and I were crazy about 

What does $240 dollars look like?

Enough Turkish delight to keep me busy for a while. 

Found a gaggle of Asian tourists taking a break from the noonday sun and heat.

Met up with the cyclists we met in Sinop and had a drink...Cuban rum!

I call this spot hotel and restaurant row.

Then went for dinner at a restaurant recommended by the hotel Doy-Doy with a rooftop terrace overlooking the Blue Mosque. Of course EVERY restaurant has a rooftop terrace here.

Had a "Konya" Pizza that was delicious and cheap.

Today, my last day in Istanbul, we visited the palace that was closed the last time I was here.

At the end of the day I was saying, oh no, not one more gorgeous tiled harem room!!!

Gorgeous windows.

Wow, even the tourist ramps have the % incline. 

That's the Bosphorous bridge I was terrified to ride

This was an awesome felt hat shop.

Went to the Galata tower which affords a spectacular, although cramped view of the city.

Then we had a steep hill to climb to Taksim square so I suggested we stop for refreshment and a big healthy tabby came and snuggled up with me.

Saw a blow up tank art exhibit, kinda weird to see after all the real ones.

As you can imagine the smell walking by these vendors was nauseating.

And this blog wouldn't be complete without showing our lady friend who says Ciao! (in the wee hours of the morning)

And I could not finish my last blog on Turkey without honorable mention of Giacomo's stinky boots! (excellent theft deterrent)

Goodbye Turkey....

Friday, August 27, 2010

kebab me to death

We arrived in Sinop and based on the recommendation of the owner of the seaside camping went to a seafood restaurant on the water. This is some cold dish of mixed vegetables and tons of garlic. It was very good.

This is the black sea fish that everyone eats, unfortunately it was not fresh so I had to order another dish...lamb. They gave me two tiny (not worth photographing) pieces of lamb and tons of rice and french fries so I decided to go for some baklava and found it made with chocolate.

Our campsite, being Ramadan there was no one, we had the place to ourselves and just mere meters from the beach.

Luke was trying to describe to me that there was Turkish ice cream (dordurma) but we could never find it but finally here I found a lemon flavor that was similar to my toothpaste. It's like a sorbet.

Next stop BAR. After 2 weeks of hard riding and no alcohol (or often food) in sight we found a bar where they poured a huge whiskey. I had mine and Luke's :)

Along our route we encountered a group of Turkish riders who were a support team for a bicycle tour.

We had 300km along the coast, beautiful twisty roads with hairpin turns and some dirt and gravel where I saw this little critter slowly making his way across so I helped him along.

We stopped in Cide before our destination of Amasra and finally found something other than KEBAB!
It was a stew of potatoes and meat, some young beans in broth, Kofte and excellent Turkish coffee.

Amasra at sunset. 

We found an apt where we all had our own rooms and it was right in town so we walked around a little

Beautiful roads lined with trees and blessedly cool

Next the historic city of Sanfranbolu where Ottoman style homes are everywhere and people still live in them.

Even the sugar is in a tiny replica of the traditional houses.

Notice the rusted satellite dish, some homes are vacant.

Very old Minaret under renovation.

These kids were laughing and giggling and just fun to watch....they started to talk to us and of course it sounded adorable but they were probably saying "hey stupid tourists give us candy..."

The 5 Turkish Lira menu.

The Turkish coffee is presented inside a handcrafted silver canister.

This building was in the center of town and it's where the caravans on the silk route stopped for rest and re-provisioning. I'm at the table below.

Another 500km to Istanbul. Motorway. ARRRRR but again we were lucky and did not get separated and found the hotel that thankfully Volkan booked us. It was perfect!!! Thank you Volkan you have made our trip so much easier by helping translate.

These are for the hookahs which we found everywhere, we are staying in the old city.

It was a bit of an ordeal of moving cars but we got the bikes up on the sidewalk in front of the hotel where they are monitored on camera. My bike is being held up by the wall (I could not get the kickstand down)

Luke leaves today for Sofia. while I will stay on for a couple days and leave at 3am Monday morning. The Italians are here with me. I just had breakfast on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Bosphorous and intend on going back to sleep. The bed was so soft and comfortable it gave me a crook in my neck!

Today spice Bazaar for mom's spices and REAL Turkish delight and tomorrow the palace that I missed last year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

100 shades of green and Sumela

So I waited to post this photo of a Saudi man that we met after leaving Istanbul at the beginning of our trip because he suggested a route that was built by the Russian military invading force around WWI to get into Turkey. He described that it was a road with sheer drops....he didn't mention that it was going to be a really challenging road...this happened to be the one road that I picked and wanted to take. Little did Luke realize I would choose the best route of the whole trip!

Remember the last photo of the wind holding me up? Well this was the valley after that. First it was a slow incline up dirt roads. Barren and dry but you could see a cloud of fog covering the valley we are about to enter. (and there weren't Hurricane winds to stop us either)

One of our first turns in the fog...jagged rock outcroppings.

Decent trail but sheer not here it gets worse.

Below the heaviest fog layer we could start to see the valley. Mert described the Black Sea area as having over a 100 shades of green, I think we found it.


Sheer drops start. 

See that hairpin turn well there were probably 50 of these. Oh and plenty of mud.

Greek influence here, the people look different than the rest of Turkey.

These two girls were just adorable. I was happy to have the hello kitty treats to give them.

It was like the Swiss Alps but in Turkey.

And these pictures just don't do this ride justice. Stopped in a little town to eat some fruit and see the women unload full trucks of hay while the men watched.

Now I did love this ride but after 3 hours of narrow, dirt and rock hairpin turns with sheer drops I was so happy to see pavement I kissed it. 

The locals probably thought, oh how sweet, she's praying...but she's not facing mecca.

Our first glimpse of the Black Sea 

Next Sumela Monastary

Beautiful fresco's
View from one window.

And guess what??? Big Red Bulgaria found a date!
Another F650, 97 just like mine....we met the Italian couple riding it on the way up but later regretted not getting their number or trying to stay in touch or ride...

Got back to town and met this nice man at a restaurant where we ate grilled meat (AGAIN)

He invited us to stay at his house for the night and we decided to accept.
He let me cook my emergency macaroni and cheese in the kitchen...4 days of stomach cramps now but Kraft cured them.

After dinner we followed him to his home; at night, down an unlit dirt road, beyond the city...we were both freaked out. Not to worry, it all turned out OK. 

Well that is after he showed us his rifles and handguns (see it in the corner?, that's the room I slept in.)

Then we set off the next morning and due to a lost item snafu met up with the Italians from the day before at a gas station! What luck!

So we rode 500KM together and finally made it to Sinop where we found a camp ground right on the beach and finally took a swim in the Black Sea.

Turkish Baywatch.