Like us, you may imagine Turkey to be a hot and sunny country but after we sailed away from Istanbul across the Sea of Marmara we cycled up high into freezing, snow-covered mountains. The first night we pitched the tent in a little wood and woke to heavy snow falling gently through the branches. We cycled on up huge climbs and down chilling descents in blizzards of snow, passing through little towns and villages tucked in the hills. In this wintry weather we were really lucky to experience wonderful kindness and hospitality from the friendly Turkish people. In Harmancik we got a room in the house for visiting school teachers – though we had to convince the manager that we were married to be allowed to stay in the same room! Then in Dagardi we had only to ask about a room at one of the many cafes where we stop on the road for warming, traditional Turkish tea and within minutes a phone call was made and we were led to a gorgeous little room with comfy mattresses and a wood-burning stove. The people even insisted that we stay for free. Then there was our first experience of a Turkish campsite. For no charge we pitched our tent on a wooden terrace in the trees with a view to snow-covered mountains and the proprietors even ran us a hot Turkish bath in the evening! It’s not all been rough living though - in the hot springs resort of Simav, for the princely sum of £13, we treated ourselves to a room in the “thermal hotel” whose natural hot spring water heated the bed and even the floors where we laid our laundry out to dry! Countless times on the road we are called over to join people for tea and we were even served lunch by a friendly group of road workers – Bart is still talking about how delicious the meatballs were!
It’s fair to say that most of the time in our interactions with local people, we have no idea what is going on but it always seems to turn out that we land on our bums in butter.
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