Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Silk Route Trip 2005 - Turkey

5/6/05 Bursa/Turkey Sunny
We took the ferry away from Istanbul and while still in town a taxi hit me on the left rear bag. I have a tiny yellow scratch but the cab had his plastic ripped off. The taxi deserved the damage for hitting me. I did not even stop, just rode on. What is the use of stopping? What can one do? The ferry ride took one hour but cut off 4 hours of intense city traffic. Crazy dog eat dog Turkish city traffic. It was a good choice. First stop was the town of Izbit, formerly known as Niacea, The Niacean Creed was written there in the year 324. It is amazing to think that some people came to this small town and wrote down what every Catholic has to believe.
They also decided what letter or what piece of paper became part of the bible. They decreed that Christ was the son of God, that Mary had a Virgin birth, etc.
I felt moved and angry by the audacity these people had then. Or was I angrier because people today still believe what they were told to believe so many years ago?
Just imagine the situation of a few men sitting around a table deciding what we all have to believe. I have to write about this some more at a later point.
Bursa, the first Ottoman Capital has a Kosa Han, a silk market. The building we visited was built in 1491 and is still in operation today as a silk headquarter. Now, that is amazing to me. I thought it would have bolts of silk etc, but no, it has shops that sell silk scarves, ties, dresses, etc. I did see some cocoons and some offices that I don’t know what they were for, but still, it’s a silk place. 500 years of selling silk in one place.
Our hotel was inside the botanical garden. I had a hard time finding it because it was so hidden in between gardens and flowers and trees; a nice place full of old charm and not too touristy. I like old places like that that have character and are full of small discoveries. I dislike sleek, modern, cold Hotels.

5/7/05 Safranbulo cloudy
We all got up early because the phone rang. Somebody messed up on wake up calls and that left us time to get ready. I used my time to plan today’s route and it worked like a charm. We were riding thru some wild country. The landscape is peculiar. It is not rolling hills but folded or creased. Even between the folds it is folded again or creased; very unique and interesting. I passed marble quarries, fine rocks, all kinds of different formations. It looked like a very ancient volcanic neighborhood. The roads are fine, some potholes and no white lines at all but very ridable. Just watch out for gravel in turns.
Safranbulo is an ancient town. The feeling is of an ancient way of life. I am like a kid in a candy store. I remembered when I was a kid and went to Holland the first time I thought all Dutch people wore wooden shoes and looked like a typical Dutch. Even later when I visited China I thought that more people would wear Mao suits. I was wrong; of course, China is jeans and t shirts. But here, in Turkey, in the villages, people wear beanies, funny pants, have beards and the women are covered up with scarves, burkas, etc. It is visibly a different experience. Safranbulo is a UNESCO town with tourists. Still, one gets the idea of ancient life in Turkey. Our hotel was a caravansary from 1645, a stage coach stop for camels on their way to Rome or other major ancient cities. The streets are rocks and very difficult to ride on. Parking is difficult as well. Everybody made it, though. The miles on the bike: 24812
I parked my bike inside the caravansary and rode the bike down some steps without thinking on how to get back up those steps later. Now I am wondering how I will get the bike up those stairs.

5/8/05 Uerguep/Turkey cold day, hail at end of day
It was a long riding day today. The first part led over a mountain and over logging roads. Everybody made it but it was difficult. We rode as individuals, too large a group would have been extremely dangerous. Of course no guard rails of any kind. It was scary and fun at the same time. Mostly scary, though. The town of Boyali on the road over the mountains had open market today and I saw only men at the market, maybe one or 2 women. Horses with cloth saddles were tied up to walls and posts and no car is in sight. A town time has forgotten. It was like 1840 or even earlier.
After this experience we hit a highway and made it to Uerguep just fine. Some construction introduced us to dirt riding. Not bad at all. Hotel Elkep in Uerguep is unique. The rooms are carved into the mountains. One sleeps literally in caves. My room, #204, even had a front porch carved out of the rock. We had a tea party on my porch after the ride to warm us up. To bed early today because I have to get up at 4.30 am for a hot air balloon ride.

5/9/05 Mon Uerguep sunny, cool
I had a hard time sleeping. I think because I had to get up at 4.30 am and did not want to oversleep. Rick Wenzel, Frank and I took our bikes; the others took the balloon ride. Sterling filmed us riding, chasing the balloon on bikes. Not knowing the area and not knowing which way the balloon will drift we lost them very soon. We rode like the devils even along cliffs and thru dunes etc. but we lost them, filming from the balloon or chasing a hot air balloon in hilly,
craggy country is difficult. It was a very rugged area and the only great rider that did not give up chasing the balloon was Rick. Frank and I had some off road practice but we gave up after a while, too dangerous.
After the early ride we went to a hidden city. Years ago, early Christians and others used these cities to hide in them when the area was attacked by enemy forces. People did not live in them full time but used the cities only in emergencies. Amazing what people do to survive and to live on.
Immediately after that we went to Goreme, an outdoor museum of early rock churches and monasteries. Small hand-hewn caves were shaped into churches. Columns were left standing; even so they had no structural significance. Walls were painted in the Byzantine style and this went on until the Iconoclast period. When people believed that depicting of living things is not right and the pictures were desecrated. The monasteries had living quarters carved out as well. Long tables for communal living and kitchen stoves, all were carved out of rock. Nothing was build, everything was carved.
At 9.00 pm we went to a Sufi service. Whirling Dervish is Sufi, a sect of Islam. The service was like a mass and very solemn. Prayer, song and dance (whirling) was part of the ceremony. It was totally foreign and interesting to look at. Yet, I could not mentally connect with anything that was said, shown or danced. I was truly a foreigner from a far away land without any understanding of what is going on.

5/10/05 Tue Amasya sunny
Today we left late, 9 am and the first stop was the Hittite capital of?
Now just ruins but still very impressive considering it was built 1300 before Christ. A long tunnel in the wall still held up over all these centuries. I don’t know much about the Hittites but it must have been a great power. The Hittites ruled for over 600 years.

We arrived in Amasya late. I got lost trying to find a short cut. I had to take the long way around and use the Highway. I rode with Jay Yanick and Jim Russell. On the map it showed a route and a short cut. We asked people in the villages for a way but they have never seen a map and I don’t even know if they can read or understood what we wanted. A strange experience talking to people that just don’t get it; no matter how many ways we to try to say it.
Amasya is known today for one of the places in Turkey where the Crown Prince could learn how to rule. He was sent here to be educated and had his own small “Kingdom”.
He had total control over this small area and the town of Amasya. Then, once his father, the Sultan or Pasha, died he took over his job in Istanbul. He, hopefully, had collected lots of experiences running a State and now applied it to the greater Empire. Is it a good system? Can we adopt it for today’s State men?
The region around Amasya is known for apples. The river Yesilirmark is the 2nd longest river in Turkey and runs thru the town of Amasya. Very fast currents and some bridges are still from Roman times and are still used today. Geography was invented in Amasya.

5/11/05 Wed Trabzon sunny, some rain
I am not knowledgeable enough in history to appreciate Turkey fully. I stopped at Suemela to see the famous monastery “Meryemana”. Why is it famous? I never heard of it!
It sure is a feat to the human spirit to build a whole monastery way up on a steep cliff. Everything, I mean every nail, every chair, every pot had to be hauled on foot up the mountain, up the cliff! It is a precarious location for a monastery; a strange place for humans to live. Like a swallow building a nest on a wall, so was this monastery built on a cliff.
Then there is the town of Trabzon, the ancient ‘Trapezus’. What is it know for? My time in each town is too short to explore everything and learn about all the details. I ride from 8 am to 6 pm, looking, searching for the right road, the right town, the right way. Meanwhile, some roads are great, some have potholes over and over and some roads are not even paved; just graded in some spots. Other spots are full of grooves, up and down hills with hairpin curves. 2000 meter passes over mount Tersun. This is hardly a time to think about History. Just surviving these roads is a full time job. I brought along a book in case I’m bored. I did not even read one word of this book. Traffic in these ancient towns is survival, too. Way too many cars for these roads! Modern life needs modern roads. Can one blend the old with the new? How about parking? Parking seems impossible! Garages; where do you put them in those ancient places like Trapezus? This is a very hectic place especially after 10 hours of riding. I long for tranquility! Yes, this is a mental trip. Three people in our group received speeding tickets. Did they speed? NO! But you go ahead and argue with a Turkish Policeman in Turkish, of course! Good Luck!

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