Happy 2012

Happy 2012 – year of the dragon!

Wednesday, 11th of January 2012

We left Kavala on a dry day. Even though we left late we still made 71.5 kilometers, passed Xanthi and slept somewhere in the nowhere by Nea Kessani. Our sleeping rhythm has completely adapted to the city life and when sun set at 5 pm we could not even think of sleeping. The sky was clear and if it had not been so cold we would have probably spent all night watching the stars. But by 0°C degrees inside the tent we decided to better stay inside hugging to fight against the cold.

I found profound sleep from 8.30am on when the sun heated the tent, so we did not leave until noon again. We took some time taking pictures and cycled slowly. In the afternoon we found an open supermarket and all our cycling motivation came back. We did not eat for 24 hours because we were not hungry when we had arrived to our camping place and in the night when our stomachs started to rumble we were too lazy to leave our sleeping bags for cooking a soup, so we slept hungry. In the morning the hunger was forgotten, but in the afternoon it came back stronger than before. Now we bought some dark bread and a lot of reduced German Christmas food. Outside Komotini we found a place on a nice farmer’s field. I doubled my sleeping clothes (2 pairs of big socks, pyjama pants under the normal pants, short top, longsleeve, fleece jacket and winter jacket) and finally only my feet where cold in the night. We could have spent some more money on proper sleeping bags, but hopefully this will be our last real winter for a while.

By the following day we could leave earlier, because the sun was strong and melted the ice from the tent fast. The moment we climbed our bikes the sun hid behind some clouds and did not come back all day. We followed the old road that leaded us into some smaller mountains. The way was beautiful and the little traffic made it even more enjoyable. We enjoyed some great views and lonely downhill-runs. After a while of up and down we could finally see the sea again. The last kilometers down to Alexandroupolis were done fast and soon we stood in the entrance of the camping where I have been backpacking almost five years ago. Everything seems to have stayed the same, only the customers got less. Our only neighbor, Ton from the Netherlands, welcomed was very happy to see some other campers on the place.

Before meeting him for a coffee in his caravan we wanted to build our tent. Roberto had the great idea to collect a lot of autumn foliage and to fluff it up under the tent to sleep warmer and more comfortable. Then we went to get to know our new neighbor. Ton has been travelling with his caravan for a while already and was glad he found somebody to spend the time with. We enjoyed his presence, his coffee and his fan heaters. We spent the rest of the day using the camping’s wifi and chatting and eating with Ton. In the night we slept nearly like in a real bed – the “mattress” worked out great.

Ton in his “home”

Tom did not want to spend New Year’s Eve all by himself, we did not have any plans yet, so we decided to join him. We spent the days eating, talking and drinking Turkish beer. To celebrate the New Year we listened to an international playlist collected by the three of us, drank more Turkish beers and at midnight walked outside to the beach where we watched the fireworks. When we got up on the following morning it was midnight in Mexicali, where Roberto’s family celebrated.

Celebrating the new year with Turkish beer and Rock’n’Roll.

It took us another day until we finally were ready to move. As usual when we stayed somewhere for a while we left Alexandroupolis late and cycled towards the Turkish border. The last few kilometers we had to go on the freeway again but there was no problem though there was hardly any traffic.

Crossing the border did not take too much time. For the borders papers, well I as a German did not need a Visa to enter. I could even enter with my identification card. On the other hand Roberto s a Mexican only needed to pay a post that was the equivalent to it’s Visa for only 15 Euros and he could enter this enigmatic country. The border police man were very friendly and were always joking with Roberto about sombreros and Hugo Sanchez, as well as Chicharito. Soccer the man’s international language.

We made it to Turkey!

What took long was the photo session entering Turkey. When that was done there was only little time with sunlight left. We decided to look out for a mosque and camp next to it, because there it should be safe probably and the Morning Prayer should wake us up so we could finally leave early. Walking up the hill to the mosque we met a nice man who invited us for a tea. We were pretty cold and still had some minutes left to build the tent, so we followed his invitation. He brought us to a Turkish café where usually women are not allowed. Though I am a tourist it was okay. We enjoyed the fan heater and the delicious Turkish black tea and tried to make conversation with the other men who did not speak English, Spanish or German. After a while one of the men pointed on another one and said that this was Mustafa and that we could sleep at his place. We were completely amazed. Mustafa did not know us at all, he did not understand our languages and we did not even ask for help. Anyway he invited us and we were more than happy to accept.

Mustafa, Fatma and us in thier home

We left the bikes in a small shop close to the café and walked home with Mustafa. He introduced us to his wife Fatma and his sister and first gave us some towels so we could have a shower. Probably we smelled bad already. We enjoyed the hot shower and the friendly family, ate together, studied street maps and watched a dancing show in TV where I learned my first two Turkish words: sekis und dokus – eight and nine – because the jury gave those points to the majority of the dancing couples.

The following days we made our way through the hills. We camped wild and spent the days struggling with the hard uphill parts and enjoying the way downhill. That was when I got to know the “Crushed ice feeling”: The feeling when you go downhill after a long way uphill and you feel how the wind makes you feel the cold sweat inside your sweater as if somebody had filled it with crushed ice.

We followed a two-laned street with a big road shoulder, big enough to even cycle side to side. One day we fought with so much fog that we had problems reading the road signs. Then the other day we had to fight with a strong side wind that changed sides fast depending on the buildings and trucks passing. I was all concentrated trying to stay in the shoulder that turned out to be smaller the closer we come to Istanbul.

In the Hagia Sophia, one of the most seen places for Istanbul Tourists

After some days we finally made it to the outside parts of Istanbul, where we stayed with Anke and Erdal, friends from my father. From here we did some day tours into the city center which was still 45 kilometers away. Istanbul really is a huge city but it is also beautiful and has a lot to explore. We will write more about the city within a few days here in the Travel Diary.

We were glad that we did not have to enter by bike because the traffic is just crazy. We met Pascale and Philipp, who stayed with us at Gael’s in Thessaloniki and they told us that it took them all day to cross the city cycling. The last days have been rather calm. Roberto got a cold and I worked on the blog. I do have to confess that from time to time I like to take a pause from the world and have a little fun playing solitary, freecell, pinball and card games online. Yes it’s my guilty pleasure, but a fun one.

We enjoyed our stay very much, made good friends with Anke and Erdal and got to know the Turkish cuisine, some Turkish words and had liters of the typical tea. But now we will head south. We have found a job in Fethiye in the southwest of Turkey, where we will work some hours daily to earn a bed in the warm and food and drinks all day. Though they will need help right now and we could need to save some money we will take the bus there. It is a pity though there are said to be so many beautiful places on the west coast, but that way we still have something left for a second visit.

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