The Hammam

So finally I made it: going to an ancient traditional Hammam!
I was hesitant to do so when in Istanbul, it just felt all a little too touristy. So I let it go and rather looked for a hammam in any of the next towns.

Antalya, of course is a big part of the Tourist-belt in Turkey, however it still has an old, traditional Hamman (wood fire heats it). Sefa Hammam is hidden in one of the smalls streets in Antalya’s old city – Kaleici. I read some feedback on the www and learnt to go early, so it wouldn’t be too busy. I also tried to smarten up about the actual process – so I could contain potential embarrassment

So I did.

Arrived at 11.00am its advertised opening time. Inside where just the bath- attendant and the ‘owner’, Mustafa. This Hammam is over 600 years old. Mustafa’s Grandfather had taken over this Hamman and then it passed through the family, with him now being the owner. This came out in a longer conversation, but honestly, I am never quite sure if that is true or just ‘laid-on’ for touris. Didn’t matter, I was looking forward to the experience.

So after some Apple tea (chai) – my favourite flavour – I was shown into my own change room. These rooms were positioned on the entry (ground) floor, wrapping around the entire space, an inside balcony run around and one could look down into the bottom floor where the actual Hamman hot rooms are located. I found myself in a wooden panelled room, designed for at least two, but all mine. Inside I discovered a longish towel, which soon became my single piece of cloth shrouded around my loins (Hmmmh, sounds a little biblical ….)

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The change room is on the left

So out I stepped into the adventure. The bath attendant, meanwhile had also stripped off, albeit not completely. Ufff. He had a towel around his lower torso, just like mine. He signalled me to come downstairs and I followed him expectantly.

We now stepped into the actual Hamman. Some bowing to get through the low archways was required and we arrived in a circular room with a domed roof. In the middle of this space sat a large marble block. I estimated about 2.50 x 3mtrs.

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This is NOT Sefa Hammam, just to give you an idea

My attended, let me call him Mahmut to make this easier, so Mahmut, he was at least my age, although later that day I embarrassed myself when I judged a Turkish man I had started a conversation with, 10 years older as he really was. I promise you, he did look older than me and I already opted for a low number – so I thought. But back to Mahmut, who spoke as much English as I do Turkish, he now directed me to lay flat down onto the block. Sacrificial lamb fleetingly came to my mind, but I wasn’t. Instead this block was very warm, hot indeed but not creating any discomfort. Mahmut left the room and I was all by myself in this Hamman. I relaxed but also had a good look around. The dome-like ceiling had an opening, operated with a long piece of wire tangling above me. It appeared as if the entire ground and the lower walls were cladded in marble. Easy to keep clean I guess. I also saw that the space had several alcoves. Most had one of these low, archway-like doors leading to ….. wouldn’t have a clue. Wasn’t even interested to get a clue, rather relaxed, focussed a little on my breathing, trying to enjoy the ‘here & now’, the hot here & now.

I guess I must have laid there, even drifting into a little snooze, about 30 mins, maybe more as Mahmut appeared again. Now he wanted me to sit up, slip into my slippers (as one does) and follow him through one of these mysterious archway-doors. ore bowing to get through and ‘Voila!” I was now in the washroom? Because that what was happening here. A much smaller space than before. Again a rectangular slab of marble, like a table. Here I was to sit on and Mahmut begun the procedure. With a bowl he mixed water from a fountain-like tap and poured it over me, making some loud noises. I guess words or commands to similar. Sounded all very appropriate to me. Hot then a little cooler to wash off my sweat.

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Next I had to lay flat on my stomach and the loin covered barley my arse. Now the defoliating or ‘peeling’ could commence. Mahmut had found a brand-new glove-like torture instrument. With this he mercilessly scrubbed off all my old skin, the top-layer only I mean. methodically and thoroughly he went about shouting his words … and I still had no idea what they meant.

‘Turn’ and the sandpapering of my back begun. No pain, just indulgence. Travelling on my own had many advantages. Naturally they are disadvantages to it as well. One is, especially if one is a ‘tactile fellow’ , you miss touch. Any touch, not only intimate touches. So laying here on the slab and being scrubbed like a washboard, still resembled some ‘touch’. Happy I was being scrubbed – nil complaint.

Being thoroughly cleansed form my old skin Mahmut started the massage stage. However he fetched some soap from another recess and soaped/massaged me from top to toe. This fetching the soap I was able to watch with one eye. He somehow had a cotton pillow-case like cloth which he dipped into the soapy ware mater and captured the foam. This pillow-case he then squeezed out over my body.

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Not me, but certainly authentic – I know …

Mahmut paid special attention to soaping/massaging/breaking my toes, or soles of my foot, ‘Aua!’ when he pressed too hard against pressure points and ‘Haha – I am seriously ticklish’ when he didn’t apply a firm grip.
Next, I understood “Turn” and I obeyed. Now my front was up for the soaping/massaging procedure. At one stage my arms were pulled, twisted, fingers cracked and tightly folded over my chest with strong downward pressure applied. Hardly could breathe …. nut just survived.
No private parts were touched during this procedure, so all men (and women) readers can relax – as I certainly recommend this experience. Although Mahmut and I operated, well he did – I just did some laying (lying??) around, but our bodies proximity during the soaping-in was intimate at stages.

Didn’t mind – just enjoyed being soaped in. Other soaping phantasies entered my relaxed mind, but quickly I banned them. Here & now! Focus on it!!

I did wonder were this procedure came from, you know in the ancient times. I would have imagined it would have been a privilege of the rich & powerful, almost something Roman, were a slave did this on you. Later, the manager/owner explained that locals just did it to each other. Literally “you scrub my back – and I scrub yours”. I was also told that Hammams are less and less frequently attended by locals. Many now have a bathroom at home. Other competitions comes from Hotels who offer a ‘Hammam’ experience. That may be so, but it all happens in newish, stylish small spaces, not in a history-breathing old cellar of a real Hammam. For me, it is not the same. I want old stuff. Yeah, yeah, I can read your thoughts … Old stuff for old man etc etc… So what!??

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Back to the experience. At this stage I had been softened (through the steam room, hot slab), then washed off the sweat, then peeled, soaped cum massaged and now, I was sitting up again and poured over with hot water. ‘Stand’, Hmmmh a new word Mahmut uttered, but I still followed and more warm water was poured. Then some new, until now unheard noises from Mahmut and I almost expected what was to come: ice cold water poured over my head and shoulders. A Sauna-like experience I kind of thought would be coming somewhere in the procedure – all good.

Now Mahmut got rid of my cloth and supplied a few fresh ones. Three I scored! One for the loin, one around my shoulders and I got my own towel-turban. I felt wrapped!

Mahmut guided me up-stairs, to the level were the change-rooms were, but I got directed into the ‘cool-space’. Here I sat, blissfully happy about what had happened in the past 1 hour or thereabouts. Again, Apple-tea was served and a selection of fruit and Mustafa and I had further conversation about dwindling Hammam attendance. low tourist numbers and cost of living.

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authentic look – isn’t it?

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Happy@Hammam

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I look exactly how I was feeling …

20 mins later Mahmut called me for the final stage of the procedure: an oil massage. Again ducking through low doorways into yet another space in what seemed like a labyrinth. An even smaller space, a table and off I went flat onto the stomach. ‘Autsch!’ again on the foot-sole pressure points, some bending of legs, stretching of arms, cracking of knuckles, pressure upwards on my spine, you name it. Whatever – I was a willing and lifeless object enjoying being pampered.

Not sure how long that lasted but it was thorough, back and front, sans privates.

So freshly oiled and massively rejuvenated I trotted with a contented smile back to my change room.
Aaahhhh, this Hammam experience delivered everything what I had imagined, On top, I had been all on my own throughout the entire experience. All focus was on ‘petit moi’! Loved it!! For 80 Turkish Lira, that is approx. 35 bucks I had a splendid morning. ready to wander the narrow laneways of the old city, probably smiling like an idiot.

If you ever have a chance for a Hammam, grab it! Go early to beat the crowds.

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North-coast into Anatolia

Eregli was not quite “ereg-ent” ….. however, it offered a farewell to The Black Sea, which here is indeed blue.
I opted for a side-road, eventually connecting to the main one leading me past Ankara towards Goreme. My destination was Cappadocia.

Let me tell you that my ‘side-road’ choices are in need for improvement!

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Single lane, very very narrow and very very winding, very sharp corners I couldn’t see around. Sunlight into my eyes and deep shade through the dense vegetation, and then came a long truck !
WTF!!
…. from the other direction!?
I just managed to stop and squeeze onto the edge, narrowly missing the end of the long trailer. Bugger that! Form then on I continued even more careful. Once I ‘attached’ myself to a car, appreciating its ‘sweeper’ quality. Turns out it was a local who turned into a driveway in the next village.

Villages, one smaller that the next were many and I wondered if an Australian motorcyclist had ever ridden through them ….. then on second thought: Australian motorcyclists probably have been almost everywhere.

In Goreme, I checked into a really quaint little Hotel, The Elysee Cave Hotel. Looking around I soon realised that there are many, many carved-into-the-stone hotels in Goreme are all ‘quaint’ or novel. This one had very friendly staff, a hammock in the garden and a terrace for brekki with sweeping views over Goreme. Excellent choice!

Next morning, up at 4.20am to be collected for my self-inflicted Fathers Day present: a Balloon flight above Cappadocia. I did feel slightly apprehensive. Never been in a Balloon, always imagined being totally delivered once I stepped inside the basket. In a way it is much as flying – the ‘being delivered’, but in a balloon it is much more present, the height, the feeling and the fear ….

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Alright, if not now then never, I convinced myself. Together with 11 other would-be passengers we were driven a little outside of Goreme.
Whow!!

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fire in their bellies

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some go up

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others still need more hot air

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makes a heck of a noise

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almost there

Everywhere you could see Balloons being readied for lift-off. All in various stages, some being fully inflated, some already slowly rising, all in colourful skins. The sun was still absent, when our balloon had ‘lift-off’ at 6.00am.

Before, when I climbed into the wicker-basket (it is indeed made out of wicker), my confidence grew. This basket was a super-solid container. Inside it is kind-of parcelled-up into five spaces: in the centre right under the burner one for the Pilot/Driver/Captain or the-one-who-holds-my-life-in-his-hands. At each side are further two spaces; each space had plenty of room for three people and one could move around easily. Each space also had some robust slings attached to the wicker-basket. We were told we had to grab’em and hang on, kneeling in emergency-position when, upon landing, the basket was sliding over the ground. “This can happen quite often” ….
I wasn’t even worried! For me it meant we indeed were landing, thus returning safely to Mother earth gain.

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Captain Yuxil

Our Captain Yuxil was confidence inducing, just by sheer appearance. He just looked like a competent Captain.  The way he managed the start – a gently lift off, but steadily rising, confirmed this all quite nicely in my mind – seeking confirmation….

The fire blown into the balloon form the four burners was much welcome, it shone some warmth onto my shoulders, much needed as it was ‘fresh’ indeed.

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Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon …. the Fifth Dimension I seem to recall, a song from the sixties, or ??

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Proof that I was indeed in the basket

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Look up

And it was F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C !!

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Looking down at a little vineyard

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FathersDay 2016 pressi

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Yes, people life there

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.. and here

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more ‘houses’ or need we say: caves

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more again

Why did I wait so long to try it out??

Feeling safe as in Abraham’s lap I truly enjoyed the entire one-hour flight. Or is it ‘gliding’? No steering possible, just selecting different heights to catch different winds.

To see about 50 Balloons floating in the air, being in one yourself is just an amazing view!

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Briliant feeling

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Later our Captain showed off a little, and he did it confidently and safely. We – purposefully – touched the top of a tall Poplar Tree, grabbing some leafs. And we sailed past one of the many unusual stone formations which make up Cappadocia. almost being able to touch the rock.

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At one stage we were 3000 feet above ground – that is almost 1000 meters! Considering that this part of Anatolia is already about 1200 meters above sea-level … well, for me a PB – and a truly enjoyable one!

I soooo recommend it – it’s not funny!

Landing, Captain Yuxil showed again his skill and experience. He managed to land the basket right onto the trailer towed by the company’s ute! Only a little help from the ground-crew made sure it exactly fitted. Excellently done!

The morning concluded at 7.30 having a glass or two of local champagne and a little celebration handing over our maiden-balloon-flight certificates. What a start of the day! Now I am ready of everything? 😉

I also spent about three hours wandering through the Goreme Open Air Museum, one of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Basically an area declared as a Museum and appropriately fenced so an entry fee can be charged – 30TL.

In the past this site housed initially some hermits, who soon had to stop going about their hermit-business, as a small groups of monks moved in. I am somehow reminded of a scene in the Monty Pythons movie The Live of Christ … can you guess it? The hermit who hadn’t said a word for 30 years …

 

These monks further carved into the stone and created living spaces, kitchens and – of course – several ‘churches’. The dome-like feature was provided by the natural shape of the rock, and the various ‘naves’ were carved in. I wonder how long this took considering we talking 17th century. Once carved, then the beautification begun applying Byzantine artistry.

Paintings about the events in Jesus’ live are foremost. Many are destroyed, I noticed that often the faces are scraped away. AFAIK Muslim religion does forbid to show faces in a mosque, even angels are depicted seen faceless (Hagia Sophia) or are drawn looking at their the back.

The most spectacular and best preserved paintings were in the Karanlık Kilise -‘Dark Church’. Unfortunately photography is forbidden and so I only have this clandestine shot:

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The last supper

Wrapping up my stay in Goreme was a sunset Quadbike tour. Well, never ridden one, so here was my chance! Goes a bit harder than I thought. Holding on to the handlebars and providing strong steering input is essential. I got stuck once, but soon found my mojo for this mode of transport.

FUN! .. but very dusty. we were a group of eight Quads, but ‘lost’ a few after the first stop. I think they opted put, judging by their driving abilities earlier. I really liked it, it was a hoot mixed with more views of the unusual rock-formations including a sun-set rock.

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img_6192My pictures do not justice to the landscape – Guido B! put it on your bucket list!!

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Continuing on, the ride from Goreme to Konya was easy and accomplished relatively quickly. The landscape after leaving Goreme changed back to the barrenness. This Capadoccia landscape therefore seems rather concentrated on a relatively small area, what a curious fact??

I wonder if this dry, dusty and indeed barren looking high-plan – I still travel in about 100 meters above sea-level – is seasonal or indeed ‘normal’ I read that Konya is a main area for growing wheat. I see no evidence of it, instead I spot several trucks loaded up with boxes of tomatoes.

 

Konya being the centre of the Whirling Dervishes displays their history in a special Museum Mevlâna Museum. Here one also can admire the tomb of the Rumi, the great philosopher and his poetry and religious writings, mostly in Persian, are among the most beloved and respected in the Islamic world.

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View from my Hotel’s Balcony (Hotel Rumi – most appropriately!)

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View from my Hotel’s Balcony at 22.00

The Museum once functioned as the home of this ‘lodge’, religious movement, brotherhood, but since Atatürk saw the dervishes as an obstacle to advancement for the Turkish people and banned them in 1925.

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View of Rumi’s covered casket

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A rather large Quran

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The smallest Quran, apparently the writer went blind while doing it

Several orders survived as religious fraternities. In 1957 the Konya lodge was revived as a ‘cultural association’ to preserve a historical tradition I this place. I am surprised how many – seemingly – locals and/or Turkish tourist visit this place. It is packed and this is a Tuesday. The dervishes whirl only on Saturdays, not today. So having seen them whirl in Istanbul was the right choice.

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Walking through Konya, after visiting the Museum, I noticed the overwhelming a majority if women, above the age of – I guess – 11 all wore headscarfs. The few who don’t, stick out. These are almost always younger women, dressed in contemporary – frayed jeans – fashion. I am not even sure if they are indeed Turkish. They may be Lebanese or other tourists from the Middle East.

img_6210The other, head-scarfed women, follow their fashion equally: long coat-like dresses, some sporing a rather fashionable pattern, others look elegant, most are uni-coloured and black. It appears, and I didn’t want to stare: as if they also wear trousers underneath these long-sleeved ‘coats’, I saw jeans, especially visible if the wearer opted for a ¾ length coat. Mind you we are talking 30+ degrees in the sun today. Moving in crowds provides NIL peripheral vision, as the headscarfs are pulled right to the front. So navigating one-self past requires extra space to avoid embarrassment when bumping into each other, After all, I am an infidel …

The number of women completely veiled, i.e. only their eyes are visible is much less here, in this staunchly religious city, compared to Istanbul.
Men are dressed, well just like Turkish men. Not specific fashion, neither elegance. If the latter, “dogs-balls” I’d say! – albeit with a positive gist.

To add a little balance, I read in my travel guide that Konya is a place of both: strong traditions and progress. It is written that Konya has a university with many students behaving and dressing like their Western-European counterparts. Well, I haven’t been there, but happy to take it at face-value.

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View from Alaaddin Tepesi (hill) to Konya’s main road: Mevlana Caddesi

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‘Forest’ so labelled on Alaaddin’s Hill

Today, for the second time, I have been mistaken as a local. It happened before and as then, young girls approach with some questions. Being in Turkish (I think) I understand nothing. I lift my shoulders, show my open palms, smile and don’t even get to my full excuse of no speaking Turkish. The poor girls realise their wrong pick and become a little awkward. Poor things, I so wished I could understand and help them. Although in both instances a bystander – a male – offered to respond to their request.

On reflection, I noticed that on both occasions I didn’t wear my black cap (semi-Touri look) and I also wore long trousers. Turkish men, hardly ever wear shorts, other than on the beach. So, perhaps unconsciously I start to blend in, melt, at least in appearance. Don’t mind it at all, as I feel happily comfortable everywhere in Turkey.

I must say that I am learning more and more about Kemal Atatürk, no doubt a strong-handed Reformer of Turkish society. His picture is at least once in every shop and restaurant. Despite his death in CCCCC he is still front-of-mind in contemporary Turkish society.

Few days ago, I rode past groups of people all dressed completely in white. They came from all directions walking towards a specific venue. My road fortunately passed this spot a little later. A crowd of people dressed in white had already gathered, TV cameras present. The cause? Erecting a massive, I guesstimate about 25 meters tall, statue of Kemal Atatürk all in bronze, holding in his palm a globe – yes, the world. And this world was in full colour. I couldn’t detect which way this world was positioned. I have little doubt that Turkey was on the top …

 

Oh what a feeling ……

… it is to be on top of one’s blog.

I indeed reflect better when I can do this reasonably close to the day’s events.
Whilst I also keep a short day-a-page handwritten diary where I capture the major impressions, other details get blanketed with new impressions of the following days.
So, I shall try to stay close.

The other aspect is of course your, dear Reader, readability of this account. Perhaps, well, no, presumably you’d like to get the stuff ‘fresh’. Reading what happened four weeks ago might not to be all too interesting. Or….?? Lemme know, dear reader/s.

BTW I am writing this sitting in a shady spot close to the fishery port in Eregli, sipping yet another ‘chay’, listening to the call of the Muezzin and the humm emerging from the close by Mosque. Being Friday today, means it is (our) Sunday, therefore an obligation of every good Muslim to pray inside a Mosque.

 

“Alea jacta est!” again!
Well, my ‘aleas’ seem to ‘jacta’ reasonably well lately, however I am not The Diceman, Michael P would know about this ;-).

A few things are falling into place. “Lock it in, Eddie!”

  • I have decided on my loop through Turkey!
  • My working future, or ‘return-to-work’ date has been established
  • Last but not least Lousie, my much better half, and I shall do our walk together.

So, just briefly:

Turkey shall see me with a final touch-down on the Black Sea coast, Turkey’s mid-north. Then, turning south to Cappadoccia, continue via Konya to Anatayla, Kas, Fethye then another inland turn to Pamukkale and a final run to the west-coast around Izmir catching the ferry to Greece.

I shall be resuming work in mid/late November, bright eyed, bushy-tailed and full of positive energy@RMIT! It is rather motivating to feel such an amount of vigour in oneself and still being primed to pass on knowledge, experience, assist and support, advise and do. I trust it shall continue beyond 2016.

With this settled, it will now allow Lou & myself to do out joined walk to the Camino. We may not be able to walk ALL of it, but let’s see. After, I’ll return to my bike and arrange all necessary shipping before flying home. If I am lucky, I might even be able to have a few days in my hometown, Frankfurt.

Bravo!!

But back to my here & now:

Last night, after having spent 5 full days getting-to-know-better my new friend Istanbul, I concluded my stay with a visit to a religious performance. No, I did not attend prayers in a mosque, which would be a No-No anyway as I am not Muslim. Actually writing this I wonder if this IS indeed always the case? This kind of rule (must be of Muslim faith to join the prayers in a Mosque) might be true in some, even many places. But I bet this religion, as all others, has its own different streams and intensities. Subsequently some may allow ‘guests’ or ‘non-believers’ to be present. I shall investigate further.

However, so I went to watch a performance (not quite the right word) of four Whirling Dervishes – the link to this video is Not the same venue, but gives a good impression.

The term ‘Performance’ doesn’t describe it fittingly. It was announced at the beginning of this ceremony (better word) that applause is inappropriate, stillness (by the spectators) much preferred so one didn’t ‘spoil’ or interrupt the dervishes’ state of concentration and NO photography!! However, to me the Dervishes seemed not to concentrate. Instead they rather ‘give themselves in’.
In what??
Well, the whirling and bowing , which I observed happening a lot, both of it.

Initially I had planned to see them in Konya, a central Turkish town known as the ‘home’ of the Turkish version of this faith. But I was informed they only perform on certain days and I didn’t want to have the bad fortune to miss them. When I became aware of some small former Hammam, a Turkish Bathhouse, which was transformed into a singe-use Dervish centre – Hodjapasha.
My decision was swift: Get a ticket!
In this centre there was a small exhibition about their history, purpose and even their outfits and accessories. Almost too much information for me to read prior to the event. I became aware that their original spiritual leader was the prophet Rumi and his teachings.

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Eventually I entered a round, dome-like space. Three rows of chairs around a round platform, seemingly made of glass. As we, the quiet spectators, filed expectantly into this space to take our numbered seats, I also noticed the room was outfitted with stage-like equipment in terms of lights and speakers. There was even a sound-desk, just as you see them attending a rock-concert. A small stage which soon would seat 5 musicians.. well correctly three and two singers. The latter ones were two old men, about to sing the praises of a god in an Arabic, more unusually tonal melody. So much different to what my ear has been used to growing up in a Christian or Western environment.

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Soon the three musicians joined the men’s singing rather gently: a double drum, an Arabic flute and a Lute, all very traditional looking instruments. As the four dervishes appeared, one-by-one, they started their ritual of greeting and bowing to each other (showing each other their heart) and after a moment started to whirl. Beginning gently, then progressing into a fast and consistent whirl (anti clockwise). Both arms reached towards the sky. The palm of the right hand pointed upwards, signifying to receive the blessings – material and immaterial – from above. The left hand palm pointed downwards, indicating that all they received they passed on to others, keeping nothing for themselves.

Their head slightly tilted and their white long frocks creating almost a Cinderella-like picture. Walt Disney would have liked it – perhaps had even seen it anyways. Then again, on second thought, ‘No”, he wouldn’t, he was way too much an intolerant redneck.

All four now whirled around their own axis, almost even speed, eyes closed and at the same time slowly circling the round dance floor at its edge. I’d say they whirled for some 10 minutes and almost suddenly coming to s stop. None was staggering to fight any dizziness – I certainly would have … If they were in a trance-like state when whirling, they certainly mastered to be immediately back in the here & now, moving slow but purposeful and in unison, after they came to a halt.
Then, more bowing and the ritual repeated itself. Apparently each round of whirling denotes a certain meaning or dedication … have to read it up.

After whirl number 2, I could detect a slight lifting of their chests, even so their white, blousey outfits did best to camouflage this, humans after all.

My favourite Dervish was a man probably in his sixties, so he looked. Grey-bearded, slim and with a focussed and happily-devoted facial expression he became my top-whirler. Well, yes I know – a clear protection or is it a counter-one ??
The other three were equally tall, I would guess the youngest was about mid-thirty, all of them.

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this puppet looked very life-like, just like my fav Dervish

Overall it was more than interesting, perhaps intriguing. For me , I will need to read more about this Rumi-guy. Post event, I spoke to another attendee, a women from Oman offered some interesting insights into The WD’s and the ‘prophet’ Rumi. She’d done her homework. She recommended a book about the life of Rumi: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. Here you can get your hands on an English edition.

 

The next morning I had an extra early and extra-helping breakfast at my wonderful hotel, packed the bike and rode to Eregli about 297kms away.

It took less time than anticipated to get out of Istanbul’s inner city. I opted for the freeway-like road. I have learnt not to waste time getting out of big cities for the next etappe. Choosing the freeway gets me out faster, and the sooner I can enjoy country roads.

60kms later, still on the freeway, I had finally reached what looked like the industrial outskirts of greater Istanbul. A port with many ships docked to my right, large container cranes and even larger factory buildings to my left.
Soon I turned north-east towards having a last encounter with the Black Sea, which actually looks rather blue.

Riding the road along the coast for the first time I saw several small tent-cities. I presume these might be migrants having escaped the conflict or similar hardship. This brings up last night’s walk back to my hotel (in Istanbul), passing two lots of people on the roadside begging, Not necessarily unusual, but both were holding a laminated page of paper. It carried an English printed message that they are Syrians and ask for help (money). I passed them within one km and both had the identical paper & message, being in English clearly aiming for tourists. Not sure what to make of it….

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that’s where Nutella is made …..

A final impression of today, arousing my curiosity, was riding past a large, spread-out tarpaulin with ‘stuff’ on it, positioned in the full sun, so the ‘stuff’ could dry. Eventually I stopped at one and took a closer look. Hazelnuts! There were Gazillions of Hazelnuts raked to one single layer on these plastic sheets. I reckon this is where Nutella comes from: northern Turkey around the cities of Karasu and Akcakoca. Now I noticed to both sides of the road one hazelnut bush next to the other. A mono-agricultural enterprise. Some bushes had grown into the size of small trees. “Fındık” and lots of them.

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Eregli, view from the Promenade

Today’s destination, Eregli will make tomorrow’s trip somewhat shorter: all the way past Ankara (won’t stop there) to Goreme and the close by Cappadocia. A balloon flight might await … cheezzze I am soo hesitant about this ….

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view towards Eregli’s from Port

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work of a fisherman

Turkey

In the end I decided to say “stuff it!” and go to Turkey after all, a decision I should not regret.

The actual trip from Varna, Bulgaria to Turkey was a rather pleasant one. Initially I was on the major artery going south of Varna towards the border. Then the road split: one went further along the coast, the other went through left turning into the mountains. I had seen enough beachy villages and plenty of the Black Sea, so I turned left.
What a great choice this was. An almost new road, perfect surface, absolutely little traffic and wide, sweeping corners, just as I like it. The road climbed to about 800mtrs elevation, leading through open fields and forest. Almost 80 kms of it – thoroughly enjoyable.

Then I hit the border.
The Bulgarian border guard just waved me through. A few hundred meters down the road I approached the Turkish side. He was very friendly. Absolutely no hassles, explained everything. The – perhaps anticipated – visa trouble was no trouble at all.
Now, I know how to register for an e-visa. Easy as pie! At the border post I pulled out my computer, showed the electronic copy and ‘voila!’ – all was well.
The next guy, Customs, had just a perfunctory look over the bike, no need to unpack anything. I had learnt to take off my helmet, to make sure they could see my age and deduct harmlessness from it – it worked and/or he was just friendly.
I think I crossed this border in a PB, a record time of less than 45 minutes.

Next was the still 250kms trip to Gallipoli. Unfortunately this had to be done in never-relenting side-wind. BUGGER! Leaning into it, making myself small and trying all kinds of other things, i.e. loading the peg towards the wind with a little more body-weight. All require focus and energy and therefore was tiring. You know, on a fully loaded BMW 1150GS with all gear, you are not a streamlined Zeppelin, where the wind can slip around you with little impact on your forward movement. Instead you are more like a big banner hanging across a street or a sail. By default you catch as much wind as possible. .. and that has its impact on the level of pleasure-ness of your ride.
But what can you do!?
I have to get through this. I didn’t allow this wind to spoil my almost perfect entrance into this country.
Turkey was the one of my ‘focus-points’ for this trip and I was glad that I’d finally arrived!

IMG_5587In Eceabat I found a little pension directly opposite to the waterfront. A young man, Mustafa, showed me a room, but I wanted the one with the sea view. I love having sea-views, especially when I can open the window and fall asleep listening to the waves – almost heaven. So I got one!

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That evening, walking through the little village of Eceabat, I noticed another GS cruising around the city. As fate has it, this guy had a room at the same pension.

FullSizeRender 51Tufan, lives in Istanbul and came here on his 1100GS for a break. He is a successful businessman and the National Manager for one of the large Petrol Station chains. Tufan is a most proud Turk and also adheres to the Islamic customs of praying regularly. No worries from my end, our age was similar (me being the older, and looking younger, sorry Tufan 😉 so we got on really well.

Tufan was going the next day to an island, Goceada, close by, where a bikers meeting was to take place. It didn’t take him long to convince me to join him, and so I did!

So early next morning, we rode to the other side of the peninsula, caught the 75mins ferry to Goceada. A smooth ride, which gave me the opportunity to see the actual ANZAC Cove from the water.

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In Goceada, we signed up and in, the meeting was still setting up stages and booth for traders.

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So Tufan and I inspected an Ambulance boat, anchored in the little harbour. Tufan just had met its Captain on the ferry and the two started a conversation resulting in being invited to check out this boat.

Interesting, didn’t know they even existed. I presume it sees more call-outs caused by the migrant crisis in this region.

Next we rode to the little village on the island with the same name. Other bikers who had arrived for the same meet, had the same idea. So the centre of this village was packed with bikes and the accompanying noise, though none of the locals seemed to mind.
Tufan had slipped into an incredibly role as a host, as I was visiting HIS country, of which he felt very proud of. As a result, I couldn’t pay for anything. After trying a few times, I stopped to not insult his generosity.

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Then we rode back to the meet, talked to a lot of other bikes, as more and more were arriving by the inbound ferry. We also had some time to fix a small technical issue on his bike and we established that his rear brake disc was in need of urgent replacement, way under the tolerance and heavily grooved.

We took the almost last ferry back to Eceabat, had a Tuekish meal of fresh local fish (same restaurant where Dave M. and his much better half Maggie enjoyed a meal years before – small world).

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With lots of great impressions about Turkey and its people I fell asleep almost instantly.

IMG_5595The following day was my travel-day to Istanbul. Only about 300 or so clicks away. This gave me plenty of time to spend all morning visiting the Gallipoli sites. I have written about this experience in a separate blog entry – it deserves one in my view.

Turkey = Istanbul!

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from Galata Tower looking over the Bosporus and parts of the Golden Horn. I know, I should smile more often …..

For such a long time I have held a fascination for this city. I have had many Turkish friends in Frankfurt and a fewer in Melbourne. I home-tutored a Turkish family in Richmond in 1987, I had a Turkish mate, Emma who was one-out-of-the-box. Finally, Istanbul, the Bosporus, the Golden Horn were constant ‘bookmarks’ in history lessons.

Finally I was going to go there!

Arriving in Istanbul was not as bad as others had reported about it. For the last 100kms I took the freeway. There was some payment system, however fully automated, so nobody there to ask or buy a pass. Moreover, the gates showed at least two types of fare (presumably??) but all by using abbreviations, not even pictograms. So I ‘excused’ myself and tool liberty riding through the open gates without paying. Nobody stopped me, and I reckon I would have been able to explain myself. I wondered though if I would be confronted with a uniformed ‘checkerer’ at the exit gate … Alas, there were no exit gates, so in my book, all was fine and I quickly forgot about it all.

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In proper Istanbul, twice did I take the wrong turn-off. In the first instance the maps.me guided me back to the ‘right’ road. The second ‘lost’ happened in the middle of the old town, being oh-so close to my destination. I trundled along small cobble-stone streets, trying to guess where to turn, hampered by the many one-way streets. At one stage I stopped caring and just went against the traffic. It was late and that had a positive impact, as they was little amount of traffic.

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Look towards Topkapi Palace

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The ‘Asian’ side and a glimpse of the ‘new’ Istanbul

I also learnt that some Turkish drivers like to almost touch your rear wheel with the front of their car. I got a double-lesson, something I would have liked to avoid. But in each case, turning around and staring at the driver together with some unmistakable gesticulations solved this too-close-contact, from now on they kept distance. Yes, I was a little stressed and really didn’t need this extra risk.

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One of 2700 mosques in Istanbul

All felt good again when I found the hotel. I recognised it from the photos on the web and I had made a great choice: 200mtrs away from Sultanahmet Place, the centre of the ‘old town’, practically the former Constantinople, or even Byzant going back even further. How cool is that!? The place is trenched with history, I almost could feel it.

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ze Grand Bazaar in all its splendour

I explored Istanbul to my heart’s and pace’ delight. I met many traders who always are happy to lure you into their store, credence you special flavours tea, I prefer the apple flavoured one and sell you something you didn’t know you needed. Carpet shops are almost as many as they are mosques (2700 in Istanbul – mosques that is!), and jewellery shops are a close second. The shops close to my hotel know me by name already and I have hinted on wanting a Turkish Wedding or Puzzle ring. One trader seemed to try, but in the end no luck, The design I wanted is out-dated, we are talking the late sixties here.

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the old versus new design of the Turkish wedding or Puzzle ring. I like the old design better, but it is not available in my size, even for my pinky …

Since Turkey is my second focus point after Mongolia, I decided to get some more substantial presents for home. Carpets I have no idea about. I would need my friend Ronnie T, who, if I remember correctly once investigated and subsequently invested into special carpets. Sadly Ronnie wasn’t on my side. Some throw-overs, silky and Kashmir ones attracted my attention. I was shown a hundred (almost, but felt like it) and identified three; different sizes and patterns from Anatolia and the Istanbul-specific Tulip pattern. Istanbul in its earlier times had fields of Tulips grown outside the old city walls, which served as a Sunday outing destination for the locals.
The prize for the largest one was quoted with $1200. Ufff! I also knew to half, or even quarter the rice to start negotiating towards some idle-ground. My hunch is that this so called middle-ground is still highly profitable ground for the seller, but fair enough they have to make a living as well. Part of my negotiation strategy was that the stuff must be posted, no space to carry an extra flea on my bike. So the ‘conversation’ begun. A big lament about the non-existing tourist on the streets and in the shops. How hard is life right now. Indeed I saw very few European-looking visitors. Soon into the negotiations I became an instant brother and the seller was certainly a master of flattery. Teas were served, later I was asked to pay for them, which I happily rejected to do. I reckon every opportunity and avenue is used to make a sale and ‘milk’ the customer. The items are shown, you are insisted upon to feel them, asked to name your minimum price. $150 was my response, couched by the pre-text of not wanting to insult the seller. Telephones were worked on, somebody apparently went to check the ‘real’ shipping cost etc etc. In the end, perhaps 45 mins later we had a deal. Now I hope the throw-overs I bought and which were parcelled up in front of me are indeed the ones that will arrive in Melbourne. Fortunately I took a photo of each
… aahhh, what I paid you wonder. Well ask me face-to-face and I will tell you the truth ($200).

I took the BigBus tour to get a good overview of the 12 Mill people city, the second largest in this world being Shanghai. This open-deck BigBus franchise I find a great choice to get the BIG picture. I was able to see and decide which spots to revisit with more time.

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Went to the Grand Bazaar. Now, imagine you are in Turkey. You are in Istanbul with all its rich history!! … and now imagine you are going to the Grand Bazaar, right in the heart of the old city, former Constantinople, former Byzant. What pictures come up in your mind? ….. well??

I somehow thought of a maze of small, sometimes wider arched alley-ways, lined with all kinds of shops, hustling shopkeepers almost man-handling you into their little shops filled to the brim with shiny stuff, like silk, carpets, leather, household wares, silver, gold, dresses …you name it.
Writing this down I realise my expectations were largely guided by the ‘souk’ in Tunis, albeit it has been almost half a century that I have been there. Then the picture was accurate, even with little dusty rooms, some rays of sunlight glimmering in, where old people were weaving carpets.

Well, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is not like it. Yes, shops are lined on both sides of the undercover, indeed arched alleyways. However all looks and feels rather organised, straightened out and regulated. No twisting and turning maze of dark alleyways and not a great variety of shops. Lots of gold and silver jewellery, carpets and scarfs, Turkish-looking lights, -rather nice I must say, clothing mainly jeans and polo-shirts. It almost had a Vic Market feeling with an Arabic/Turkish touch. Yes, I was a little disappointed, and to make matters worse lost my mobile …..
I realised this only after I had left the market in search for a replacement trouser. Oh shite! Old age is showing me my limitations. I couldn’t remember being manhandled at all, so pick pocketing was (almost) out of question. I must have left it in one of the shops I walked in when looking for a cap, undies and shorts (Yes, the essentials for an old fart travelling – all in need of urgent replacement!) So, I stayed calm, accepting my karma, but decided to trace my way back. The lucky stars were with me! The second shop back (the undies place – three for 15 bucks) had it. I had left it there!! Clearly need to tag it onto my ear to not forget again. Happy man I was!

I also noticed the many veiled women here in Istanbul. There are various degrees of ‘veiled-ness’, I do not understand it. Most of them are black, some have very elegant but almost invisible trimmings. I also saw a few white ones – again, don’t know the real meaning of the choice of colour. To contrast all this, there are also, mainly younger, women who would fit in every street-picture of Paris or London. Dressed in very western-style fashion and nobody seems to mind. I wondered how long will it take for the latter to prevail, if ever …?

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hmmmh, I like them lamps ….. very Turkish I think

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Istanbul is Mosques and water – both is everywhere

Another thing I learnt was about buying stuff. Well, I needed to replace urgently some of my already minimalistic wardrobe. One can work with three undies only for a limited time and they wear out. Same applies for shorts (one only) and T-shirts (a luxurious number of four!). So I thought I’ll re-splendid myself and my appearance doing a shopping tour through the Grand Bazaar. Hahhh! …. was I off the marl]k. Whilst I found some of the stuff on my list, I had to search hard for it. Later I realised the concept was “street”. I discovered small streets for a specific product. I walked through a small street selling music instruments, one shop after the other. Another street had rows of shops specialising in underwear. Another one sold sport-goods, or a fishing tackle street, sunglasses. You name it, I am sure there is a street filled with shops. Why? … no idea, perhaps for same/similar reasons car dealers in Oz are found side-by-side.
I’ll remember this fact at my next visit here.

Well, other than that – I did the normal touristy things, as one does when in Istanbul:

  • had a ride in a tram, yes Istanbul has Trams as well as a subway, even a very old tram a-la San Fransisco
  • walked the streets – a lot
  • took a funicular, Istanbul has at least two of them afaik
  • listened to the Muezzin calling from the minaret for prayers (adhan) five times a day
  • did a tour on the waters of the Bosporus and the Golden Horn, where at times it almost felt like being in Sydney harbour
  • had a reflective time when visiting the Blue Mosque –a very peaceful place. There I an interesting pamphlet about Islam as a religion. It could have been written by the Catholic church, just replacing a few words.
  • felt amazed by the Hagia Sophia, a building several times resurrected from its ashes each time growing a little bigger. I hired a private tour-guide, something I recommend: Nasip Boyacioglu (meet him in facebook)
  • walked the streets, actually meandered
  • ate freshly grilled fish at the ferry terminal in a roll with salad and onions
  • lost my mobile phone, well actually left it in the Grand Bazaar at a stand, but when I returned 30 mins later it still was there
  • had a local beer (Efes) under the Galata bridge which straddled Europe and Asia
  • climbed the Galata Tower and admired the view
  • sat on Taksim Place
  • walked the streets, this time the Independence Ave or Lisesi Street
  • had a meal in the Pudding Shop, a famous Hippy meeting point in the 70-ties where one caught a lift to Kathmandu back home to Germany
  • went underground to see (it was very dark) the Basilica Cistern, its fat fishes and met Medusa
  • sauntered inside the Grand Bazaar, as well as the very-aromatic-indeed Arabic Spice Bazaar
  • admired some colurful street-art/Grafitti
  • sipped uncountable little cups of Turkish Tea in uncountable places
  • sampled the local food, names I cannot remember, but all tasted just perfect to me
  • made almost new friends with several traders, although I guess they do this many times a day – part of the ‘spiel’

So, as you can see, I felt instantly comfortable in Istanbul and immersed myself into this town and its people!

Loved it!

So many things to see, so many places to walk. A place I MUST came back with Louise so we can share these impressions.
In my book top-ranking besides Moscow, even if both cities are completely different.

I made hundreds of pictures. Following a few of my favourites to convey my affection for Istanbul.

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the historical tram on Independence Avenue

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Istanbul Street

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another Mosque

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Cruising on the Bosporus

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in the yard of the Blue Mosque

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Imposing Blue Mosque

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Six Minarets, an exception. Much disputed, finally accepted

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Hagia Sophia outside

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… and Hagia Sophia inside

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my learned guide Nasib and a fellow Tour guide Rasim – good people!

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Galata Tower

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from its top

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Independence Ave (two Macca, but i didn’t go into any)

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the Pudding Shop

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Gallipoli – Geliboloui

This part requires a mention on its own.

So on August 25th I arrived in Turkey, coming from Varna, Bulgaria, a rather long one-day ride – 506 km – most of it fighting a strong wind from the northeast. My destination was the small village of Eceabat. Eceabat sits at the southern end of the peninsula, at its east side, also just overlooking the Dardanelles.

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Getting there, I realised that there is actually no place named ‘Gallipoli’ on the entire peninsula. There is however a small town called Geliboloui, although its location is much further up north and AFAIK it did not play any direct role in the events of 101 years ago.

Eceabat sits right at the edge of the Geliblou Yarimada, the name of a large national park covering the entire tip of the peninsula. This park and its monuments, and let me tell you there are many, is almost a Wallfahrtsort (pilgrim’s destination) for Turks. I was told that is it compulsory for Turkish school kids to visit here at least once during Primary School and learn about Turkish history right where it all happened.
The park covers about 490 square kms and contains 44 Turkish martyrs’ cemeteries. ‘Martyrs’ is the name given to all Turkish soldiers who died here. There are 20 Turkish memorials and altogether 34 foreign memorials and cemeteries, some of them Australian, some New Zealand, Canadian, French, India.

Just to put it all into perspective: this is a place of Victory for the Turks. A great Victory indeed. For the first time in 1915 Turkish forces stood their ground, thus denying victory for the otherwise almighty and always-winning Power Nations of this time: England and France. Russia wasn’t considered a power nation then. The Turks threw back the invasion of their country several times: on water, when Churchill had sent English warships to take Istanbul. Churchill wanted a safe shipping route to Russia, so he could strengthen the Russian forces with his weaponry. This necessitated the taking of Istanbul to gain access to the Black Sea. However these allied forces were badly beaten. Several large English & other ships sunk in the Dardanelles Straight in march of that year, 1915. They could not pass bye the fortification on the narrow part (~ 1.6 kms) on both sides of this straight. Subsequently the plan to land and invade the western side of this peninsula was born, ensuing an invasion attempt by landing on several spots on the western shores of the Peninsula. UK, Indian, Canadian, French, New Zealand and, of course Australian troops were involved. A small foothold was gained shedding so much blood and sacrifice on both sides. Nine months later, after many more had died, it was given up and the attempt was aborted.

Young men died on both sides for Nix – indeed died for double-Nix, but I’ll explain this in a moment. On top of this Victory for the Turkish defenders clearly stood a single Turk. A man presently commanding the 19th Infantry regiment with about 60 soldiers, when Australian troops landed at the south-western part, close to the tip but not at the tip. The English landed at the tip and despite heavy losses created a ‘bridge head’. The French, I didn’t even know that they were there as well … landed on the other side of the entrance to the straight at Kimkale. They were the only ones to achieve their objective pretty immediately. However, their landing was planned as an attempt to trick the Turks and lead their troops away from the prime landing zones.

Back to this local Turk, as he commanded the local unit of about sixty men, spoiling the landing attempt considerably. Indeed he went against the directive from removed Turkish generals to send his troops down to the southern tip. Instead he remained and almost ‘awaited’ the ANZACs landing. Looking at part war history, regardless of which nation was involved, you wish – with hindsight – that other military leaders on the front would have desisted some of the idiotic directions from Generals far away removed from the scene …

Mustafa Kemal soon assumed on-site command over the entire defence campaign. Mustafa Kemal – later became known as Ataturk, meaning the Father of All Turks and the Father of the Nation.
Who knows, if he hadn’t been there, perhaps all would have worked out differently, and the aim to take the peninsula’s west-side and then progress to its east-side to destroy the powerful cannons who had sunk the English warships ….. Well, I am sure many still would have died …

In Eceabat I made some lame attempts to book a tour, but wasn’t too persistent and my subconscious did me a favour. It turned out much more appropriate to explore the site of the battles on my own.

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parking besides the Lone Pine cemetery – I had it all on my own

I am not a fan of past war-stuff or battle locations, however I’ve seen a few first-hand. One, the first one I ever saw still has stuck in my mind: Verdun, France. It was 1970 and I was driving for a brief weekend to Paris. Then it was all driving over what we would call today “B-roads”. The road let past Verdun and on the way back I decided to stop and have a look. I knew a little about Verdun from history lessons. Still today I can picture the huge cemetery – a field – literally – of white crosses. In its centre a small square stone building. Outside the bones of the fallen ones, the ones who couldn’t be identified. Inside a very small display of pictures of this trench warfare. Pictures of absolute destruction, not a single clump of earth left in its original place. Body parts hanging in burnt trees, well these were the times of political in-correctness. I also recall a photo of French and German soldiers celebrating Christmas together, shoulder to shoulder, only a day later they would try to kill each other without any hesitation… how can this make sense??

Later visits to Normandy, Cambodia’s killing fields offered the same pictures.

Now I had arrived on yet another of such places: the ANZAC Cove.
Going to this place here in Turkey had a bit more to it. Perhaps it will be part of another piece in the puzzle of my own and presumable never-ending assimilation and/or integration into Australia? After all, Gallipoli is a big thing each year all over Australia. Recently it has enjoyed renewed attention from the younger generation.
I still struggle with the celebration of it and the ‘presented reasons’ as to why we do it as we do it.

So riding the bike this morning out towards this area was special. I couldn’t miss the Canakkale Epic Promotion Centre preserving the history about this war event. I didn’t opt for the 1-hour light&sound show as –predictably- it is representing mostly the Turkish view, understandable of course. But I paid a few Turkish Lira to see the exhibition with artefacts, photos, models and other displays about the event. It also featured Australian and English exhibits. To my surprise they were German exhibits as well!?! German Officers took part in this war side-by-side with the Turkish Allies, some with decisive influence.
This visit refreshed my knowledge, indeed increased it. One display anchored itself deep into my mind: a little model (diorama) of the trench warfare. So fucking close to each other, that they could verbally communicate with each other! … and so they did. I read storied of exchanging not only messages, but also food! An hour later they charged against each other, trying to kill each other as much as they could! make sense of this – I can’t quite do it. History in its warped form repeating itself.
This model was complete with dead soldier rotting between the trenches. Disease played a big role killing men on both sides. 87.000 Turkish men – Mehmets or Mehetciks– died here. Almost 10 times as much as Australians death. This statement tries not to judge the worth of one Turkish life against an Australian life. All are equal, especially when dead. I just try to relate with these numbers the huge impact this failed landing had on all sides.

So, for me, the scene was set.

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view towards the landing beach from a ferry

The night before I had marked on a map to find some points, names of places I had seen on TV or read about it so many times. I had a plan. Now, having been through the exhibition, I was about to see the location.

Brighton Beach came first approaching from the south.

IMG_5613Apparently here the young ANZACs took a swim in the ocean in relative safety when not being killed or killing others. Now, a tranquil beach with narrow strip of sand. My mind could see pictures of the Gallipoli movie. The evening prior I had been on a ferry, being able to see the landing points from the sea, probably the same vista the troops had when they were approaching. WTF! You couldn’t pick a worse spot for attempting to invade! Things like that make me mad about “the Generals” and the fat one with the cigar especially. How they just don’t give a shit wasting men’s’ lives for their half-cooked plans. The lives of the men to be killed just don’t seem to matter whatsoever. Far out!

But standing there and replaying the movie scene gave me a rather sad and sombre feeling. Contemplating the total waste of so many lives, for whose gain??

I travelled on a little, realising how close all this ‘spots’ were. The entire Gallipoli campaign for ANZACs happened on a relatively small patch of ground. Although it is small, it certainly is rugged and instantly peaking up from the beachfront. Up to 307 meters – Hill 97 – the ground rises.

IMG_5627IMG_5622FullSizeRender 57Not nicely or gently undulating, rather in no pattern, with rough and unpredictably turning and twisting gullies. I cannot believe how anybody would have even contemplated to stage a successful ‘bridge-head’ campaign on this kind of ground. My mind boggled.

On this side of the park I was rather for myself. I arrived out of season and the Turkish busses were much more focussed on the Turkish sites, so nobody where I stood.

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I met one fellow Australian, Ted W. from the Gold Coast, at ANZAC Cove who finally had arrived here to ‘apply’ his long-held interest and study about Gallipoli. I was good to talk to somebody, voicing one’s impressions and hearing another one. Ted and I spoke also about the post-event dynamics for returning ANZACs and contrasting these with the Vietnam Vets and more recent was returnees, or should I say “lucky survivors” …?

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ANZAC Cove with view on the ‘Sphinx’ not so clearly recognisable from this angle

Further on I stopped and took in the … well, what? I guess the feelings this place and its long-gone history created in my head. Sadness mostly, anger as well, and a kind of being-at-a-loss that we, humans do not seem able to actually learn from history.

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one of several displays at ANZAC Cove

I conclude my visit with a moment at Lone Pine, it’s elevated physical place overlooking the entire area, being the actual spot for yet-another bloody battle with no winners.

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Lone Pine Cemetery and Monument at a top of the hill overlooking the beach

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looking  through the doorway of the monument – I left my comment in the visitor’s book

In the end Turkish troops stood their ground and the trench warfare locked-in the front line. Occasional ‘gains’ mad by any party, were soon enough rebuked, so almost a status quo was attained. Each time though several hundred men lost their limbs and lives.

I found several names of my wife’s family. Not sure if and how they might be related, sad they are all!

 

So what about Gallipoli? Well, to me, I am glad I went. I am even gladder that I had the place almost entirely to my own. No crowds, no noise, no razzmatazz – rather time & space to reflect and think.
Do I understand it more? No, not really.
Perhaps what I do understand is that a people gets nicely manipulated to believe in a certain viewpoint, just as the Western Allies did when recruiting for the ANZAC troops to feed their war machine. So, the same must have been the case in Hitler’s Germany – a manipulated mass, who actually must have believed – or most of them – that it was exactly as reported in the press and by their leader/s. Considering this, it is impossible to judge. However I still can have an opinion.   … and what would that be: well, clearly war is and has been shite! The losers are literally ‘the little people’, cannon fodder at best, but make’em heroes and give’em medals to keep up the story. The story owned and shaped by a few powerful, never ever close to shrapnel or action.

No doubt, men on each side behaved … brave, an over-used word, but I cannot find a better one.
Human acts of kindness endless on both sides. One monument depicts a Turkish Soldier carrying a wounded ANZAC to the hospital tent. Looks powerful and I like to believe these things happened.

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a close up of the turkish inscription at this momument

Finally my most lasting impression are the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk:

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This stone monument with its words stands on several spots throughout this park in Turkish and English

 

 

Romania and Bulgaria

These are countries I did not know much about.

Since they were not on my originally planned route, I didn’t do much research, actually none. Had enough difficulties to keep the information of the other countries in my mind.

However, Romania indeed surprised me most positively! My time in in Sibiu or Hermannstadt (formerly Siebenbuergen) was terrific. Now I was riding to the eastern part of Romania to explore the delta of the Danube (Donau). Once again I was passing large fields of Sunflowers, all looking a little ‘burnt’ or over-ripe for harvest. Also by now I was used to pass a horse-drawn cart. Some loaded with hey or other stuff, others with lots of little children having a joy-ride. When passing I am always mindful to pass slowly with little as possible engine noises. I feel for the horses … my soft side.

For the first time I feel not-happy-Jane! with maps.me. Somehow It cannot discern between a normal, sealed road and muddy, unpaved side roads. It tries to direct me to the latter, always selecting the shortest way. Alright, I shall use my instinct, it had been under-utilised anyways. Following the paved and most obvious road, occasional road signs and trusting that maps.me will re-join MY path sooner or later.

Approaching the Danube-Delta the landscape becomes a little more ‘unkempt’ and flat. But with only a few kms to go, a little and unexpected rise is ahead. Once climbed over I could see Tulcea, my destination, already.

Tomorrow, I shall do a Danube-delta excursion by boat.

I wander from my accommodation down towards the harbour area. It takes me about 30 mins. The Danube is pretty wide here and carries cargo as well as passenger ferries. I find my boat and there are five other guests on board. The boat is wooden, has a ‘roof’ and I do like the look of it.

The excursion will last 5+ hours and includes a lunch at some fishermen’s place. It does remind me of the Yellow Water Billabong: it is hot, birdlife on the shores, however no crocodiles and the vegetation is different.

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Honestly the amount of birdlife is substantially less compared to my favourite Northern Territory spot. But we see plenty of other birds: white, grey, even black Herons, Comorans, even a flock of Pelicans and other birds.

The lunch spot is at one of the many islands in the Delta. There is a fish soup, cooked fish and later grilled fish – a fish-indulgence indeed. I am happy, as trying the local fish was on my list. A good day looking over the delta, which is surprisingly large, ultimately ending in the Black Sea.

Next day I am fighting strong winds, again, as I leave Tulcea and ride into Bulgaria.

Entering t their border I hand over my two documents: my passport and my bike’s passport (rego). All is carefully scrutinised, photocopied and entered into a computer. Again, nobody notices that my rego paper is already beyond its used-by date. My rego finishes on 5 August and I haven’t received yet the new version from home. So I hope this ignorance continues.

In Bulgaria I get lucky: I pull over to have a drink of water at the edge of a road in a little parking bay. Out of the woods steps a Prostitute and offers me a blow-job …
Such is life.
I happily refuse, at least thrice, as this woman is in a friendly way persistent. Turns out she is from Turkey and that’s how she is earning a living. Well, food for thought.

Unblown, I continue towards the costal town of Varna. Here I booked accommodation but upon arrival – and it was hard to find – nobody is there. Again, people are friendly and an old retired sailor, being a neighbour to ‘my’ property uses his mobile to call the man. The man comes and tells me “There is a problem!”. “Let’s solve it!!” is my response.
Turns out they have no electricity neither water. I feel as if that is not quite true, but what can one do? Asking for alternative accommodation. I wanted to be at Varna’s south-side, meaning I had crossed already the city and the river. This would allow me to get started the next day, having the ‘bottle-neck’ already behind me.
Hmmmh, so I ride on. Now I am already at the southern edge of Varna. I stop at the next sign which kind-of reads like ‘Hotel’. Indeed it is and I happily book in with a room and balcony overlooking the Black Sea towards Varna.

A restaurant is conveniently located just 50mtrs away. Later I shall have there my authentic first Bulgarian meal.

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couldn’t eat even half of it, but finished another beer 

But I cannot pay!! So I unload the bike and ride back towards Varna to find a ‘Bankomat’. Well, I don’t even know where a shopping area is, no sign in the maps.me.

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at the Papagala cafe, Varna

I cruise around a little and park the bike where I can see a few shops. I walk past what looks like a little pub or café with a few locals sitting outside. Here I ask for directions, which are willingly given. English works well. On my way back, now proper Bulgarian money in my pocket, I decide stop again at this little place, the Papagala cafe, and order a coffee, having bought some pastry from a baker just two shops down. Naturally a conversation develops and we learn about each other. What a friendly mob! In the end they refused to accept my money for the coffee and eve presented me with a little flag of the Bulgarian National soccer team. Of course, next morning, before riding into Turkey I shall drop of one of my last little Koalas and a BMW club sticker!!

Done that and Turkey awaits. The road leads through small towns along the Black Sea coast. Traffic is dense and progresses slowly. So I take the next possible turn-off away from the coast. This is still on my route as I aim for Gallipoli, Turkey as my destination.

My selection turns out to be a brilliant choice. Soon the road I am on has hardly any traffic. The road has a smooth, almost new surface. It has fast flowing bends, leads through forests up into the hills and it a real joy to ride on! Must report it to this motorcycle road website as a great motorcycle road in Bulgaria!!

After about 80kms it ends right at the border post. Here I shall establish a new Personal Best: the crossing took about 30 mins. Helmet off, show my ‘maturity’, waved through the Bulgarian exit post, no checking at the Turkey side. The border post is very friendly and not irritated when I have to pull out my laptop from the saddlebag to present my e-visa number – all good, no stress.

The downhill ride into Turkey offers a similar type of road, just not quite as enjoyable. A few more potholes and tighter corners.

I ride all the 500kms directly to Gallipoli but cannot camp here. The area is now a National Park and I rather respect this. So back I track to the small village of Eceabat and find a room with sea-views.

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Tomorrow the plan is to visit the ANZAC site.  Perhaps another piece of the puzzle working to complete my integration into Australia …

Into South-East Europe

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Well, I could have remained in Stopfenheim for at least another week or three!
Not necessarily that there were so many things to see, rather the homely feeling Hubert and his family & friends created for me. I certainly reminded me that I do miss home. Travelling now for 103 days and finding myself almost every day in new surroundings is indeed interesting and satisfies curiosity. The flip-side of this coin is that I do miss my known and trusted family and friends, as well as predictable surroundings and things. Perhaps this is ever-so-gently growing each day.
I’d better keep the lid on it, as it could risk getting into the way keeping my eyes and mind open and remaining able to take in all these new places and people.
Enough soul searching for now.

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Where was I??

Leaving Stopfenheim gen south-east Europe.
Hubert gave me a ‘Geleit”, I’d say in English we would say: “rode with me for a while”. We travelled on back-back roads probably not even in maps.me, affording splendid views over hills and little villages. A final stop for coffee in yet another picturesque Bavarian village and we said out good-byes – for now.
Then I am on my own again. Willie Nelson’s song comes to mind ….. (On the road again …)

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I continue through the Bavarian mountains towards the Czech border having set my target to a small village, Cerenice, just southeast of Prague. I won’t go to Prague itself, have been there before, so rather aim for new places.

Most times of this trip I have been reasonable lucky and avoiding the rain. The same applies today, the skies are dark and threatening, but I’m able, or better the roads maps.me selects all skirt around the rain. I can see it coming down in the distance to my left.
But then my luck changes: only 30kms before arrival I get hit. The full Monty! Bugger!! Whilst “it is only water”, my usual mantra, this time it is bucket loads of it. My jacket soon gives in and I am wet literally through to the bone.

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Like a sopping wet dog I arrive at my small village. Luckily the pension is rather pleasant, it is homely, has a very nice hostess family and a superb breakfast. Immediately I extent my stay for another night. I will need at least a full day to dry out.

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Drying out gives me some time to collect some stats:

  • To-date – 11.August –I‘ve covered 12.964 kms on the bike since strating in South Korea
  • I have been on the road for 104 days
  • From these I had 72 riding days and 32 non-riding days
  • I’ve done an average of 301,4 kms/riding day – that’s almost spot-on my estimated 300km mark.

As I am dry again, I continue to see Sternberg Castle. I am not sure why the name rings a bell, perhaps some connection with WW2 or so? Help me out here, dear reader.

Then I ride on to Kutna Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary, an underground church or chapel full with bones. Killing fields of Cambodia-like, however not the gruesome context – but a little spooky to say the least.

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the Family Coat of Arms … represented in bones

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… and the angles blow …

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the underground vault

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far out …..

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apparently the name of its ‘Artist’

Of course there is a story behind this …. see here for more

 

With some spooky thoughts I ride on to Budweis (Czech). En rote, another milestone happens: I roll over my speedo to 100.000kms! Kind of cool.

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This happens one 1km after here:

  • N 49 22 712 / E 014 43 617 (as this is the 99.999km mark) and I stopped to take a photo
  • on August 12, 2016
  • with my travel speedo on 13.115kms
  • on my 74th riding day
  • having left home 105 days ago
  • in the afternoon at 15.15
  • with 17 degrees Celcius (a rather cool day).

I herewith apply for my 100.000-on-one club trophy. Guys, can you post it to me? … just kidding.

 

Budweis is a friendly little town. Lots of the old city is still intact, restored and is surrounded by a small canal.

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Yes, I definitely sampled its beer! More than once.

I also take a day-trip to Krumlov, another small, very picture-book town a little south of Budweis. Despite being full of tourists, just like myself – I reckon the locals were outnumbered 1 : 100 – the place has a good vibe.

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lucky ducks float past

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Krumlov

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it’s major tower

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No, decided NOt to go in for a treatment …

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A Rothenburg ob der Tauber like village, apparently surviving all armed conflicts – lucky ducks. And some of them I saw swimming or floating in the fast-flowing river, which almost fully envelops this old small town.
Fully flowing also was my ride to and fro Krumlov! I was still staying in Budweis and was pleased to make this day-trip with no luggage. Initially I behaved as a good citizen or visitor on the road. But watching the local bikers who disregard all signage and ride hell for leather ….. well, I couldn’t help myself and soon followed suit:  – a nice change, pleased that I still can keep up with it, arriving with a broad grin at my Hostel in Budweis.

The one-and-only darkening stain on the day is an increasing earache, I got myself a ‘tropical ear’ as a result from riding in the heavy rain a few days earlier. To my dismay I find that no doctor, neither any pharmacy is open on a Saturday. So I revert to what every dinky-dei Aussie would do in this situation: I dribbled some tee-tree oil into my left ear and hoped for remedy.

 

Leaving Budweis heading for Budapest had me cross through Austria,specifically Niederoestreich (Lower Austria) . I could ridden to Budapest in one stretch approx. 500kms, but it would have been arduous especially avoiding Autobahns. Besides, currently I don’t do ‘arduous’…
So, instead I tootled along D-roads through nice, cool forest, breathing in deeply the smell and super-fresh air. Passing through small villages and gently rolling hills – a pleasure! To add spice to the day I had decided not to pre-book any accommodation (me = Captain Risky 😉 rather I had this phantasy in my mind of finding a nice looking Pension, in the heart of a small town, red flowers greeting me from the balcony, entering a rustic but clean room – and all that for a small handful of Euros.
Well, well I was in la-la-land. No such thing in the villages I traversed, not even close! Either they had no accommodation whatsoever, or what was there was closed for summer holidays. When I finally found a place by asking some locals – all rooms were booked out!! Niederoestreich pick up your act!
So I travelled on, a little tired, and finally I ended up in Mistelbach, a larger town.  Even there I was lucky to get a room in a semi-functioning Hotel: its kitchen was closed, the Sauna currently renovated, and the WiFi was shite as well. Walking outside to find food, the next two restaurants were closed as well. Mistelbach’s Harlekin Café became my refuge: food & drink and being able to sit outside as it was a balmy summer’s night. Here I celebrated my wedding anniversary with an extra dollop of Schlagobers on my ice-cream indulgence. One must male the most out of one’s circumstances 🙂

Mistelbach to Budapest had now become a shortish trip. Crossing through Slovakia another memorable incident happened:

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a look across the river into Hungary

…. for the first time, since having completed almost 13.500 kms I was stopped by a Police control! Travelling happily on a lowly ranking road, not even being aware of my speed, I could see a man stepping out waving me in. First I thought it was the motorcyclist who had passed me 20mins earlier. So I pulled over to stop, recognising at the same time it wasn’t this rider, no it was a Policeman, one of two. The other one presented his speed camera, showing that I had travelled at 113kmh. Alright, I nodded (helmet already off), quite probable – didn’t watch the speedo for a while. Then I confessed not even knowing what the ‘correct’ max speed was on roads like this one. “90kmh” was the response. Ohoh! shrugging my shoulders, what now? I heard the word ‘fine’ but tried to over-hear it. Meanwhile the speedcamera-cop got interested in my bike. Of corse was I much obliged to tell him my story! Any distraction from the word ‘fine’ would be good. I showed him from where and through what countries I had travelled. We almost had an amicable conversation about my trip. And when he asked about any technical difficulties, I could humbly brag (is that possible??) about my technical skills. I reported in detail the things I had to repair. Now the ice was broken, the word ‘fine’ never mentioned again. I also confessed that this was the very first time, here & now, that I was stopped by Police. The very first time, Officer!! The camera-cop, the more senior ranked of the two, had a Slovakian word with the other one and all was good.
I almost asked for a photo, but resisted, not wanting to stretch the just established rapport. After 20 mins I was free to go and with their wishes for a good trip. My lucky day!!

 

IMG_5415Budapest, a place I hadn’t been before despite its relative closeness to my previous home, Frankfurt/M in Germany. I had from a very reliable source – thanks Louise F. – to seek accommodation in Pest, the northern, flat part of town. Advise from this specific source is best to follow to remain somewhat securely in ‘the good books’ – many of you will know exactly what I mean. For my non-English speaking readers in essence it means to take your partners’ suggestions seriously …
Hmmh, not quite sure if I nailed this translation? Clarifications and better expressions warmly invited & welcomed from all readers!

Accommodation in Budapest was pre-booked but don’t believe everything you read about a place when using Bookings.com. Don’t get me wrong: this is a very convenient site when you wanna be sure you’ve got a bed for the night. I propose to still check each ‘booked’ detail out before you un-pack. My ‘apartment’ was to have a TV – I wanted to get a little Rio 2016 dose, hadn’t seen any of it. Well, there was a TV, but this TV had no reception. WTF! ?! Travelling for so long, I had reached a status that I couldn’t take even small beer shite any longer,  so I requested an alternative. I ended up a few streets elsewhere, in a smaller room – no apartment rather a ‘normal’ house with many private people living there. One flat rearranged to accommodate guests. It was in a rather nicer area, a little place just outside with coffee, bar and restaurants. Moreover this arrangement had breakfast included, as was the use of a washing machine. To its credit this place also extended my stay for one more day when I was sick as a dog with a powerful have-no-idea-where-it-came-form, 24-hour stomach bug. I would have been dead on the road otherwise.

Budapest is a nice town, ‘the old city Pest’ feels compact – not really ‘old’ for European standards, as most was completely washed away by a huge Danube-flood 300 years or so ago. Rebuilding was done trying to restore the old street layout, but most buildings stem from a similar period, nevertheless Pest is rather appealing.
Of course I had to book the Segway tour! Our guide Mercedes (her real name I was assured 😉 was more an ‘Esmeralda”.

FullSizeRender-7With her  arm outstretched and an open palm she commanded all traffic to a hold, so our small group crossed the street safely, following her like a gaggle of geese. Segway riding/driving is great fun. I want one!! If only Aussie authorities would have their heads together …

This brings together a recent fb comment I read that Melbourne is the worlds ‘most liveable city’! Then I look at the next placegetters and almost all of them are ‘newer’ cities. Why is there never an ‘older’ European city among this list?? Bloody hell, I’d better not getting started about this crap!

Back to Budapest being quite charming, almost a smaller Prague (sorry for this inept comparison).

For me it lacks the elegance of a Moscow or the vibrancy of a Paris. … and almost everybody is smoking! It is soo obvious when coming from Melbourne, I immediately smell it and have to suppress some annoyance and also wonder about the prevailing ignorance of the local populous.
Well, that’s really only my view, trying to make sense

 

From Budapest I rode into Romania and stopped in Sibiu, aka Hermannstadt. Sibiu is a small medieval-looking town almost in the centre of Romania. It was to be my starting position to ride the Transfăgărășan Highway, one of the ‘most desirable’ motorcycle roads in Europe on position 1 – see here

I decided to stay an extra day exploring this town, which almost celebrates its German historical connection. The former major of the town, now the President of Romania is of this German heritage.


I was extra-lucky as the ‘Sibiu Ralley Challenge’ was in full swing. An annual Classic Car Ralley actually having the Transfăgărășan closed for their exclusive use on this Saturday, 20 August. Had I not stayed this extra day I would have rolled up at the T and be bitterly disappointed, instead I explored-walked Hermannstadt. Here a few impressions.

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On my gentle walk, now counting as ‘practice’ for my sojourn with Louise, this town grew on me. Sibiu or Hermannstadt also still actively supports the Wandergesellen by providing a house for their accommodation and coordinating employment. What a great tradition this is!

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Sibiu felt friendly, looking after its appearance, almost dual-cultural. Additionally I couldn’t help feeling an Italian influence. The Romanian language sounds smooth compared to its northern neighbours, almost like Italian. Particularly the melody of the language sounded so close to Italian. Add to this me sitting in an Italian Ice-café at the main square with an Italian menu …. I was ‘sold’!

So I climbed up the clock tower – all 144 narrow steps – and enjoyed the view

One unhappy thing occurred again!?!!
When buying my ticket for the Brukenthal, Museum, named after the chief-benefactor and ruler for this town and area in past centuries, probably really a well-meant person considering the then circumstances (Aufklaerung). When I declared that I was a ‘pensioner person’ (so it was expressed on the displayed price list) guess what happened?!!  The old guy behind the ticket window didn’t even hesitate to ‘grant’ me that reduced price!!
Bloody hell!
What a shock for the second time in this part of Europe! I think I’ll need a facelift!
On second though I might try to befriend myself with reality …

are the Peter-Pan-days over for good?

How can one be a fool, even in older age – and not taken seriously??

Thoughts to ponder on the next long ride day.

However the Brukenthal Museum had some interesting stuff.

The grave of Graf Dracula …..?

 

A modern Art exhibition:

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almost a little Picasso like ….

And I walked along the former, partially standing wall, surrounding and protecting the city:

I also experienced the art of begging, or even “accosted begging” by – presumably – gypsies, but I am just giving in to my prejudices. The young girl and even younger boy were pretty persistent, almost aggressive, seeking out tourist-looking people.  And they were many of them about.

Later that afternoon I had taken a ‘strategic position’ to see the Classic Ralley Cars return from their final leg: the Transfăgărășan. They were expected to arrive around 17.00 at the big place and at 21.00 a large, public presentation would take place here as well. By that time all cars would be locked-up in the ‘parc ferme’.


Hmmmh, interesting to see, as long as I could get my other ‘homework’ (blog) done. Turns out that many cars in this Ralley are ‘classics’ in the Czech automobile industry: Dacias and Skodas sprinkled with a few Mercedes, Ford Escorts, a Porsche of course, Volvos, even two Ferraris, and a Morris Roadster– quite nice to look at! I noticed that all were registered in Romania, so a local Ralley this is.

So to conclude my stay in Sibiu, the next day i rod this recommended – un-spellable named – road across the Carpartian mountains, the Transfaragarsan

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Taking a turn to see another castle brought me onto the west-side of a large lake. A few kms in it turned a little muddy ….

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It took me two exhausting hours to paddle through the mud which got worse, but fortunately without laying down ze bike …. exhausted I was, but heading on to the Donau (Danube) delta …