Istanbul … the city that sits on the bridge of Europe and Asia

Istanbul, biggest city in Turkey at 15 million population is the heart of Turkey. Cosmopolitan Istanbul, congested Istanbul, mystical Istanbul … many names, many faces, Istanbul simply has too much to offer to her visitors from within Turkey and all over the world.
(Turkey … 18.10.04 to 1.12.04)

Fishing, the widely popular pastime for the men in Istanbul. The warm weather and good catches (from what we had seen) probably encouraged the large number of anglers along the bay.

Overlooking the Europa side of Istanbul as we rode into Istanbul city.

Istanbul Simit. A fashion businessman turned food entrepreneur revitalised the age old sesame bread into these newly favoured pastry filled with chocolate, cheese and other fillings. The popularity of these simits has seen the openings of 6 such pastry shops just in Istanbul old town alone!

Sultanamet mosque, perhaps the most famous landmark of Istanbul

Fuat with his sars, a traditional kurdish string instrument. We were really fortunate to meet Fuat who offered his place for our 2 nights in Istanbul. Mingling and traveling around congested Istanbul was already a headache, not to mention trying to seek accommodation.

With Fuat and his cousin in Fuat’s 10yrs old apartment. His cousin used to work along the Mediterranean coast, south of Turkey. But due to the coming winter, tourist season was over so he came over to Istanbul. His next working destination … Finland!

We met Makoto Watabe before boarding the ferry across to Anatolia. A fellow cyclist from Japan, he had traveled across USA for 3mths and had come to Turkey from London. He has been in Istanbul for nearly 3 weeks already, merely due to the wait for his India entry visa. His plan is to return to Japan by mid 2005.

Embarking on the journey from Europe to Asia – crossing the Sea of Marmara by ferry from one of part of Istanbul to the other side. 45 mins later, we stood on the land that will pave our way home – Asia.

Turkish tea pouring practice – 1 kettle of strong black tea first, followed by 2nd bottle of hot water.

With Sukru outside his 3-stories flat in Gebze. The whole flat housed his parents’, his brother’s and his family. His mother and wife bidding farewell in the background (picture). The night before, we had walked >4km with him from his work place to his home. Sukru walked the same distance to work, daily.

Speaking to some villages in Kamisli village about our trip. We were trying to find our first stay in a village.

One of the villagers eventually led us to Harun Palas house. He was in fact the Muchta, or Village Chief of Kamisli. Besides the kind hospitality, we also had a sumptuous meal, mainly derived from their own household produce – from yogurt, butter, cheese to minced meat, vegetables and fruits. Due to the ramasan month, the family also made several sweet pastries. What a rare treat especially for a first night stay in a village!

A bakery at Docurcun village where we stopped for our lunch break. The guys gave us a ramasan pide and even brought out their salted olives to add to our lunch, much to our surprise!

Boss and his assistants outside their bakery. The flat bread coated with sesame seeds in picture is the typical bread eaten commonly by the turkish in the ramasan month – ramasan pide.

Mr.Zekeriye, Police Chief of Mudurnu village (in middle). Our presence caused a stir in the Police station and the Chief dropped by personally to see us. They offered to let us stay in a local hotel free of charge but we declined. In the end, they eventually allowed us to put up inside the station. *grin*

With the men in blue. Before we left Mudurnu, Mr.Zekeriye wrote a note and requested us to pass to his best friend, the Police Chief in Hopa, near the border with Georgia. With that note, he would be able to help us.

Somewhere out there. In a remote location, 15km from the nearest settlement. We were in fact cycling on the road leading to Ankara. However, it was almost dessert-liked environment for miles since we left Nallihan town. So at the sight of a hut, we decided to try our luck. And what luck did we have. Should we arrived 30mins later, we would have missed the man from the hut. Because he would then be out on his donkey to bring back his sheeps from grazing. We had arrived at 2 shepherds’ house!

In a tea house in Kurlu village, some 15kms away from their hut. The shepherds drove us late in the night across bumpy mud roads to Kurlu. Old men in picture were playing a similar game to our mahjong – OKEY (pronounced similar to ‘OK’).

With the 2 shepherds, Halil and Arif. Due to the coming winter, they have come down from the mountains for warmth and grazing grounds for their 500 sheeps. Both of them support their family by shepherding, selling the sheeps 4mths after birth to markets. 15kg of sheep can sell around US$100.

500 sheeps in action, crossing the road to their grazing ground! What a sight it was to see just 2 men managing 500 sheeps. Even the cars have to patiently wait for the crossing as the shepherds brought their sheeps across.

Tomato fields along the road to Ayas. For most of the day, we had passed such fields along the way. We stopped at this to take a look. In the end, we left with a bagful of freshly picked tomatoes, courtesy of the boss.

A typical fruit stall along the way. Turkey is abundant in fruits due to its climate and fertile agricultural lands. Apples, melons, honeydews, figs and grapes were in an abundance during that period. Notice the pumpkins on the left. The turkish do not cook them as the chinese does, instead the pumpkins are eaten widely as a desert especially during the ramasan month.

In Ayas town, we were led to a house that’ll shelter us, but there won’t be a family in it for the night. Without a family, there won’t be warmth, hence we went on searching. Suddenly a van pulled up beside us. A big family of builders found us! Here is their make- shift home at the worksite.

These are the builders who took us in. They were in fact foreigners of this town too.

We actually intended to head to the next town to seek accommodation for the night. However, at this petrol station in Yenikent, we were offered to stay over the night with the petrol guys on duty, Erkan and Omer. It was our first ever night in a petrol station.

With our hosts just before they changed shift. Erkan worked 24hrs shift while Omer worked just 8hrs from the evening.

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