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European Tour 2019 - Leg 2 - Around Turkey

28th to 30th May 2019: Istanbul

I've decided to write up the blog for days I spent in Istanbul as one long entry, largely because I keep repeating the same walk, from the hotel to the park by the Blue Mosque / Hagia Sophia and back again via the restaurants and the Arasta Bazaar. I've done the walk so many times now that I get to say Hi to Abdulla outside his carpet shop, and at least two of the other shop owners (who have tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to visit their shops) recognise me and give me a cheery Hello!. Groundhog Day all over again!

The first morning in Istanbul, though, started with me taking a ride across the city in the rush-hour traffic in order to drop my bike off at the BMW dealer for a service and to have new tyres fitted. The traffic was, as you can imagine in a city of 5.5 MILLION people, quite manic. But no worse that any other capital city I've ridden through. Once I'd dropped the bike off and discussed the service requirements with the service manager, I left my riding gear (helmet, gloves, jacket, trousers and boots) at the dealership and caught a taxi back to the hotel. The ride back in the cab was far more scary than the ride there, not least because the taxi driver, who was probably about my age but looked a lot older, didn't seem to know where he was going. As we reached the Sultanhmet part of town (the old town, where the hotel is), he turned off the main road into a narrow cobbled street that went up a steep hill, only to have to reverse at the top to take a left turn, then he tried a right turn into a road that had a dead end sign at the start (I pointed this out, which was the only reason he didn't turn into it). Then he bashed his wing mirror against another car. Finally we turned into a street I recognised from last night's wanderings, so I told him this would do, paid and got out.

Back at the hotel, I grabbed my camera and went back out again, this time on foot. My first stop was the Express Laundry I'd discovered yesterday, to drop off a bag of clothes for a proper clean, ensuring that they would be ready for collection the same day. The laundry was down a back street where there are some cheaper-looking guest houses, and was in a basement with the entrance more like that to a pub cellar. Inside were a lot of cats. And a few washing machines stacked up against the back wall. I handed my smelly carrier bag over, got a receipt and made my way back to the street trying to avoid standing on any cats. From there, I walked over to the Hagia Sophia Museum, which was to be my first sight-seeing stop. Originally built as a church in the East Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, it was the Empire's largest church of its time and so was initially known as Megale Ekklesia (Big Church) before being renamed Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in the 5th Century. The first construction was built in 360 A.D. but this was burnt down in a riot in 404 A.D. The second church was built by Emperor Theodosios II in 415 A.D. but that too was demolished in a riot in 532 A.D. Finally the third iteration was built on the orders of Emperor Justinianos, between 532 and 537. During the Byzantine period, it was the church where the Emperor was crowned, such was its importance. After the Ottomans, under Fatih Sultan Mehmed, conquered Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was renovated and converted into a mosque. The structure was fortified and was well protected after this period, and remained as a mosque for the next 482 years, until Mustafa Ataturk (now president of the new Republic of Turkey) decreed that it should be converted into a museum in 1935. It's quite an impressive building from the outside, but inside it is in need of the renovation it seems to be getting. There is evidence of its past life as a church, as hidden behind the plasterwork and exposed in places are beautiful mosaics typical of the Byzantine period. There is an old walkway ramp that leads to the upper gallery from where there is a good view into the main hall of the building, although sadly half of that was taken up with scaffolding from the renovation works. Inside the main hall was a smaller building, the purpose of which I'm not sure, and at one side an ornate room that was Sultan Mahmud I's library.

Leaving Hagia Sophia I wandered back to the hotel where I had a pleasant snooze for an hour or so before going back out again to retrieve my laundry. It was all lovely and clean and only had a few cat hairs on it, so all good. After dropping it off back at the hotel I went out yet again, this time taking a different route to head over via the Hippodrome to the Grand Bazaar. The Hippodrome is now basically a large square park that leads onto the park in front of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, which has a couple of obelisks in it. One is a plain stone obeleisk and the other is more ornate - more of which tomorrow. The walk to the Grand Bazaar took me along a street lined with hundreds of eateries - mostly traditional Turkish food, but I also saw a Korean and a Chinese restaurant just in case I fancy a change. The Grand Bazaar was exactly what I was expecting, a sprawling mass of shops and narrow passageways that meant it was all too easy to lose one's bearings (if not one's life savings!). Ignoring all the cries of where are you from? and look, please, mister, just look I wandered around getting myself deliberately lost whilst taking lots of pictures of what was for sale. Apart from the ubiquitous Western-style tee-shirt shops, there were some interesting things for sale, from beautiful ceramics, lanterns, leather goods, carpets, Turkish Delight, spices and stuff for making Turkish tea. Having got myself completely lost, I found an exit, and the bookshop section of the market, regained my bearings and re-entered the Bazaar, this time to emerge back almost where I started. I had been through the bazaar twice and not spent a penny, not because I'm tight, but because (a) there's nothing I want and (b) I couldn't carry it on the bike even if there was.

As I was making my way back to the hotel via the park I noticed there was a cordoned-off area where people had set up easels and were busy painting, some facing the Hagia Sophia, others the Blue Mosque. Some of the artwork was realistic, but the one that caught my eye was the Sultan riding a Unicorn! And with that thought, I went back to the hotel and bed.

Wednesday 29th May - sightseeing in Istanbul continued...

Having slept well, I was woken my the early morning call to prayer at around 5:30am (sunrise) but soon went back to sleep, waking in time for breakfast at 8am. With a full schedule of sights to visit today, I headed off out armed with my camera, taking the route I initially used last night to reach the entrance to the Blue Mosque, first stopping for a photo of the Obelisk of Theodosios, which at around 3,500 years old is the oldest relic in Istanbul. There is no charge to enter the Blue Mosque, but as it is still a working mosque it is used 5 times a day for prayers, so it is necessary to time a visit in between prayer times. Due to its popularity, I wanted to get there fairly early so I could try and avoid the hordes of tour groups. On entry you remove your shoes and place them in a plastic bag, carrying them through the mosque with you, the early start meant that my feet weren't too sweaty as I stepped into the mosque in my socks. It is called the Blue Mosque, not because it's blue from the outside (it isn't as you can see from the photos), but because the interior is decorated with predominently blue tiles. The quiet hush that you always get inside any large open building, especially a cathedral or mosque, was evident. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Blue Mosque is that it has 6, not the usual 2 or 4 minarets. This caused a lot of controversy when it was first built as the most holy mosque, Mecca, had 6 minarets and many thought it was inappropriate for this one to have the same number. To appease those concerned it is said that Sultan Ahmet I (who commissioned it) gave another minaret to the Great Mosque of Mecca (which now has 9 minarets). It’s also rumoured that the whole minaret issue was a misunderstanding as the Sultan had instructed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets which his architect understood as six (alti) minarets. This being the first mosque I can recall entering, I was a little surprised by the expanse of carpet that covered the floor, and the lack of an obvious altar or pulpit. As with the Hagia Sophia yesterday (which used to be a mosque) there was a small enclosed set of stairs - the minbar - which serves as the pulpit from which the imam (prayer leader) stands to deliver his service. The ceiling is particularly ornate, with lots of intricate patterns emenating from the centre of the domed roof.

Sitting opposite the Blue Mosque is Hagia Sophia, which looks even better in the soft early morning light, as I walked past it on my way to my next destination. If you've ever seen the film Inferno starring Tom Hanks, then there is a scene where he chases the female lead (I won't reveal more of the plot in case you want to see it) into a subterranean chamber half-filled with water. This is the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul and it's very real, and very interesting. Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565) to house the city elite's water supply, it is a chamber some 140m x 70m (bigger than out CBT yard in Stockport) capable of holding 100,000 tons of water. The ceiling is supported by 336 columns, in 12 rows of 28, each standing 9m high. The columns were mostly taken from other buildings and the column capitals are of different styles (reflecting the fact they came from previous buildings),98 being Corintian and the others Doric. The walls of the cistern are some 4.8m thick and made of bricks, and along with the brick floor were made waterproof by covering them thickly with Khorasan mortar. Some of the columns differ from the others, being more ornate or constantly wet (including one nick-named the weeping column) and there are two columns that stand on up-turned Medusa's heads plinths. To enter the cistern you climb down 55 stone steps, which thankfully they had put rubber mats on to prevent slipping, and enter a world lit only by dim yellow lights. They also play a haunting tune to add further the sense of other-worldliness. Taking photographs in the dim light is a challenge, especially as they don't like people using tripods, but I did my best.

Once back out into the sunshine, I continued with my sight-seeing tour of Istanbul by walking to the Istanbul archaeological Museum. This was another fascinating place I could have spent a long time in, had it not been for my desire to see other things too. On entry there was a small garden area filled with columns and assorted statues, mostly incomplete, and in amongst them was a Medusa's Head plinth just like the one supporting the column in the Basilica Cistern. In the courtyard there was a large building with a lot of renovation and building work going on outside, and a smaller building with an ornate blue-tiled archway above the door. Inside here were various antiquities I can't remember (I didn't take any photos so they didn't catch my interest too much!), but the building itself was impressive. In the main building was a large collection of sarcophogii (or sarcophoguses), including some that were very ornate. The detailing on some of these was truly exquisite. After wandering around the main building looking at lots of exhibits, I went outside, left the courtyard and back onto the cobbled street, then entered another building belonging to the same museum. This one housed yet more wonderful relics from ancient Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times, including a very impressive set of lion mosaics that used to line Procession Street in Babylon. It also contained a section of the chain used to prevent ships entering the harbour at what is now called Golden Horn in Istanbul (but used to be the main port entrance). But perhaps its best exhibit, and one I couldn't get a decent photo of, is the world's oldest peace treaty. More than three thousand years ago, Ramses II, the Egyptian pharaoh, and the Emperor Hattusilis III concluded a treaty (the Treaty of Kadesh) that ended the Egyptian Hittite war that lasted more than 80 years. The two ancient superpowers finally ended the war with the treaty in 1276 BC. While the treaty was not the first in the history of the world, it is the oldest known that was concluded between two independent states with equal power and status. A bronze replica of the treaty can be seen in the United Nations building in New York, reflecting the milestone document. But here, in this museum in Istanbul is one of the three original documents produced at the time, with the writing visible on a small portion of terracota coloured stone. See Wikipedia for more. I could have spent a lot longer exploring this lovely museum, and perhaps I'll head here when I come back to Istanbul after exploring Turkey.

By now it was late morning and I still had one of the major attractions of Istanbul still to see - the huge complex that is Topkapi Palace. Initially constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, and expanded upon and altered many times throughout its long history, the palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and their court until the middle of the 19th century. At that time it was deemed no longer suitable for the state occasions and ceremonies, but was still used to house the royal treasure and Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammed, as well as the imperial archives. When the Ottoman monarchy was abolished in 1922, it was turned into a museum. Spread over a huge area of hillside overlooking the Bosphorus strait and surrounded by a defensive wall, it is split into 4 courtyards, each accessible via a main gate. Although on this occasion I entered the first courtyard via the side gate from the street that lead from the archaeological museum. The first courtyard is really a large park garden, with tree-lined paths leading to the main entrance to the second courtyard. This is the point at which you need to show your ticket, so my Turkish Museum Pass was getting plenty of use. The second courtyard is also a large park-like area, but around the outside wall is a roofed walkway with arches, and this also has doorways leading to the Palace Kitchens and Pantry, which have recently been restored. There's even the confectioner's kitchen, complete with big copper pans and some rather ornate pottery that was used to hold the sherbet. Inside the newly refurbished areas are signs saying no photographs, which I assumed meant no flash as in most museums, until I got told off for taking a picture of the sherbet pot.

After looking round the kitchen area, I walked from the second to third courtyard, where things changed immediately. Less like an open park, this courtyard had several buildings in, as well as a lot of construction work (they are renovating the Dormitory of the Treasury which forms the back wall of this courtyard). The first of these is the impressively tiled Chamber of Petitions where the Grand Vizier would come to present the Sultan with the decrees adopted by the Imperial Council, as well as where the Sultan would receive state officials, ambassadors and religious scholars. It was first built on the order of Sultan Mehmed II in the 15th century, but its current appearance dates back to the 16th century, when it was repaired by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent after having been destroyed in the earthquake of 1509. There are also several mosques and other smaller buildings or pavillions, in the courtyard.

Unsurprisingly, after the 3rd courtyard, I entered the 4th. This had more of a private garden feel to it, with a fountain and small pond, as well as a number of small pavillions. One was particularly interesting, being the circumcision room, which was used for the circumcision of the sons of Sultan Ahmed III (r. 1703-30). It is also said to have been the room where the sultan slept in the summertime. I'm sure he had sweet dreams, reflecting on the pain he suffered as a child when his foreskin was forecably removed! It's not outstanding from an architectural point of view, but is stunning owing to the unique combination of 16th- and 17th-century tiles on its inner and outer surfaces.

Having walked back into the second courtyard, I showed my museum pass again to get entry to the Harem. Sadly this is no longer in use and is a museum like the rest of Topkapi Palace, but it was still worth a look! After viewing the barracks (I struggle to remember where exactly they were), I visited the Mosque of the Black Eunochs, which I'm sure was a place of great comfort for those poor souls robbed of their manhood. The rest of the Harem was very ornate, with rooms covered with blue tiles, bathrooms of marble and gold opulence and more rooms covered in blue tiles. By now I was getting tired, and reaching the point of being all museumed out, so I made my way to the exit and sat in the shade in the garden drinking a very expensive bottle of water bought from one of the official (and only) vendors.

After rehydrating and resting for a little while I ventured on, visiting yet more of the buildings that make up this incredible complex. Although I was not permitted to take photos in the rest of them, they housed a number of fascinating artefacts - from Sultan's swords and chain-mail armour, to relics of the Prophet (which I couldn't get near enough to see due to the crowds). Topkapi Palace is well worth a visit, although perhaps it would be better to do it early in the morning before the crowds appear, or spread it over a couple of days. By the time I'd finished looking around there were still buildings I'd not seen, but I was tired and my feet were sore from all the walking in the heat (although at least the palace has shade and a breeze blowing through it). I walked out of the palace and back to the street with all the restaurants on where I had a late lunch of a crepe with chicken and some tea, then back to the hotel, where I caught up on some of the blog and had a siesta. Later, when I'd mustered up the energy and was hungry again, I went out for some dinner, a nice grilled sea-bass from a restaurant a short walk from the hotel.

Thursday 30th May : final day in Istanbul (for now)

My final day in Istanbul, until I return in two weeks' time, was spent organising things ready for my departure. First on the list was collecting my bike from the BMW dealership at the other side of the city, so after breakfast I caught a taxi and off we went. Thankfully this taxi driver took me a different route, one with slightly less traffic, than the one I took 2 days ago, and he also knew something about maintaining a decent separation distance so my heart rate remained relatively low throughout. Once at the dealerhsip I sorted out paying for the service and tyre fitting, a not unreasonable 305euros, especially considering they had not only changed the engine oil and filter but also the air filter and brake fluid. They mentioned my rear brake pads are getting worn, so I'll have to replace them with the spares I brought out at some point in the not-too-distant future. Reunited with my bike I rode back through Istanbul, my satnav having a fit at one stage and sending me down a couple of back streets, but I made it safely and without any drama. Parking in a tiny space between two cars outside the hotel, I was very happy when I could get out of my bike clothes, the ride through the ciy in 28degrees had left me drenched. A quick shower and change of clothes and I took my large rollbag, full of camping gear, downstairs to try and sort out leaving it at the hotel with my tent until I return on the 10th. That was no problem, and with a bit of space made in my small pannier, I should now be able to travel without carrying so much weight. The joys of having hotels booked for the next 2 weeks (although it would be much nicer to be staying in them with Tracy as intended).

With the packing and bike sorted ready for morning, I caught up with a few other jobs before heading out exploring once more. My target this time was the Mozaic Museum, which is formally known as The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics as it contains mozaics that were discovered during excavations of the old Roman Great Palace. The museum is close to (and seemingly passes underneath) the Arasta Bazaar, very close to the hotel and at the side of the Blue Mosque. The mozaics featured there date from 450-550 A.D. and are simply magnificent. The average dimension of mosaic stones is just 5 mm and they consist of limestone, earthenware and coloured stones. The process by which these amazing pieces of art were restored is explained on boards around the museum, but is too complex to go into here. Suffice to say, not an easy job, but the end result is wonderful. The main exhibit is the floor section, which was originally the floor to the Great Palace itself. There are no religious themes in the mozaics, instead the feature daily life, nature and mythology. Included in the scenes are a lizard eating a gryphon, an elephant and a lion fight, goose herding children, a man milking a goat, a child feeding his donkey, a young girl carrying a pot, and fight between a hunter and a tiger. My favourite, though is the Stag wrestling with a snake. There were explanations for the scenes on the wall, which gave his explanation for this scene:
The Stag was considered an adversery of the snake ever since early Hellenistic times; with its breath it draws the reptile from its pit, and is immune to its poison. Here, too, the snake has wound itself around the enemy's body. The stag bows its head so as to get a better grip on the snake. As a result, its legs are slightly abbreviated in the picture.

After the mozaic museum I went and had a small chicken salad for lunch, then heading to the park in front of the Hagia Sophia to sit in the shade and people watch for a while. It was while doing this I noticed there is public free wifi available, so I connected to it and called Tracy on FaceTime, so I could show her around the square. I don't think this went down as well as I intended, as whilst it was gloriously sunny and hot where I was, surrounded by beautiful buildings, back home it was grey and raining. But at least the swelling in her face has gone down and the anti-biotics are helping reduce the pain in her sinuses. I feel really lucky to be able to travel the way I do, but I can't help feel bad about it when Tracy can't join me, even when we plan it that way. Let's hope that she's in good health in October, when we both fly out to Australia for 3 months!

Back at the hotel again, I sat down with my laptop to write up the story of the last couple of days. And to try and select a few (!) photographs that show some of the sights I've seen during my time here in Istanbul. I'm looking forward to getting moving again tomorrow, as I head off around Turkey on the trip that should have been done in a hire car with my wife alongside me. But even without her and with no air-conditioning on my bike, I'm still going to ensure I enjoy myself!

31st May 2019: Into Asia

Having sorted out the packing arrangements yesterday, and agreed with the ever-friendly guys at the Sarnic Hotel that I can leave my large roll-bag and tent at the hotel awaiting my return on 10th June, I was able to load the bike up quickly ready for departure after breakfast. I rode away from the hotel and out of Istanbul on the coast road, but only for a couple of Km before arriving at the Ferrybot (that's how it's spelt here) port. At the kiosk I paid for my ticket - the princely sum of 6TL (about 85p) - and he waved me on quickly telling me the ferry was about to leave. I saw a guy next to a big boat waving frantically at me, so rode towards home, then onto the boat and no sooner had I put the side-stand down that we were on the move. The crossing only took about 10 minutes, but afforded me some fantastic views of Istanbul from the Bosphorus, although the views towards the Asian continent were shrowded in early morning sea-mist. Looking back at Europe gave a great view of Topkapi Palace, dominating the hillside, with the Blue Mosque on the left and Hagia Sophia high on the hill to the right.

Once off the ferry the route took me onto the motorway, and I was slightly surprised to encounter a toll barrier, as I'd been led to understand that Turkey's toll-roads were all electronic and so free to tourists (or at least, they couldn't charge us!). The first section was 70TL - about £10 - which was quite a shock! But at least now I was out of the city the traffic was flowing freely and speeds were relatively high. The second section of tolls came a little later and was a further 23TL (£3), so I was quite glad when a section of roadworks took me off-route and I could pull over in a petrol station and re-plan. After setting the GPS to avoid the section of road that was beyond the roadworks, I was able to avoid the toll-roads for the rest of the day. The ride itself was pretty uninspiring, mostly on motorway or dual-carriageway, but the scenery provided some interest. I wasn't expecting it to be quite so green, the hills covered in trees as per the more northerly countries I've ridden through, but the fields were a lighter green, evidence of the lower level of rainfall. The underlying geology was different too, less white rocks and more sandy looking, with sun-scorched patches here and there. It was suprisingly hilly too, with the road rising and falling in wide swoops up and down over the hills. There were occasional glimpses of the sea to the right, and a large lake to the left. But mostly it was just a hot ride down a wide road with patches of traffic and the occasional car coming past at high speed. I set the cruise control frequently to help reduce the effort of holding the throttle steady (I used to think cruise control on a motorcycle made no sense, until I used it when riding roads like these!), set my music on to play the Stereophonics, and let the miles pass under my new tyres. I only stopped twice in the 550Km or so I rode, both times filling the tank and having an iced Nescafe coffee in a can (not that good, but I don't like sugary drinks and wanted something cool).

Eventually I arrived at Selcuk and turned onto the narrow cobbled street that led to my hotel. This is down a small dead-end and looks like it's a private house, but turns out to be a beautiful guest house with friendly staff and a lovely room. Once parked up and showered (and with my clothes washed again), I changed into my shorts and walked into town in search of an ATM. The reason for coming to Selcuk and staying two nights is because this is really Ephesus, but more of that tomorrow. Once I'd found an ATM I wandered round town getting my bearings and working out where the sights I want to see tomorrow are in relation to each other, then I found a restaurant and broke my vow not to drink beer in Turkey. It had been a really hot ride - the temperature rose from 28 degrees in Istanbul quite quickly to 30 degrees then all the way up to 37 degrees. By the time I arrived, I'd drunk a full 2 litres of water from my camelbak yet only needed the loo twice (those who know me will know how rare that is!), the rest of the fluid had been put to use trying to keep me cool. Enough said!

After my first Efes beer, which was suitably cold and refreshing, I ordered a mushroom pastry appetiser followed by shrimp casserole (which was actually shrimps in butter and oil). It was very good, especially when washed down with a second and third Efes! Following that, I walked back to the hotel via the supermarket where I bought a couple of bottles of water, knowing how important it is to stay hydrated. When I got back the friendly owner was about, so I had a brief chat and then took my laptop up to the terrace where I wrote up the day's events whilst watching the sun set. It's great to be back travelling again after so many days in one place, but tomorrow I'm not riding as I'm going to walk around all the sights of ancient Ephesus. Can't wait!

1st June 2019: Ephesus

As I start the second month of my travels, I'm taking a day to explore Ephesus, once one of the largest and most propserous cities in the world. Founded on a natural bay, the city of Ephesus dates back as far as 3,000 B.C., although legend has it that in 10 B.C., Androclos, the son of King of Athens-Kodros, was searching a location for establishing a city. Androclos was running from the Dor invasion in Greece and was leading one of the migration convoys. It was predicted by an Apollon oracle that a fish and a boar would show the location of the new settlement. Days later, in accordance with the oracle’s prediction, a fish fell from the pan it was being fried in, irritating a wild boar hiding in the bushes. The frightened boar escaped, with Androclos in pursuit and where he had killed the boar is where the city of Ephesus was founded. Either way, it's pretty old. And very, very large. After a nice breakfast in the hotel, I took a taxi (30TL) to the upper gate entrance to the site, where my Turkish Museum Pass meant I didn't have to pay to enter (I'm getting my money's worth out of the pass!). Entering via the upper gate had been recommended by the research I'd done, as it meant walking downhill, and with the quality of the ruins improving as I went. Rather than me provide a history of the site, I'll share some(!) of my photos with captions explaining them. To get a better view of any of them, simply click on the image and it'll open in a new window.

So now you've seen Ephesus, or at least, some of it. There's a lot more to see, including the Brothel, which I didn't visit on account of being disappointed at the Harem in Topkapi Palace, and the fact that I missed it and wasn't prepared to walk all the way back in the heat to get a photo of a footprint.

From here, I walked past the shops that surround the lower entrance gate (where most people start their visit), including one that made me wonder if my mate Alan had setup business here:

After catching the dolmus (minibus) back to Selcuk for the princely sum of 3.5TL, I walked to the Ephesus Museum, which is located close to my hotel. This is where the real stuff excavated from the site at Ephesus is kept, apart from those pieces taken by foreign archaeologists to places like Vienna. That aside, it has a very impressive collection of statues and smaller objects recovered from the site and was well worth a visit, especially as the entrance price is part of my Turkish Museum Pass! Once again, it's probably best to show some pictures to give you a sense of what's there.

After completing my tour of the museum I headed up towards the Basilica of St. John, on the hill above Selcuk. It's worth a little bit of history to give some context before you dive into yet more photographs of ruins.

It is believed that the evangelist St. John (John the Baptist) spent his last years in the region around Ephesus and is buried in the southern slope of Ayosolug Hill (the one I'd just walked up). The second half of the first century was full of persecution for the early Christians - the Apostles James and Stephen were killed in Jerusalem, Paul was sent to Rome and executed. However, Jesus had asked John to tke care of his mother, Mary, and so he came to Ephesus. It was whilst he was here that he wrote his Gospel (the 4th Gospel) and he wrote the Book of Revelation on the Greek island of Patmos in 96AD. It is believed he died a very old man (around 100) in Ephesus. Three hundred years after his death, a small chapel was constructed over his grave in the 4th century. The church of St John was changed into a marvelous basilica during the region of Emperor Justinian (527 -565 AD). Little remains of the Basilica now but ruins, although these have been excavated and that's what I went to see.

From the Basilica, it was a short walk to the top of the hill and the castle, where I got some great views of the sprawling mess that is modern Selcuk (the image of how beautiful old Ephesus would have been tainted my view, it wasn't that bad!).

On my walk back to the hotel for a siesta, I stopped to admire the stork nests that sit atop the aquaduct remains that run down the hill towards town. They make one hell of a noise, and a little earlier as I was typing this at dusk (it's now pitched black!), they arrived at a nearby nest making a noise not dissimilar to the velocoraptors in Jurassic Park!

Back at the hotel I had my siesta and then spent the entire evening sorting through my photos from the day and typing up the blog. But I'm not complaining, it has been a very interesting day, and Ephesus has been well worth the visit. Tomorrow I'm back on the road again as I head towards Pamukkale, for a bit more sight-seeing!

2nd June 2019: to Pamukkale

After a good night's sleep I woke just after 7am and was raring to go by the time breakfast was ready at 8am. Whilst the hotel was definitely boutique and sometimes felt like staying in someone's house, the breakfast befenfitted from this personal touch, with a small freshly-cooked omelette and some homemade bread, toasted. Delicious and not too heavy, a great way to start the day. Then it was on the bike and back on the road again, where I feel like I belong, sat on my bike with the open road stretching off into the distance. With the early morning temperature a very pleasant 25degrees, the riding was relaxed, if a little uninspiring. Taking a fairly direct route east and inland from Selcuk to Pamukkale, the road was dual-carriageway for most of the way; I'd avoided taking the toll roads as I'm not in a hurry and they tend to be even less interesting. The road, which had big truck-tyre grooves in lane one, was fairly straight, passing through a few towns in a flurry of traffic lights. It seemed these were set to turn to red on the approach of a motorcycle, just so the rider can sit cooking in the heat without the flow of moving air to keep them cool. In between the towns the countryside had changed from the green hills of the north, now much more barren with sun-scorched grass fields beiong harvested for hay by the farmers on their very old Massey Ferguson tractors. Unlike back home, they still gather the hay in traditional rectangular haybales, loading them on rickety trailers towed behind the ancient tractors. No sign of big, plastic covered round haybales here.

Every now and then there were police traffic checks, where they would close lane 2 forcing all traffic into lane 1 and then selecting vehicles at random for a check. Just before I stopped for fuel was one such checkpoint, and this time the policeman made the international symbol for motorcycle (both hands held out on front of him, rotating the right hand as though opening a throttle) and signalled for me to pull over. Which is what I did, coming to a stop next to his car, where his partner sat, his lap covered in machines; and removed my helmet and took out my earplugs. He naturally wanted to check my documents, so I handed over my insurance green card, and then when asked for my driving licence, my International Driving Permit. This is a little cardboard covered booklet with my photo in it and an official stamp from the Post Office that cost me £5 before I came and looks like the sort of thing a 5-year old forger would produce. He read International Driving Permit out loud and then showed it to his colleague as though neither of them had seen one before. I had my UK photocard licence in my pocket, but wanted to see what the reaction to using the IDP would be. They then got on the radio and read out my numberplate to someone, which had me wondering if they had been monitoring all the speed cameras I'd been ignoring (not that I've been travelling quickly, just not necessarily paying attention to the speed limits). A few minutes passed whilst I stood in the heat waiting patiently before the conversation turned to where I was from - England, near Manchester - I said, knowing this would prompt the usual response and I wasn't disappointed. Yes, Manchester. Manchester United, my favourite team! Wayne Rooney! said the younger cop from the car, with a smile. I then explained that I'm the only Englishman that doesn't like football (this alwways gets a smile!) and they gave me my documents back with a cheery Enjoy your stay!. I replied for them to enjoy their day too, and rode on to the petrol station 500m away.

Here a similar routine was played out with the young pump attendants, who came to chat to me as I was drinking the can of cold coffee I bought after they'd filled my tank. First we discussed where I was from (see above for script), then they asked about how much my bike had cost. These two questions, plus the How fast does it go? are the questions that are asked in any language, anywhere in the world. Usually I make something up about the cost, reducing it significantly to avoid giving the impression I'm rich (which in comparison to the people asking then I am, at least in cash terms). This time I told the truth (ish) and they went into an animated conversation that I took to be along the lines of someday, I'm going to have enough to buy one of these!. They were all smiles and again wished me a nice stay in their country - telling me that the places I'd said I was going were all very good.

In the early afternoon I arrived on the outskirts of Pamukkale and the GPS was telling me to head to the hotel, but I saw the road signs to the tourist sites of Pamukkale and Heirapolis, so took those instead. Pamukkale is Turkey's most visited tourist attraction, with over 2 million visitors annually. It is most famous for its picturesque travertine formations, built up over the millennia from limestone deposited by the abundant hot springs. These cascade down a hillside just outside the town, and are accessible to the public (on payment of an entrance fee), so they can splash about in the waters (providing they remove their footwear). The travertine formations are next to the ruins of the ancient Greek spa town of Heirapolis, which also has a museum on site, and so, having not quite had my fill of ruins (there are more to come as this area of Turkey has lots of them!), I went there too. From the south entrance, the path takes you through the ruins of Heirapolis first, then to the travertine formations. There is also an ancient pool, where you can bathe, as the Romans once did, in a picturesque pool filled with warm (around 36C), mineral rich waters and swim amongst submerged columns of great antiquity. Only I didn't, as I was in my bike gear as I'd come here before going to the hotel, which the GPS said was 20Km away.

Having boiled in my riding gear (I'd left my jacket on the bike but still had my bike trousers and boots on), I now sought out some shade and fluilds, stopping at the on-site café for a spot of lunch. Having cooled down a little bit it was now gone 2pm and time for me to go to the hotel to get out of the heat. Riding the 22Km away from Pamukkale to where the GPS said the hotel was felt odd, as I'm sure I'd booked one nearby. When I found myself on a residential back street in the town of Denizli, I took another look at the address and location of the hotel. I was in the wrong place, according to Google maps, which had the hotel back in Pamukkale, which made more sense. Checking on the GPS, the address matched that given for the hotel and when I tried to enter it again it told me I was already there. Odd. Fortunately, Booking.com gives the option to copy the GPS coordinates and after converting them to the form the Garmin-based BMW GPS wants, I had the correct destination programmed in. Back close to where I'd just come from. So I went back, getting frustrated when the GPS put me in the wrong lane on the approach to a roundabout with an underpass that meant I ended up on the wrong road and had another 5Km detour to do. With the temperature now well into the 30's and the more stop-start nature of the traffic I was once again in danger of over-heating. But I soon found the correct road and made my way to the hotel without further ado. Pulling up outside, I parked next to 2 Belgium-registered bikes, one a BMW R1200GS Adventure (the previous generation of my bike), the other some sort of cruiser. As I took off my helment the riders appeared and we got chatting about where we'd been and where we were going. They are here with their wives as pillions, and are basically doing part of my trip but in the reverse direction, having already been through Bulgaria and Romania. I then checked in and dumped my gear in the room before taking a shower and washing through my sweat-soaked t-shirt and underwear. As the room has a balcony with a town view (cheaper than those with a scenic view!), I can hang them out so hopefully they'll be dry quickly (or they'll blow away and be lost forever!). From the balcony there is a view of the Pamukkale travertine terraces, if you crane our head, and out over the scenic fields and hills.

After writing up the blog (to this point) I went back out in search of an ATM and some dinner. I quickly discovered a restaurant called the Asian Kitchen Landscape Restaurant which sounded ideal as I'm a tad fed up of meat-on-a-stick style meals and a good Chinese might do me good. Across the road from the restaurant is the park and small lake that's at the foot of the Pamukkale Travertine Terraces and so I went over for a look. There's a small section of the white travertine limestone forming a wall, at the bottom of which are two shallow travertine terrace pools, just like those higher up where I was earlier. This was too good an opportunity to miss, as I was now in my shorts and sandals, so removing my sandals I stepped into the puddle for a paddle. The soft, muddy, ground under the water was actually quite pleasant and the water a lovely temperature, as I stood there trying not to look too out of place amongst the small children and their parents. I quickly took a couple of photos and then made my way back to shore (all of about 10 feet) and put my sandals back on, then wandered off trying not to look like some lone pervert. It felt good to have experienced the infamous Pamukkale Travertine Terrace Pools though, even if only on a small scale. Leaving the park I walked past lots of tourist-tat shops, stopping to check out the fridge magents but none bore even the slightest resemblance of the Pamukkale or Heirapolis I'd seen, so I resisted the temptation to increase my effect on the earth's magnetic field and carried on my search for an ATM. Finding a row of them at the far end of town I replenished my cash supply, then ran (or rather, walked) the gauntlet of restaurant touts again as I walked back towards the Asian Kitchen Landscape Restaurant, muttering it's OK, I know where I'm eating tonight in response to the menus being thrust in my general direction as I passed. Only in my haste to avoid eye contact, I walked right past the restaurant and had to retrace the final 50m or so, which only redoubled the enthusiasm of the touts, who must have thought I'd changed my mind. Regardless, I stuck to my resolve as my hunger would only be satiated by food from the Orient, and went up the wooden stairs to the terrace where my cheerful host (who couldn't believe his luck that someone would just walk in to his restaurant without first being convinced it was the finest in town by his roadside tout) showed me to a seat with a great view of the travertine terraces. I ordered a beer whislt studying the menu, is being hot and the setting requiring one over a cup of tea, then chose a spicy chicken stir fry dish with peanuts and fried egg rice with vegetables in. When they came, the portions were HUGE, so I only managed to eat most of it, being forced to leave some. I can hear my mother and father turning in their graves shouting there's some poor kid in Africa that would KILL for that still. A final beer to wash the food I had managed to eat whilst watching the sun set was a great way to end another day on the road. The walk back to the hotel was all downhill, thankfully, and when I got back all the clothes I'd washed earlier were still on the balcony and dry. Result!

3rd June 2019: to Antalya via Sagalassus

After another really good night's sleep, I loaded the bike and went to the breakfast room to get some breakfast. I wasn't expecting much as the hotel was cheap, but once I'd sat at my alloted table-for-one they brought a large tray full of little bowls and plates - of olives, bread, cheese (3 types), butter, jam, small round bits of meat, small tomatoes, and what looked like lentils or potato salad; and a glass of tea. Just as I was getting started tucking in they brought another plate with a small, freshly-cooked omelette on. What a great start to the day!

After eating a small amount of the buffet they'd given me, I got changed into my bike gear, said my goodbyes to the staff and set off out of town. The route took me back the way I'd been several times yesterday whilst trying to locate the hotel, but this time I was prepared for when the GPS tried to trick me on the roundabout / underpass intersection and found the correct road easily (it was signposted Antalya, which helped!). The road out of Denizli climbed a steep hill in what would have been some lovely sweeping bends, had the Turks not followed the practice of the Croats in scraping the top surface of the road way, leaving an horrendous mess of tram-line like grooves that made it impossible to hold a steady line. Once over the hill I emerged onto a fertile plain with crop fields as far as the eye could see - this is the southern part of the Anatolian Plateau, an area of flat land between the Pontic mountains to the North (bordering the Black Sea) and the Taurus mountains to the south (bordering the Mediterranean sea) - the latter being what I'll pass over later today. A little later, I found myself on a stretch of brand-new black tarmac, as smooth as smooth can be, and so I settled in to enjoy the ride. Suddenly I had to hit the brakes as wandering across the road - slowly - was a tortoise. I stopped and pulled over, then gently lifted the little chap to the side and placed him back down again. Can't have him being squashed by the traffic - even if there wasn't very much of that, the roads having become empty since I escaped Denizli. With him safe again I continued my merry way, cruising along and admiring the scenery. I passed through a couple of Police Traffic checkpoints without being pulled over, but then at another one I was once again instructed to pull over. I removed my helmet and earplugs and gave the officers a cheery Good morning!, then handed my passport over when requested. Then my green card and International Driving Permit once again. This time they didn't ask about the football, but one used Google translate on his phone to bring up the words Traffic Control. I nodded and said that I understood what they were doing, and that I'd done nothing wrong, and he handed me back my documents and used the app to show the words Watch your speed - he said 100, bad; 90 ok; 95, ok; 100 ticket. I smiled and said Thank you then left, this time making sure my speed didn't creep above 100kph (64mph). It's a good job I was in a relaxed mood as the roads were mostly empty and it would have been very easy to find myself going much quicker - as were some of the Turkish drivers who came flying past!

My route took me up into the mountains, then away from the main road and onto a narrow one-lane track that wound its way higher and deeper into the mountains. My destination was the ancient town of Sagalassus, the most important city of ancient Pisidia, which sits between 1450 and 1600 metres above sea level. Sagalassos was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 BC on his way to Persia. It flourished after joining the Roman Empire in 25 BC and was linked to the Anatolian road network connecting it with the interior, the ports on the western coast of Ionia, and most importantly with the ports on the Mediterranean coast. The city was an export center for pottery and agricultural products throughout antiquity. It now contains some interesting ruins, in particular the reconstructed Antonine Nymphaeum, which was restored using the original blocks and with some replica statues replacing those now in Bursar museum. This also has a working fountain, exactly as it would have in ancient times. On arriving, I bought a bottle of water to drink as I walked around, once again still in my boil-in-the-bag bike trousers, and set off exploring. I didn't have to pay to get in, as there was no-one in the entrance booth, so I'm not sure if my museum pass would have covered this site as well (I think it would). I wandered around for about an hour, glad that the temperature higher in the mountains was a more pleasant 25-30degrees and not the 35+ I'd faced before.

Leaving Sagalassos, I headed back down the twisty, narrow road I'd come up and then picked up the main road to Antalya once more. This was another wide, 2-lane, dual-carriageway with very little to make it interesting, so I put some music on, set the cruise control to 95kph, and relaxed into the ride, enjoying the scenery and the sunshine. As I neared the final stretch the temperature began to rise, reaching 30 degrees as I reached the outskirts of Antalya. This is another large city, and the hotel I'd chosen for Tracy and me was right in the centre of the old town, close to the port. It's lucky that the GPS has excellent mapping as it took me almost directly there, the only problem being that just before I reached the hotel, at the bottom of a very steep cobbled street, I reached the port and a dead end. On my left was a car park, so I thought I'd park there and walk to the hotel, but the attendent had other ideas. He told me I should ignore the No Motorcycles sign clearly displayed at the side of the bollards marking the start of the predestrianised zone, and ride further into the port. I did as I was told, scattering pedestrians and children as I rode slowly around the tourist-tat shops, then I came to a section where it wasn't obvious which way to go - the GPS clearly showed the hotel about 100m further on. I asked a shop-keeper where the Adalya Port Hotel was and he pointed around a raised plinth in the middle of the port pavement and up a narrow cobbled street lined with t-shirt and handbag shops. So off I went, slowly, trying not to knock over the displays carefully placed on each side of the narrow street. There, on my left, was an hotel, but it was the Adalya Hotel. I asked another shopkeeper, who spoke excellent English and he pointed to the hotel and then to the car park just past it. I pulled into the car park and saw another sign on the same hotel saying Adalya Port Hotel. I was in the right place. How the cars that were in the car park got there, I don't know. I can only assume they arrived when all the shops were shut, as the road which continued up the hill, was only wide enough for my bike with panniers, certainly not a full sized car.

Regardless, I was here and went to check in, once again drenched in sweat. No sooner had I unloaded my bags into the room than I was under a cold shower. I washed my clothes again - they would stink my bag out if I didn't - then grabbed my camera and set off for a look around town. I first walked up the hill to check out the route that way to see if I should take that in the morning, but concluded I'd probably be better just retracing my route in. At the top of the hill is the old mosque, complete with it's unusual fluted minaret, and the clock tower. Along with these landmarks, the view from the top of the hill over the port was quite something, especially with the hotel (and my bike in the car park) being right in amongst it! Also at the top was a small park area with a lot of kennels. Here was an animal rescue charity that was looking after the small (and tiny) stray kittens. I tried to take some photos of them, but the local kids were too busy getting in the way and picking them up so they could post pictures of themselves holding them on Instagram or Snapchat or whatever, before putting them back down and walking off. I did sneak one picture, though, of a larger cat with odd eyes.

Rather than walk back down the streets the way I'd come, I opted to take the lift which runs down directly into the old port. The queue to go back up the lift was very long, with people trying to avoid running the gauntlet of friendly shop-keepers on the steep streets. I had a look around the port, and an ice-cream, then sat on a bench and watched the world go by for a while, enjoying the sunshine now I was out of my bike gear and in my shorts. Once again I was thinking how much Tracy would have loved the hotel and the location. Dragging myself away from such musings I walked back to the air-conditioned room at the hotel and wrote up the blog, before having another shower and preparing to go to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

I went up to check out the restaurant on the 4th floor of the hotel, but it was empty and had the feeling of being more expensive than I would like, so I went back downstairs and out in search of an alternative. No sooner had I stepped outside the hotel than the t-shirt seller who had helped me earlier welcomed me with Hello, English! and enticed me into his shop. This wasn't exactly unplanned on my part, as I've decided I need a t-shirt or two to wear in the evening, as I'm currently wearing the same one night after night. After bargaining hard for 2 t-shirts I liked (and getting them for less than half the original best price), I found a restaurant right by the harbour and ordered a shrimp pizza and some tea. The pizza was only tiny, so I also had a brownie with ice cream that was anything but tiny. So much for trying to lose weight (but at least I avoided beer again!). Finally, it was back to the hotel for a bit of research on tomorrow's route - I want to add a scenic loop to the coast road to avoid arriving too early - and then off to bed.

4th to 6th June 2019: along the Mediterranean coast

Having slept well I was up early in order to grab a quick breakfast and get on the bike before the shop owners opened up and turned my route from the hotel to the main road into a market once more. Having safely negotiated the port without running down any of the early-morning tourists meandering about gazing at the bobbing boats and not expecting a huge motorcycle to be riding along the pavement. Once on the main road it was a relatively short ride from there to my first stop, the archaeological treasure that is Perge. Perge used to be one of the most important cities of ancient Pamphylia. Its most notable son was Apollonius, a mathematician and an astronomer who gave the ellipse, the parabola, and the hyperbola their names. It's also home to some great Roman ruins, including... well, I don't know, because it was closed. Or at least that's what the guard told me after I'd used my museum pass to enter the site via the automatic barriers - something the other tourists without a pass couldn't do, as the ticket booths were all shut up. Being Eid al Fitr (the holy festival that marks the end of Ramadam), it's a national holiday in Turkey and it seems that this included the staff at Perge. All except for one security guard who was not best pleased when a British tourist dressed inappropriately in motorcycle trousers and boots wandered in to the site seemingly without problem. He had to get up from his chair, and point me back the way I'd come in, and ignore my pleas to be allowed to take a couple of photos before leaving. Perge theatre was closed regardless of Eid, as it is undergoing structural checks, so I wouldn't have been able to see that anyay.

Not to worry, I'd get my archaeological fix a little further down the road at Aspendos, site of the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world. A place I first visited 28 years ago when I first came to Turkey in 2001, and again when Tracy and I came a few years ago. Only I didn't get my fix as that was closed, too. Still, not to worry, I just went for a ride anyway, past Aspendos and out into the countryside on a winding road that followed the river. After a few miles I stopped to check the GPS and realised the road was on the wrong side of the river, and instead of there being a bridge and a road leading east, it turned west and returned back towards Alanya. So I turned round and went back, stopping to take some pictures of the remains of the aquaduct that brought water to Aspendos.

Having retraced my route I rejoined the main road east from Antalya to Alanya, but as it was still early and there was only a short distance to travel, I turned off again, taking a different road out into the countryside. This turned out to be a very good idea, as the road was one of the best I've ridden since Montenegro. The first few miles were on a wide, newly surfaced road with long sweeping corners and very little traffic. But then it got even better, becoming like a roller-coaster, twisting and turning and rising and falling in a constant stream of corners all with a good surface (for once). It was following a fast-moving river, and all along the side of the road were advertising signs for rafting companies. I rode as far as Bozyaka, before I felt the need to stop at a small roadside shop in order to get something cold to drink. The old chap behind the counter didn't seem at all surprised to see me, and sold me a cold coke, two bottles of water and a Magnum ice cream for about 3 quid. I sat under the shade of the awning outside his shop and enjoyed my ice cream, listening to the sound of the distant river and enjoying the warm sunshine. I then had the absolute pleasure of retracing the journey back to the main road, along the roller-coaster road and the wide, sweeping turns of the new section. A great detour, just for the pure joy of riding.

The joy of riding didn't apply to the final stretch to my hotel in Alanya, though. With the temperature up in the low 30's, I caught sight of the first huge tourist hotel lining the beach some 35Km before my hotel, which is several Km before the port town of Alanya. All aong the coast are massive, multi-story hotel resorts, lining the beach, or where the road runs along the beach, lining the road on the opposite side, with pedestrian bridges helping keeping the half-naked tourists safe when going from their hotel to the beach. My own hotel, chosen as much for its beach as anything else, the Hatipoglu Beach Hotel, was just like all the others, a tall, white modern building just across the narrow access road from the beach. I found it easily enough and parked on the street outside the hotel, then went to check in and see if there was a proper car park (the hotel lists Free Parking as one of its facilties on Booking.com). It didn't, but the receptionist said my bike would be fine where it was as the spaces on the street next to the hotel were theirs (there were about 6 of them, so I was lucky I'd got one). My now I was very hot and dripping with sweat, so I got her to run through the hotel facilities quickly then unloaded the bike, took the lift to my room and went straight into the shower, washing my clothes once more.

When I'd decided to stay for 2 nights in Alanya, I thought Tracy would be with me and we could either relax on the beach or go exploring, but now I was on my own I decided I would do very little, using the day off to fully unwind and not think about travelling for a day. So I downloaded a new book onto my Kindle (the first of the Jack Reacher series, as I've never read them), ensured it was charged up and sat on my balcony reading. A short while later I went down to the bar, bought a beer and sat by the pool, reading. My booking was on a half-board basis, so at 7:30pm I went down for dinner and enjoyed a large plate of salad, then endured some doner meat and some vegetables from the hot buffet, followed by a chocolate mousse-like pudding. The cup of tea I asked for when the waiter asked me what I'd like to drink was an extra 4Tl. That matched the tone of the hotel, as everything was an extra - wifi was available in the lobby, but was an extra 2euro per day in the room (I didn't bother with it), the beach loungers on their dedicated beach were extra, they didnt' allow guests to bring any food or drink into the hotel (I ignored this the following day, bringing two large bottles of water to my room), or use the towels for the pool - or supply pool towels to use. The hotel was also full of middle aged German tourists, so all the staff spoke German to me, until I pointed out I was English. But it was clean and the breakfast was good.

Wednesday, 5th June - busy doing nothing

The hotel must be the noisiest hotel I've ever tried to sleep in. My room was close to the lift (elevator), which is an ancient thing big enough for only 4 people and extremely noisy. The corridors resembler those in a prison, wide and concrete and designed for maximum echo effect. The other guests also seem to be under the impression they're the only people staying in the hotel, as they hold conversations between floors and between rooms at opposite ends of the corridors at all hours of the night. I can usually sleep anywhere regardless, but it took me a good while to get off to sleep and I almost resorted to putting my earplugs in it was that bad. I can only hope that my snoring echoed down the corridors as badly as the German's shouted conversations, so they suffered too!

Today was my first real day off since I started the trip just over 5 weeks ago, a day set aside for doing nothing but reading and enjoying the sunshine. I went down for breakfast at 7:30am, when it opened, and was somewhat surprised to see the restaurant almost full with the German tourists, already tucking in to their breakfast. Fortunately, the hotel had prepared more than enough and I had a good feast of cereal, eggs and bread and jam. Then I went to reception and asked if they had a pool towel I could use (my towels are with my camping gear in Istanbul), but they didn't. They said I couldn't use the hotel towels either, and that there were some shops around the corner that sold towels. I pointed out I was only there for one day and didn't really want to have to buy a towel, but they couldn't help (or wouldn't). So, in a grumpy mood, I went to my room and grabbed my rucksack, the sun cream and went out shopping. I bought a cheap beach towel for a fiver, then went back to the hotel to find a spot by the pool. Only there were no loungers free. Or at least, none that didn't have other people's towels on them - they were neary all unoccupied. This made me even more grumpy (it's a per hate, hotels should insist you can only put your towel on a lounger when your arse is on it!). So I walked out of the hotel and across the road onto the beach, now aware I'd have to pay for a lounger. The beach, though, was good and the loungers had their own umbrellas and were not too close together, so I paid my 20TL (less than 3quid) and sat down to enjoy my book. Which is where I stayed all day, until around 3:30pm, when it was just too hot, even in the shade, and my ankles were bright red having got caught in the sun outside the shade of the brolly. I walked back to the hotel and went and sat in the air-conditioned comfort of my room, finishing my book and immediately downloading the second book in the series as I wanted to continue relaxing. Which is what I did. Dinner was marginally better than the previous evening, some form of beef stew, and this time I didn't order a drink as I was determined not to give the hotel any more money for anything. It won't be getting a great review on Booking.com from me!

Thursday, 6th June - riding the Mediterranean coast road

After another night of crashing, banging and shouting in the corridors, I was unsurprisingly still a little tired when I woke this morning, but as I was getting back on the road I was in a much better mood than yesterday morning. Breakfast was again good, and after filling my belly I went and got into my bike gear, handed my room key in and then loaded up the bike. A group of middle-aged German tourists saw the bike and engaged me in conversation, expressing surprise that I'd ridden here from England (I have seen a couple of German-registered cars but no GB plates since Greece). After a brief chat, I got on my way, the relatively cool 25degrees and slight breeze making the riding pleasant, despite the stop-start nature of the road through and out of Alanya. Once east of Alanya by about 20 miles the hotels stopped, largely because there was nowhere to build them, the land next to the sea becoming more cliffy with small alcove beaches. The road started passing through agricultural land again, with lots of very large plastic greenhouses everywhere. I was puzzled as to why they would need greenhouses here, given the climate, but assume it's to keep the hot sun from scorching the plants as the plastic covering is opaque (either that, or they're massive cannabis production facilities!). The road was a joy, another roller-coaster, twisting and turning, rising and falling as it followed the cliffside, although the surface required constant vigilence as it had patches of potholes, poor surface repairs, bumps, lumps and sections that were polished almost mirror-like. The views of the Med below were fantastic, when I could afford to take my eyes off the road ahead, and with a cooling sea-breeze, the riding was a joy.

As I approached my destination of Mersin, the traffic got much heavier and filled the 2-lane dual-carriageway with at least 4 lanes of traffic each side. This made life interesting, as I had to keep an eye on traffic all around as the drivers would suddenly drift across the road to avoid a Dolmus (minibus) stopping suddenly in the middle of the road to pick up passengers. With buildings now on both sides of the road the cooling breeze had stopped and was only evident on the rare occasion I got a bit of clear road and could raise my speed to around 70kph. About 30Km from the hotel I'd had enough and needed to stop for a cold drink, so I pulled into a petrol station and bought a can of Pepsi (they had a very limited choice!), then took the opportunity to give the bike a wash using the jet-wash. I've now sussed out how these work, and using Google translate to ensure I knew which was the foam setting, set about giving it a quick clean.

With the bike a bit cleaner, and me refreshed and ready to continue, I rejoined the chaotic traffic flow through Mersin to the hotel. Pulling up outside, one of the staff told me to ride around the other side of the hotel, then directed me onto the pavement and to park up directly in front of the hotel. That done, I checked in and once again jumped straight in the shower, washing my clothes as well as me. Then I sat cooling down in the air-conditioned room and caught up with the blog.

7th and 8th June 2019: Mersin to Cappadocia

When I'd finished the last blog entry I went downstairs to ask abnout nearby restaurants and outside the hotel were 2 Dutch-registered bikes parked next to mine. The owners were sat having a beer and we got chatting - they were incredulous at my bike being clean and accused me of helicoptering it here! As with the other bikers I've met, they were following more-or-less my route but in reverse, having arrived from Cappadocia that day. By this point I was very hungry, so bid them farewell and wandered to the restaurant (more like a street café that served food) next door - there being precious little else nearby. The waiter showed me the meat-on-a-stick options in the window and I pointed at a couple and told him to just bring a plate of anything. With a glass of tea and a bottle of water. Which he did - two meat kebabs and lots of thin bread, plus assorted small plates of salad, onions, relish etc. The food was tasty, but I had to order another couple of kebabs in order to get a decent portion of meat. Once fed, I paid and took a walk round the block, which didn't take long as there was nothing to see. Back at the hotel I read some more, finishing the second Jack Reacher book, and turned in for the night.

The following morning I saw the Dutch guys at breakfast, but by the time I'd got changed into my bike gear they'd left, so I hit the road too, heading east before 8:30am. Mersin is not really a tourist town, at least the part I was in isn't. The hotel was opposite the bus station, a big dusty square, and so was quite noisy at night, but more than made up for by the pleasant and helpful staff and the cheap price. no sooner had I joined the main road than it got more industrial still, with large, dusty, cement factories lining the roadside. This went on for the few miles I travelled east, and for part of the way north, before it stopped and the countryside returned. Now I was in a land of rolling hillsides, with distant high mouintains still showing signs of snow. The further north I went the greener the landscape became, and eventually the rolling hills gave way to a flatter plateau and the view expanded outwards. I rode west for a stretch, the non-toll road passing by Ulukisla before turning north again towards Nigde. The road was good, with little traffic and nice flowing corners, and the ride was enjoyable without being too challenging. Just outside Nigde I turned off the main road and followed the road-signs to Gumusler Manastiri - or Monastery - which I'd found when researching the route and looked interesting.

Whilst there is no written record of the history of the rock town at Gumusler, or the monastery, it is known to date from ancient times, although the paintings in the church are from the 11th or 12th century. The style of monastery is interesting, with a central courtyard and the inner church, wiht dining halls and other rooms also forming part of the same complex. The monastery is built on 2 main levels, with cellar rooms and storage holes dug into the floor. The rooms show evidence of how they were carved out of the rock, with rough tool marks evident in the walls and ceiling. The church part of the complex is particularly impressive, with a high vaulted ceiling and 4 massive stone pillars - that were presumably left behind when the surrounding rock was carved away. It's here that the impressive religious artwork can be found, the colours (especially the gold) still vibrant some 900 years after they were painted. Outside the monastery itself their is small town also built into the same rocky outcrop, with lots of single room dwellings. All in all, probably one of the most impressive sites I've seen on my travels.

Having had a good look around the monastery, I continued on my journey towards Nevsehir and further into the Cappadocia area. Passing through Derinkuyu I saw a roadside that said Underground City which piqued my interest, so I turned off and rode into a very small, and very run-down, town, passing by half-derelict houses and emerging in a large square where there were lots of people queuing to enter what looked like a museum. I parked up, left my helmet and jacket on the bike and grabbed my camera before wandering over to check it out. The queue was up to a ticket booth, but as I had my museum pass, I ignored it and went straight to the turnstyle beyond, and then up to the door that led down underground. Next to the door was a sign which proclaimed:
This is risky for those who have heart diseases, high blood pressure and for asthma patients.
Well, two out of three can't be bad, so I ignored the sign and went down the steep stone steps into an amazing subterranean world. The main passageway was quite narrow, and in places not high enough for me to stand up straight, and off it led smaller passages with the occasional room, all carved out of the rock. It was like a set from Dr.Who. Except for the mass of humanity that was stuffed in there. With small kids running against the flow, people stopping at inconvenient moments (like when I was bent double trying to cram my frame through a low, narrow, section) and the inevitable selfie sticks, it wasn't quite the peaceful experience I'd have liked it to be. It was noisy, too, but at least being underground it was cool. I do think the sign should add Not recommended for those suffering from claustrophobia as well, as at times I felt myself getting a little freaked when the way forward was blocked and I was unable to turn round as my shoulders were rubbing the walls!

Towards the end of the route through the undergoing city there was a large room filled with people queuing up to head further downwards. I asked what down there and was told it was the church, so waited a little while, but when I saw the puffing and panting of the people returning back up the steep stone steps that led down to it, I decided that wasn't for me. The queue was being held up to allow a mass of people already down below to return, the crowd too large to all go down at once. So I headed back upwards, through some more narrow passageways, including one I had to bend down at 90-degrees to fit through, before returning gratefully into the sunshine above ground. Quite an experience, and one I was glad didn't involve a power-cut, as without lighting and with so many people below ground, it wouldn't have ended well!

Safely back above ground I sought out some sustenance, choosing one of the two cafés that lined the small square. The menu left a lot to be desired, with just pancakes of various styles and a few drinks on offer. I opted for the cheese-filled pancakes (not fancying the spinach, egg or eggplant alternatives) and a can of fanta, with another bottle of water to help me rehydrate. Once I'd consumed that I headed back to the bike and continued on towards Nevsehir, then on to Goreme, one of the most famous towns in Cappadocia. I pulled over at a roadside vantage point for a look, and down the valley there were lots of rock houses and houses built into rocks.

Then I rode into Goreme proper, which was absolutely heaving with people, cars, minibuses and small coaches. There were people everywhere. It was like a Bank Holiday Monday only in 35degree heat and with drivers showing no road sense. And cobbled streets that ran uphill steeply, with off-camber hairpins and people crossing the road without looking. Chaos. I did manage to see plenty of the famous Fairy Chimneys, though, great big pointed stone structures with windows and doors carved in them. But with nowhere to park safely, I didn't stop, taking pictures with my eyes and storing them in my mind instead of on camera. Sorry, but that means I can't share them with you!

Finally I cleared the chaos of Goreme (vowing not to return, it really was that bad) and headed out to Urgup and my hotel, which was up a steep, cobbled street at the top of which were lots of minibuses trying to manoeuvre around a small turning circle. I found a small space next to the parked cars and parked the bike, then went to find reception. I'd chosen this hotel, the Yunak Elveri, for two reasons - first, it's where the Globebusters team stay (so it's going to be good) and second, because it's built into the rock and the rooms are square caves that have been turned into good quality hotel rooms. It was to be a big treat for Tracy when she came out to join me, and as I'd paid for it and it was non-refundable, it was where I'd be for two nights. The receptionist got someone to show me to my room, which has a great big metal bed and its own balcony, and then I went through my routine of unloading the bike, showering and washing my clothes in the posh sink. With little alternative and an early night required due to the pick-up time for my balloon excursion in the morning, I opted to eat in the hotel restaurant. With a terrace and a view over the nearby rock dwellings the setting was perfect, which is a lot more than can be said for the food or the service in the restaurant. The Penne Ariabiata was poor, with the sauce tasting more like tomato soup than spicy ariabiata sauce, and it took 15 minutes for me to get the waitresses attention in order to order dessert once I'd finished it. The dessert, a hot chocolate thing, was delicious, so I wasn't going to complain (or leave much of a tip!).

I turned in a little after 9pm, having set my alarm for the ungodly hour of 3:15am. I still woke at 3:10am, though, my internal clock doing its usual trick of waking me up ahead of the alarm. Up and showered and I was downstairs and waiting when the minibus driver turned up a little after 3:35am. The bus was already full, so we set off at breakneck speed in the dark towards Voyager Balloons HQ. The driver didn't hold back, and as I was sat in the front seat alongside him I was glad I'd put my seatbelt on. We must have broken the record for getting from where he picked us up to their HQ, but at least he got us there. Once we'd arrived we checked in, I paid my 180euros in cash (that qualified me for a 10euro discount), and was told which bus we were to take next. Then it was time for a breakfast snack and a cup of tea, before we were told to board our buses for the journey to the take off point. Thankfully I got a different driver this time, so the journey was more sedate, and we arrived in a dusty field close to Goreme were there were a very large number of balloons in various stages of being inflated. We were dropped off and hung around watching the guys working the massive gas burners to inflate the huge balloon sacks, then I was asked to move to another balloon and instructed on how to climb inside. Once inside, our pilot gave us all a briefing on the procedure to adopt for landing - everyone face the same way (away from the control ropes that allow him to let air out of the balloon to control direction of flight), grab the yellow rope handles inside the basket and crouch down - then he continued to inflate the balloon. The heat given off by the burner was intense, like standing next to someone when the light a bonfire, and before long we gently rocked from side to side as the basket lifted off. The rise up was so gentle as to be almost unnoticeable, just the sense we were moving and up we rose. During the flight he would ignite the burner, then a short while later the balloon would rise, and he would pull on the control chords to steer us. The flight was magical, truly one of the best experiences I've had on this trip, as we marvelled at the sight of a hundred-and-fifty other balloons taking to the skies. They only allow a maximum of 150 balloons per flying session, but that many take off every day, such is the popularity of the experience, and I can see why. We floated around, rising over a hill and dropping down into the valley below before rising again, then drifted over the landscape to the sound of camera shutters and ooos and aaarhs. Simply wonderful. At one point we saw a couple of balloons gently bump into each other - our pilot said this is known as an Early Morning Kiss, but they didn't bounce off each other, just gently drifted apart as their pilots adjusted the controls. With the sun coming up we gained altitude, rising up to around 700m as we drifted over Goreme far below, then slowly descended as we past back over the heads of the crowds lining the ridge. On the ridge was a wedding group including a bride and groom, keen to have their photographs in this magical place with a backdrop of a hundred or so colourful balloons. An hour or so later we drifed down towards a field and came to a gentle landing, the pilot telling us to prepare but that we didn't need to adopt the posture (that's more for when it goes wrong!), and without even a bump we were back to terra firma. The landing crew then helped as the pilot lifted the basket just high enough so it could be moved onto the trailer and we were down again. Once it was secured, we climbed out of the basket and watched as they deflated the balloon fully and started packing it away, whilst out pilot poured us each a glass of bubbly with some red fruit juice and we had a toast in Turkish (serefe) and were handed our certificates. Then it was back in the minibus and back to our hotels. A truly memorable experience, and worth every penny!

Here are some of the pictures I took - as always, click on the image to see it full size.

8th and 9th June 2019: to the Black Sea coast

After the excitement of the balloon ride, we were returned to our hotel around 7am and I promptly went back to bed for an hour to catch up on the missed sleep. Having woken still tired, I had breakfast then returned to the room to tackle some housekeeping, including sorting out the route for tomorrow's long ride to the Black Sea coast, a distance of some 600Km (370+ miles). That done I sat and read for a while, reasoning that as I'd decided not to ride back into Goreme due to the sheer volume of people there, that I'd have a wander into Urgup instead, and grab a late lunch there to avoid having to eat in the hotel restaurant again. The town is built into a valley, with the old town at the bottom of the steep hill leading from the hotel, and on the opposite hillside there are some old cave dwellings that obviously aren't suitable for turning into an hotel (or they would have been!). First I set off and took some narrow alleyways that led down our hillside, and then back up the opposite hillside so I could take a closer look. The caves were not very impressive, especially when compared with those I've already seen, so I didn't bother taking any photos and continued back and down the hill into town. By now it was very hot indeed, so after buying a fridge magnet and admiring the massive machines that were outside several shops roasting various nuts (the locals seemed to like them) and enjoying the roast nut smell they gave off (what else would you expect?), I went in search of somewhere to get a bite to eat. There was a restaurant with a nice terrace upstairs overlooking the main square, so I chose that and went upstairs. I ordered a beer and some water, then ordered some Turkish meatballs, intregued to try them as they've been on just about every menu from Istanbul onwards. When they came, they did so in a large wooden bowl-like serving plate with a small section with some rice in, the meatballs actually being small flat discs the size of a 10p piece, about 8 of them, sat on top of a portion of chips, with a couple of roasted peppers for garnish. And served with the usual french-style bread. It was actually very good, although I seem to be eating a lot of carbs and very little protein or veg, which is not really the diet I need!

After eating and people watching for a good hour or so, I decided to return to the hotel and relax for the rest of the day. The walk back up the steep hill in the heat was most unpleasant, I felt decidedly out of breath and was worried about my lack of fitness - one of the downsides of having suffered a second heart attack is that not only am I now even more unfit than before (seemingly getting out of breath a little earlier than I should), every time I do get a little short of breath it worries me. I try to convince myself it's normal - I'm a little overweight and unfit, so I should expect to get out of breath when exerting myself, but that doesn't stop me actively checking for any other symptoms (there were none). Back at the hotel I regained my breath quickly, drank some more water, and had a shower to cool back down. I then sat and read my book for the rest of the afternoon and evening, deciding that even if I was hungry, I didn't fancy either the walk down to town and back or the hotel restaurant.

With a long riding day ahead - both the GPS and Google predicting aroudn 8 hours - I got up early and was straight in for breakfast at 7am when it opened. It was a good job I was, too, as by 7:05am the place was heaving with Asian tourists queueing up and stacking their plates high with everything they could grab from the buffet. By the time I'd finished my bowl of cereal it was as though a plague of locusts had descended on the buffet, and the kitchen staff were constantly bringing out replacement plates of food. I grabbed a couple of boiled eggs whilst there were still some left, and a couple of slices of french-style bread, and made do with that, not wanting to join the queue which seemed to be constantly growing as people who were there first rejoined again at the back. Once breakfasted I checked out and went to the bike, only to have one middle-aged Asian gentleman stand almost in front of me giving me the thumbs-up and watching me leave. I had to ride round him to turn round in order to leave down the steep cobbled street I'd ridden up - he didn't move at all, just kept staring at me!

I rode out of town and to a waypoint that I had for a view over the Cappadocia rock formations, so I stopped there and took some final pictures of this incredible place before leaving. It's a pity they weren't the more impressive ones in and around Goreme, but there was no way I wanted to ride back into that chaos with a long riding day ahead!

When I'd plotted the route yesterday, I'd deliberately chosen to avoid the main toll roads and also the slightly more direct route via the ring-road around the capital, Ankara. My route took me over towards Kirikkale then on the 765 to Cankiri before heading west on scenic roads and north to pick up the 100 west and then north on the 765 again via Karabuk and Safranbolo to near the coast at Bartin and on to Amasra. The route was varied and interesting with some narrow single-lane roads, some dual-carriageways and some roads that were akin to British B-roads. The scenery changed with the roads, from wide-open flat farmland with patchwork quilts of different crop fields as far as the eye can see, to forest roads and roads past a big coal-processing factory. It kept me interested and in the breeze and mild temperature (23degrees) it was a very pleasant ride. My first stop, after a full 3.5 hours in the saddle, was for a second tank of petrol (I filled up at the start of the day), some 320Km in at Cankiri. I found a likely-looking petrol station and stopped, removing my helmet so I could by something to drink and an ice-cream. The two young guys in attendance started chatting to me about where I'd come from and where I was going (in broken English and with hand-signals), then they asked if they could take a photo of the younger guy sat on my bike. Of course I agreed, and snapped one of them both too.

I only stopped a couple of other times for the rest of the day. Once was just outside a small town in the countryside, so I could get off the bike and stretch my legs and admire the peace and quiet. Stood by the roadside (there was very little traffic all day) listening to the birds singing and the wind blowing through the tall grass was very relaxing; right up until the Imam started wailing the call to prayer from the incredibly loud loud-speakers on the mosque's minaret over half-a-mile away. I know I shouldn't question other people's cultural or religious practices, but destroying the peace and quiet in such a way is really quite bad!

I was also stopped by the police twice. This is not as bad as it sounds, as the Turkish traffic police are (a) everywhere and (b) they stop just about everyone. But by now I've got it sussed. What I do is signal and pull over, slowing right down and lifting the chin-bar on my helmet to expose my big smile, then as I come to a stop I say loudly Good Morning (or Afternoon), how are you today? in my best northern English accent, then I kill the engine but leave the ignition on and put the sidestand down as though I'm about to get off. This has the effect of making them realise that (a) I don't speak Turkish and (b) dealing with me is going to take a long time and probably isn't worth it as I've done nothing wrong (they just want to check documents). So they smile back, look confused, wave me on and wish me a Nice day. It's worked the last 3 times now, so hopefully it'll keep working until I get out of Turkey in a few days.

My final stop was not far from Amasra, when I really needed to eat something as I was starting to lose concentration. I stopped at a petrol station and bought a can of cold coffee, some more cold water, and a protein bar (chocolate and nuts!). That seemed to do the trick and the final few miles were no problem. Yesterday I'd done some checking on the location of the hotel and discovered it was deep inside the market in the old part of town close to the port (again), with a public car park nearby. Only when I arrived, the GPS took me directly to the hotel up the narrow streets that ran right through the market (there was a slightly wider street that approached from the other side). As my bike has a camera fitted, I've posted the video on Youtube (see below), which gives you some idea of what it was like. The channel running down the lane is a drainage channel, and I had to avoid riding in that as that would not have been good. At the end of the video, I pull up outside the hotel - the Jural Pansiyon - then I had to turn round as the car park is off to my right. I love the expression on the faces of the people as they watch me on my bike bike riding through their market!

With the bike safely parked in the car park, I found the hotel owner and he showed me to my room - as always it was on the top (3rd) floor. The hotel only has 3 rooms, but the room is clean and spacious, has a small balcony overlooking the market below and an en-suite shower room. Once he'd gone I took a quick shower before going and collecting my bag from the bike. Then it was the usual routine of updating the blog, looking for a restaurant and ATM nearby on Google Maps then heading out with my camera for a wander round. Amasra is a port town with an old castle, although it's not a castle in the same way others I've visited are; it's more a fortified town. Built in the Byzantine period, and repaired in the Genoese and Ottoman eras, it consists of two main parts, Sormagir Castle on Boztepe Island and Dungeon Castle on the mainland, connected by a bridge. The old gate is called “Dark Gate” and is adjacent to the bridge. The east wall is 65m long, the south wall is almost 300m, and there are no walls at the north and northwest since the rocks are naturally steep and make it impossible to access the castle from that side. In effect, the majority of the town is inside the walls, which are the only remaining parts of the castle I saw. Having walked around taking photos, I found an ATM to replenish my supply of Turkish Lira and then opted for one of the restaurants on the west-facing part of the town, right on the sea front. I ordered a fried calamari starter - which was delicious, lovely and tender and very fresh - followed by the haddock with some fries and a salad, with a bottle of Bomonti, a Turkish beer I've not had before to wash it down with. The waiter, explaining the menu before I'd chosen called the Haddock small fish which I should have taken more notice of. When they came, they were like large whitebait, whole, battered and deep fried. And not to my liking at all - I could feel the bones crunching when I tried one - and I only managed to eat two from a plate of around 30. So my meal was once again perhaps not the most healthy, just chips and salad for main course. I apologised for not eating the fish when I asked for the bill - it wasn't their fault but I've never seen haddock so small!

After settling the bill I went for another walk around town, sitting on the front and watching the sunset, then via a small shop to buy some water and snacks for the road tomorrow, before returning to the hotel and settling in for the night. Tomorrow I head back to Istanbul and the Sarnic hotel where I hope my camping gear is waiting for me; two nights there and then it's no more hotels for a while as I return to camping and travelling with less of a fixed agenda.

10th and 11th June 2019: Istanbul (again)

I was up early and with no breakfast available in the hotel, packed and on the road (or rather, path) out of the market before 8:30am. I stopped on the outskirts of town for some breakfast and to fill up with fuel, and then was on the road again, taking a rather convoluted route that kept me off the main roads and on the coast road wherever possible. This meant some interesting single-track roads as well as some faster dual-carriageways, the riding enjoyable and varied and the temperature pleasant. I didn't stop often, just once by the coast for a breather and to take a couple of photos - mainly to show how the lack of care about the environment is ruining the view, with plastic and other rubbish everywhere. It didn't seem to bother anyone else, though, as there was a couple happily sitting on the beach in the weak sunshine, under their umbrella and surrounded by garbage.

The only other time I stopped was when I was once again pulled over by the ever eager Traffic Police, for another document check. My cheery English routine didn't stop them asking for my passport, but a quick glance at it and I was back on my way again (the other people pulled over were having their licences checked, and the queue was getting longer by the minute). It's not just the real Traffic Police over here, though, as they also have a large number of cardboard cut-out police cars strategically positioned at the roadside so they are visible from a distance - they are very effective at causing the traffic to slow down (except those obviously familiar with the fact their false ones). The interesting thing is they are all different - the policeman sat in the car is different every time! Perhaps this is something we should adopt in the UK?

With a lagely uneventful (but long) ride almost over I arrived back in the traffic on the outskirts of Istanbul, the wide 3-lane dual carriageway rammed full in places, with traffic at a standstill, then at other times it would move freely. I found my way back to the ferry port at Harem and the guy in the booth spoke excellent English, making getting my ticket and finding my way to the right queue easy. No sooner had I reached the front of the queue than it started to move and we boarded the boat. There were a couple of other bikes there and I got chatting to one of the riders - a local who spoke excellent English - and we discussed my bike and how it differs from the 1200GS, his ride (Yamaha cruiser), the cost of bikes in Turkey with the heavy import duty (a GS like mine is over 35,000euros!). Our conversation continued all the way across the Bosphorus and so I didn't get many pictures this time, as before I realised it the ferry was docking and we had to get ready to disembark. We said our goodbyes and I rode off the ferry and straight round the coast road directly to the hotel, familiar with the roads and the way from 2 weeks ago.

Once I'd checked back in and made sure my bag and tent were still here (they are), I went to the same room as I stayed in 2 weeks ago and started the process of working out where I'm heading next. When I planned this trip I did a quick outline of the whole route, and a more detailed one for the route to Istanbul; then when I knew Tracy was coming out I also planned the whole of the Turkish section back to Istanbul. Sadly, she was unwell and couldn't make it, but the route was planned so I didn't have to think about it too much. The next leg, which will take me through Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland hasn't been looked at beyond picking out a few key sights and an outline route. I didn't get too far before my rumbling stomach reminded me I'd skipped lunch again, so I headed out back to the restaurant I'd used the first night I was here. I had a lamb casserole and it was, by far, the best dinner I've had in Turkey. I also had a couple of beers, too, to celebrate the end of the second leg of the trip. Then back to the hotel to read a little before falling asleep.

Tuesday 11th June - a planning day

Today there's very little to report, as I've spent almost the whole day in my room with the maps spread out and my laptop open with Basecamp and Google maps in full research mode. I've had to change the route through Romania as they've had some heavy snow which means the road I really wanted to ride - the infamous Transfagarasan (or the road Top Gear claim is the best road in Europe) - is closed due to massive snowfall and is unlikely to be open until late July! I've managed to get the route, and places to stay (mostly campsites but the occasional hotel where it makes sense), sorted out all the way to Krakow at the end of the month. As always, plans have to be flexible, but I find it helps my mental state to know where I'm heading before I set off each day (I can then deal with any changes necessary should they arise). I did pop out a couple of times - once first thing to drop my dirty clothes off at the laundry around the corner (closer than the one I used last time), and another time to get some lunch. Then it was back to work until 7pm when the laundry was done, and now I've collected it and am about to head out for some food. I think I'm going to repeat last night's meal - it really was very good!

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