A Travellerspoint blog

Brown teeth and ocean views

DAY 61, KM 4016, Edremit, Turkey, ASIA

sunny 30 °C

Endless invitations for tea, brown teeth, ocean views, steep climbs, gorgeous ocean views from high up in the mountains, delicious mediteranian food with interesting new flavours, fantastic arabic music, relaxed socialable people. Turkey is a place that we are glad to slow down and explore!

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We didn't know really what to expect from Turkey when we first got here. Honestly, I thought that it was an underdeveloped country, maybe a bit dirty, maybe a bit unsafe. As we road through our first village our presumptions were confirmed as we saw endles rows of grumpy old men outside cafes, just sitting, not drinking, not eating, just sitting. Apparently they couldn't even afford something to sip on to pass the time.

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As we past through one little town, we decided to stop and have some tea. As we slowed down, we were suddenly approached by a huge group of men, who were just coming out of the mosque. The Iman came rushing to us, along with all of his curious followers, demanding to know about us and our trip and of course if we were hungry, thirsty, tired, in need of anything. We had just eaten, so we tried to convince them that we were completely self-reliant and independant, no help needed. Well, the Iman was eager to show us his mosque, so we headed in, took off our shoes, and treaded in with our stinky feet over the beatiful rugs, to see our first mosque. It was beautiful inside! Ornate paintings, soft rugs, and lots of light coming in the windows.

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As we were leaving, they ask us to follow to a small building on the side of the mosque, and before we knew it, one of the farmers had brought in a feast! A huge tray of fresh salads, filled peppers, cheese, turkish coffee, and yogurt. They all sat there eagerly watching to see if we liked what we were eating. The same people that we saw sitting sadly in the cafes, with not a penny to spend on something to drink were feeding us like kings!

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That is when we found out that it was the month of Ramadan. The month where Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. How silly of us! And how open minded of them to want to treat a bunch of infedels to a juicey turkish feast, when they were probably starving. After finishing our feast, another one of the farmers disappears and came back with some Turkish baklava to end our meal. When all was said and done, they packed up the extras and sent us on our way with many handshakes and smiles. Since our first day, I have to say that we have been really impressed with the great openess, enthusiasm, and acceptance of us as foreigners that we've seen in the Turkish people.

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We are now really excited because Ramadan has just ended and we don't have to hide so much when we eat during the day (just out of respect for the really hungry people). Now, we spend a lot of time drinking tea with old guys, and our teeth are also getting that nice golden brown tinge. We are so enthusiastic about it, that we even bought our very own turkish tea making set. Amy learned to count to 100 (Wim is also trying hard, and has mastered 1, 2 and 5). As you can see, we are quickly becoming Turkish.

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Apart from the great people, Turkey is a beautiful country. We've been riding so far in zigzags along the coast, in between the vineyards (Turkey has great wine) and olive trees. The steep climbs and dry mountains to one side and ocean on our other side, make for dramatic gorgeous scenery

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and great wild camping opportunities! There's nothing like waking up in the morning and having breakfast on a lonely beach as the sun comes up, or having a romantic dinner on a deserted pier.

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Over the past few days we've taken some serious time off to relax and enjoy this place. A break from biking for a few days feels great, and we have been enjoying the more well known touristy side of Turkey, with a big resort, yummy buffets, and belly dancers. However, the road is calling and we will soon be happily off again to explore a bit of the mountainous interior.

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By the way, thank you to all of you who have left comments. It always boosts our spirits to hear that you're following our progress!

Posted by amyandwim 03:11 Archived in Turkey Comments (5)

Modern Bulgaria

DAY 52, KM 3573, Svilengrad, Bulgaria

25 °C

So far, our little chicken legs (Amy stopped hoping Wim will ever get Armstrong-legs) have carried us this far :

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We're now in Bulgaria and it's a lot more modern than we expected! It is like Belgium, except that everything is a whole lot cheaper and the roads aren't busy at all.

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The highway for us alone!

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We just past over our first mountian range, and we're really proud of ourselves, and also quite tired. It has been beautiful along the route with the varied landscape of mountains, valleys, and now a drier hilly landscape as we approach Turkey.

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People are still as friendly as they were in Romania, only now we don't have a farmer milking his cow for us, but instead the hotel manager who drove us to town and treated us to dinner.

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Our plan now is to spend October in Turkey, working our way down to Izmir. One month is way too much time for this distance, so we are going to slow down, try to stay on a farm somewhere, find some nice little sea-side towns to relax in, and just enjoy being in Turkey. Then we are planning to take a boat to Egypt and spend the month of November biking down the Nile in between camels and pyramids. After that we plan to take a boat to India. But, as you've probably gathered by now, our plans change daily.

Posted by amyandwim 11:44 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (3)

God bless Romania

DAY 45, KM 3079, Zemnice, Romania

sunny 30 °C

Romanians are so wonderful simply because they don't know how wonderful they are. They are generous, kind, modest and they seem to always be wearing a smile.

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Our first day in Romania, we we came in late and were a bit worried about camping, so we stayed in a hotel. We had heard rumours from many Serbians that Romanians eat their children and that we had better just fly over the country on our way to Turkey. How wrong they are. Then again, I might say the same thing about Texans.

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In the beginning of our tour through the country, we had dramatic rolling hills next to the Danube river valley, cozy mountian villages, and one really neat falling apart castle.

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As we went through the valley, you could hear the monks chanting. It was a beautiful to just stand there and listen. It really touched Wim's inner monk.

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For the rest of the time we have been traveling through tiny little farming towns. Each city is just a row of houses along one long street, busy with farmers riding around in their horse pulled carts. You actually see more of these carts than cars. It makes this a superb place for bike touring!

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Each night we find a good place to camp out in the fields, after asking a farmer for permission. Here, farmers are not inside playing video games like they are back home. They are actually out working, sitting on a bench, having a picnic. Therefore, it is really easy to find people, and the atmosphere within the cities is quite cozy.

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I have to admit that we have been very humbled by the sincere generousity of these people. Often, as Wim is setting up our tent, and I am standing there thinking about stealing chocolate from Wim, a farmer will come over and offer us his watermelons (one guy gave us six melons, quite a load for our bikes!) coffee, grapes, warm milk, fresh cheese, and everything else you can imagine.

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This little old farmer in the background, even came back to us after dark with his lantern and horse to give us fresh cheese and bread and some warm milk! All this just because we are camping on his land. It is really amazing, and we often feel almost embarrased because we feel that we really don't deserve these things. I often reflect on these moments and plan to be less greedy with my chocolate in the future.

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In little villages we can't find tap water! We're glad that our water filter has finally come in handy.

After setting up our tent at night, we cook dinner, while looking out over the fields. There are horses running untethered through the fields, owls hunting, foxes that sneakily zip by, and the occasional shepherd. It's just fantastic!

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We leave Romania now with a heavy heart. (If Wim doesn't watch out, I will run off with one of those cute little old Romanian farmers) But we are excited to head off towards Bulgaria and see what it has to offer.

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Posted by amyandwim 07:32 Archived in Romania Comments (5)

Serbia

DAY 35, KM 2414, Belgrade, Serbia

sunny 28 °C

Serbia has been really interesting. People here are very nationalistic and also very bitter that America has been so involved in their politics (all the bridges over the Danube are brand new, after the NATO bombed the old ones to pieces). When talking to people, the subject always seems to come up without us mentioning it. Therefore, we usually pretend that we are Belgian tourists...well, Wim is not really actually pretending.

Many people have said that they are surprised and happy to see tourists coming through the area, because it has been so long since anyone visited the country. Everyone seems to feel that the world has a very bad image of their country, and therefore they can't wait to explain to us what a great nation they are. The low-budget Serbian MTV only shows little fat men in funny traditional clothes playing the accordion and singing about how Kosovo is a part of Serbia.

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We are now in Belgrade taking a much needed rest. It is not really cheap here because the exchange rate of the Dinar is controlled. So hotels are expensive, but food is incredibly cheap. Six Euros for an excellent 40cm pizza and 35 Euros for a small dirty hotel.

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A sign in our hotel letting us know the different frequencies of sirens in different types of disasters. We can then easily distinguish between a nuclear bomb, our building crumbling to the ground, and an air strike. Very good!

Serbians are even more generous and persistent in offering us drinks and fruit than Croatians.

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Every other stop we make, we have to load our panniers with generous gifts. Therefore, we are also not buying any more fruit. We have so many grapes, peaches, and walnuts, plus one liter of vodka, that we can hardly get up any hills. When we finally try to get leave and be on our way again, the people we visit always make sure to give us their address, so that when we can write them a nice postcard.

People also like to honk and wave at us. However, it can get old really fast when large trucks and cars are honking at you from all sides of the road.

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Tomorrow we will be off again, this time taking a random road to the north of the Danube, in hopes of avoiding the heavy traffic and crazy honking. There are hardly any towns on that side of the river, and with no hopes of crossing (maybe we could pay a fisherman?), it means that we are going to have to stock up on food, and get ready to start filtering Danube water. After a day or two, depending on the road conditions, we will be heading into Romania for another 1000 or so km. From what we have read, Romania is very poor, with mostly farming and hardly any hotels, shops, or restaurants. If you want some food, you have to ask a farmer. If we want a place to set up our tent, we will have to ask a farmer. It will be really cool though, just like Europe hundred of years ago!

Posted by amyandwim 03:47 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

Things are getting more interesting

DAY 31, KM 2183, Vukovar, Croatia

sunny 28 °C

When I think of Croatia, I always think of beautiful beaches, touristy resorts, and Victorian era houses. This is not the Croatia that we went through. Since the war, they have had to replace almost everything. In the bigger cities near the border with Serbia, you can see a lot of the destruction yet.

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Houses and buildings are crumbling and full of bullet holes. You see this on TV, and somehow it just doesn't touch you like it does when it's staring you in the face. The houses are either brand new, under construction, or full of bullet holes.

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We carefully stay on the road, as huge areas have these weird signs against wild camping.

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The landscape is becoming hilling, and it is really fun to discover a cute sleepy town when you arrive at the top of a hill. Everyone has a damn rooster though, so it's hard to sleep. You would think in the past thousands of years that people have been breeding these obnoxious animals, that they would have developed a breed of quiet roosters.

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Each day, we buy lunch supplies and find a nice grassy spot to eat lunch. In Germany, this was often a problem, because the grassy spot often ended up being owned by someone, who would pass by and tell us to leave, and that it was not meant as a "picnic area". Fair enough, I wouldn't want any bums snacking away on my lawn either. But In Croatia, it is different. Many people have a bench out in front of their house, and we have been using these for our lunch breaks. Each time we do though, some old guy comes out, offers us coffee, vodka, and then starts picking fruit from his garden to fill our panniers with.

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This always takes a long time, but often proves to be interesting, even though we can only communicate in grunts and gestures. People brew their own schnapps, and are very persistent in sharing it with us. This guy gave us a one liter Coca Cola bottle filled with schnapps for on the road. According to him, it would make us strong for pedaling up the hills.

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Posted by amyandwim 03:25 Archived in Croatia Comments (1)

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