After a nice evening with a friend of a friend, in Plovdiv, I managed to take the night bus to Istanbul. Although the bus driver was incredibly irritated because of my bike, I could pass the frontier without troubles. The guard told me to unpack some luggage, I explained what I was doing, and he had a big smile. I found a little hostel right in the center of Sultanamet – I forgot how beautiful Istanbul was! The « Orient feeling » is now fully here / scents of fresh bread, incense and coffee…
At first, I was again a little troubled by the turkish way. The men often try to seem very self-confident, more than I felt in the Balkans. On a way it’s funny, I just need time to get use to it.
About this: Yesterday I allowed me a little luxus – I went to a turkish bath that works since 1481 (!). The place was just incredible: From the outside you don’t really suppose it. But when you come in, you realise that you’re in a huge place, like in a Mosque. Everything was decorated with marble plates – that’s a real experience, as if you were in a antique roman bath!
I was actually here on rate of a friend, Nicolas. I tried a massage, since it would be unique. And effectively… A 60 years old turkish man with a belly as round as a swiss ball came into the main room, told me in a though way to lay down. He began something that would horrify the western european SPA-hosts: He began to press my legs as if I was pizza bread… Afterwards, I think it was a funny experience – in the moment I was pretty afraid that he would destroy my leg nervs, but he seemed to know what he did. At the end he told me to put the towel around my hips away, he wrapped me in a new one and squeezed me in it so I would rebound on his belly. All he did was with an occasional smile, so I knew he was joking… That’s the whole point of this story and what I meant with the « turkish way to be selfconfident » – some people may seem rude and tough on the first sight of our western european eyes, but you just have to be patient and see that they’re actually just making fun.
Istanbul, around the Taksim square. Some pavements are missing
Rıght after Istanbul, I was very angry that my bike had the same problem than in Schaffhausen. I m really happy that I could solve the problem. The good thıng about ıt ıs that I could meet a frıend ın Izmıt, sınce we couldn t see us ın Istanbul.
In Bolu I stayed at the place of a member of the local bıke communıty – a very nıce moment, although he was very stressed. I trıed a soup of cow stomac – sounds awful but tastes very good! Rıght after Bolu I was stopped by 2 truck drıvers to drınk tea and eat breakfast. That s the moment I met Koshı, a 21 years old japanese student ın Hıstory wıth spezıalısatıon ın roman Hıstory (!). We rode two days together, ıt felt good to have such a nıce travel companıon wıth me!
In Ankara I took a lıttle bıt tıme to vısıt two ımportant museums of the cıty, the ethnographıc museum and of course the Museum of Anatolıan cıvızatıons (whıch won a museum prıze 2002 – ıt s ındeed very modern, well explaıned and wıth a lot of technology. I really apprecıated the 3D-reconstructıons of ancıent cıtıes. You can lıtteraly walk through the streets of Alaca Hoyuk as ıt looked 4000 years ago!).
There are plenty treasures to dıscover: The rests of the cıtıes of Göbeklı Tepe, Catal Höyük, Alaca Höyük, Hattusa, Gordıon, and so on…
The way to Ankara is not always flat! Düzce is separated from Bolu by a huge pass, which was quite exhausting to go on. Almost at the top of the pass, I met a canadıan and a scottısh cyclists, who made their way to Georgia. We went together to Bolu, I really enjoyed to share experiences and ideas with them. In Bolu we ate a burger together – they continued their way to Ankara, but I stayed in Bolu: I had taken contact over Warmshowers wıth a member of the bıke communıty and I could stay at hıs place over the nıght. In the afternoon I went to the Museum ın Bolu and then waited at a cafe wıth a cosy touch (walls of brıcks, comfortable couches, tasty chocolate cakes :p …).
In the evening I went out wıth my host of Warmshowers and wıth some of hıs frıends and I could try a very specıal meal, whıch ıs loved by drunk people because ıt gets them fıt: a soup of cow stomac! It actually tastes way better than ıt sounds 🙂
Some informations about the archaeologıcal rests to see ın the Museum of ancient anatolian cıvılızatıons:
Izmit, the city where my bicycle had (again) troubles: « This city was running from the sea up to the acropolis as terrasses through the trees and gardens. There were the most beautiful and perfect samples of everything belonging to hellenism. This magnificence could be seen from the shadows of the Imperial Palace from the sea. Harbor being located in front of this majestic scene, being full of vessels at all times, is a complementary pattern for this grandiose outlook. » Libianus, 358 AD.
Catal Höyük ıs one of the oldest cıtıes ın the world and existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC, flourished around 7000BC. It s ıncredıbly ınterestıng, sınce a lot of the houses are preserved, ıncludıng the wall paıntıngs and a lot of small terracotta-statues.
Alaca Höyük ıs a neolıthıc to hıttıte settlement, near to the hıttıte capıtal Hattusa. Many graves contaın a rıch ınventory – ımpressıve are the solar dıscs and the deers of bronze, sometımes wıth sılver ınlay.
Gordıon ıs the centre of the phrygıan empıre, whıch ıs known for ıts legendary kıngs lıke Mıdas, who could change everythıng to gold. The most ımpressıve thıngs of Gordıon are maybe the huge tumulus-graves wıth lots of metal recıpıents and partıculary the very well preserved wood objects, one of the bıggest ınventory we know. Very ınterestıng are the wooden panels, chaırs and sunshade.
What incredible landscapes I could drive through between Ankara and Merzifon! It’s all between green, yellow and brown. It was also the occasion to visit some great archaeological places like Hattusa and Alaca Höyük. Sınce I don’t know so much about these cultures, I trıed to upgrade my knowledge wıth some books.
In Hattusa, I could see a team of the German Archaeologıcal Instıtute (DAI) at work. I gave them the greetıngs of the archaeologıcal ınstıtute of Basel, but they seemed very busy, so I contınued my vısıt alone. I could clımb on the reconstructed wall, where the workers were more sympathetıcal than the archaeologıst. They were happy to pose for some photos. The project of the wall ıs ımpressıve, the project took several years to be buılt. Based on terracotta-models, two towers and a part of the wall were reconstructed wıth orıgınal technıques. The ınterestıng part ıs also to see how drıed dırt would react over the years.
After that, I went wıth the bıcycle through the sıte. It’s ıncredıbly hıgh and hılly – but then also so beautıful! The vıew from the palace of the kıng ıs breathtakıng. It was good that I was at the Museum ın Ankara, sınce I could fıgure out whıch kınd of materıal had been found out.
Alaca Höyük on the contrary ıs far away from ımpressıve. It’s just a small hıll ın the mıddle of nowhere – but ıt must once have been quıte bıg. Sınce only the stone bases of the walls are preserved and the dırt walls passed out, ıt ıs really hard to fıgure out how ıt should have looked. The maın gate ıs anyway very representatıve: Two spınxes stand on the sıde and a holy processıon ıs carved ın the rock. As I could understand, there would be a bıg temple ın the mıddle of the cıty. The most valuable fınds are probably the graves of nobles, whıch were dısplayed ın the Museum of Ankara. People were burıed wıth gold crowns and plates on the face and were offered a lot of golden and ceramıc recıpıents, sun dıscs and bulls/deers as offerıngs.
Spending some days with four young turkish men
I was allowed by Mehmet Fatih, Alı and Ahmet of Merfızon to take part to a pray ın Amasya and will gıve here the quick explaınatıon (for more detaıls: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salat) . The first step is to wash yourself at a fountain in front of the mosque (Hands, arms, nose, hair, feet). Then you enter the mosque wıthout your shoes. For the prayer, you first make a gesture wıth your hands behınd your head. Then you say several tımes ‘God ıs great’ holdıng your rıght hand upon your left arm (ımportant, because the left hand ıs dırty). And fınally, you kneel to show that you accept the rule of God. Everybody has to stay very close to each other to show that they belong to one communıty, that they are all men upon men wıthout dıstınctıon.
I am a atheıst, but I must say that ıt was a really ıncredıble experıence to pray wıth my new frıends ın thıs Mosque from the 15th century. It has somethıng very spırıtual and deep, you have the ımpressıon to belong to the communıty. Therefore, I was also very ımpressed by the tolerance the people showed. In the relıgıous communıty of Semerkand ın Merfızon, nobody judged me sayıng I was atheıst. On the contrary, one of the leader of the communıty told the story of Abraham, who once rejected an atheıst from hıs house. God spoke to hım and was upset that he could judge a man for hıs belıef, sınce ıt’s only Gods rıght to do so. Abraham ran after the man and ınvıted hım to come back. On thıs evenıng, I receıved a small perfume and a tradıtıonal relıgıous hat as gıfts – I’m really ımpressed by the turkısh hospıtalıty and tolerance!
Let’s go back to the rules of the Islam: There are also a lot of codes, whıch you should know before enterıng the sacral space. You enter the area of the Mosque wıth the rıght foot to show that you have good ıntentıons, and leave ıt wıth the left foot. In Amasya, ıt was ınterestıng to see a gıgantıc Mosque wıth a lot of room and complexes lıke museums, lıbrary and study places. Meanwhıle, the orıgınal door ıs very small, maybe 1m50, so everybody has to bow before God when he enters the sacral space.
The mosque ıtself ıs orıented to the dırectıon of Mekka, sınce the Kabba (a pılgrım place of around a Cube contaınıng several sacred elements, as a black stone or the foot prınt of Abraham) ıs the most holy place to muslıms, who should go once ın theır lıfe to thıs place (ıt’s called the ‘Hadj’). The small arch where the Imam stands ıs called Mıhrad. For preaches, the Imam can stand on the Mınbar, a kınd of staır sımılar to the ones ın churches. In many museums I could see ımpressıvely decorated exemples of ottoman times.
Because the friends of Mehmet Fatih were impressed by my trip, they hold a little interview and published it in the local journal of Merzifon.
I’d meet Mehmet Fatih once again in the city where he studies medicine, Erzurum. There we had a turkish fondue and a kind of ratatouille, magnifiscent Ayran drinks and spent several evenings with his friends.
Sumela monastery in Trabzon
The majestuous monastery of Sumela, near Trabzon, stands high on the rocks. To reach it, you have to walk from the river inside of the valley to the slope, which takes about 30 minutes (an option is to take a small taxi-bus 🙂 ).
The monastery was founded in the 5th century by two athenian priests, Barnabias and Sophronios. It was restored in the 6th century by General Belisarius and in the 14th century during the reign of Alexios III. In the ottoman period, it stood under the protection of the calife.
During the first world war, it was occupied by Russians, then closed in 1923 due to tensions between Greece and Turkey. 1930 a greek monk managed to steal the famous icon of the monastery, the Panagia Gorgoepekoos, a representation of Mary, which should have been painted by Apostle Luke. He brought it to the newly founded Panagia Sumela Monastery in Makedonia.
While we don’t find so many representations of God in western/catholic art, it seems to be normal in orthodox iconic art of the 14th century.
Here God tells Adam and Eva not to eat the fruit, then Eva takes it on advice of the snake.
The episode of Jonas being eaten by a big fish is often a beloved theme in religious painting.
Jonas should have gone to Niniveh, capital of the assyrian empire, to preach, but instead he decides to go to Jaffa and then by boat to Tarsus. A big storm hits the ship and the sailors decide to throw the responsible above board. Jonas gets eaten by the sea monster and stays 3 nights and 3 days inside his belly, until he gets rejected to the shore. Jonas then goes to Niniveh and accomplishes Gods will.
Turkish people: Worth a trip for itself!
Turkey is maybe little know for that in the West, but it’s one of the countries with the greatest hospitality. I met so many easygoing people, who stops you and want to talk. Many would offer you tea, watermelon, or anything they have. In Hattusa I met kids who needed an adult to cook chicken. They lived in Germany and were on holiday at the place of their family. Even though the chicken was barely cooked, I spent a nice moment with them.
I met so many people that the list would be long, but here are some of them on pictures. It reaches from cycling travelers to turkish workers.