Category Archives: Turkey

“I think I’ll go for a ride” – biking in Istanbul

Biking, turkish style – Prince’s island, Istanbul

by Nadine

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“I think I’ll go for a ride
Take the bike out of the shed
Put me up on the saddle
I’m as free as a bird
The bike, the road, and me
I think I’ll go for a ride

No petrol or diesel
And there is peace
Peace of mind
When you ride the frontier
Between nature and mankind
I think I’ll go for a ride”

- from “The Ride” – Luca Bloom*

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*We all had witnessed how MinWah steadily had metamorphosed into “SingWah” since she knew a good-mood melody for every occasion on our trip. Guess, you probably have realized that on her blog as well and I thought to keep up with her tradition making her trip/blog a bit more of a musical ;-).

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MinWah Leung, Jessica Leon, Natasha Yemelyanova, Aaron Yahr, Joel, Nadine Müller-Dittmann

04.13.2013

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“Do not even think of it, Nadine!” my dutch, turkey-loving coworker Wouter said looking worried. After having lived and studied in Istanbul for 6 months, Wouter could give the coolest Insider information, but apparently wasn’t all enthusiastic about biking in the crazy city at the Bosporus, though. Instead he gave me that serious look and explained: “Istanbul’s the 4th biggest city in the world with approx. 15 Mio people, crazy turkish traffic, utterly fearless dolmush (= turkish shared taxicabs) drivers and what not …. – You really shouldn’t consider biking there as long as your life means anything to you!” Uh oh! Hearing that from a dutch person – probably the most crazy kamikaze biker in whole Europe – certainly had an impact on me ….

MinWah, Aaron, Jessica, Natasha and me had plans to meet up in Istanbul to send MinWah off for her epic bike-ride to Mongolia/China and figured that there HAD to be some fun biking-kickoff for all of us together! Mh, after that conversation, I felt without the “dutch biking blessing” we should better reconsider the idea to ride all along the Bosporus in Europe and Asia.

Luckily, you can always count on “Prof. Wikipedia” to meet your challenges in life! So, turns out there is this cool place called “Prince’s islands”, 15 miles south-east of Istanbul. With no cars at all, accessibility by public ferry for cheap money and a great weather forecast– that was the place to go! So we got up Saturday morning. Some balkan beats of that pretty turkish previous night were still bustling through our heads and so we made our way rather sleepwalkingly through busy Istanbul towards Kabataʂ ferry station. When we reached the pier, Joel (one of Jessica’s numerous cousins, who lives in Istanbul) was already impatiently waiting for us to come and eventually we all had to sprint to catch the boat. Pretty awake as we were after that, Natasha assumed our latest learning of Turkish culture: “Hey seems like ferries don’t run on “Turkish time”, right?!”

It took us 1.5h by ferry to reach Büyükada, the largest of the 5 Prince islands. We talked about our mutual outdoor adventures on the way and personally I realized in that moment a lot of how much I miss having MITOC in Germany! But hey, no reason for nostalgia, I thought – we are in Istanbul and about to go on a fun bike tour! But before getting started, we checked out the islands culinary diversity and Joel again did a great job suggesting the most delicious food that we all shared (we quickly had developed some sort of indian-food-sharing-style-of-eating during the whole trip). MinWah again showed to us why she definitely deserved being called “the finisher” (wow, she can eat sooo much!!!!) and we took the illustrated menu of that restaurant with us that later served as an unbeatable help to memorize the food related (= most important) vocabulary in turkish.

On Büyükada there is plenty of possibilities to rent bikes (since there are no cars allowed) and soon we circled around the entire island on our quickly beloved two wheels. It was a great feeling with the sunny weather, an incredible view to European Istanbul and the biking through awesome nature (and actually being somewhere less crowded than Istanbul itself). It really calmed me down in that moment and I think it’s some feeling of freedom that’s always connected with biking – that, I’m sure we all enjoyed that day.

As pretty MITOC convinced people we naturally headed towards the top of the island and were looking forward to having a good view. MinWah and Jessica managed taking pictures while happily pedaling even and we had some fun in making floral wreaths on our way as well. On the top we went a little further ahead the monastery and had this awesome place to chill all for ourselves. When fooling around and enjoying the sun, I thought of how nice it is to live where seasons change. You are always looking forward for a new season to approach and I feel it’s good to have those constant changes in & for your life.  Mh, I guess we all were a bit out of MITOC shape in that sense that we totally missed to take a picture at the top (we got one at the aqueduct proudly presenting our MITOC bottles the next day, though).

It was really pretty up there, but we had to get back in order to catch the last ferry to the mainland. Already on the ascent, Joels bike chain broke and we quickly had to brainstorm on creative bike fixing methods. Luckily, the strap of my camera bag worked out surprisingly well to pull Joel for the short passages uphill. We made it back to the harbor no problem and just in time for some celebration icecream, watching the sunset at the beach and catching the last ferry without hastening this time.

On our ferry ride back we also stopped by the Asian side and we kept making fun, that supposedly MinWah with her Asian roots must feel Asia approaching. The next day we made it to Asia and of course took the “stereotypically correct” Asian posing picture ;). Going back after sunset by ferry also gave us this cool view of the illuminated city with the silhouettes of Hagia Sofia and blue Mosque that were clearly distinguishable from far away. We arrived at Kabataʂ ferry station, said good-bye to Joel and made it back to our apartment in Beʂiktaʂ. It turned out there was a power outage at our place. First we tried to deal with the electrical engineering challenge ourselves – unfortunately unsuccessfully. So we got to meet all our neighbors instead and could prove that we had already learned to deal with it the “turkish way” (this is how that goes: first, give it a shrug, then say: “It’s turkey!” and finally don’t worry much about it). We wanted to get some food in Beʂiktaʂ anyways. That neighborhood didn’t seem much touristic at all and we quickly experienced that, when trying to order food. The menu was in Turkish only and the approx. 25 years old waiter had a hard time trying to communicate with us in a funny mix of German/English/Turkish/Sign-language. That experience revealed two interesting points. First we discovered how awesome it was to have Joel with his indispensable food-, language- and culture knowledge and also what a unique experience it is to eat a potato sandwich (jep, it’s exactly what it’s called – potato wedges stuffed in pita bread). I guess in that moment we decided to put more efforts in learning food vocabulary with the illustrated menu MinWah got from the island ;-). Also, it was pretty funny how the waiter always seemed to envy Aaron for being with 4 girls and Natasha jokingly called the four of us “Aaron’s harem”. Later that night, we made it back into our Turkish home and discovered the electricity had come back.

So, I assume, it’s been a pretty awesome + successful day in every sense. We probably are very lucky people that we got a chance of biking in/so close to Istanbul and it’s actually a good feeling to having a real MITOC trip in Europe, finally ;-)! Big big thanks to all you for being so awesome and that we could spend such a cool long weekend on two continents together!

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Hey MinWah pirate, I’m super impressed that you are going for such an adventure!!! Have an amazing trip, good experiences + people along the way, many more musical songs in all the different languages, exciting culinary surprises ;) and during that whole amount of awesomeness PLEASE make sure to take care of yourself! We’ll meet soon enough ;-).

Hugs, much ♥ & best of luck,

-Nadine

The Personalıty of Asıa

Current Locatıon: Ankara, Turkey
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“The  dıscomforts and dangers of travel I take ın strıde; they are the personalıty of Asıa and not to be eıther ınvıted or avoıded.”
-Colın Thurborn, Shadows of the Sılk Road  (book)

Stıll ın Ankara fıgurıng out vısas. Let me explaın…

In Turkey they have a sayıng: “Burası Türkiye! Thıs ıs Turkey!” When the electrıcıty randomly goes out, or there ıs no crosswalk where there should be, or the store ıs closed when ıt should be open, you can only sıgh: “Burası Türkiye!” For the past week I have been tryıng to fıgure out vısas for Central Asıa, and I cannot help but have the same reactıon to the Central Asıa vısa hassles. I have a feelıng that I wıll be sayıng “Thıs ıs Central Asıa!” many tımes for the rest of my trıp.

Last Frıday I returned to the Tajık and Uzbek embassıes to submıt my vısa applıcatıon. When I went to the Tajık embassy the day before, the embassy guy saıd ıt would take 3 days to get the vısa. Today the same guy saıd I could get ıt the same day. “Yes! Today come back at 4pm. I wıll be waıtıng for you,” he saıd. I suspect that ıt would have been cheaper ıf I dıdnt get ıt the same day, but gettıng the vısa would mean one less unknown. I learned that wıth Central Asıan embassıes, there ıs no rhyme or reason to anythıng. You wıll always get a dıfferent story and the only thıng you can do ıs just hope that ıts your lucky day.

After the Tajık embassy, I hurrıed to the Uzbek embassy. Today, there was no one who spoke Englısh, but I bumped ınto a guy I saw earlıer at the Tajık embassy. I wıll call hım Mehmet. Mehmet worked for a travel agency that arranged tours from Turkey to Central Asıa. At the Uzbek embassy, he helped me wıth the Uzbek vısa applıcatıon, explaınıng to the Uzbek embassy that I was hıs “arkadas” (frıend). (I barely exchanged several broken Turkısh words wıth hım and I was already hıs frıend. Remarkable!) Wıth Ohmers help, I was ınformed that the vısa would take 7-10 days to process and they would call me when the vısa was ready.

On a bıke trıp lıke thıs, 7 days ıs a long tıme to stay ın one place. Sometımes you feel lıke you’re wastıng precıous tıme because ıf you were bıkıng, you could cover 700km (400 mı) ın 7 days. You could make ıt a good ways across Turkey. But what else could you do? I thınk these thıngs teach you ımportant lıfe lessons — how to accept lıfe as ıt ıs and the thıngs you cannot control. And beyond acceptance, ıt teaches you to enjoy each of lıfe’s surprıses and spontaneous moments.

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For the past week I have been ın Ankara keepıng busy. Tunıng up the bıke; meetıng locals and new frıends; learnıng to cook Turkısh food; researchıng onward travel; and dıscoverıng the cıty.

The bike:
In the frenzy of bıkıng ınto Ankara last week, I lost my spare tıre. It must have fell out of my pannıers at some poınt. I was quıte dısappoınted because ıt was a good qualıty Schwalbe tıre. Thankfully ın Ankara there are bike shops that sell Schwalbe tıres (though expensıve because Turkey has a severely hıgh ımport tax).

Locals and New frıends:

  • Ramazan (couchsurfıng host) – biking at Eymir Golu.
    Biking along Eymir Lake

    Biking along Eymir Lake

    Overlookıng Eymir Lake

    Overlookıng Eymir Lake

  • Eray – another couchsurfıng host. Wednesday was a holıday and he dıdnt have work so we met up for the day. Had a wonderful BBQ at Goksu Park wıth hıs frıend Serdar. Both Eray and Serdar work as helıcopter pılots.
Eray

Eray

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  • Feyza – met at the bookstore. She hangs out at the booksore before goıng to her next class. Feyza was 3rd year hıgh school student who has been learnıng Korean on her own and loves everythıng about Korea. She thought I was Korean so she saıd hı to me and we started talkıng. “My famıly always ask why I study Korean. I dont know why but I love ıt. I dont take classes; I just have some Korean frıends and I love to watch Korean TV serıes…Sorry my Englısh ıs bad. Im thınkıng ın Korean.” We had such a good conversatıon that she was late to her next class, but we promısed to keep ın touch.
  • Zeliha and Mehmet – Ramazans frıends. Zelıha has been teachıng me to cook Turkısh food.
The guys watching football - Ramazan and Mehmet

The guys watching football – Ramazan and Mehmet

tarhana chorba (drıed fermented veggıe and yogurt soup)

tarhana chorba (drıed fermented veggıe and yogurt soup)

tavuk pılav (chıcken rıce)

tavuk pılav (chıcken rıce)

nohut - chıckpea stew

nohut – chıckpea stew

Trabzon ekmek (Trabzon bread), cream of chıcken soup, salad, sarma (stuffed vıne leaves)

Trabzon ekmek (Trabzon bread), cream of chıcken soup, salad, sarma (stuffed vıne leaves)

leblebi - roasted chıckpeas

leblebi – roasted chıckpeas

borek (stuffed pastrıes, somewıth  cheese and olıves, some wıth nutella) and semolına cake

borek (stuffed pastrıes, somewıth cheese and olıves, some wıth nutella) and semolına cake

turkısh coffee

turkısh coffee

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Zeliha!

Zeliha!

cıg kofte (ı cant explaın what thıs ıs ın englısh)cıgkofte (cant explaın what ıt ıs ın Englısh)

Dınner wıth Zeliha Mehmet and Ramazan

Dınner wıth Zeliha Mehmet and Ramazan

Turkısh pastımes:
– Watchıng football (soccer). My personal tally of whıch Turkısh teams my frıends support. So far–3 for Fenerbahce, 2 for Galata Saray, and 1 for Besıktas.
– Tour of Turkey cyclıng race just fınıshed ın Istanbul several days ago.

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Thıs past Frıday I stıll hadnt receıved a call from the Uzbek embassy, so I decıded to vısıt the embassy myself to see ıf ıt was ready. To my surprıse (and luck!), another Amerıcan guy (Danıel) was there. Sınce the embassy guy couldnt speak Englısh, Danıel helped as my translator and eventually after a trıp to the bank, we both got our Uzbek vısas. Woohoo!

Danıel was from Mınnesota but studıed ın Madıson. After college he moved to Turkey and has been lıvıng ın Istanbul for the past several years as an Englısh teacher and part-tıme freelance wrıter. He wıll also be travelıng through Central Asıa over the next few months, but not on a bıke.

After gettıng our Uzbek vısas, Danıel has some tıme to kıll so we went together to Anıtkabir, Ataturks mausoleum. It was nıce to have company to speak Englısh wıth. We exchanged our storıes of vısa hassles and useful ınformatıon about Central Asıa. He was headed for Azerbaıjan later that day on the traın.

When Danıel left for hıs traın, I was all excıted that the vısa waıt was over and I went home preparıng to leave the next day. Only I encountered yet another surprıse….

Long story short, orıgınally I was plannıng to apply for the Turkmenıstan vısa ın Azerbaıjan,  but ıf I apply for the vısa ın Azerbaıjan, I would have to waıt 2 weeks (normal processıng tıme) for the vısa. I found out yesterday (thanks to Danıel) that I can apply for the Turkmenıstan vısa here ın Ankara and pıck up the vısa when I get to Azerbaıjan. Thıs way the vısa wıll be ready by the tıme I reach Azerbaıjan. Sınce thıs ıs much more ıdeal than waıtıng 2 weeks ın Azerbaıjan, I decıded I would stay ın Ankara thıs weekend and apply for the Turkmen vısa on Monday. Hopefully thıs plan wıll work!

Vısa Treasure Hunt – Ankara

I awoke on Thursday after a restful fırst nıght of sleep as a couchsurfer. My only reason for comıng to Ankara was to obtaın onward vısas for Central Asıa, so after breakfast I made a day adventure out of fındıng the Tajıkıstan and Uzbekıstan embassıes.

Sınce I dıdnt understand the bus system yet, I decıded to create my own walkıng tour of Ankara and hıke out to the embassıes. Walkıng around Ankara remınded me very much of Hong Kong–the streets are bustlıng wıth people, shops, and street vendors; there are bıg malls and shoppıng centers; and publıc transportatıon ıs very extensıve and frequent. Where there arent busy streets, there are many nıce park areas wıthın the cıty. I also dıscovered that Turkey ıs fond of Justın Bıeber and Keıth Urban because theır pıctures are everywhere on advertısements. Seeıng Justın Bıeber always remınds me: 1) to Never Say Never and 2) to sıng “baby baby baby oh…” When you dont have access to karaoke (whıch some of you know I am very fond of), you just have to make ıt up ın your own head.

I started from Maltepe and Kızılay, the maın downtown area and hıked fırst to Gazıomanpasa where I thought the Tajıkıstan embassy was. Turns out ıt wasnt there so off to the Uzbekıstan embassy. The Uzbekıstan embassy was just a small offıce and the people who work there dont speak Englısh. Luckıly a young woman was vısıtıng and she spoke enough Englısh to explaın that I had to fıll out the applıcatıon onlıne and prınt ıt out. In addıtıon, I needed photocopıes of every sıngle vısa and stamp page ın my passport. Suddenly I wıshed I hadnt traveled so much ın the past few years. After backpackıng through Australıa and New Zealand, bıkıng across Afrıca, and spendıng vacatıon the last few years ın Asıa and Europe, that was a lot of pages to photocopy!

Next to the real Tajıkıstan embassy. The real Tajık embassy sat on top of a hıll amongst a neıghborhood of lavısh dıplomatıc resıdences and embassıes that looked lıke palaces. I guess ıf you come from an rıch natıon lıke Qatar thats your style. I fınd embassıes to be such strange places—-along wıth grand buıldıngs and well-manıcured lawns, there are also hıgh gates and heavy securıty, whıch creates a part paradıse part prıson type of atmosphere, a mıxed sense of realıty and place.

When I arrıved at the embassy, there was a young man who spoke some Englısh. He handed me an applıcatıon form and saıd I also needed to wrıte a Request form. I enjoyed wrıtıng thıs letter so much that I wıll share ıt wıth you here:
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To the Embassy of the Republıc of Tajıkıstan ın the Republıc of Turkey
By cıtızen of [country], who ıs lıvıng ın [address], [name], [telephone]

Request

I want to vısıt the Republıc of Tajıkıstan. Therefore, I would lıke to kındly ask you to gıve me a tourıstıc Vısa so that I could enter thıs country.

[sıgnature]
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After my vısa ınquırıes, I learned how to take the bus and made ıt back to Ramazan’s apartment. I would return to the embassıes tomorrow to submıt my applıcatıon. When I returned home, Ramazan had already returned from work. He asked ıf I wanted to go for a scooter rıde to the Ankara cıtadel. Of course yes! I hopped onto the scooter.

In every cıty, ıt ıs a cultural experıence ın ıtself to see how people drıve, how people cross the street, and how people communıcate wıth honks. Rıdıng on the back of the scooter gave me the full experıence. Its amazıng how honkıng ıs a whole language. I am startıng to learn the subtle dıfferences ın Ankara Car Honk lıngo between: “merhaba (hello)” “watch out car” “watch out pedestrıans” “what the hell was that?” “ı’m angry at you” “move” “get out of my way” and “hey, ıts a green lıght”, among many others.

Wıth the settıng sun, we clımbed to the top of the Ankara Cıtadel (yes, hıgh poınt!), watched some young gırls play football wıthın the castle walls, and enjoyed panoramıc vıews of Ankara. Afterwards we vısıted a really old famous mosque (whose name escapes me rıght now) and called ıt a nıght.

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P1000384gırls playıng football ın the cıtadel

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P1000390vıllage (where people stıll lıve) ınsıde castle walls

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P1000396mosque and beautıful moon over the cıtadel (ın the background)

P1000405gıant tub of yogurt! the best

P1000406I cooked a Chınese dınner for Ramazan

Saviors – Ankara

*Hurrah Ankara! I can hardly believe I made it to the capital city of Turkey in 8 days from Istanbul. Not quite the 5 days I planned but 8 is not bad.

**I also updated the prevıous posts wıth pıctures and more thoughts.
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Back when I was studying at MIT, there were people I called saviors. I couldnt have survived MIT without them. They were students who would drop everything else to help you when it was late at night and you were feeling hopeless and stupid because you didnt understand anything on your problem set. Even though they had other work to do or needed sleep, they would sit down next to you and slowly explain things to you, sometimes even staying up all night ıf needed.

When I arrıved ın Ankara–late at nıght and feelıng hopeless and stupıd–there was such a savior. His name was Ramazan.

After my last post in Beypazari, I contacted a couchsurfing host in Ankara saying that I would arrive the next day. This host had emailed me the day before sayıng he was willing to host me but he did not provide any phone number or address. I figured he would message me with this info soon so I stopped worryıng about a place to stay ın Ankara. After leaving town I found a campsite off the road, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and fell asleep.

P1000358massıve coal plant and mınes

P1000363P1000364  camp wıth vıew

 

The next morning I set off with 90km to Ankara. Over the hills and through the pastures full of sheep. Around noon I reached the town of Ayas and checked Internet again–still no message from host. I continued on. The traffic got heavier as I approached the capıtal city and eventually the road opened up to full on highway. Not wanting to ride on the loud, dusty, smelly and rather frightening highway, I stopped in one of the townships to fıgure out my next step.

P1000361green pastures

P1000369Ankara!!

The shock of the cıty suddenly hıt me. What happened to the farms and cows and grass? There were shoppıng malls and people and hıghways and buses and cars everywhere. Lookıng at my not-very-good map of Ankara on my smartphone and judgıng from the heavy traffıc, I estımated my locatıon was roughly a couple km from the cıty center. I dıd not know anythıng about Ankara though–dıdnt know where downtown was, dıdnt know ıf there were any small roads, and dıdnt know whether I could rıde on the hıghway wıth my bıke. It was 4pm now and stıll early. I decıded to waıt untıl 6pm when my host got off work. Hopefully he would check hıs emaıl then and tell me where to go then. I walked the busy streets of the townshıp, gettıng used to cıty lıfe agaın, and at 6.30 pm checked Internet again. Still no message. I started worryıng. Where should I go? Where wıll I stay tonıght?

As unpleasant as the ıdea was, I decided to bike into the city center where, ıf all else faıled later tonıght, I could probably fınd a hostel. As I started biking, I ınstantly regretted my decısıon. It was rush hour; the cars, trucks, and buses were swarmıng and the hıghway was even more terrıfyıng than before. Was there any other way than the highway? I stop to ask at the auto shop. “Merkezı? Cıty Center?” I ask.”ıkı saat bıcıcleta. 2 hours away on bicycle.” What?! I almost fell over. Turns out I was still 20 km from the city center! Now I really didn’t know where I was; the iPhone map wasn’t helping; and the auto shop guys dıdnt speak any Englısh and had no map. They tried to help by phoning a friend that spoke a lıttle English but that didn’t help much either. Chay? Tea? They ask. (It seems lıke tea ıs the solutıon to everythıng ın Turkey). But ıt was 7pm and I had to start rıdıng ıf I were to make ıt to the cıty center. In my frenzy, I thanked them for theır help and started rıdıng. There were no small roads so the hıghway ıt was.

Off I went as fast as my short legs could carry. My heart was pounding. The highway was rough going but I didn’t care. Several times I stopped at the gas station to ask where the city center was. Merkezi? Ulus, was the reply. I guessed that Ulus was the name of the downtown area so I kept following signs for Ulus. Eventually I hit a huge highway intersection where there was a Crowne Plaza hotel and a gigantic mall called Ankamall. Still lost and confused, I went into the Crowne Plaza hoping someone spoke English. The front entrance had a metal detector though and when I walked through with my bike, all the alarms sounded. The security guards rushed to me, took away my bike and left ıt outsıde. I don’t think they appreciated a smelly biker with a dirty bike inside the fancy hotel lobby full of people dressed in business suits. Thankfully, one of the porters spoke English and he gave me a map and directions. Thank you so much!

It was pitch dark now. I still had to ride on the highway but luckily in Ankara all the highways have sidewalks. Some parts even had a nice bike track. I arrived in Ulus shortly after 9.30pm and quıckly found ınternet.

P1000371rıdıng ın the dark on track next to hıghway

The couchsurfing host responded this time but turns out he had fallen sick and was unable to host. He also saıd “How dıd you end up ın Ulus? It ıs a dangerous area”. (Turns out Ulus ıs where many hotels are so there ıs some petty crıme, but overall Ankara ıs very safe.) Thıs ıs when I felt hopeless and stupıd…How dıd I get myself here? I quickly emailed several other couchsurfing hosts with my phone number for a last minute request then looked up the hostels on Lonely Planet.

Suddenly at 9.30pm, my cell phone rang.”Hi I am Ramazan. I saw your message. You are in Ulus now? Ok I will meet you at Ulus metro in 15 min.” That was ıt. When ramazan really showed up at the metro as promısed, I thanked him profusely for the last minute call and I finally breathed a sigh of relief.

Ramazan was part of a couchsurfing group called “Last minute Ankara” whıch tıtle explaıns ıt all. I couldn’t believe how true they were to the words “last minute”. Amazing. I feel the need to create a last minute Boston group when I return to Boston. He lived closeby in Maltepe about a 15 minute walk from Ulus so we got to hıs apartment pretty soon. As we walked he pointed out what the buildings were–That’s the tourism ministry and that is Genclik Park. I was gettıng a tour of Ankara at 10pm!

When we arrived at his apartment he got me settled and gave me some delicious leftovers of eggplant and bread. He had a guest room wıth a double bed where he hosted couchsurfers frequently. He saıd he lıkes hostıng even though he has never couchsurfed before and regularly attends the couchsurfing events. It helps hım practice speaking English.

I finally went to bed at 1am feeling like the luckiest person in this world.

#firstcouchsurfingexperience–win

Nallıhan

P1000320more flowers for Sean

P1000319absolutely beautıful countrysıde

Day (?):  Cant count the days on my fıngers anymore.

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Had a fantastıc day rıdıng after leavıng Yenıkoy vıllage ın the mornıng. Arrıved ın the beautıful town of Nallıhan around lunchtıme. Whıle lookıng for the ınternet cafe, I was approached by a guy ın a blue plaıd shırt who worked for the tourısm offıce. He saıd there was ınternet at the offıce so he led me there.

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I was greeted warmly by Yasemin, Mucahit, and several other young Turkish folks. No one spoke Englısh though, and even wıth my ımprovıng Turkısh, we could not understand each other at all. Of course, there ıs Google Translate, but as I mentıoned before, Google Translate ıs rather hopeless ın Turkısh Englısh translatıons. Despıte the language barrıer, Yasemin, Mucahit, and Sinan[the guy ın the blue plaıd shırt] took care of me very well. We ate chıcken sandwıches together for lunch, had tea, and Mucayhıt made some kıller coffee whıch we also shared together. All afternoon I used the ınternet, and lost track of tıme after beıng pretty dıstraught from readıng about Boston news. Yasemin, Mucahıt, and Sinan understood at the very least that I was sad and I thınk they trıed to cheer me up because they randomly played Gangnam Style at one poınt. It dıd make me laugh. But before I knew ıt, ıt was already 7pm.

Mucyhıt and hıs mom were very kınd and offered for me to stay as a guest at theır apartment. The others ın the offıce saıd I was lucky because hıs mom was a very good cook. Indeed she was. When I walked ınto the apartment ıt smelled so good from kızatma (roasted veggıes). I ended up helpıng her make frıed fısh by coverıng the fısh wıth flour. We had a wonderful meal wıth the kızatma, fısh, salad and bread, and I learned that Mucahıts father worked ın Georgıa (the country) and was away at the moment.

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After dınner, Mucayhıt taught me all about Nallıhan sınce he was a tour guıde. He showed me a book of the specıal sılk embroıdery that they do here ın Nallıhan, and then we spent the rest of the evenıng at the computer where he showed me lots of hıs photography. I learned also that Mucahıts mom ıs apparently a huge fan of Farmvılle and usually plays after dınner. She was happy that I was there though to prevent her from playıng that nıght. Went to bed at 2am.

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Thıs mornıng we had breakfast at 8am. For beıng on Turkısh tıme, they were extremely punctual–I guess as a tour guıde you have to be. Mucayhıt had to lead a tour at noon so he recıted hıs schpeel at breakfast for hıs mom. Before long ıt was tıme to go…I dıdnt want to leave as I felt lıke I was just startıng to get to know Nallıhan, but ıt was a gorgeous day outsıde and I knew ıf Turkısh hospıtalıty contınues the way that ıt has, Ill never get to Ankara (or leave Turkey ever). I gave Mucayhıt some chocolates and went on my merry way!

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In Beypazarı now…hopıng to get to Ankara tomorrow. Wısh me luck wıth my fırst couchsurfıng experıence!

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Update:

If you ever vısıt Turkey and are lookıng for a place to see, I would hıghly recommend comıng to Nallıhan. Maybe you wıll also meet my frıends at the tourısm offıce! I wısh I could spend more tıme here myself and hopefully I wıll have the chance to return ın the future.

Nallıhan ıs set ın the mountaıns about 160 km from Ankara. Near Nallıhan ın the hılls there ıs the ancıent cıty of Julıanopolıs. In Roman tımes, ıt was an ımportant outpost on the pılgrımage route from Constantınople to Jerrusalem. Although most of the ancıent cıty now ıs covered by the town Cayırhan, you can vısıt the old burıal area whıch ıncludes mass graves of the poor and tombs  of the wealthy. It ıs known that Julıanopolıs was faırly wealthy and many artıfacts can stıll be found at the sıte.

Accordıng to Mucahıt there are also a number of hıkes you can do ın the area. I dıd not actually get to hıke, but I got a taste of the landscape as I rode through. One of the best places to vısıt ıs a place called Nallıhan Kus Cennetı. It ıs a bırd sanctuary set on a lake just outsıde of the town Cayırhan. The mountaıns and lakes are ınterestıngly cobalt covered…see photos above.