Seasons of Love, Part 2

I have realized through my last posts that I am a very very slow writer, and these posts have taken much time to compose. I wish I could write in more detail but due to limited time at internet cafes I cannot. I am trying my best and I hope to share so many more wonderful stories with you in person!

Bayburt –> Rize –> Batumi, Georgia

At Bayburt, I got in touch with Volkan, an English teacher at Bayburt Science High School, who I made couchsurfing arrangements with. He picked me up from the city center and brought me to the high school. I was to stay in the girls dormitory and visit English classes the next day. Volkan had started the couchsurfing project at Bayburt High School in an attempt to get students more exposure to English speakers. He hopes that by introducing his English classes to travelers, the students will gain more confidence in actually speaking and using English to communicate and break the language barrier. Volkan was a really fantastic person to meet and so passionate about teaching.

I chatted with the teacher, had some dinner with the students, then chatted with my roommates before hitting the bunkbed they gave me. I was so happy to have a window into these girls lives.

Dinner at the girls dormitory at Bayburt Science High School

Dinner at the girls dormitory at Bayburt Science High School

Dinner with my roommates at the girls dorm

Dinner with my roommates at the girls dorm

The next day I decided to take a rest day in Bayburt, since my legs were extremely tired from Sebinkarahisar. I visited many English classes throughout the day, before heading to the city to run errands.

Visiting English classes at Bayburt Science High School

Visiting English classes at Bayburt Science High School

At the principals office...Im in trouble...

At the principals office…Im in trouble…

Volkan, the English teacher who hosted me at the high school

Volkan, the English teacher who hosted me at the high school

Students! Favorite question: Do you have boyfriend? Oh high school...

Students! Favorite question: Do you have boyfriend? Oh high school…

Lunch

Lunch

 

Bayburt Citadel - ancient city on Silk Road

Bayburt Citadel – ancient city on Silk Road

the local park had cool figurines of folklore characters...Aladdin in the background to the right

the local park had cool figurines of folklore characters…Aladdin in the background to the right

After coming back from the city, several girls ate dinner with me. I told them I liked to dance so after dinner we headed to the dorm where they taught me some traditional Turkish dance and sang me some traditional Turkish songs.

Girls teaching me Turkish folk dances in the dorm

Girls teaching me Turkish folk dances in the dorm

Bayburt Science High School

Bayburt Science High School

Next morning I bid farewell to Bayburt High School and headed towards Ispir. The road is fantastic with mountain views though with a price to pay with steep climbs. I made it 100 km and set up camp next to the river near the turnoff to Rize. I knew the next day was going to be a whole lot of climbing through the snowy mountains.

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intimate roads weaving through villages

intimate roads weaving through villages

Dear Uphill, Could you BE any more steep? Yes, but awesome view!

Dear Uphill, Could you BE any more steep? Yes, but awesome view!

Rain and sun = rainbow!!

Rain and sun = rainbow!!

many many bee farms on the road to Ispir

many many bee farms on the road to Ispir

Next morning I left camp and started the huge climb. Throughout the day it was on and off rain, and the rain was so heavy and so cold that it was generally hard to motivate myself to keep going up. There was also some rough road due to road construction. I stopped to take a rest at the top of a hill just to take in the amazing view. After about 10 minutes, as I was mustering up motivation to keep going again, a guy from the house next door came out and beckoned me over to the house. He and his family were from the city Rize, but had a second home here. As we got talking, his wife and kids came home and Erenalp, one of the kids was really excited to speak to me and practice English. So we talked and talked, and I was so glad to have company. Eventually it got dark and Tashkin (the father) cooked up a barbecue, so I stayed the night with them.

Get ready to climb over the mountains to Rize!

Get ready to climb over the mountains to Rize!

Delicious pumpkin spice ball covered with walnuts...and other chewy walnut stick

Delicious pumpkin spice ball covered with walnuts…and other chewy walnut stick

Construction on road to Rize

Construction on road to Rize

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Barbeque with the Cakiroglu family!

Barbeque with the Cakiroglu family!

more homemade cheese

more homemade cheese

amazing view from the house

amazing view from the house

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Beautiful house!

Beautiful house!

partsof it still under construction. if only I could stay here and help them build the house...

partsof it still under construction. if only I could stay here and help them build the house…

even a nice swimming pool with the awesome view

even a nice swimming pool with the awesome view

I got a late start from the Cayiroglus house since they prepared breakfast and Erenalp showed me around the house. Up and up and up, but since I was filled with so much delicious barbecue, the climbing didnt feel that bad today. At around noon, I reached the pass, and there was a lone car and a hefty guy with binoculars. He was a baker from Istanbul. I asked him why he came here. ‘OXYGEN!’ He says. Oxygen Oxygen! He kept saying. He said he was so happy to see me since hes been driving alone from Istanbul for so many hours. It was getting cloudy and the air was getting colder around us. Lets run! He says. Where? I ask. Yakin, close. He says. I nodded. So we ran down the road. Oxygen oxygen! He says with a big breath in and a big laugh. There is no view now, I say. No view but oxygen! He is still laughing. After running, we enjoyed a simple meal of bread, olives, and beans together and parted ways. Such a simple encouter of being at the same place at the same time. Such happiness.

mountain sheep crossing!

mountain sheep crossing!

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up and up into the mountains

up and up into the mountains

sharing a meal at the top of the pass with Hamza the baker from Istanbul

sharing a meal at the top of the pass with Hamza the baker from Istanbul

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Gecidi!! Mountain Pass! My favorite signs because it means downhill! Elevation: 2640 meters Time: 1.30pm

Gecidi!! Mountain Pass! My favorite signs because it means downhill! Elevation: 2640 meters Time: 1.30pm

As I headed down the pass, there was simply no visibility so I could not enjoy a fast downhill. Instead, I rode the breaks the whole time. I think Turkey really doesnt want me to leave.

Visibility--zero. Why are you in the way cows?

Visibility–zero. Why are you in the way cows?

Down down down, out of the clouds and AMAZING scenery. so lush and green!

Down down down, out of the clouds and AMAZING scenery. so lush and green!

chay chay chay chay. tea frams everywhere.

chay chay chay chay. tea frams everywhere.

did someone say CHAY?

did someone say CHAY?

beautiful small road to Rize

beautiful small road to Rize

smells like...CHAY! Tea factory

smells like…CHAY! Tea factory

Over the mountains, and to the Black Sea!!!

Over the mountains, and to the Black Sea!!!

Elevation:10m. Time:7pm. Oh yeah, it was a downhill kinda day.

Elevation:10m. Time:7pm. Oh yeah, it was a downhill kinda day.

Finally I made it to the Black Sea and to Rize. Wow a 2630m descent. Dont know how many feet that is, but a helluvalot. How stunning it was to see the Black Sea!! It was late now and I set up camp on the rocks away from the road.

The next morning I met Ezra, a family friend of the Cayiroglus, at her work and we had breakfast together. Then I ran some errands in the city before heading off for my final day in Turkey. It was flat road along the Black Sea all the way to Batumi, Georgia. Hurray for flat road! It was much welcomed after the crazy mountains of the past few days.

But of course, there are tradeoffs. Although the road is flat, the Black Sea road has a lot of tunnels. Not a big deal for a car, but a BIG deal for a bicycle. Its dark and theres no shoulder, and the trucks are going at highway speed. At first I tried bypassing the tunnels via pedestrian paths, but that became too difficult, so I decided to just hold my breath and bike very fast through them. Im still alive. Woohoo!

Camping on the Black Sea!

Camping on the Black Sea!

the Black Sea doesnt look so black...

the Black Sea doesnt look so black…

Highways and byways...along the Black Sea

Highways and byways…along the Black Sea

ok now the sea looks blacker

ok now the sea looks blacker

To the border! Headed to Batumi,Georgia!

To the border! Headed to Batumi,Georgia!

trash....

trash….

Tunnels....very terrifying on a bicycle

Tunnels….very terrifying on a bicycle

Grrr tunnels

Grrr tunnels

Finally Georgia! I was in a hurry to get to Batumi, the first city in Georgia, since I had to get my visa for Azerbaijan. But again, Turkey didnt want me to leave (in a good way). At one of the passport checks, the officer saw that I was American, and started chatting with me. His English was very good and turns out, he was a physicist. Since I hadnt had an intelluctual conversation for a while, it was really nice talking to him. It was quite funny that we kept talking even as he continued to check passports. ‘Please keep talking’ he said ‘I like to speak English. And checking passports, I am used to it.’ Through the corner of my eye, I saw that most travelers were from Georgia or Turkey, but there were also people traveling from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.

The nicest border ever--theres even a park! Hello Georgia, I see you!

The nicest border ever–theres even a park! Hello Georgia, I see you!

See you again Turkey!

See you again Turkey!

Apparently the path through Georgia is enlightening!

Apparently the path through Georgia is enlightening!

After arriving in Batumi, I weaved my way through the streets for a bit, not really knowing where the embassy was, but the internet said it was ‘right off a main square, and youll see the flag, its easy to spot.’ So I managed to find the Azerbaijan embassy quickly, and things went smoothly. To my surprise, I was issued a visa on the spot! (Amazing, since it usually takes 4 days).

Panda says: Hello Batumi and crazy Georgian alphabet!

Panda says: Hello Batumi and crazy Georgian alphabet!

Woah castles!

Woah castles!

wow, bike paths in Batumi

wow, bike paths in Batumi

Georgian flag. Welcome to a Christian country

Georgian flag. Welcome to a Christian country

Neptunes statue

Neptunes statue

Are we in California? No this is Georgia, the country

Are we in California? No this is Georgia, the country

I took a rest day in Batumi and explored the city a bit. I had no idea what to expect of Georgia, and was surprised to find the city very modern, and it reminded me of California a bit. From the very helpful tourist information center, I learned that Georgia is full of beautiful historical and natural landmarks–fortresses, castles, cave towns. Oh how I wish I had more time here!

While I was writing in my journal at the beach, a couple walked up to me and asked about my bike. The guys English was really good. After chatting a bit, I found out they were from Baghdad, Iraq. I asked them why they came to Georgia. They said ‘Because we are from Iraq, we dont need visa for Georgia. And Georgia is a really really beautiful country.’ The amazing thing about traveling to other countries that you dont normally think of, is you get to meet people from other random countries. The couple from Iraq was so beautiful and so much like you and me that it erased all the images in my head of Baghdad as bombs and violence as you see on the news. I hope it helps you, my readers, understand how full of many beautiful people there are in the world, and how Western media distorts much of that.

I was not able to secure a couchsurfing place so after sunset, I found a hostel to stay the night. HOT SHOWER!! Amazing. The owner of the hostel was a very nice Georgian lady and despite me not knowing Georgian or Russian (the two languages they speak here), she gave me dinner. And if you dont already know, food brings me so much happiness every time.

beautiful couple from Baghdad, Iraq who I chatted with at the beach

beautiful couple from Baghdad, Iraq who I chatted with at the beach

Dinner of stuffed peppers and bread at the hostel

Dinner of stuffed peppers and bread at the hostel

Tower of Georgian alphabets.

Tower of Georgian alphabets.

 

 

One Thought on “Seasons of Love, Part 2

  1. Yuki on May 23, 2013 at 11:01 pm said:

    Yay for new posts, and hooray for making it to Georgia! You have made it so far already :) Those mountains look beautiful, but not fun to bike up. The spicy pumpkin walnut candy, on the other hand, look simply amazing.

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