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Old 03-18-2010, 02:32 PM   #211
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Ankara to Cumalıkızık

Ankara to Cumalıkızık



I leave Ankara fairly early, but apparently not early enough to avoid the rush hour. However, once I make it out of the city center proper the traffic eases up and I find my way easily. There is a detour through one of the far out suburbs and I get to see some newly finished apartment buildings.





Westerners are often shocked to see whole suburbs with buildings like this. I guess it reminds most people too much of public housing projects with the problems that tend to come with them. Well, in some parts of the world moving into such a building is definitely progress. It all depends on what you lived in before. I actually grew up in a building similar to the ones in the picture. Back then it was a nice neighborhood and I had lots of friends a few minutes away. I certainly never saw a problem in it and it made for a pretty happy childhood.


Once Iím out of the greater Ankara area the traffic dies down and it turns into a pleasant ride.











About 20km shy of Nallıhan I stop at a nice view point across a lake that was formed by the Sarıyar Dam. The lake is surrounded by hills with very interesting colors.





The ride remains scenic








until eventually I have to merge onto E90. I wasnít looking forward to that part and the traffic is as heavy as expected.


Not long after I get on E90 I see a couple of cows about 200-300m ahead on the right hand side. This is nothing unusual in these parts of the world. I have a healthy respect for any kind of animal next to a road but there is simply no way that you can hit the breaks every time you see one. It just happens all the time and chances are you will get hit by someone from behind who doesnít expect you to break. So itís a judgment call. However, something about these two cows alarms me and in a split second I run through possible scenarios and evasive maneuvers I could do. Decision made: I do go off the gas, tap the breaks a few times, turn on the hazard lights, and get all the way over to the right. Sure enough the cows bolt across the road. The second cow gets hit by a huge semi coming from the opposite direction and launches into the air with a primeval roar. I hear the car behind me hitting the breaks hard. Luckily, the cows trajectory doesnít cross my chosen path. I turn around and see the guy in the car behind me with a look of horror on his face. He manages to avoid the cow as well. There is something a bit unnerving about seeing a cow flying in your direction when you are on a motorbike. The traffic is too heavy to stop safely and there is nothing I can do anyway. I just hope that someone has a gun to put the cow out of its misery.


So, I press on and a few kilometers short of Bursa I turn left up the side of Mount Uludağ to Cumalıkızık. The village is more than 700 years old with narrow cobblestone streets flanked by Ottoman period houses. I find a semi flat spot to park the bike and walk around a bit to find a room for the night. After a bit of bargaining I strike a deal with the owner of the Konak Pansiyon, there is even a place to park the bike in a gated courtyard. Trouble is that a stream is going down the narrow cobblestone street that leads up to gate. The only other way around is blocked by construction. I realize that an uphill cobblestone street and water are not a good combination, especially if there is enough water to completely cover the street and I canít see where Iím going. I assume the water is only temporary but when I ask around with my non-existent Turkish I am made to believe that the water wonít go away. Itís been a very long, hot day with an airborne cow thrown in and I just want to get out of the motorcycling clothes. So, despite knowing better I decide to ride up the street. I start out pretty well, working my way around the tourists in the street. Maybe 15 yards from the gate my back wheel slips in a hole hidden by the water. I am pretty fast and just canít hold her on the slippery cobblestones. So, down I go. There are plenty of people around to stare but more importantly to help me with the bike. We get it in the courtyard and I inspect the damage. Iím fine but one of the panniers is a bit smashed up and the rear light and license plate assembly is broken. Nothing major.
After a shower I try to get a beer but it turns out this is a dry village and tea will have to do. There is now a lot less water in the street as well and I could have just waited and got the bike up safely The picture below shows the scene of the accident after the water has gone done.





Cumalıkızık is a lovely village and I walk around for a while and look at the Ottoman houses in varying stages of repair and later watch the old guys play games and chat in a tea house next to the mosque.


























This was certainly an interesting day. I had to make two split second decisions. Iím just glad I got the first one right
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Old 03-19-2010, 06:39 PM   #212
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Thanks for following up

Keep it coming!!!!




Wo gehts naechstes mal hin?
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Old 03-19-2010, 09:53 PM   #213
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Great RR, I just found it now that you updated...amazing how good of a RR I almost missed. Thanks very much for posting it. I have been dreaming about riding Iran now for years, maybe one day.
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Old 03-20-2010, 07:02 AM   #214
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Bursa

Bursa

In the morning I head down from Cumalıkızık to find a place to repair yesterdayís damage. After only a few kilometers I see a metal workshop through some open gates and ask the guy in there. He points me next door, where I find a full body shop. Bingo! They have a bunch of trucks and buses in there that would be written off most anywhere in the world. The guys are all over the bike and all I have to do is to give some ideas on how to fix the broken license plate assembly. Version one of the bracket doesnít turn out to my liking and I have them make a better one that goes in from behind and wonít even be noticeable.





I go buy some soft drinks and cigarettes to help the work along. These guys are pretty amazing. We talk about a bus they are repairing that has the whole front half missing. I want to know if it hit a cow In Turkish, English and German we talk about engine sizes and horse powers interpresed with some male grunts of appreciation. I found on this trip that you can have this conversation in any language. They also fix my banged up pannier in no time. The job was done in about an hour and cost not a whole lot. What a great start of the day.


I ride back up to Cumalıkızık and without the extra weight I actually enjoy the cobblestone streets. I decide to take the bus for the trip to Bursa. It turns out that, unlike most other places in Turkey, you are supposed to buy a ticket in advance but the driver just waves me on.
Once in Bursa I walk around and take in the sights, starting with the Great Mosque, built in the Seljuk style in 1400ish.





Emir Sultan Camii is a quiet place on a nice hillside.

















Walking back down the hill I come across the Vampire Busters van.





I explore the city a bit





as I make my way to the Green Mosque, situated in a nice little park











A friendly teenager in an internet cafe helps me contact some Yamaha dealers in Istanbul to sort out my throttle sensor problems. He has studied German in school but has never been there.


Later I try to get a ticket for the bus back to Cumalıkızık with no luck. Once again the bus driver waves me on. I canít help think of what would happen if a foreigner would try to do that in Germany. I have in fact witnessed the situation quite a few times. In most German cities the ticketing is automated and so complicated that, even if you can read the language, itís impossible to figure out unless you use the system daily. Munich for instance has weird Streifenkarte systems. Not only do you need to know how many Streifen for any given journey, you also need to know how to fold them and which way to put them in the machine. So, I always rely on local friends to do that for me. On my last trip to the Munich airport some unfriendly officials checked tickets and gave a Swedish gentlemen a hard time. He didnít look like a criminal to me and had the money in hand, he just couldnít figure out how the system works. The officialís English only went as far as ďneed ticketĒ and ď40 Euro fineĒ, which he kept barking at him. In that case I had to intervene and eventually they let him off.
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Old 03-20-2010, 09:57 AM   #215
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Old 03-21-2010, 05:11 AM   #216
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Cumalıkızık to Istanbul

Cumalıkızık to Istanbul



Today I plan to catch the ferry from Yalova to Istanbul across the Sea of Marmara. The guys in the shop gave me some directions yesterday and I get lost only once. When I get gas just before the ferry terminal a couple of guys in a car with German plates buy me a soda. They were born and bread in Germany and are here to visit the grandparents.


Checking in for the ferry is easy and I have some time to kill in a little restaurant by the terminal. There are a few other bikes on the ferry as well.





The Sea of Marmara is qualm, which makes for an uneventful crossing. The first view of Istanbul is spectacular.





The bikes are off the ferry first and just one right turn, a few kilometers along the shore and a left turn brings me into Sultanahmet. This part of the city seems fairly compact and I park the bike to walk around and look for a room in one of the many hotels. Just as I unmount a guy walks by and starts talking to me about the bike. Heís a biker and co-owns a couple of hotels nearby. He gives me a good deal I canít refuse. He also hops on the back of my bike to take me to a Yamaha dealer to check out my throttle sensor. The guy at the shop plays around with it for a while and increases the idle revs. On the way back to the hotel the engine cuts out again when throttling off. This was clearly not the solution.


The hotel is a stone throw from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and I just have a stroll before dinner.








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Old 03-27-2010, 03:19 AM   #217
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Istanbul

Istanbul

Local inmate gunpowder was nice enough to receive some mail for me that I missed in Van. We meet for lunch and when he hears about my throttle sensor problem he makes a few phone calls to some of his contacts at the local Yamaha importer and by the end of the lunch I got a shop appointment for the next day. He also helps me to find the address on my GPS. While the Garmin map of Istanbul is great, finding an address in Istanbul on the Zumo is anything but. You have to know the part of the city and the spelling differences donít help either.


Despite my protests gunpowder also insists on paying for lunch and gives me a walking tour of the area.



The next day I head over the Galata bridge to the Yamaha shop. The shop owner shows up shortly after I arrive and starts looking into the problem. He actually breaks out the service manual and a multimeter and tests this and that for a long time. He works a bit like a brain surgeon. He has a whole bunch of assistants, the youngest maybe 11 or 12. He yells quick orders to them while he is working and they run and bring him the parts and tools. Initially he doesnít think there is a problem but after a few test rides he agrees and installs the throttle sensor from the demo Tenere they have in the shop under warranty. After a tip (hard to find anyone who is willing to spend that much time on problem these days) itís smiles all around and more tea. The assistants clean my bike, which seems to be part of the service in Turkey.








Many thanks to gunpowder for all the help he has given me!


Riding in Istanbul is not as bad as people told me. If you know where you are going itís no worse than most big cities. So I spend a bit of time riding around the city and taking in the views.


There is so much to see in Istanbul that I have to make some hard choices. I take a whole morning to explore the Hagia Sophia. Completed as a Christian church under Emperor Justinian in 537, it was converted into a Mosque in 1453 under Mehmet the Conqueror. Ataturk had it secularized and turned into a museum in 1935. It is so impressive that words fail me and I let the pictures speak for themselves:






































Inside I run into an Australian couple I had Camel burgers with in Yazd, Iran. Itís a small world indeed.


The Blue Mosque, just a short stroll from Hagia Sophia, is equally impressive. It was constructed between 1606 and 1616 under Sultan Ahmet I.

















By the time I reach the Topkapi Palace Iím burnt out and not motivated enough to take good pictures, but there is a nice view from one of the balconies.





Another highlight for me is the Basilica Cistern, built by Justinian in 532. Itís supported by 336 columns and could hold 80,000 cubic meters of water. It is not however, unlike James Bond will have you believe in ďFrom Russia with LoveĒ, underneath the Russian embassy.












Another odd place to see is the Church St Stephen of the Bulgars, built completely out of cast-iron in Gothic revival style in 1898.





My last afternoon in Istanbul I spent strolling near the Galata bridge, with a short visit to Yeni Camii (New Mosque).














Oh yeah, there is always that one weird tourist that makes everyone chuckle or raise their eyebrows


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Old 03-27-2010, 04:58 AM   #218
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Istanbul to Tsarevo

Istanbul to Tsarevo



The ride form Istanbul on the main highway is fast but boring. I only stop for a very dodgy lunch in the last village before the border.





Border formalities are straight forward. The very friendly Bulgarian official hands me a USB stick at the first window and a checklist. I work my way from station to station handing in the USB stick every time. I have to wait a few minutes for the customs inspection and talk to an officer who tells me the road to Tsarevo is very bad. After the inspection and a ďWelcome to EuropeĒ Iím on my way.


Turns out the road is really not that bad, has no traffic at all, nice turns and views. For some reason I seem to have lost most of the pictures though. This is the only one I have.





I get a cheap but very nice beach view room and go for a dip in the black sea.





A little beach side shop sells the essentials like ice cream and the biggest and cheapest plastic beer bottles I have ever seen. There are lots of Russians around and Iím glad to notice that I still understand some Russian.
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Old 03-27-2010, 05:42 AM   #219
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Tsarevo to Nessebar

Tsarevo to Nessebar





Next stop is Nessebar at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. I usually try to avoid mass tourism destinations but there is a bit of family history here. My parents spent their honeymoon here before I was born and I heard the stories all my life and thus must check out the place. This destination is as exotic as it got in 70s East Germany. Not many got to go and some who did never returned. They slipped into Turkey and on to West Germany, like my motherís friend. I grew up surrounded by Bulgarian knickknacks from that vacation.


Bulgarian drivers are positively crazy, in a bad way. There is no give and take here, just survival of the fittest. You drive as fast as your vehicle allows and pass regardless of visibility or oncoming traffic. All this despite the heavy police presence.


Once again, I donít have pictures of the ride to Nessebar. I get myself a nice room in Old Nessebar and decide to stay for a few nights. I feel still pretty bad from the dodgy lunch I had just before the border crossing. So, in the next few days I take it easy and explore the old town. I am not overly impressed. I do get some sunbathing and swimming in though.

















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Old 03-27-2010, 07:10 AM   #220
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Stunning!

Mr Border06 this is stunning and a pleasure to read! Thank you for taking the time to photo and document your journey for others to enjoy.
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Old 03-27-2010, 03:01 PM   #221
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Nessebar to Veliko Tarnovo

Nessebar to Veliko Tarnovo





The coastal route has been a bit boring and I decide to head inland to the old capital of Veliko Tarnovo. The route takes me on quiet country roads











with plenty of storks and Ladas to keep it interesting.





I stop to take a picture of a not so shabby looking Trabant. I have soft spot for them because my first car was a Trabant. It has 600cc and 26 hp, less than my bike. Itís very light and has a two stroke engine, thus it is surprisingly zippy. It didnít even have fuel gauge, just a dip stick. The family of a friend of mine drove one all the way to then Soviet Georgia and back to Germany with four people and a spare motor. So itís tougher than it looks. Sounds like a fun trip that should be repeated. Itís also very easy to fix or take apart. I once gutted one and cut it in half to use it as a storage cabinet in my 5th floor dorm room





In Veliko Tarnovo I stay at the wonderful Phoenix Hostel, lovingly run by Nick and Cathy, who got stuck there on a motorbike trip. One of the nicest places I have stayed in all my travels. I got a lot of excellent local advise from the two and I regret I canít stay longer.





Veliko Tarnovo is the former Bulgarian capital and is fun to explore.





It features the dominant Tsarevets castle











and a strange monument





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Old 03-29-2010, 06:45 AM   #222
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boarder06

Later I try to get a ticket for the bus back to Cumalıkızık with no luck. Once again the bus driver waves me on. I can’t help think of what would happen if a foreigner would try to do that in Germany. I have in fact witnessed the situation quite a few times. In most German cities the ticketing is automated and so complicated that, even if you can read the language, it’s impossible to figure out unless you use the system daily. Munich for instance has weird Streifenkarte systems. Not only do you need to know how many Streifen for any given journey, you also need to know how to fold them and which way to put them in the machine. So, I always rely on local friends to do that for me. On my last trip to the Munich airport some unfriendly officials checked tickets and gave a Swedish gentlemen a hard time. He didn’t look like a criminal to me and had the money in hand, he just couldn’t figure out how the system works. The official’s English only went as far as “need ticket” and “40 Euro fine”, which he kept barking at him. In that case I had to intervene and eventually they let him off.
I flew in to Munich to visit a friend there. He had armed me in advance with a check list explaining how to use the ticket system. I seem to remember something about how buying a ticket was not enough, you had to go to a separate machine (queuing again) to "validate" the ticket. No idea whether i managed it or not, but luckily for me I encountered no ticket inspector. I experienced something similar in a car park in Croatia, by the Plitvitza lakes. Got so fed up I ended up just riding off. Why they need such ridiculously complicated systems I do not know.

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Originally Posted by Boarder06
Riding in Istanbul is not as bad as people told me. If you know where you are going it’s no worse than most big cities.
Ah, there's the rub!

Oh, by the way, your photos are, as usual, stunning. Make my efforts look like holiday snaps. Which is, of course, what they are...

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Old 03-30-2010, 01:54 PM   #223
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Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv

Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv



Nick from the Phoenix Hostel recommended going via the Schipka pass and checking out the Monument of Communism. Iím a sucker for abandoned buildings and off I go. I must have misunderstood him about the approach though. After I work my way up the steep walking pass I discover a road on the other side. It was much more fun this way The place is unreal. Like a spaceship plunked down on a mountain top.























I refrain from leaving graffiti like the ďBMW Mania 2008″ felt inclined to do and work my way down the mountain to the plains leading to Plovdiv.





Plovdiv has a nice historic center, with lots of one way streets
















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Old 03-31-2010, 07:58 AM   #224
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Plovdiv to Dospat

Plovdiv to Dospat





I head into the Rhodope Mountains today. First stop is at one of the “Wonderful Bridges”. It’s a nice dead end mountain road to the bridge





through some scenic remote villages.





The Rhodope Mountains have a colorful history and have changed hands many times, most recently in the Balkan Wars and World War I. So, there are a lot of influences here. In the picture you can see a mosque.





As I near Dospat it rains on and off and I find myself a nice room by the Dospat Reservoir. The hotel next door has an old Tenere parked out back but I never get to meet the owner. There are lots of Bulgarians in camouflage gear in Lada Nivas milling around. Seems to be some sort of weekend warrior standard here





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Old 03-31-2010, 08:39 AM   #225
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Dospat to Rila

Dospat to Rila





There is still lots of water on the dirt road on the Western shore of the Dospat Reservoir. Here is a picture of one of the better sections.





Plenty of people setup camp side at the shore and seem to have good time.
The ride through the Rhodope Mountains is pretty awesome. The area seems very remote and the infrastructure pretty slim.


























After going through this village the dirt road gets worse and worse





but I take my time and actually enjoy the bad bits. After a while it gets better again





and I eventually get back on tarmac.











I take a detour up the Bansko ski resort. Nice twisties and no traffic












I arrive plenty early to get a room next to the Rila Monastary and have stroll around before sunset.


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