There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.
To leave Istanbul was as expected combined with endless traffic jams and so I reached Safranbolu only after sunset. Due to its half-timbered houses, the city is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The small town is actually very nice, but after six hours on the bike I was pretty tired and as beautiful as this little village is, the partly rocky ground and small pathways gave me on my fully loaded GS some difficulties in the evening. I just couldn’t find my hotel. My GPS wanted to send me into streets that you can master by foot but not using a bike fully packed with 350 kg on the scales. Thus came what was to come. In a U-turn, I tried to get my foot on the ground and stepped into the void. Such mistakes have unforgivable consequences and I went down for the first time.
The next day I went to Cappadocia, where I arrived in Goreme in the early afternoon. It’s a small town famous for its rock formations and as well a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since I wanted to go from Cappadocia directly to Mardin, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, some 20 km north of the border with Syria and not far from Iraq, I was already at 6:00 a.m. the next day on the road. When I left Cappadocia early in the morning, I had the chance to watch a stunning spectacle. Dozens of hot air balloons rose into the air and gave visitors the opportunity to experience the landscape from above.
A distance of 800 km corresponds in general not with my desired milage per day, but I wanted to meet Jim and David on Saturday in Van and so the hand needed to stay at the throttle. Somehow, I had the feeling in Turkey that speed limits are only informative. When signs showed 50 km/h, it may happen that traffic flows with 100 and more. So I did my best to blend in and was at times even a bit faster.
I saw the waving already from a distance, and then it was unmistakably that the police was waving for me. Four guys tried to explain to me that I was captured by radar. Without any doubt did I know that I was too fast. The only question was how much was actually allowed and how much did I break the speed limit … But they friendly pointed at my speedometer and signaled me to not exceed the 100 km/h. Then they let me go and I was on the road again.
In southern Turkey my way lead to Mesopotamia. Somehow I remembered the fertile Mesopotamia from the teaching of geography in my childhood. Meanwhile, I was near the Syrian border and soon after I reached the hilltop of Mardin, pretty wasted from the long ride.
Knowing I would not arrive fresh as a daisy at my destination, I booked the hotel in advance. All went well until I arrived in Mardin, then suddenly I was stuck in a traffic jam. Once I made the attempt to pass slowly down the road, but an oncoming bus in the narrow streets of the old town made sure that I went back in line, patiently moving with the stop and go traffic. At the end of the jam a sign of frustration grew inside me. The road was closed due to construction and the traffic was reversed. But how was I supposed to get to my Hotel? English wasn’t very helpful and neither did I speak Turkey nor Arabic or Kurdish. Nevertheless, the communication made very clear that this way was blocked and I should try it from the other side of town.
That’s what I did with the same result. In addition, some of the streets reminded me of Safranbolu and I had little ambition to repeat some of the “experience” I had on those pathways. My GPS was going to send me along streets that did not exist and when I talked to locals and showed the address of my hotel, the folks suggested to me to leave my motorcycle at the street and to walk on foot to the hotel. Yes, of course. After I had been more than 10 hours on the road and spent another one to find my way to the guesthouse, I certainly was not willing to just park the bike on the roadside, towing 70 kg of luggage uphill.
The solution came along with the “Cafe del Mar” in the Sanat Sokagi (street). It made the impression that one might speak English, which was also the case. I explained my concerns, but the answer was as disappointing as before. Due to construction it was currently impossible to get to the place I booked in advance. Great! I was definitely too tired to continue to look for alternatives and so I simply asked if I could sleep through the night on the terrace. Vedat, who runs the restaurant with his family considered my request for a moment, but then agreed.
Now there was only one problem left: Where could I get a shower? A bath was not available at the “Café del Mar” and Vedat adviced me to go to a Hammam, a Turkish bath. He wrote down an address and I was on my way. When I arrived at the stated place, the guy outside told me (in Kurdish) that I should come back in two hours, as the bathroom was in use by women at this time. My enthusiasm was at the lower end of being excited but I made a new attempt at the agreed time. The whole thing was a bit unusual but at the end of the day I had my shower, albeit with scooped water and metal bowls.
After dinner, heavy rain and thunderstorms jeopardized my plans to sleep on the terrace and Vedad and his brother offered me to stay at the restaurant, where they also shared a room. Unfortunately the weather didn’t change until dawn and so I packed my stuff and left Mardin in the rain.
The day wasn’t actually better on the road. It was cold, rainy and the weather conditions required my full attention. When I came across Midyat and had a short stop, a man came by and stood next to me in the rain, greeting friendly. Apparently he spoke no English and so there was not much to share except a friendly smile. However, he signaled me several times that I should just come over for tea. Under these weather conditions I really wanted to get as fast as possible to Van, but why not … the invitation was cordially and there was not only tea but also bread with feta cheese and yogurt. Not that we talked much. There were just 15 minutes filled with warmth and hospitality. One of the men who joined the breakfast, was Syrian and had come to Turkey two months ago. He spoke a few words in English. When I asked him what he is doing now he answered: “We just want to live.”
Saturday night I spent with David and Jim in Van. They left next morning while I stayed for another two days before I crossed the border to Iran, a country I was curious about, but also approached with mixed feelings.