From Istanbul we caught the ferry south to Bandirma, the weather had turned cold. We bumped into Gerry and Rachael on there way home from a year long tour of Europe. They had just cycled the route that we were heading down.
We had one of our coldest days with temperatures of only 3 degrees with heavy rain and headwinds and nowhere to shelter. Even with all her layers on Pip was soaking wet and frozen. Fortunately the weather cleared and by the time we reached Canakkale the sun was out again.
Canakkale had a different feel to it than the Turkish towns we had been through. It had a younger population and felt more western. We spent a couple of days exploring it and taking a trip across the Dardanelles to look at the memorials to all the fallen in the first world war at Gallipoli. Hundreds of thousands had died in trenches often less than 8 metres apart.
The coastal road south was small quiet and beautiful climbing through small villages with relics of ancient Greek cities in differing states of preservation. We skipped Troy as we had heard there wasn’t much left. The city of Alexandrapouli was a forgotten, overgrown ruin with no one around. Assos was still impressive with the temple of Athena dominating the skyline and the remnants of Agora, a gymnasium and an amphitheatre on the steep slope down to the sea.
Stopping in the villages would often lead to being asked in for some cay and cakes. We met some lovely people including Omer and his morrocan wife and 6 month old baby. Omer used to be a windsurfing and sailing instructor but now was training to be an Imam and had been placed in a tiny village for his first job experience.
We headed to Bergama through the mountains with beautiful pine forests and after a day of up and down hills, were rewarded with 18km of downhill, passing laden lorries on our way into Bergama.
The impressive ruins of Pergamon were just on the outskirts of Bergama. These stretched from the top of the mountain with terraces all the way to the bottom. Most visitors just took a cable car to the top and back. We were in no hurry and walked down through the ruins seeing some amazingly well peserved mosaics and getting an idea of what an amazing city this must have been.
We headed on through Izmir gritting our teeth through the 30kms of 6 lane highways full of traffic in a hurry to get somewhere. We made our way to Selcuk through a beautiful marshy delta full of pink blossom and flowers. This delta had grown over the years leading to the ancient city of Ephesus losing it’s connection with the sea and slowly declining.
Ephesus were the busiest ruins that we visited with coachloads of guided tours being dropped off at regular intervals. Once again it’s scale was impressive and it must have been an amazing sight when it was built.
Cycling through 1000km of Turkey from the border with Greece is a brilliant way to experience the history of the region. Where civilisations have been born and slowly crumbled, wars fought between empires and religions. It does make you wonder how much longer our civilisation will last.
The regional elections are on in Turkey with banners and pennants everywhere. Feelings are running high with demonstrations in Istanbul and the big cities. Eveyone we met had an opinion on the elections which contrasts sharply with the apathy you see in the UK. Unfortunately the rhetoric from the main party is divisive in attempt to cover up the allegations of corruption that embroils it.
We carried along the mountainous coastline along small roads through villages that time appears not to have touched. People with a few sheep or cows and few cars and small plots of vegetables.
Why is it that when you are wild camping you pass the perfect spot an hour too early, or 5 km the following morning past where you have just camped. We have camped in some beautiful spots so I guess it is just the law of averages that we plumped for a spot in an olive grove just as it was getting dark between a quarry and a cement works that carried on working all night. Only to be greeted by the farmer in the morning when he brought his cows in to pasture.