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Turkey Trip Journal from April 02 to 16, 2010

To return to the 2010 Turkey Photos Pg. 1 and Turkey Photos Pg. 2.

To read and see the photos of our 2006 Turkey Trip follow these links Turkey Photos Pg. 1, Turkey Photos Pg. 2 and Turkey Photos Pg. 3 and Turkey Journal.

Country: Turkey
Duration: April 02 to 16, 2010
Distance Traveled in the Country:  ~ 3500 km
Memorial Impressions of the Country: 
Our second time in Turkey. As we had covered already 6500km of Turkey in 2006, we choose the off the beaten path route. We caught up with Istanbul again, took in some more of its culture and heritage and headed then into Western Anatolia. We visited the ancient walls of Iznik, followed by the exploration of the Roman ruins at Aizanoi and a stop at Lake Egridir. A perfect base to explore the amazing ancient Roman city of Sagalassos and less preserved Antiochia in Pisidia. At this point we also entered the old silk road. As we followed one of the many silk road paths as it winds it way through Turkey, we are able to visit numerous caravanserais. Entering Central Anatolia we enjoy hiking through the Ihlara Valley and its many rock-cut churches and monasteries. Two highlights of this trip were the out of the way places Divrigi, with its UNESCO World Heritage Grand Mosque and Hospital and of course Ani, the ancient Armenian Capital in the far east of Turkey.
Gasoline Cost: approx. $2.33CDN/litre and rising for 95 Octane, still remains high
Accommodations Cost: Due to the time of year (ie low temperatures) we stayed with hotel rooms between $30.00 to $60.00/night with exception of Istanbul at $88.00/night.
Food & Drink Cost: Eating out in Turkey is very affortable and the food is always to die for. 
Exchange Rate: 1 Turkish Lira = $0.60CDN
Border Formality Costs: Visa - $60.00US/person, Motorcycle Insurance = 7.00 Euro/each for (3) months coverage

April 02, 2010. We are south of Sofia, Bulgaria. The morning is yet again brisk. We keep our rain gear on to keep warm. The sky is blue and we can see fresh snow in the mountains. The GPS indicates an elevation of over 800m. From here it is downhill to Istanbul only 500km to go. The road deteriorates to potholes galore at the border. Big Semi trucks are weaving back and forth all over the road to avoid them. We had a flashback to the border crossing from Mauritania to Morocco, minus the land mines. We are still a bit surprised to encounter this type of decay in an EU country. The Turkey Border crossing on the other hand is "go big or go home". Brand new facilities and well signed. We purchase first our 3-month minimum motorcycle insurance for 6.00Euro/each, then Mike heads off to obtain the Turkey Visa. Canadians receive a 6-month maximum stay Visa, which has not changed from 2006 and is $60.00US/person. After presenting registration, insurance and the Visa our passports receive the final stamp of approval. The Autobahn to Istanbul is a toll road, a three (3) lane highway mainly deserted of any traffic until we hit the outskirts of Istanbul. We are thrown back into the crazy Middle Eastern traffic pattern. Our fourth (4th) day on the motorcycle and it is full on. Traffic is high speed, no more rules apply, two lane traffic is now packed four (4) vehicles wide or more. We are back into lane splitting as we arrive at Friday afternoon rush hour. The forecast called for evening rain. The humidity is high and we hope to avoid getting dumped on. We make our way to the campsite we had stayed at in 2006. Surroundings start to be familiar, but then, where is the entrance gate? A back hoe is removing some structures. The campground is no more. We had not expected that and move to plan B, the Lonely Planet Travel Guide. It is Easter Weekend and one of the busiest times in Istanbul for accommodations. We enter the street address of one of the cheap hotels in the Sultanahmet area. The GPS indicated 25km. Traffic was brutal, one giant traffic jam. Somehow the GPS had assumed a similar address and led us into some dark, very questionable part of the city. The roads were very steep and tiny. Lets just say we were off the beaten path. We picked another hotel address, which was another 15km. For once the forecast was correct and the rain started. It took us two (2) hours to cover the 15km. The oil light on Mike's motorcycle started to come on and Ruby's throttle seemed to get stuck. It was perfect. Soaked (as we were unable to pull over and put our rain gear on) we finally arrived at around 8pm in the Sultanahmet area, which is the heart of the city. The first pension was full. The doorman at the fancy hotel across the road took pity on us and told us to park the motorcycles on the sidewalk. He took me to the Park Hotel and in some elaborate Turkish speech had the owner convinced to take us in. We are actually not sure if it was the owner of the Hotel, but he is from Iran and super friendly and helpful. The room we got, was the last one, but with a bathroom and two (2) single beds for 65.00Euro/night. Through a bit more than our normal budget, the best this hotel has to offer is its incredible view from the roof top of both the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia. Can't get much closer to the action then this. Mike also got some great night pictures of both the Mosque and the Church. Another de javu occurs as the flare reflector of the camera falls from the roof top into the space between two (2) high rises and lands on an air conditioning unit on the 3rd or 4th floor below. We were able to retrieve it the next day via the fire escape stairs. Starving, we check out the Meathouse around the corner, which serves killer pide (Turkish Pizza). We each have a pide with egg (our favourite), and it did not disappoint. This is Istanbul and prices are on the big city expensive side. Back at the hotel we get comfortable in one (1) single bed, as the other bed is loaded with gear.

April 03, 2010. Mike's Birthday. We had been hoping to celebrate Mike's 45th in Istanbul, and it had worked out. The rain had disappeared and left a clear sunny day ahead. After breakfast, some more pictures from the roof top and we are off to see the Haghia Sophia (TL20/person). As this is our second visit to Istanbul we decided only to spend a day exploring a couple of sights which we had missed in 2006. The Church opens at 9am, and bus loads of people keep on streaming into the church. Originally built during the Roman time, it was converted to a mosque in 1453 until the 20th century, where it is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Restoration is on going. Its massive Nave and Dome is awe inspiring. We check back in at the hotel to determine if we have a room for the second night. Originally the hotel was full, but reception was hopeful that someone would check out. Nothing yet. We continue onto our next destination the Topkapi Palace. The line ups and crowds of people reminded us of Rome. Entrance is TL20/person, plus another TL15/person for the Harem. Our goal was to see the Harem and Treasury. The Harem was impressive. We got in line for the Treasury, which lead us in snail pace through the Costume Museum, followed by the Imperial Treasury, at which point the disappointment set in. The exhibits, through priceless, where not worth the effort. The crowds also put a dampener on our enthusiasm. We toured some of the other buildings and then returned to the hotel. A room with a double bed had come free and we moved our belongings. The motorcycles were still parked on the sidewalk and no one had messed with them. We made ourselves comfortable on the roof top and waited for the sun set and one last picture of the Blue Mosque. Mike's Birthday was coming to an end, we were able to spend the entire day together, what better way to celebrate in a great city like Istanbul.

April 04, 2010. By 8am we are packed and leave the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul behind. After a couple of wrong turns and mistakenly not paying at one of the toll booth, as we were in the wrong lane (we should be on a camera for that as the alarm sounded loudly). Oh well, finally we are on our merry way toward Izmit. We can not believe how cold it is. The leaves are just starting to come out. Mike mentioned that he was seriously thinking about buying some snowmobile suits (ha ha). From Izmit we follow the Sea of Marmara west until turning south onto D-595. The road is indicated as closed, but we decide to go around the barricade and continue onwards anyway. The road winds its way up the hilly terrain. Some spots are washed out, but nothing the GS can not handle. Reaching the first hump we have a look back over the Sea of Marmara and in the distance we faintly can make out the city of Istanbul. The fog is finally lifting. We zig zag our way through small Turkish villages, people are busy in the surrounding fields preparing for seeding season. I get the feeling that time has stood still, that the year and half we returned to Canada to work had never happened. It felt like just yesterday we were in Morocco in similar terrain and now here. This is why we travel, we are meant to be here. We emerge out of the back woods onto Lake Iznik. Spring had arrived here, finally. It is almost noon and we ride through the Istanbul Gate of the town Iznik. We check into the Kaynarca Pansiyon, our home for one (1) night. The owner Ali, super friendly gives as a deal on the room (TL50/night) and even lets us park our motorcycles inside. Then over a cup of tea (our first one on this trip), he details all the sights to see. The map he provides is great and in no time we are walking toward the city walls and our first gate (Lefke Gate), which also has an ancient Roman Aqueduct. En-route we pick up a couple kebab doners and drinks for TL4 (yes only $2.40), the owner gives me a charm with a eye on it that will protect me from evil. We follow the almost 5km city walls, visiting old Hamams, Churches and Tombs. Iznik is famous for its tiles, a once lost art form has now returned. For keep shake we purchased some small bowls beautifully hand painted. Back at the hotel we crap our helmets and the motorcycle and take a drive toward outlaying sights, mainly the Yeralti Mezar (Underground Tomb), which was unfortunately locked up quite well. Approximately 8km out of town is the Obelisk (5 Stone Monument). On route we rode through a wedding proceedings on the road. The Obelisk was actually quite impressive and a nice spot to relax. On the roof top of the Kaynarca Pansiyon we watch the sun set over Lake Iznik, another great day had past.

April 05, 2010. We head out of Iznik south continuing on the D-595 to Inegol. We are getting into more mountainous terrain as we twist our way on the D-585 through small villages past Domainic and to Tavsanli. After several attempts in trying to find the turn off to the 43-78 we finally give up and ride toward Emet and then to Cavadarhisar. It feels and looks remote. Entering the small settlement we pass through the ancient Roman ruins of Aizanoi. It is noon and we stop for a bite to eat at a restaurant were locals hang out. Pide for breakfast, Pide for lunch, Pide for dinner, we could live on it. The entire meal for two including drinks was TL11.00. We return to the ticket office of Aizanoi, leave the motorcycles fully loaded at the side of the road and start our exploration of the site with the well preserved Temple of Zeus. The Temple was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (AD117-138). The crypt underneath is accessible via steep steps. A few hundred meters opposite the road is the remains of a theater, municipal gymnasium and stadium. Further into the village across an old Roman Bridge are some more scattered remains. The combination of Roman ruins and traditional Turkish village make us on the modern motorcycle feel right in another time zone. Accommodations are non-existing in this part of the world and we decide to push to Egirdir Lake. We thought taking the shortest route cross country indicated on the map would be the most direct. Wrong. The road from Aslanapa to Altintas is in pretty rough shape, but the interesting part is trying to find the right exit from each village we enter. Not sure how many times we ended up facing a dead end into someone's farm house or dirt track ahead. After all that fun we turn up on the D-650 a divided highway toward Afyon and kept on it until Isparta. The mountains around Isparta are covered with lots of snow. Our destination of the day is only another 30 some kilometers north-east. Our elevation has been steady up and down between 1000 to 1500m. The view from the highway as we crest and descend into Egirdir is a treat. The sun is low in the sky and we make our way along the Peninsula, which struts out into the lake a couple of kilometers. At the end of this beautiful spot are many pensions. We go with the Lonely Planet's pick of Ali Pension. It is almost 8pm as we get settled in the biggest room with the nicest shower, all for TL60 including breakfast. As always we are on the top floor. Something that people with a lot of luggage most of the time end up with. Right around the corner is a small restaurant, where we have kebab, salad (consisting of shredded carrots, red cabbage and radish) with lots of fresh bread for TL18 including pop.

April 06, 2010. As we had been on the road for exactly a week without a break and some big kilometers of riding, we decided to stay at the friendly Ali Pension for a couple of days. We awoke to a clear blue sky with temperature hovering around 10 Degrees Celsius. We had our breakfast on the terrace outside. Birsen (her English is very good) provides a traditional Turkish breakfast and always throws in a couple of treats, like the cigar-shaped Sigara Boregi, which are savoury pastry deep fried and stuffed with spinach and cheese. The traditional Turkish breakfast consists of lots of fresh bread and a plate full of cut tomatoes, cucumber, olives, some type of white goat cheese and an hard boiled egg. All of this is accompanied by Turkish tea. Real Turkish tea also takes approx. 20 minutes to make. With a clear sky and not sure about the upcoming weather forecast we push the rest day to the following day. Quickly we gear up and head back to Isparta. Just outside of Isparta on the D-685 secondary road we are pulled over by the Polis (Police), advising us that we were both speeding and going a 100km/hr as per their Photo Radar. Surprised that we are pulled over for only doing 10km/hr over the speed limit, we are told that motorcycles in Turkey are only allowed to travel at 70km/hr on secondary roads and 80km/hr on divided highways (Autobahn). We thought he was kidding, but we received a ticket for TL275/each ($180.00/each), which has to be paid as we exit the country at customs. All the travel guides and even as we entered the country the signs did not mention that motorcycles have a different maximum speed than cars. Let's just say that a 70km/hr speed limit for a 1200cc motorcycle is ridiculous. This was our welcome to Turkey present a $400 speeding ticket. We are not sure how well Motorcycle tourism in Turkey is going to go over. It does upset us quite a bit as we have been traveling at a slow speed, following all the western rules of signage and staying on the right side of the road. All the rules that are not followed by Turkish drivers. We must have money written all over us on the BMW's (foreigners), as we are sure that locals are not able to pay those type of tickets. Not trying to dampen our enthusiasm for Turkey we continue on our way to Sagalassos, located at an elevation of over 1500m just north of the Aglasun. The 7km road to the site zig-zags its way up the mountain. Sagalassos is an impressive site and the largest in Anatolia. The excavation of the digs are still on-going. This Roman City was built into the side of the mountain. A natural spring ensured continuous water supply to the numerous large fountains. Even to this day water still flows into one of the fountains, the late Hellenistic Fountain House built during the 1st century BC. The Neon Library and large floor mosaic has been covered to protect it from the elements and at the time of our visit was not open. We were able to peak through the windows for a glimpse. The theater is actually in pretty good shape, with the seating cut into the hill. The highlight of the the site is the rebuilt northwest Heron. This structure was dedicated to defied human being. A frieze with 15 dancing girls ran on the three sides between naiskos and socle. The Antonine Nymphaeum (Fountain) also has been well preserved. Built in AD 161-180 during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. The remains of the Upper Agora (political square) with the Bouleuterion (Council Hall) and numerous columns are clearly visible and butt up to the Antonine Nymphaeum. Another plain facaded Nymphaeum was built in the reign of Hadrian (117-138) in the lower part of the Agora. We spent a good three (3) hours exploring the remains of this Roman City. From here we headed south to another ancient site called Kremna, perched on the top of a mountain east of the town of Bucak. As we get there the wind is howling and dark black clouds are forming. We decide to give it a miss, as there will be another time for us. Just 6km off the secondary road D-650 is an ancient Caravanserai (also called Han) by the name of Incir Hani. The Caravanserai were built in Seljuk and Ottoman times to protect merchants traveling the caravan routes that crossed Anatolia along the Roman-Byzantine road system. This is our first of many to come on this trip. We parked the motorcycles in front of the Han entrance, similar to when the travelers used to park their camels before entering. Our ride back to Egirdir was in 100km/hr winds, but we made it before the storm hit. At Ali's Pension we ventured to another restaurant on the Peninsula for some Pide and Salad for TL18. The temperature drastically dropped and the central heating was turned on in the Pension to make it nice and cozy for us.

April 07, 2010. As the sun tried to peek between the clouds, we had breakfast on the terrace again. We asked Birsen regarding the unusual cold temperature. To our surprise she mentioned that this was actual a mild winter and spring and temperatures on the high side. That afternoon we consulted with our guide books again, a bit concerned about the route ahead and possible road closures on high elevations. Outside the nice weather was short lived, a perfect day to take a rest. Ali's Pension comes with wireless internet and we were able to upload the first portion of our trip to our website, Germany to Turkey. In the afternoon we walked to town to buy some silicon to cover the bolt holes of the Jesse Bags. The Jesse Bags all seem to leak water through the side mountings. Shopping for items could not be easier, as tiny stores packed with all type of goods are all over the center of town. That evening we ate at the Pension a home cooked meal of chicken, Turkish rice and soup for TL41.

April 08, 2010. The mountains around Egirdir Lake were covered in fresh snow with low lying clouds moving fast. We had our breakfast in the warmth of the Pension Restaurant, which was also packed with other travelers. We met a Spanish couple, similar age to us, who had been on the road/boat for five (5) years and were on their final leg. Then there was the young couple from Taiwan, older couple from Germany and the French of course. Overall a cozy place to be, but we had to venture into the cold. All bundled up in every layer we own we head north on the east side of Egirdir Lake to another ancient site called Antiochia in Pisidia. Yet again we had the entire place to ourselves. Okay maybe we are the only crazy ones out in this weather. The main attraction beside the many still visible Roman roads is the Aqueduct approx. a kilometer in the distance. The ticket booth guy held on to our tank bags and helmets in his nicely heated enclosure, while we walked among the ruins. For the Aqueduct we took the motorcycles down a dirt road. We continued on the D-695 south along the east side of Lake Beysehir. On the road from Beysehir to Konya (D-330) we pulled into a gas station to bundle up even more. The heated grips were on high and we were freezing. Our elevation was hovering around 1000m to 1500m. We could see our breath. It actually warmed up to 12Degrees Celsius with cloudy skies. We made it through Konya without one wrong turn and headed east on the ancient caravan route, today's secondary highway D-300. Still at over 1000m elevation we are out of the mountains and into flat grassland with the occasional hill. Near the central Anatolian city of Aksaray lays one of the best preserved Seljuk caravanserais called Sultanhani. It was built between 1226 to 1229 for Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad. The parking lot is deserted and we got the entire complex to ourselves, which consists of a courtyard surrounded by various amenities, like a mosque, bath, accommodations and stables. Every site we entered the ticket booth attendant would be really friendly to us, waving us off as we rode away. It is refreshing to also see that even so we would offer a small tip of a couple of TL to look after our gear while we tour the sites, they would not take the money. Another long day in the saddle comes to a close as we turn south at Aksaray into the Ihlara Valley. We take a room at the Akar Motel in Ihlara and get a room with a double bed, balcony and view of the imposing Hassan Da Mountain for TL50 including breakfast. We are frozen to the bone and wait for a couple of hours for the central heating to start warming up the room. I pretty much deposit myself right on top of the heating element. The Akar Motel comes with very friendly English speaking staff. The food at the restaurant was excellent and we treated ourselves to some vegetable soup and beef vegetable stir fry the Turkish way (beef, onion, tomatoes, green peppers) with lots of fresh bread and of course tea for TL30. We eat it all and return to our room for some well deserved sleep.

April 09, 2010. Breakfast is served at 8am for us and we discuss with the friendly staff how to get to Belisirma, our hiking start point of the Ihlara Valley. A bus stops across from the Akar Motel at 9am heading north and for 1TL we will be dropped off at the Belisirma turn-off. Not sure about the days weather forecast we go on the safe side and carry our rain gear, camel bag and motorcycle cloves with us. The bus arrives as outlined at the bus stop and we get on, trying to communicate the drop off point. 1/2 km down the road the bus driver stops and collects the bus fare and on we go. Of course the bus drives past our Belisirma turn-off but another local yells to stop and we get off. From here it is a 3km walk to the village and the ticket booth. The view of the valley is perfect as we descend. Using the map from the Lonely Planet we check out three (3) of the main painted churches. The Bahattin'in Samaligi Kilise and Direkli Kilise were easy to find, but the Kirk Dam Alti Kilise we were unable to locate. It was a good exercise walking half a kilometer along the cliff walls and checking out every accessible entrance. We return to Belisirma to actually purchase our ticket and start on the east side of the river walking south. There is a lot of scrambling required over big boulders to get to some of the less visited and less preserved churches. We switch from the east side to the west side of the river a few times, not encountering really any tourists until midway, where bus loads of tourists are dropped of to see a cluster of (3) or (4) four easy accessible painted churches (ie the Sumbullu Kilise, Yilanli Kilise, Kokar Kilise). After the rush of tourists we are again on the path by ourselves, and a new found friend a dog. In total it takes us about five (5) hours to make it back to the Akar Motel. As we wander through the village of Ihlara en route to the Motel a old woman approaches me and talking happily away touching my hair. She was fascinated by my long red hair. Her eyes sparkling and a deep laughter followed us. Encounters like this unfortunately can not be caught on camera, but they will stay forever in your memory.

April 10, 2010. We pull the curtain to take a peek at the sky and are presented by crisp blue sky. The massive Hassan Da Mountain is in full view. The motorcycles are covered in a layer of frost. It had gotten quite cold during the night. We grab the camera and capture the moment. We decide to stay another day and tour some the further outlying sites. But first we had to wait until the temperature climbed to above 0Degree Celsius. From Ihlara we ride through Guzelyurt, take a picture of the Yuksek Kilise & Manastir, which sits lonely on a rock overlooking the Guzelyurt lake. From here we climb to a chilling altitude of 1770m. The good sign is that there is no snow at this elevation. We continue the 80km to Nigde, which is at a lower elevation in a valley between two (2) mountain ranges. We head straight for the center of the city and take a picture of the Sungur Bey Camii (Mosque) and covered market. 10km north-east of the city lies the impressive Eski Gumusler Monastery. Expecting a single building this actually is a huge complex of rock-hewn settlement and the painted church has some well preserved frescos. Our last stop is Selime and its monastery, another amazing rock-cut structure depicting troglodyte lifestyle. Returning to Ihlara we meet a French couple, Annick and Bruno, which are on their first day of their six (6) month journey on bicycles toward Katamandu. There website is Retired they are experienced travelers and have completed (6) months on the bicycle in South America, a trip to India and the road from Perdue Bay, Alaska to Steward, British Columbia Canada. Unfortunately Annick was hit last year, while bicycling by a motorcycle in BC, Canada and hospitalized in Prince George for 2-weeks. The experience has not slowed them down and they still like Canada and traveling on the bicycles. Way to go!

April 11, 2010. After another healthy breakfast, we load up the motorcycles and return to the D-300 to continue following the ancient silk route. Numerous hans or caravanserais dot the road, some are only ruins, other are in a state of repair and some have been totally restored. The Agzikara Hani was unfortunately not open, but we were able to glimpse through a keyhole. These places do not seem to be overrun by tourists. The Alay Hani is currently under going restoration and we took a picture from the road. Between Nevsehir and Kayseri is the well restored 1249 Saruhan, another Seljuk caravanserais. Whirling Dervish Ceremony's are held at this location in the evening. Past Kayseri on D-260 towards Sivas is the Sultan Han built in the 1230's, the doors were unfortunately locked. This was the last of the caravanserais we had planned to visit for the day. The weather took a turn to the worse. The wind picked up, temperatures dropped and the rain came. At the intersection toward Siva (25km north), we turned south. We started to gain in elevation, climbing steadily to almost 1800m. At the pass the rain was mixed with snow. We were glad to see the sign for the settlement of Kangal. Even with all the gear we were wearing hypothermia was a likely factor if we should break down. 12km north-east of Kangal is the resort of Balikli Kaplica (at 1500m), a health spa, which built a entire industry around promoting the mineral water inhabited by "doctor fish". The hot springs are full of small tiny fish that nibble on any patch of flesh. The public hot springs were luke warm and not recommended for relaxing. The pools segregated by sex and for patients however only available after 7pm and for an additional fee of TL40/person. At this point all we required was a dry room with some heat. What we got was the cheapest room, with NO heat and two (2) single beds for a whopping TL120 (not including the pools), which was double to any other place we had stayed (not counting Istanbul). They definitely catered to another type of cliental. One bonus was unsecured wireless internet, which came in handy to check the weather forecast. The news was not good. The way we were going to head was indicating a -7Degree Celsius during the night and +5Degree Celsius for a high during the day for the next three (3) days. On the fly we changed our route and decided to head south to Malatya to hang out for a couple of days to outwait the worst of the system.

April 12, 2010. Not sure if it was cloud or fog, the sky was gloomy overcast. Without the wind it was tolerable. We were only approx. 100km from a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the town of Divrigi. The town was a dead end, a small 200km detour, but was it ever worth it. The road from Kangal winds its way slowly to the 1950m pass. The surrounding mountains are snow covered. We can see our breath as we take a picture at the summit pass. The descent into Divrigi is rapid (located at 1100m elevation) and the temperature seems to warm up by 20Degree Celsius, a welcome surprise. In 1985 the Ulu Cami and Darussifa (Grand Mosque and Hospital) were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The doorways are the most impressively ornamental gateways we have seen. The carvings are outstanding. Entering the former hospital will make you stand in awe due to its shear size. Entrance to the hospital and mosque are free and the gate attendant invited us into his little booth for cay (tee). It was time to brave the winter again by returning to the other side of the pass. In Kangal, we had just missed a major rain storm, but we were unable to avoid them as we headed south to Malatya. For another 100km we stay at around 1500 to 1800m elevation until finally we drop to around 900m. Malatya is a city of about 410,000 people. We were hoping that there was some accommodations on the outskirts of the town en-route to the Old Malatya (Battalgazi). We found Battalgazi with no trouble and as we cruise around town, see the old Roman city walls, the Silahtar Mustafa Pasa Hani (under major restoration), but no place to stay. Locals confirm that we have to return to Malatya. Trying to find a hotel recommended in the Lonely Planet in a big city with a million store signs, lots of people and traffic is like finding a needle in a haystack. We located the Yeni Cami (Grand Mosque), but then were lost. Stopping on the side of the road infront of a expensive looking hotel, we are instantly surrounded by 20 people trying to help us, including a couple of friendly Police Officers. Everyone wants to practice their English. It is actually quite confusing having 10 people talking to you at the same time. The front desk attendant and door man from the fancy hotel start negotiating with me to stay at their place. It is TL150/night, plus TL20 for breakfast. They really wanted us to stay with them and we agreed upon TL100/night including breakfast. Parking the motorcycles right infront of the hotel, we are placed on the top floor (6th floor) with a view of the Grand Mosque. At the reception we are asked if we want a french bed or two (2) single beds. The room is very nice. Being right downtown Malatya, we have a million options to cheaply eat. We are craving Pide yet again. As we leave the hotel, we realize that the doorman had covered both motorcycles with plastic to protect them from the rain. We do not have to elaborate on the state of the motorcycles cleanliness, as they do not get any TLC in that regard.

April 13, 2010. We catch up on some photo downloads, journal and internet. The Copper Bazaar is only a block away from our hotel. The copper items for sale are made right there at the copper-beating workshops. We buy a copper water pitcher. We take in the local atmosphere by hanging with the locals at the Mosque square eating a Donar. A couple of drinks, we bought from the Fruit Juice Seller, very traditional to Turkey. Not sure what type of juice it was, but it tasted like medicine. In the evening we had tea with the police officer in the lobby. He was at the end of his shift and wanted to practice his English. We found out that a police officer after income tax makes about $1200.00/month.

April 14, 2010. The cold spell had past over Turkey and we awoke to clear blue sky. From Malatya we rode east on the D-300 through Elazig to Bingol along the Karakaya Dam. A 168km mountain road connects Bingol to Erzurum. It is a very scenic drive with lots of small villages along the way. A few close calls with sheep, goats, cows and dogs, but nothing we could not handle. We climbed to an elevation of 2305m on the GPS. The road had deteriorated to dirt at that point and there was plenty of snow in the ditch. We stayed at an elevation between 1900m to 2300m for another 300km. We were glad for a nice day to make this journey, as it would have been pretty cold in the rain. In Erzurum we fueled up and continued on the E80 east toward Horasan and then north-east to Kars. The road to Kars follows a river and canyon, which was beautiful. Kars a city of 77,000 people lies at an elevation of 1750m. After a few wrong turns we find the Gungoren Hotel and get a room on the 3rd floor for TL70.00. The TV has actually BBC and we are able to catch up with the Kyrgyzstan issue. Hoping that the situation will settle down by the time we get there. Mike runs out and gets some good take out food, which we have in the room. We had done just over 600km and it had been a good day of riding.

April 15, 2010. Our reason for being in Kars, is of course its close proximity to Ani. 45km east of Kars lies the once Armenian capital, Ani. It became the Armenian capital in 961 and then was destroyed by an earthquake in 1319. In 2006 we gave this site a miss due to its hassle trying to get permits to visit the ruins, as well as obtaining security clearance from the police. The ruins are on a high plateau, surrounded by a deep gorge on either side, right across from the Armenian-Turkish border. Due to its location it does not get many visitors and once you are there you do feel like being at the end of the world. Double walled city walls with a big gate is the entry point. Two (2) guys, serving their Army time for five (5) months after completing University at this site. They greet us happily and explain the rules. No photos of the border guards and towers, no video of the site. Then they outline the off-limit areas. Lonely Planet has a good map and describes the path to take well. We start with the oil press, then the Church of the Redeemer. Only half of its ruined structure remains, making for some great pictures. Down the hill is the best church, Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Armenian inscriptions are visible clearly on the outside walls. A sign points in the direction of the old Silk Road, which leads to the Off-Limit section. The interior columns of the Cathedral are massive. Further on is the Menucehr Mosque, which gives a good view of the ruined bridge that once spanned the Barley River. In the distance are the outcrops of the off-limit Citadel. Another highlight is the Church of St Gregory of Abugramentz. It is twelve-sided rotunda. Every point of interest has a well made sign in English. After spending a few hours exploring Ani we return to Kars. The hotel has wireless internet and we check the upcoming weather forecast for Georgia. It was time for another new country to be added to our list.

April 16, 2010. Between the 2006 and now this trip we had done a pretty good job of seeing a lot of Turkey. Of course we would be back again in 2012 on our way to Iran and Southern Asia. But for now we had a border crossing coming up, our favourite part of our travels (NOT). Another clear day and we had no idea what the road ahead would bring. From Kars, we make our way to Ardahan and then to Artvin, remaining at over 1900m for most of it, except of one major pass which took us up to 2650m. The snow was amazing and luckily for us not on the road. The descent is breath-takingly beautiful. White capped mountains and hair-pin switchbacks. Within kilometers we are at 600m elevation and about 25Degree Celsius on the plus site. We follow the Okcular River until Artvin and then the Coruh River to Hopa. In Artvin we strip off our winter gear, as we are overheating. From Hopa it is a scenic drive along the Black Sea, going through tunnel after tunnel until we reach the Turkish-Georgian Border. The passports are stamped out and customs also stamps out the motorcycles. We exchange some leftover Turkish Lira to the Georgian Lari with a dude at the border, the best we can get is an even 1 to 1 exchange, which is pretty good. On we go to Georgia.


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