The rain came when we went to bed. It sounded like Lake Ohrid needed a refill. In the morning it was still there, but went away throughout the day. We took some beautiful tiny Macedonia roads nobody used and went eastwards into Greece.
Our stop for the night was Thessaloniki. Here we found not only sufficient parking for our holy bikes, but a security guard who was up for chat (“Albania? It’s not a country, it’s a situation!”).
From Thessaloniki its only a short ride to the Turkish border. Borders are special, they structure our trips and they always provide a bit of stress, a bit of anticipation. The past borders had been a sweep through, mostly Schengen of course. When we jokingly asked the Croatian officer “What do you want?!” she replied “I want a million dollars and go to Hawaii.” But the borders get more serious the further we get. A Greek officer about our age gave the concerned dad: “So far? On motorcycles? Isn’t that dangerous?”, while the Turkish had a few people with machine guns standing around. But the Turkish officer had only one, slightly unexpected question: “What’s better: BMW or KTM?” We convinced him to let us pass despite his weird preference of Bavarian vehicles.
Our first day in Turkey was the first day after the referendum. We passed the battlefields of Gallipoli and left Europe on a little ferry. Destination: Cannakale. A busy coast town, filled with students, policemen, Turkish flags and Atatürk portraits. Following our Croatian recipe we left the big coastal roads and traded them in for smaller country tracks. Never disappointing.
There’s so much to visit around here, you have to make your choices. So we didn’t see Troy (Sorry, Dad! Sorry, Brad Pitt!) but went to Ephesus instead.
After an intense search of our bags (What were they looking for? Explosives?) we got to see the ruins in all their glory. There were not a lot of people around. Off season. We’ll get back to that. We also left Efes (the Turkish name for Ephesus) without “Genuine fake watches”, but we appreciate the honesty.
Carrying on southwards we figured a beach day or two would do us good, but 10 degrees and rain didn’t make feel like staying at the coast. So we took a beautiful pass that led us up to 1800 meters near Yaprakli.
The mountains were still covered with snow and it was, well, cold. We found a nice little hotel in an island town called Egirdir. It must be really beautiful in summer, but the April version of Egidir feels a bit sad and lonely. Off season. There it is again.
On little roads, some of them made of gravel, we went east towards Kappadokia. After some hours, there was surprise behind the corner: Konya. There it lay with more than a million people.
Konya also had a little surprise for us. We left an an inner-city motorway with about 30 km/h. In this totally harmless curve Thies’ rear tyre suddenly lost grip for no apparent reason. The bike was sliding on the side and Thies was sliding on his back, as if he was a MotoGP rider. But bike and rider where fine. Thies elbow has a tiny bruise, the crash bars have a few scratches and so do the panniers. The suit shows almost no trace of the sliding. Great to know we can trust our gear.
So why did this happen? It was a little slimy, oily lid that Thies drove over in lean angle. First man down. Tough luck. We’d been riding for slighty more than 5000 kilometers so maybe it was time to put bike and gear to real test. Cautiously, we continued our trip to Aksaray.
The next morning, April in Turkey felt like April in Northern Germany: cold and dark and windy. 6 degrees. On our way to Göreme this atmosphere condensed to an apocalypse. Nevsehir felt like the end of everything. A storm swept sand clouds through the dark and empty streets. Plastic bags and newspapers were flying around. A dog wandered through the lanes without orientation, trying to avoid the traffic. An old lady lay on the streets bleeding after being hit by car. After escaping Nevsehir we reached Göreme.
But our visit was a quick one. The sand storm again. We were happy to put our helmets back on again.
The temperature had been around 8 degrees the whole but felt considerably colder given the wind chill. But at the end of the day the road led to the mountains we didn’t see all day because of the dust.
The pass was at about 2200 meters – and the temperature dropped to 1 degree. It was beautiful up there. The rocks were blue, red, brown, snow white and incredible. And too cold to be portrayed in extenso.
We were really happy when we reached Erzincan at dusk.
Cold Turkey. We’re hoping to get a fix of sun tomorrow. It’s your last chance. Georgia calling.