75km Balıkesir to Duğla
We slept like logs after our pre-dawn start the day before and struggled to get out of bed. Just 10 more minutes, we said, rolling over and pulling the duvet up around our heads. Maybe our bodies were already subconsciously aware of just how cold it was outside. It was our first bone-chilling morning in quite some time but at least the sky was blue. We needed directions to get out of the city so we stopped at a police box.
These little cubicles – big enough for a small desk and three police officers – are all over the place in Turkey’s towns and cities and are a good place to go if you need help. Think a Dr. Who tardis but white instead of blue and you’ll get the idea. We weren’t transported to another time zone as we stepped inside but we were offered tea and accepted a glass before asking the way to the next town. The tea finished, we washed our hands in a rose-scented type of perfume that all the restaurants around here seem to offer after you finish eating and produced our map. Some discussion ensued before two of the officers motioned towards the police van.
We had our first police escort of the trip. How fun! It felt like being five years old again and allowed to get on the fire truck and sound the siren.
We followed the van through the intersection and up a main road until we reached the city limits, when the officers made sure we weren’t hungry, thirsty or lacking anything else, then waved us on our way. What service. A real example of the hospitality offered everywhere in Turkey.
Our ride in the morning was on a reasonably busy road and Andrew had a fall as Friedel braked hard to try and avoid a dog rushing towards us, barking wildly and teeth bared. Thankfully there was no damage to rider or bike and and we carried on, soon turning off the busy road onto a more rural route towards Bergama – famous for its archaeological site, known in Roman times as Pergamum.
Lunch was spent in the small town of Ivrindi, roughly the same size as Andrew’s hometown of Sackville with 5,000 people living there. Unlike Sackville, there is no university in Ivrindi but it was a bustling little spot nonetheless and we couldn’t be bothered to fire up our stove for lunch so instead we had a feast of çorba, the smooth chicken soup that seems to form the base of Turkish cuisine. We created a fuss once again as we stopped for supplies at the supermarket. “Welcome to Ivrindi,” said one man, nursing his cup of tea as a small group gathered round the bikes. We got another invitation to tea but we declined, knowing it is very likely possible to get absolutely nowhere in Turkey on a bicycle if you accept every offer of tea that comes your way!
Instead we cruised into the hills, through forests of pine trees and finally settled on a campsite overlooking two small villages. Nestled in our tent, protected from the wind howling outside, we are hoping for a slightly less frigid day tomorrow and plotting quick routes to sunnier spots if the weather doesn’t improve.