Central Turkey north and south

The well from which Saul (Paul) of Tarsus drank his water

It is hard to describe the atmosphere of Turkey without being there--and if by saying such, I encourage you to visit so much the better. What I am referring to is the incredible sense of history, of age, of civilizations (seljuks, ottomans, etc), of being in an area that was, at one time and for a long time, the center of civilization, religion, learning, and as not least, military conquest. I'll always remember my 8th grade history teacher, Miss Cronin. I can still hear her reading from our textbook: "The ottoman finally fell, but it will be long remembered. It stood for centuries as a bulwark--the last word was roasted in her glottis a bit-- between Christian Europe (oops..forget the Jews????) and the barbarian states of the Middle East." Bulwark indeed! The ottoman empire only truly disappeared in the wholesale rewrite of Europe that followed World War I.

Ah...history was so much more colorful and honest and alive then! Well, it was honest and alive in Turkey, too. Talking about SOUTHERN TURKEY first, I spent an extra day in Tarsus because I ran into a bunch of crazy Turk guys (repetitive...all Turk guys are crazy). They showed me two things which I found particularly interesting. One was the well from which Saul of Tarsus (later the Paul, of Biblical fame) drank. You can still draw water from the well and drink it if ya want. Not far from the city center is an area of Roman ruins still being excavated. The Roman Road shown here, with many of the flagstones still in place after 2000 years, is in better condition than many roads built in the middle east today! Along the road are ruins of small shops and houses similar to highways of our day.

North of the city is a large park where the xxxxx river winds thru a series of chasms and pools. It is popular with local turks who use it to cool off, dive into the pools and walk its many shady and lush paths. There are a number of restaurants and cafes woven amongst the meanders and on the promontories where you can watch the lovers stroll and the macho divers leap into the pools below.

For other information about cycling in this part of Turkey, see the Bikeabout , where a cycling tour group went around the entire Medittereanean!

On the northern (Black Sea) coast of Turkey the rider will find a contrasting climate and scenery from that in the south. While all the Turkish coasts are hilly, in the north the hills are densely forested and have substantial rural sections where the riding is lean, green and mean! I ended up riding from Istanbul, through the countryside over to Kastamanou, where I saw the last total solar eclipse of the century. Great weather, darkness at 2:00 PM local time. Many people saw the eclipse from a football field or the castle in donwtown Kastamanou, but I rode back up into the hills above the town so that I could watch the rolling shadow of totality come across the landscape at over 400 miles per hour. The eclipse lasted a bit over 2 minutes, and boom! the crescent sun reappeared and it brightened quickly. First time eclipse watchers are often amazed at MUCH of the suns disk must be covered before it begins to get noticeably dark. For the first 90 minutes or so the effects were almost indistinguishable from a clear day becoming more and more cloudy. But oh...as they say...the finale! The corona was beautiful and you could see Venus, Mercury, and the star Regulus shining at midday.

I had arrived in Kastamanou the day before, and fully expected to have to wild camp in the nearby hills in order to stick around and see the eclipse. But I had wonderful luck. I found a little shop where they repaired everything from lawnmowers to motorbikes to....bicycles! My bike didn't really need repairs, but they were so nice I figured I may as well get some things done that I would otherwise put off. Plus they cleaned the bike for me, replaced the cables, and generally tuned up the whole guy. But best of all they offered to let me stay in the shop overnight so that I didn't have to wild camp. As the place was getting ready to close, I was spreading stuff out to lay down and one of the folks said..no, no, no...stay at our home tonight! Snakes come into the shop at night....
Thus I was hosted by my umpteenth Turkish family and BOY was the food good. All the mechanics kept poking fun at my name Gary, which is very close to the Turkish Gure!! Gure!! which means, bye bye! Too soon it really was time to go. If folks realized just how often and how, briefly, painful these goodbyes are, they would be quite surprised. But I also knew that if I did not move on, there wouldn't be another group of wonderful people to meet or places to see.