August 24, 2007 - km 116,716 - Hendek (Sakarya), Turkey

Drink tea!


I am on the road between Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey.

I left Istanbul 5 days ago. It was quite difficult to find a free camping place near Istanbul that evening. When I was outside of Yalavo city, I found a farm. I asked if I could pitch my tent in front of this farm. The owner of the shop said: "You do not need to pitch your tent. You can sleep inside my shop without any problem!" I stayed there and also he gave me some food.

I arrived in Hendik town, at evening, 2 days ago. I was looking for a supermarket to find some food to cook that evening. Suddenly a man in front of a tea shop called me. Mr. Sebahattin Sofu, who invited me to drink tea, is the owner of that tea shop. The tea shop was crowded with local men. He gave me a glass of tea and a sandwich. When I finished drinking, he gave me second glass of tea.... I said "I will go because I want to find a camping spot somewhere out of town to sleep tonight." Sebahattin said: "No problem, you can sleep inside my shop without any problem!" He invited me to eat nice dinner and I could sleep on the comfortable sofa.

Tea shops are a popular meeting place for Turkish men. I see them in every town. Many men go there and talk with friends and play a game. Normally a glass of tea costs about US$ 0.20 (20 dollarcents - 0.25 Turkish Lira). It is not expensive for local people. (The price of a glass of tea in Istanbul or touristic tea shop is sometimes 3 Lira, US$ 2.50). Turkish people like tea very much. They drink it a lot. Normally the same people come to the same tea shop, it is like social club. So, everybody knows everybody, even if they are not friends, they speak with each other easily. Whenever I come into a tea shop many customers say: "Welcome!". My bicycle stays outside the shop but nobody touches it and there is never any trouble. The countryside of Turkey is very nice. People are very hospitable and trustworthy. (But I must still be careful in Istanbul, big cities and touristic places.) Some people can speak English or German.

A restaurant near Izmir Yesterday, Sebahattin said: "You can stay today!" and I replied: "OK". Many people came to his shop one by one. Everybody asked me who I am. They were all curious about this strange Japanese bike man. And they always smiled at me. I drunk more than 20 glasses of tea yesterday. Sebahattin took care of me very well. From time to time he gave me tea, coffee, food, water, juice... It seems Turkish people like foreigners and also cyclists very much. But they do not like Israel, England and the USA because of political and historical reasons.

Well, I wanted to leave here in this morning, but I stop today. Because Sebahattin wanted me to stay one more day. He can't speak English but we understand many things. His birthday is just 5 days before mine in 1970. I like Turkish tea, Turkish culture and Turkish people.

P.S. Turkish tea is black tea with sugar. The origin of this tea is in India or China.

October 3, 2007 - km 117,821 - Nicosia, Cyprus

Greetings from Cyprus

Souvenir bags I am on Cyprus. Cyprus is one island but it has two governments. I arrived in northern Cyprus by ferry boat from Turkey yesterday. Northern Cyprus is more developed and more expensive than Turkey. It is still warm: more than 30C at daytime. People in northern Cyprus are almost all Turkish Cypriots and Turks. A lot of people speak English. They are friendly; even the immigration police is friendly.

Cyprus is a very interesting place to see with a long history with influences from different cultures: Greek culture in Cyprus dates back to 2500 BC. The Romans and Byzantines built churches and monastries across the island. Crusaders made castles. Franks erected Gothic cathedrals. Vanetians built huge city walls around Nicosia and Famagusta. Ottomans invaded in 1571 and dominated the Cypriots for the next 300 years.

In 1878, Turkey sold Cyprus to Britain. Britain finally granted independence to Cyprus in August 1960. On 15 July 1974, forces from mainland Greece launched a coup against the government of Archbishop Mekarios III, killing hundreds of Turkish Cypriots. In response, Turkish forces occupied the northern third of the island, driving 180,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and killing thousands more. Nowadays, it has a green line (border) between the north and the south. The green line passes through the middle of Nicosia city. It seems like Berlin city before 1989.

Until few years ago, it was not allowed to go from the north to the south of Cyprus. But the situation has changed. Yesterday, I could cross from the north without any problem. Well, I had to wait for half an hour until the southern police accepted me.

When I crossed into the south, many things changed. People are less friendly. The immigration police is unfriendly. They checked all pages in my passport and stopped me for half an hour without reason...

After that, I could go into the south. Everything is more expensive than in the north and is far more developed. I saw many modern buildings and expensive cars.

The southern part of the island (the Republic of Cyprus) has joined the European Union in 2004. Nicosia city looks like Europe. I saw many holiday tourists from England, France and other European countries. Nicosia is a popular European holiday destination because of its warm and nice weather, the many beautiful historical monuments and the safety. Greek Cypriots live in southern Cyprus. Many things are similar to Greece. They do not have a bicycle culture. So, their drivers are not friendly for bicyclist.

I will leave this expensive island soon; I will be going back to the north today, and then go back to Turkey. After that, I will go to Syria, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.