Leaving Istanbul, the coast, Safranbolu.
I leave Istanbul late afternoon, Friday 18th, north along the Bosporus, hit the Black Sea coast at Riva, not far at all, a beach, a fortress in ruins, Byzantine, Ottoman? Night falls early, sees some drops of rain, I am sick with the flu, sleep long hours, days are getting shorter, no good to be wasting my daylight time.
Along the coast all day driving, curvy, hilly, slowly is my path. Bleak and trashy the scenery, industrial, wearying, no reward, Alapli, Atatürk, the sun’s out, Eregli with its shipyards, Camp 2nd night, a fishing port near Kilimli, distance covered 220km, on road 350. Cook, a thunderstorm then a second one, lightning and thunder a second in between, torrential rains all night, never stops raining but not cold. Just I have the flu.
Wake up, throat is miserable, vitamins, Nescafe, a litre of Earl Grey’s sweetened with Bulgarian Rila honey; hit the ever winding coastal road, Zonguldak, Filyos, think rather go inland. Safranbolu first stop with its old preserved Ottoman houses, baths, mosques, a UNESCO heritage, a museum not yet, tourists, many Turkish, electric golf carts tour them round town, MP3 players do the guide talk. A restaurant for me, food is nice; I need to eat well to recover.
Kastamonu back to coast, Inebolu and Sinop.
Carry on to Kastamonu, sleep in for an hour, so sick, when I wake up discover all is dead, end of Ramadan festivities, all is closed, all is decorated with huge Atatürk posters and Turkish flags. A Atatürk war of independence memorial shows the famous peasant women delivering artillery shells for the battle front in carts pulled by oxen. Kastamonu lies on rout from the Black Sea port of Inebolu where the smuggled Russian weapons arrived to where the decisive all out or nothing battle of Dumlupınar (wiki) in the Greco-Turkish war was fought. After the war it was in Kastamonu 1925 where Mustafa Kemal made the first speeches pushing western head wear and dress, abolishing turban, fez and veil.
Getting out, direction back to the coast, sun breaks through, for this is short lived, it sets behind those thundery black towers, my path takes me over 3 passes, one higher than 1200m, a foretaste of the rough, moulded Anatolian landscape and I realise those snow poles; they’re there for a purpose. I need to move, 20th of Sep already, winter will come soon.
The coast, Inebulo, the rains have me back, all night, wind and rain, waves pounding, but I cannot hear them, my ears are plugged by the cold, or the flu.
Morning, cough sounds like pneumonia, spit green and yellow, the Black Sea calm two days ago now a monster, I still can’t hear her, sinuses still blocked. have my vitamin C dose, coffee, Earl Grey’s and honey. Why do I have such strong believe in the power of real honey?
I stop using the heater, seems this dries out my nostrils, in Ayancik I stock up on more honey, 1 kilo of expensive Turkish original. Sweeten my tea after Bulgarian now Turkish, both pretty much organic from where they're from. I believe pure quality honey is medicine, contains natural antibiotics.
Sinop has Turkey's northern most port, a Byzantine castle, in ruins, some of which washed away by the sea. The friendly internet cafe, a walk on pier, I like it. It rains. Work on computer in car, an Efes beer. Sleep my great sleep.
Mustapha Kemal arrived by ship in Samsun in 1919, escaping Istanbul and the British, Samsun is where he started his conspiracy/revolution, after he tricked the Sultan to make him inspector of the Eastern Armies, when in fact he went organising the nationalists.
I arrive, a big city, find a parking, central, spend afternoon on the internet, outside is drizzel all day, the flu seems in check, evening a fish sandwich, then drizzle turns back to rain. Head between my sholders, wander through town, buy an umbrella, now realise how wet I am. Back to the car, write the back stories. Not much I can do but have some Jameson Irish Whiskey. At least the mind thinks this is good for the cold. Always tea and honey sucks.
Morning no rain, buy a liter of Ayran, visit the Gazi (Atatürk) Museum, feel like half an expert on him since reading the Mango (wiki) biography, have some fried anchovis or mackerels, for what it is, istavrit at my favorit place and wonder why I still not even manage say teşekkür ederim, thank you in Turkish? At least I can read it, they changed from Perso-Arab to Latin letters in the 30s, another of Atatürk's reforms.
Samsun to Trabzon, Jason's Cape.
2 nights in Samsun further on coast east on 24th, it is SUNNY, yeah. Somewhere I leave the 2 lane highway that followed the coast since Sinop. A mountain, a peninsula, a smaller cape, Jason’s cape with Jason church; Jason/Yasun leader of the Argonauts, figure in Greek mythology 8c B.C. travelled in a ship with his band of heroes the coast in search for some golden fleece. Whether Jason actually was here, we don't know for sure.
Spend my afternoon in Giresun, reading more about Atatürk in a bar, reach Trabzon after sundown.
Since Sinop I have been following the 2 lane speedway, no where to park, always glued to the Black Sea, beaches are plenty, but due to the proximity of the freeway inaccessible/polluted by whatever garbage motorists throw out/dangerous to stop/unpleasant to walk for the trucks go by at high speeds. When sun sets I stop anyway. Is nothing to take a picture but the scrubs by the road.
At night the town is completely taken over by the young, walking up and down the pedestrian zone. I cannot hide my smile, the further east I get the better it seems. Trabzon a McDonald, a Burger King, an Efes Beer Pub that is not a brothel. What more do I want?
Most towns on the Eastern coast stretch over a number of hills with many steeply sloped alleys, nice congested, busy adults seeing after their businesses, roaming kids in their teens and twenties, many after school still in school uniform, women pushing prams over cobblestones up and down, get the shopping done.
Trabzon, Stress Cafe, free wifi, every afternoon for me, a Turkish coffee, kahve, followed by a tea, çay. There’s a coming and going of young people after school, they play back gammon or smoke Shisha on the terrace, or Narghilè as it is called here, new smoking laws forbid smoking inside, for a tobacco cultivating and smoking nation like Turkey, a revolution. But Turkey is used to revolutions and authorities that interfere in ones private conducts.
Evening Friday I think of having a quiet beer in some local pub I have seen. Strict laws give one floor to men with women, no smoking, the other floor, actually the terrace to the poor suckers without a woman, so it seems to me, I cannot just sit anywhere, terrace on top means smoking allowed, so I am stuck with all the men and it is really, really crammed, the waiter seats me on a table with 3 other nice guys, though no one speaks a word of English, brings a beer, and in a minute I know why it is so full. The more than 100 men have come after work to watch Trabzonspor play some Ankara club in Ankara, on overhead TVs. Ok so this won’t be a short and quick beer. 2:2, very civilized drinking, 6 beers later, we all go our ways.
That was not such a great move for my cold, lie in all Saturday, is raining anyway.
Sunday afternoon after rain all morning I visit Ayasofya, Hagia Sophia (wiki) here in Trabzon, 13th century, late Byzantine.
There is more bad weather in the making as I leave the church. From central Trabzon it takes a good hour walking all the way west, is nice in afternoon sun. But it daunts me and I wisely catch a minibus back/I arrive and it rains/crawl in the back of my truck/work the back pages/tea and honey and whiskey (as Nick suggested).
The honey it seems has done its job. When at other occasions I would have gone for serious antibiotics I stuck it out in the cold of my van, convalesce by self medication of tea and honey in large quantities.