We thanked our hosts for their hospitality and started early again, motivated to reach Yuri in Trabzon today. Cycling was the highlight of the day and people opened their windows or even the doors of their cars to greet us along the road. In fact this country feels a little bit like Albania, where we almost couldn’t lower our arms to wave back at everyone who was welcoming us. Only here in Turkey they also offer chai everywhere, after greeting us. This happens several times a day and we are truly sorry we can’t accept every offer! Sometimes we even noticed drivers riding slowly behind us, taking their smartphone to make a video of those crazy guys on a fully packed bicycle. Because “What the hell are they doing?!” We can tell you that if you decide to travel to Turkey, you will feel genuinely welcome in this country, and people will come to welcome you and ask you about your travels and what you think about Turkey. It is a lovely country to cycle through!
The next morning we saw Yuri again, at the Iranian embassy, where we agreed to meet. Today it was time to arrange our Iranian visa’s. Also, this was our first visit to a foreign embassy, a new experience for all of us. The women at the desk greeted us and asked our reference number, gave us some papers to fill and told us to return later that day with the papers and other necessary documents for the visa. For Oli, Yuri and Anton, everything went smoothly, but Stef’s visa had a problem with a passport number mismatch, so he arranged everything at the Brussels embassy and asked his father to pick up the passport with the Iranian visa.
Sadly, it was impossible to get our visa’s the same day and instead we had to wait three working days. Anton and Stef got tired of waiting and jumped on their bikes for a visit to the famous Sumela Monastery, 50 km to the south in the mountains. Leaving all their bags at the hostel was a wise decision, as it turned out to be 50 km uphill.
At about 900 meters above sea level, the ground was frozen solid and a thin layer of snow appeared on both sides of the road. Around 1200 meters above sea level, a layer of ice covered the rivers, muffling the sound of the stream beneath it. The thin layer of snow was now a thick pack of powdery whiteness, and the last part of the road was completely covered in this too. So we had to take our bikes by hand and skate our way up the icy road to the monastery. Two stray dogs lifted their heads and ran towards us, and guided us up the mountain after a warm greeting. They didn’t bring any chai though.
Soon after, our feet and hands were turning numb and it was almost time to go back. The monastery was closed for maintenance, but that didn’t prevent us from catching a glimpse of the beautiful sight of the monasteries constructed in the cliffs. We weren’t there to pay a visit inside the monasteries, the outside is more appealing anyway. We snapped a picture, skated down and jumped on our bikes to start the ‘man versus dog’ race. The dogs followed us up to 35 km/h, but the road was too steep and we increased our pace, so we waved them goodbye and returned to Trabzon, finishing the 50 km ride back just under one hour and thirty minutes.