With the chestnut cookie taste still massaging our taste buds, we stopped at the first bakery we came across to stack up on new Nökul and other sweets. After a sugary breakfast, Stef took the lead on the flat road and trio pressed on the gas, eager to make progress on the flat roads. This made us sweat, and since we hadn’t had a decent shower since Istanbul we decided it was time to look for a Turkish bathing house. Before we knew, we found ourselves in the center of a village in the middle of nowhere. We locked up our bikes and trusted the owner of the ‘hamam’ to safeguard our home, transportation and pride, while the master bathers scrubbed off all the layers of dirt of our bodies and relaxed.
“Feeling powerful?” Stef asked Anton, who was passing to take first place to set the pace a little higher. Anton nodded, and the three friends continued along the black sea at a steady 35 km/h. Trabzon felt close. We started looking for a place to sleep in the darkness, and tried our chances at the fire department of a village called Unye. The firemen were eager to invite us in and gave us chai and free dinner, but alas it is not allowed to host people in a government building. On the television the news channel was showing footage of the situation in Syria and one of the firemen wanted us to know this: “Christian, Muslim, Jüdaïsm, same). Terrorism no Muslim. Politics Belçika, Türkiye no good, people is good.” Yes, we understand, the people are not the politics. Muslims are not terrorist. We are all the same, don’t worry.
Bellies full we cycled on and found shelter in a ‘Mescit’, a prayer house, next to a gas station. The shopkeeper made clear we had to leave at 5.30 AM to not disturb people who would come to pray. We got installed instantly, crawled in our sleeping bags, to make sure ze didn't miss any precious sleep.
At 5.25 the same shopkeeper came to turn on the lights and wake us up. Time to go guys, and it’s raining, hurray! We stopped for a delicious sheep stomach soup (do not try this) and raincycled some more. Today we had to cross a valley, where it started snowing. First gently, but then thick snowflakes started falling and covered the roads in ten centimeters of white carpet. Normally we’d say snow is nicer than rain to cycle through, but in this case we were rocketing down a road at 40 km/h, the snow was biting our cheeks and freezing our fingers. So, brains frozen solid and cheeks tomato red, we stopped as soon as we reached the sea again and found a nice place to dry our clothes and to had some more soup and bread to re-energize for the long cycling day ahead.
We called it a day after 146 km when we found a woodworker’s shop and asked the man inside if we could sleep in his shop, as we only need a soft floor for our mattresses. He explained the shop was not his, but he started calling some friends and gave us instructions to a place where we would find a warm bed. The woodworker was wearing a University sweater, and it turned out he pointed us to the apartment of his friends, lucky us! We were received with hot chai and dinner once again, and kissed both of our hands for the good fortune we encounter here in Turkey every day. Our host offered us his own bed, and we tried to decline, but he insisted. We think it is a tradition to offer a guest your own bed and to sleep on the couch yourself. A very nice gesture and as a Belgian this felt somewhat weird, as if we were taking his bed by asking for a place to sleep. But if we ever encounter anyone looking for a place to sleep, we’d definitely return this gesture and offer our own beds.