**Turkish Hospitality and Summer in Winter**
On Monday, 21st Nov, I left Atakum after a delicious lunch with Serkan and met with my initial host in the evening. That’s why I spent the night in Samsun – on a children’s playground in a park at the seaside.
So on Tuesday I started cycling to Georgia. The road was not hilly any more but wide with a big shoulder. So driving was very easy but also a bit boring. The weather was surprisingly good for that time of the year and this region. Serkan named a few sights I should not miss to visit.
First there was Çaytepe, where the old coastal road used to curl along. There was the Jason Cape with its little Jason Church and it was a wonderful place for breakfast. I continued to Giresun the hometown of Serkan with a lot of hazelnut trees and the beginning of the tea cultivation. There was no adequate place to pitch a tent in Giresun so I cycled further till Keşap. After I asked a police officer for a grocery shop and he advised me to stay in a park nearby the police station because that would be very safe. In general I would have agreed but in this time police stations are not really safe places to be – I mean here in the north it’s still okay. In a café in the park men were playing a game that I didn’t get after 1 hour of watching and drinking tea that I was invited for.
Even the next morning the started playing again but I had to go to Trabzon. On this Thursday a man wanted to give me 10TL, as I was eating a local köfte in Akçaabat the waiter covered my bill and when I wanted to pitch my tent in a village near a mosque Tarik came and brought me to his family – so I got the full program of Turkish hospitality in one day. Although the night was a bit rough: The room was heated with wood to seemingly 28°C, Tarik smoked once in a while (I said it was okay), and no window was open. I was not sure if I would catch a carbon monoxide poisoning. But at least I needn’t spend the night out in the cold and his family was really friendly.
On Friday, 25th Nov, I woke up feeling refreshed, ate some breakfast at with Tarik and then cycled away from the coast to Sümela Monastery. It lies 1000m above sea level and the road was already a bit icy. At first I wasn’t sure if I should make this day trip – a suggestion by Serkan. But the weather was great and the small road along the mountains was a pleasure to cycle on, even if ascending. The monastery is being renovated so the best views can be gotten from below.
The weekend became funny. On Saturday I arrived in the small town Fındıklı (eng. nut). There I met with Esma, an English teacher, and her principle Orhan. We arranged that I would go to school on Monday to talk a bit with the pupils who rarely get in touch with tourists so they can see the importance of learning English.
So Sunday I have been quite lazy and visited the school on Monday with Esma. We went to some classes and in the end I played – amateurish – a bit on the trumpet.
It was an awesome morning and noon and in the afternoon I left Turkey and crossed to Batumi, Georgia. I was kind of beat by all the shining huge hotels and casinos. Fortunately the holiday season was long gone and the shops and restaurants along beach boulevard lay abandoned. Therefore it was easy to get a beach lounger on one of them.
On Tuesday, 29th Nov, while the sun was shining and the temperature were at summery 20°C I went to the Iranian consulate to apply for my visa. There I met the two French guys Eugène and Robin who have been hitchhiking to India since two years. They gave me some hints while filling in the application form and we made an appointment for Sunday in Kutaisi before I was going to fly to Berlin. At noon I continue to Ozurgeti where Vakho agreed to host me and my bicycle.
Unfortunately Tuesday was the last day with nice weather. The following ones were cloudy, windy and rainy. I was in the situation not really wanting and being able to go out but to be kept busy by the energetic 5yo daughter of Vakho. On Wednesday I walked around town a bit but that was it.
On Sunday, 4th Dec, I hitchhiked to Kutaisi and a had a good day in the apartment where Eugène and Robin have been renting a room for three weeks – we were cooking, talking and playing a card game in the evening. At 9pm I hitchhiked to the airport that I already know from last summer and was greeted on Monday morning by snow covered Berlin.