**Literally through mountains**
On Wednesday, January 4th, it was time to say good-bye to family, friends and Berlin. I flew with Ryanair to Sofia and on the next day continued to Kutaisi. There I got a free bottle of excellent Georgian wine together with my stamp.
After 2 nights at airports I hitchhiked to Batumi, to figure out if my Iranian visa was already ready and be taken. Fortunately it was like that and in the after-noon I was able to pick it up. Unfortunately it is only valid for 15 days but I had to extend it in any case.
So everything was set. I was more or less ready to begin with the last part of my journey. I spent the weekend with Vakho in Ozurgeti and also the French Alise and Benjamin stopped there the same time. They are also visiting Iran, but taking another route.
On Monday, January 9th, I cycled to Batumi, slept at the empty beach bar again and entered Turkey on Tuesday. After seven thousand and four kilometres I had my first real repair (not the last one during the maybe “cursed” 7000): A changing gear cable had to be renewed – no problem, just a break of 20 minutes. I followed the Black Sea coast to Hopa and then made a turn inland. It got immediately colder and mountainous. Snow covered tea plants that later vanished for scraggy stones. I had to pass tunnels, a lot of tunnels. There had been 33 in total to be true.
For the night I found a closed rest place to pitch my tent at. It wasn’t very cold, but windy and before I was invited by some security guards for tea and delicious home-made Çiğ Köfte (bulgur balls).
On Wednesday the tunnel go more numerous. At noon I wanted to eat something on campus of Artvin university but the security told me “Problem”, so I had to leave the area.
The road I took was newly built. The reason was a barrage (probably the one in Borçka) that led to a rising water line and hence to flooding of settlements and the old road. Since at that time the water line was not very high I tried to explore one of these villages – especially the mosque was drawing my attention – but the muddy ground made it very difficult to walk on with my boots, so I had to return after I sank ankle-deep in the mud.
At the roadside there were often little houses that served at bus station. Unfortunately I didn’t want to sleep there because they were usually occupied by wild dogs (loud, but unoffending). So I chose a place next to a generator house at between two tunnels.
Due to construction of barrages the small town of Yusufeli should have been vanished as well. But fortunately it is still standing so after a short detour I could resupply there. The town itself is not special however the temperature went below 0°C during the day now. But because of cycling and sunshine it’s not a big deal.
That Thursday, January 12th, I arrived at Tortum waterfall before dusk. In other season the waterfall surely is a popular tourist spot but I was the only one wandering around on the frozen steps that afternoon.
At a parking lot near the waterfall were several huts. All were closed but on one had been forgotten to close the door before during the key. So after I cooked pasta for around one hour – I used some kind of chocolate cream as sauce that was disgusting and took a lot of water for the taste to he quite okay again – I brought my stuff into the hut and prepared for sleeping.
Actually I’m not sure if it hadn’t been warmer in my tent that night. In fact through the not closed door was constantly the cold of -8°C coming inside.
On Friday I got up early because to Erzurum it was only a bit more than 100km and my average speed the last days was only about 15km/h. In addition I had to climb a 2090m pass. In the end it was okay. When I started to climb the pass it started snowing for the first time and at -11°C I took some nice pictures at the top. After the pass the road descended until Erzurum so even a frozen derailleur was not something worth mentioning.
In Erzurum I could stay with Kemal Alp and his wife Özge who very super kind, friendly and funny. She finished her Master degree on Friday so there was a little celebration that weekend.
Erzurum is famous for its cold. Temperature of -30°C is normal and the town has some beautiful buildings from Seljuk era.
Anyway I hitchhiked on Tuesday to Istanbul and Samsun for one week returning the following Tuesday. It was very interesting because now I got in contact with many different people – finally. The propaganda of Erdogan was hitting me constantly: Merkel supports terrorists of PKK (Kurdish worker party), Merkel allows terrorists to enter Germany destabilizing Turkey’s security, PKK comes from Armenia, Kurdish people are thieves and no Muslims…..
But I want to point out that although many drivers said these things, they were not more than 50%. In addition I could speak German with many of them and was often invited for tea and even food. In conclusion it was a very interesting and nice experience.