Beautiful views, 13 tunnels and lots of hills
Safronbolu Turkey, a Unesco World Heritage Site and the location of our first rest day on the Silk Route, is picturesque city. The name Safronbolu in Turkish means “the place with much Saffron”. Even the Turkish delight here is made from the stuff. It’s a community of about 25,000 people. New construction is not allowed here because of the UNESCO guidelines so a few kms down the road is Karabuk, a town of about 100,000. Karabuk has the feel of a busy commercial center while nearby Safranbolu has a more hometown feel.
The riders had a tough day getting here. The morning was filled with one steep climb after the other. But the climbs were wonderful from the point of view of a cyclist. Narrow roads, with little traffic that twist up the mountainside offering spectacular views of the surrounding country side and villages. Just before Lunch the climbing paid off with a 12 km descent in to Deverek, a Turkish Community renowned for making custom walking sticks. After Lunch the road flattened a bit but then the riders had to navigate 13 tunnels the longest of which was 700 meters long. Without lights the tunnels got quite dark in the middle and made for an otherworldly feeling as you rode through them, unable to tell exactly where you were going and having to use your other senses to navigate the bike. After the tunnels the climbing started again, steep pavement eventually turned into steep cobbled streets as the riders made their way to the guest house (or pension) where we would spend the rest day. The Pension was a build hundreds of years old and kept in it’s original condition, except for the addition of electricity and running water. It even had its own Turkish bath, a nice treat at the end of a long day. The pension owner, Himli, was extremely accommodating. Upon arrival riders were treated to Turkish delight (made with saffron of course), hot tea and pastries filled with walnut paste.
After all the riders had arrived ( and I had tested out the Turkish bath to make sure is was safe) I took a trip into town in search of a barber to get rid of the two weeks of beard growth I had accumulated since leaving Cape Town. It was around 9 pm and wasn’t too optimistic I would find a barber open but as I walked down the main street I found a small shop with its light still on, the barber was sitting outside having a smoke with some fellow shop owners. It was late and I was expecting just a quick shave but I wound up having the best shave of my life. As the barber spread hot lather on my face he explained that Turkish barber shops are not just for haircuts and shave but a place for men to meet and hang out and discuss the days events, news, politics etc… He ordered some tea and after the shave (which was great) we drank and chatted a bit. I thought I was done and got ready to pay when he stopped me, spun me around in the chair, leaned me back and washed my hair. Next came the neck and upper back massage, followed by a bit of after shave and some perfumed powder. I left the shop feeling so relaxed and refreshed it was amazing. I walked home and quickly fell asleep.
They next day was a flurry of activity. At 8 am the staff and riders had breakfast with the Deputy Mayor of Safronbulo, complete with press and entourage. The breakfast was informal and the Deputy Mayor welcomed us and took a few photos. Henry attempted to convince him that the city should invest in a public bicycle program and that the Mayor should join us on tour next year. I’m not sure of the likelihood of the second option considering that after the breakfast we were to go on a guided tour of the city but the guide insisted we could not walk because it was much too far, “at least 2 kilometer” she said. That got a nice laugh from our group but we still took a cab to the first site on the tour. The staff were busy all day; scouting a new route out of Safranbulo, shopping for food, working on bikes and organizing the vehicles. It’s 7:39 pm now as I write this. I’ve just finished bike shop at the pension and I am sipping a Turkish Coffee at a café off the main street thru the city while I wait for Haldun to return with our van from getting some new shelves installed and getting it washed (it smells pretty bad right now). He should be done about the same time Henry and Ricardo return from their scouting mission and the plan is to stay up late so we can repack the vehicle for an early start tomorrow. But I still haven’t visited the cities Hamam, or Turkish Bath House and it’s tempting to go for a soak. Perhaps the packing can wait til the morning…..