Just returned from a road trip through Turkey, along the route of the Tour of Turkey bike race. Here are a few snaps from the road and one of my daily blog posts.
Mid morning, following on from a gruelling 32 hour sleepless journey from Asia and I peered out of the airplane window to see huge great ripple patches of snow, real snow, not just a dusting.
This came as something of a surprise to me, and had me counting how many pairs of shorts I’d packed, and how many jackets I’d left at home. Was this really Turkey, surely not, not with snow?
Living in Southeast Asia means it’s been a few years since I’d seen any real white stuff, and it was to be the first of many surprises I was to unwrap during the following two weeks.
I’m a cycling and travel writer and photographer, and have been for way to long, which is, I guess, why I’ve scored the chance to take on a near blind road trip along the route of the 2015 Tour of Turkey.
There’s pretty much a blank itinerary ahead, which is the best way (for me), so during the warm up to each stage of the race I’ll be bringing you tastes and glimpses from my journey along the beautiful south coast of Turkey. Saddle up and enjoy the ride!
Alanya is where it all started, as does the race. Weary eyed and sore tempered I stumbled into a resort hotel on the edge of town, only to be greeted by the tail end of a cycling training camp.
For Eastern European riders Alanya is fast becoming the new Majorca (thanks to www.cyclingalanya.com), and both Astana and Katusha Continental teams had wintered her, and had just left for the chills of the European spring.
Flat coastal roads, with the occasional inland foray seem to be their training diet of choice, although heading inland along the Dim River road was my main dish, and a truly authentic one it turned out to be.
From the all -inclusive resorts to craggy snow capped mountains and old lady shepherds, what a contrast there is in just an hour of so of riding, and it really set the stage for my journey ahead.
Side ride – Alanya is a great place to base yourself for both road and mountain bike riding, as many pro’s will testify to.
The coast road makes for a scenic and windswept flat ride, although there can be a little traffic, and you do need to fit a rear light if you head west of town, as there are numerous tunnels to deal with.
Towards the far end of the race route the stage takes a detour along the old coastal road, which is a superb and quiet ride between the sea and terraced banana plantations (for which the area is famed for); it’s well worth a day out.
There are also many side roads leading inland to the Taurus Mountains, with climbs up to 1,200 meters high to be found. One real treat is the road out of Alanya along the Din River, which leads up to a reservoir and is doused with great scenery.
Keep on riding (following the shoreline) and you’ll hit the well-surfaced dirt road, which makes for an epic out and back ride.
There’s also some great mountain bike trails into the mountains here too.
Turkish delight – Turkish tea, served at just about every possible opportunity and without a doubt the national tipple of choice.
You can’t miss it; every café, street corner, carpet shop or doorway is almost certain to have a local or two sitting and sipping away at a slender and milk free glass of this Ceylon imported and strongly brewed tipple.
Sweet is the way it’s served, so be sure to ask for sugar free if that’s not to your taste. If you get chance you must sit down and exchange a few broken words and gestures with the locals, you will be made mist welcome. Tea drinking is a very social thing here.
Gallipoli, 100 years later – Slightly off course, but as ANZAC Day is upon us and we have many Australian and Turkish riders at the race I thought to touch on the subject.
The battle between the Allies and the Ottoman’s started on the 25th April 1915, and ended in a tragic loss of life on the all sides (some 8 and a half months later) and in victory for the Ottoman’s.
An estimated 56,707 Allied forces lost their lives in the campaign – 8,709 of them were Australian, while the British lost the majority; a staggering 34,072, although official sources fail to agree on exact numbers, some claim many more death. A similar number Ottoman (now Turkish) fighters also perished.
Gallipoli and the Ottoman victory were also attributed as a major force in the emergence and formation of modern day Turkey.
History bite – Impressively dominating the city shore and skyline of Alanya is its castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and one of many along the race route).
The castle was built during the 13th century by the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum, on the site of previous Roman and Byzantine ruins.
Mark Antony also gave it as a wedding gift to Cleopatra, which sure beats a box of chocolates.