Maps and Stats

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Turkey – Ankara, 18 – 21 July 2018

The ride so far, 6,000 km.

Eskisehir to Ankara, another easy ride, rising in altitude from 788m to 938m the high plains, vast open areas with farms. Its also cooler around 30c instead of 40c. There was a police presence at the outskirts of Ankara with an armoured car.

Ankara – capital of Turkey, population 5 million, an ancient city that has been modernised, it has 2 metro lines, the only ones in Turkey. Good roads and impatient drivers hahaha.

Most of Turkey does not have freeways (toll roads) but there are some around Istanbul and Adana in the South East. In order to use the freeways you have to register your vehicle at the PTT or Post Office. The minimum cost is 50 lira, 20 for the registration and 30 lira credit, you will need to show your passport and your vehicle’s documents. I also gave the lady at the counter my Turkey Insurance document because it is in Turkish and made it easier for her to read and then enter the details into the system. You also get given a card which has your registration number on it, you will need it to add credit to your account. The tolls do not cost much except for the bridges in Istanbul which are expensive. I have not used any freeways as yet but got the card just in case, there is no expiry date. If you do happen to go through a toll plaza without enough credit, you have 7 days to add credit to your account, the fine is 10 times the toll and customs checks for violations when you leave the country. Apparently when you go through the toll gate it tells you how much toll you got charged and flashes if you do not have enough credit. The lady at the counter said that I do not have to display the Registration card anywhere because the system reads my number plate.

The next bit of useful information is about getting around Ankara. The Metro is convenient and there are machines at each station where you can buy a ticket but its best to get an Ankara Kart which can be used on the busses as well from the machine for 6 lira and add credit. A singe fare then costs 2.50 lira whereas if you buy a separate ticket it costs 4 lira.

Taxis are cheap and cost less than 4 euro for a 5 km journey, they always use the meter and do not try and rip you off.

Ataturk Mausoleum, the complex is called Anitkabir. He unified Turkey, changed to the Latin script, introduced Surnames and gave women equal rights among other things. He was 57 years old when he died of Cirrhosis of the liver. There is a shuttle bus from the gate to the Mausoleum otherwise its about a 1 km walk uphill.

Genclik Park – popular with the locals

Ankara Castle – Good views all round. Do not walk up like I did unless you want to end up a cripple. Take a taxi from Ulus metro station and it will cost about 3 euro. Even then once you enter the castle there are still many steps to go before you get to the top hahaha. “And Cafe”, yes that’s what its called at the top is a good place to stop for a rest with views of the city.

Ankara Aviation Museum – worth a visit if you are interested in aviation. The best part is outdoors where there is a collection of retired air force planes and a few MIG jets. Take the metro to the last station Batikent and then a taxi from there to the museum will cost you 3 euro. Getting back you just have to wait on the main road until a taxi comes along.

Republic Museum – the original Parliament Building, 5 lira entry.

Roman Baths – the biggest complex I have ever seen, 5 lira entry.

Ankara walkabout

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Turkey – Eskisehir, 17 July 2018

I stopped in Eskisehir just for the night, arrive, eat dinner and ride on the next morning. The ride was in fine weather, good 4 lane roads all the way, uneventful except I forgot to take a turnoff and nearly ended up on a toll road going the wrong way but just before the toll plaza there was an escape route that took me over and back around to the other side of the road, very good. Eskisehir is 788m above sea level.

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Turkey – Eceabat, Gallipoli Peninsula, 12 – 16 July 2018

When I arrived at the hotel in Svilengrad there was only street parking for my bike and they wanted me to park it securely but it would not fit through the door from the street into the garden. It became a big production with a police car stopping and 2 police offering their opinion then the neighbour said I could park in his driveway which had a gate, problem solved hahaha, all this in 40c heat. When I went to pick the bike up at 0900 to leave, the guy asked if I would like a cafe (coffee) and I politely said “yes”, this turned into a breakfast with pancakes and the grandson being called to translate (he spoke excellent English learned from YouTube) and look at my blog. The guy then gave me a signed copy of his book about the village he grew up in and I departed at 1000. This is an example of the kindness and hospitality I have encountered around the globe.

Short ride to the border which I arrived at feeling slightly apprehensive but it turned out to be a breeze. There was the usual queue of Turks returning home for the holidays, first exit Bulgaria, stamp passport and check Bike papers. Next a bigger queue on the Turkish side because the returnees had their cars loaded up with gifts (I suppose) and all had to be checked by Customs. My turn came and I showed them my eVisa which I had saved on my phone, (cost US$60 applied and granted online instantly the previous day) no paper necessary. Then move on to Customs and the girl asked if I had Bike Insurance, she pointed to Building D3 and said buy insurance there. Rode to the building, parked and waited in a queue of half a dozen at a counter that was unattended hahaha. Finally the guy turns up and I pay 28 euro for 3 months which is the minimum. Move to the next counter which is Customs I think and he checks all the paperwork and says report to the inspection bay. Back on the bike and thought I would have to open my panniers up but the guy had a look at the paperwork and waved me on, all up it took 1:20 hrs and it was easy.

Straight onto a very smooth 4 lane highway which took me almost all the way to Eceabat, the last 20 kms was a 2 lane road, speed limit 90 kph hahaha. There were several police cars parked on the side of the road watching traffic but they turned out to be fake wood cutouts with flashing blue and red lights hahaha. They do actually slow traffic down until you get close enough to see them for what they are.

First thing I did after I checked in was to get a SIM card. I went into a Vodafone shop next to the hotel and they sold me a TurkCell card which is the only network that works throughout Turkey, 6GB data, 1000 min calls and 250 SMS for 100 Lira (18 euro) valid for one month and you have to show them your passport.

The Gallipoli Peninsula – a beautiful place marred by an unnecessary war that killed or wounded over 200,000 soldiers on both sides. A grim reminder of power hungry politicians at their worst. But the bright side as pointed out to me by a Turkish biker I met, is that it is now a National Park and cannot be overrun by commercial developments. Pristine beaches, small towns and local farms, Cemeteries and Monuments scattered around, all immaculately maintained. The same biker also showed me a couple of app  VPN’s that overcome the censorship that blocks Wikipedia and some other sites, browsec and turbovpn.

Canakkale Epic Promotion Centre – a must see and the best place to start your tour of Gallipoli. It is a sight, sound and movement simulation on big screens (with headphones for various languages) of the naval and ground battles fought, very good, cost TL 13

Cemeteries and Monuments

Kilitbahir Castle built in 1541 has a 3 leaf clover shaped tower which I have never seen before, some very steep and tall steps to get to the top of the walls.

I visited Troy which is across the Strait, there is a ferry every hour from Eceabat (30 min crossing time) and one every half hour from Kilitbahir (15 min) and there is a queue of cars for every one. Ferries are the only way to get across the strait without travelling back to Istanbul to drive across a bridge. Cost 10 lira, and you buy your ticket at a booth before you board the ferry.

After Troy which only took an hour I decided to see if I could get to the coast on this side of the strait even though there is no road, interesting ride especially as I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and normal pants, no protection from gravel rash in the event of even a  minor fall. The first bit of road was cobblestones, very rough which ended at a military installation. The guard pointed out a dirt track that would take me to the coast and I followed it very slowly and carefully, took a few pictures and headed for home. Once you get off the highway, roads become rougher and rougher the further you travel away from the highway.

I took the ferry back to Eceabat instead of Kilitbahir and when I got off I noticed a memorial park with a very lifelike diorama of trench warfare, amazing.

 

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Bulgaria – Svilengrad, 10 – 11 July 2018

Kragujevac to Svilengrad another stop on the way to Turkey, this time for a couple of days to rest my weary bones hahaha. It will also allow me to get to the Turkish border early which is always a good idea.  Crossing the border took about 45 minutes, 5 for the Serbian side and 40 for the Bulgarian. When my turn came they stamped my passport, looked at my Bike registration and waved me on, though some cars were being inspected which was what caused the delay. They should have a separate inspection area.

Svilengrad is about a 20 minute drive from the Turkish border. Gambling is illegal in Turkey so the Turks come here to play, casinos everywhere, big and small. There is also an old bridge built in 1529 during the Ottoman era.

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Serbia – Kragujevac, 09 July 2018

This was an overnight stop just off the freeway riding from Zagreb to Turkey. Toll road in Croatia and Serbia, the difference being the Serbian tolls are about a quarter of the price. Crossing the border from Croatia into Serbia took 40 min due to a queue of cars. All Turks returning home during the holiday period to show off their Mercedes/BMW/Audi’s hahaha. I did not take my helmet off and was asked no questions, just stamp my passport and move on. The Serbian guy wanted to see my Bike Registration, did not look at the Green Card Insurance. Good to be back riding again even though it was cold and wet for most of the day though getting wet gloves off and on at each stop took about 5 minutes as I pulled and wriggled my fingers into them smiling all the time hahaha.

Changing currency in this part of the world is difficult and the best (only) place to do it is at the border. The first Shell Station after the border will change your Kuna (Croatian) into Dinar (Serbia) or Euro. The first one I stopped at NIS to fill up would not accept Kuna, they told me to keep riding for one kilometre to the Shell.

 

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Croatia – Pula, 15 – 19 June 2018

The ride from Sibenik to Pula along the D8 was a nightmare as far as Rijeka with strong, gusting winds (Bora) trying to blow me off the cliffs and into the sea, completely the opposite of when I was coming the other way hahaha. After Rijeka I turned south-west and the winds died down, built up with holiday towns and then just the road winding along the side of the mountains.