(Bernie’s turn) Tempting though it was to stay at the Melek Cave Hotel (my favourite so far), it was time to move on. The first 10km was a lovely cruise downhill to Avanos in the morning light with the last views of the rock formations before turning on to the main road to Kayseri. The road wasn’t too busy but was fast (we had a hard shoulder to ourselves) and the landscape nondescript rolling hills. It was clouding up and humid and I resigned myself to an A to B day (has to be done but nothing great to commend it). However, David had spotted an alternative side route on the map.
We are never sure whether they will turn out to be dirt roads but it looked like an OK road (not much worse then the pretty awful surface on the main road) so we turned off and were immediately into rural Turkey again and with virtually no cars. The first village had very little other than cows by the roadside and certainly no shop (confused looks on face of local man and lots of waving arms into the distance). This was poor rural life, just 20km but also a million miles away from the tourist hotels of Cappadocia.
The next village, Kullu, was down by the Red River and we hoped may be able to find provisions for a picnic. As we entered the village, we asked a man if there was a shop. He waved his hands onwards but said come in for tea. One of the rules of travelling is (almost) always to accept offers of hospitality, so we we wheeled our bikes into his courtyard and experienced the delightful charming hospitality of rural Turkey. He and his wife plied us with endless cups of tea, slices of cake, baclava and walnuts.
They had worked in Germany for about 25 years and retired back to Turkey and had a lovely house and garden. Five of their children – all sons (something that clearly gave him great pride) were working and settled in Germany. After about half an hour, his son Uryan arrived. He was visiting his parents on holiday and may have purchased a house in the village. He certainly felt part of the village community, despite driving a tram in Basel for a living.
Uryan could speak reasonably good English (up to then conversation had stretched David’s German to its limit). We were offered to stay as long as we liked but we had only done 35km and had a way to get to Kayseri so we reluctantly tore ourselves away to continue on. We hope they will see our blog and photos and understand our genuine gratitude.
It was about another 15km on the lovely quiet road before hitting the main road and an easy ride on the hard shoulder of the “Autobhan”, as our new friend had described it, to the outskirts of the major city of Kayseri.
Kayseri is a city of over a million people and the suburbs went on for miles so it seemed to take forever to eventually reach the old city centre – a cluster of 13C buildings surrounded by the busy modern city. By the time we arrived there we both rather dusty and not in the mood for sightseeing and there wasn’t anywhere safe to leave our bikes and luggage. So we settled on having a cold drink in a cafe before setting off to find our warmshowers host for the night on the other side of the city. When we were sitting there a young woman from the next table approached us and asked if she could speak to us in English so we had a 10 minute conversation with her with her mother (who spoke no English) looking proudly on. It must have taken her lots of courage to ask if she could approach us to practice her English for a few minutes but she did and all credit to her. She was a shy but determined recently graduated biochemist, back in her home city and looking for a job. The challenges of succeeding in getting a degree and then having to start all over again in the world of work seemed so familiar from back home. We chatted, shared experiences and then wished her well as set off on another dual carriageway towards the Eastern suburbs.
We then weaved our way through further urban areas for 7km to the college where Aziz worked. He was busy with the college children so we settled down to read until we met up and followed him back to his flat which he shared with his girlfriend Ece, dog Tesla, various cats and a litter of 3 kittens. Aziz and Ece are both astrophysicists doing masters degrees (Ece on black holes and Aziz on examining far away galaxies). Ece cooked a lovely meal – such a treat to have home cooked food – and we had a an enjoyable evening of conversation. Overall a day of average cycling but the very best in Turkish hospitality.