Updated: Sep 15, 2019
The prospect of going back to the country i love and have spent so much time in made me very exited and i was glad to see the huge red flad with the cresent and star greeting us at the border crossing at Derekoy. The formalities were very simple, the Turkish border control wanted proof that the camper was mine as the papers had Leiv's name on it, i tried in my best Turkish to explain that i was the owner but that it was registered on someone else's name. After a few attepts they accepted my explanation and let us trough, passports stamped.
We stopped in Kirklareli and had lunch at a kofte restaurant. The region we drove through is known for its mineral water and there are many bottling plants along the route.
Our plan for the next couple of weeks was to follow the black sea coast all the way to Georgia, then spend some time in Georgia before heading back to Turkey and then leave the camper in Turkey till we head back next year again.
We took the highway to the north of Istanbul and crossed the impressive
Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge that crosses the Bosphorus just before it reaches the Black sea.
At 322 m, the bridge is the second tallest bridge in the world of any type.The bridge is also one of the world's widest suspension bridges, at 58.4 metres wide and cost US$ 2.5 Billion to construct. We paid nearly Euro 40 for all the toll roads and i thought that i had to pay for the construction by myself.
We realised after searching google and all our camper apps that Turkey was going to be tough to find camping, they also blocked booking.com so we had to use another site to find accommodation. Our first night we found a campsite in Sile on the Black Sea, it was very basic with no hot showers and only pit toilets. Fortunately the camper shower and toilet worked perfectly. From Sile we headed to the main highway and found a campsite on google in Sapanca, a town located on an inland lake, we followed the route on Google only to find it did not exist when we reached our destination, there was fortunately another option not too far from there that turned out to be a large picnic area next to a restaurant but you could camp there and they had electricity. We found the most adorable kitten there and the twins named her Maddie and she became the entertainment for the rest of the evening, if we could we would have taken her with us.
The next day we followed the highway through some very contrasting landscapes which varied from green mountainous roads to semi arid areas. We found a hotel in Tosya for an affordable price and it was neat and included breakfast. It was also our furthest that we drove in one day, more than 6 hrs on the road so we were all a bit tired. We went for a walk the late afternoon and saw what could only happen in Turkey, at the traffic light a car bumped into another car, both male drivers got out, inspected the damage found it wasn't too bad, shook hands and gave each other a kiss on the cheek and drove off.
From Tosya we headed north east toward Samsun on the Black Sea, the drive was very good and as it was a national holiday in Turkey the roads were very quiet and all the toll roads were open. I must say that the Turkish infrastructure has improved a lot since i lived in Turkey 20 years ago, the roads are new and well maintained and there are more cars on the road an fewer buses.
We arrived late Saturday afternoon in Samsun, a big city that is built on the slope from the top of a mountain to the sea. Fortunately the traffic was also not too crazy so we found our way easy towards the municipal camping located on a prime spot on the waterfront next an aqua park. There was also a cable water ski area where i could do a bit of fishing. The campsite was really well planned with concrete slabs to park on and each spot had its own water and shade and it was also well looked after and there were only 5 other camper vans.
We met 3 intrepid South Africans, Luke, Jordie and Don that were camping in a tent. They have been hitch hiking their way through Africa and then headed to Turkey and was on their way to Georgia. They were busy making a documentary film about their travels and we shared some great stories over a couple of beers and whiskey. They have a website www.hitchedseries.co.za where you can have a look at their adventures. We spent the next day at the aqua park with the twins and they had a ball of a time doing all the slides and swimming like pro's.
We followed the Black Sea coast for the next couple of days staying in makeshift campsites on the beach with the most beautiful views. All along the road you have the green mountains to the right and the Black sea to the left. It was also hazelnut (findik) season and the Turks have a tradition of drying hazelnuts along the road on every available open piece of land that they can find, so for literally hundreds of kilometers you could see hazelnuts spread out on plastic sheets on parking lots, sidewalks even on the shoulder of the road. I did not seem to bother the locals as they just made their way around the tons of hazelnuts everywhere. We stopped to buy some from a vendor and at about 1 Euro a kilogram it was a bargain.
We found the most delightful little beach just outside of Giresun and camped on the parking lot of the restaurant, we had dinner on the beach and the kids played on the rocks, which was a mini version of the Giants causeway in Ireland. I also went fishing the evening but could not hook the big one. We spent the next morning swimming in the perfectly cool and clear water of the Black Sea.
We had arranged earlier to meet with Hanifi and Sevgi, the owner of the travel agency that i worked for when i lived in Turkey, in Trabzon. They were on a group tour in the north east of Turkey and they invited us to stay with them at a hotel where they were staying. We looked forward to the luxury of staying in a hotel and we were not disappointed when we arrived there. The hotel was brand new and build on a hill overlooking the Black Sea, we had spacious room and the restaurant served fantastic food. Hanifi and Sevgi arrived later the evening and it was great to catch up with them. They invited us to go on the guided tour of Trabzon and the Sumela Monastery the next day. We visited Ataturk's house in Trabzon and again realized the huge influence Ataturk had on the Turks and how he is still revered by most Turks nearly 90 years after his death. We were looking forward to see the Sumela Monastery, one of the wonders of Turkey, but they were unfortunately busy with restoration work on the Monastery and it was also misty and raining in the mountain so we could only catch a glimpse of this amazing site. The tour was followed by a great kofte meal at a local restaurant. The group on the tour were all older Turkish people from Canakkale and they took to the twins and treated them with sweets and drinks and a lot of attention all day long. It was a bit overwhelming at times but the twins also had a good day out and was paced the evening, fortunately we booked another night at the hotel and could get a good rest. The next day traveled trough Rize, the tea region of Turkey and there were tea plantations everywhere to be seen on the slopes of the mountains. According to the the International Tea Committee report every in Turkey person consumes an average of 1,300 cups of tea every year, you can believe this when you see how many tea houses there still are and the amount they served at restaurants and on the street. We found a cheap apartment in Ardesen on the Firtina river where there is a rafting business every couple of kilometers and was close to the Turkish Geogian border. We left the next morning for Georgia and found a beautiful wooden restaurant a couple of kilometers from where we stayed where we had the best breakfast spread and a huge copper pot of locally grown tea.
We will return to Turkey before we head back, the experience as always was very good, i found the infrastructure was much better than when i traveled in Turkey previously and a there were more cars on the road and less buses. Turkey is still the cheapest of the countries we traveled trough and the food was as ever very good and affordable. The smaller villages were like in the other countries a bit dilapidated but at least they were still alive and people could be seen trying to do something to make a living. We are looking forward to return in a months time and spend another 3 weeks in beautiful Turkey.