- Hospitality with a capital "H"
-- Story by Chris--
Back in September, I sent an email to
a group of BMW motorcycle enthusiasts I found on the internet: www.OMMriders.com (One More Mile). We were
immediately inundated with invitations from various members of the club. Even today,
I don't know which of us was more excited about getting together. We were treated
like royalty and each day our hosts would try to out-do the previous day.
Murad Acar took responsibility as our tour director, and
over the coming weeks sent us maps and travel suggestions. I
later found out we share the same birthday (Nov 5) along with similar personalities -- We
became instant friends. Murad informed us
that the club was hoping we'd cross the border from Greece to Turkey over the weekend of
October 16, as several members would come to meet us and escort us the 245kms to Istanbul.
Although we crossed the border in the middle of the following week at around 2pm
(Wednesday, Oct 20), a group of 4 guys (Murad, Sinan, Selim, and Eran) took off from work
and rode to meet us.
As we approached Istanbul, we were stopped at a tollbooth by
a local newspaper reporter (he knew we were coming), and we pulled over for a while for
photos and a (translated) interview -- We will have another good souvenir when we return
home. When we arrived into Istanbul, the guys brought us to a nice hotel where they
had arranged a "special" discount. After a quick shower and change of
clothes, Murad came around with complementary club sweatshirts and to bring us to a fish
restaurant for dinner where we would meet the rest of the club -- What a terrific group!
Dinner was fantastic, and not just because we had actual
silverware and linen tablecloths. The OMM riders are a group of BMW motorcyclists,
whose club was started around the website in early 1998. The club's goal is to
improve rider technique and safety, while having fun and riding together. The club
even hired an instructor from the British Motorcycle Police and flew him in for 5 days of
training. In addition, several members attended training at Hechlingen's Enduro Park
earlier this year. They are currently talking with Richard Schalber to get him to
come to Turkey for additional training.
Before coming to Turkey, we were concerned about the effects
of the recent earthquakes. As the epicenter was about 120kms away, Istanbul and most
of the country felt a lot of aftershocks, but structural damage was limited in
Istanbul. There were a few aftershocks while we were there, but I slept through
them. Murad later told me that there is about a 60% chance that Istanbul will fall
victim to a major earthquake in the future, but it could be days or years away (let's hope
While we were in Istanbul, we saw many incredible sites.
Coming from New York City, it takes a bit for me to be impressed with a
"city". But Istanbul combines a good dose of a major metropolitan city
with the customs and splendor of the "old city". We spent most of our time
in the old city, going to the bazaars, cisterns, palace (including the King's harem), and
the big mosques. The threat of earthquakes and political unrest in the east, coupled
with the lateness of the season, meant there were very few tourists in Turkey -- This made
bargaining quite favorable for us (yes, we broke down and bought a Kilim rug).
There is significance to the number of minarets surrounding
a mosque. If you add the number of balconies on all the minarets, this will tell you
the era and for which ruler the mosque was built. Prayers are observed 5 times a
day, and at each of the times, holy prayers are wailed out into the streets through
speakers mounted on the minarets. Tourists are allowed inside the mosques (except
during prayers), but everyone must remove their shoes, and woman must cover their heads,
legs and arms.
With the temperature gradually dropping, and the rain clouds
threatening to burst their seams, we departed Istanbul on Sunday morning. We spent
most of the day riding south and spent the night in Manisa, just east of Izmir. The
hotel was definitely low budget, but the staff was very friendly, and they insisted we
bring the bikes into the hotel and park them in the "lounge" for the
night. Dinner at a nearby restaurant was delicious and cheap, and when we tried to
leave, the owner brought us complimentary Baklava, ice cream, and tea.
Monday afternoon we arrived in the resort town of Kusadasi.
Erin's guidebook said there were several campgrounds to choose from, but we found
most closed for the season. Using the lack of tourism to our advantage, I decided to
try and negotiate for a room overlooking the harbor, in a nice hotel. We ended up
paying about $20 a night, including breakfast -- the "in-season" rate was about
Ten kilometers away is the ancient city of Efes -- this is a
remarkable archeological site in that you don't see one or two ruins, but an entire city.
I had been to Efes with my family back in 1991, and I was still impressed with the
enormity of the place. Although tourism seemed to be down in other areas of Turkey,
there were plenty of tour buses at this attraction.
While in Kusadasi, we treated ourselves to an authentic
Turkish Bath. It lasted for just over an hour, and was a lot of fun. We were
led into a warm marble room, where we sat on a huge slab of marble for about 15 minutes
and let our pores open. We were then led to a wall where cold water came out of an
ancient fountain. A basin was filled and poured directly over our heads -- WOW, talk
about an eye opener! We were led back to the wet slab, and told to lie down.
The masseuse grabbed me by the shoulders, and slid me towards the side of the slab -- like
a 90kilo piece of fish! Next came a full-body loofa scrub, with pieces of dead skin
falling off me like I
was a big snake. Again, back to the basin -- YEOW! Back to being a fish, I lay
on the slab and was next covered in more soap bubbles than I thought existed on
earth! The masseuse worked the lather around my entire body, while he kneaded and
twisted my body like a piece of dough. One final water basin, then we were wrapped
head to toe in towels and led to a lounge area to rest and drink juice. The finale
was a 15-minute full-body oil massage. I paid my $15 and slithered out like a
spineless creature (yeah, yeah, keep it to yourself).
Thursday, October 28th (my dad's birthday), we checked out
of the hotel and rode south to Marmaris, then the small (not on the map) harbor town of
Gocek to meet 3 guys from OMM. They had a 4-day holiday weekend, and while some
members went for a ride to Greece, Murad (R1100GS), Selim (K1200LT), and Iron-Butt
competitor Jimmy (R1100RT) came to meet us and show us around the south. The town
was a cross between old style and new money. We stayed at an adorable pension for
$6/night (2 people) including the best breakfasts we've had on the entire trip!
Friday morning, the 6 of us boarded a boat and set out for a
day of swimming, snorkeling, and relaxation. For lunch we dropped anchor in a small
bay with crystal clear water. The beach area was originally home to a monastery but
long since abandoned and now the ruins are occupied by a family of goats. We took
turns diving off the boat and snorkeling. We left at 9:30am, and returned at
5:00pm. The cost, including lunch, was $5 per person.
Saturday morning, we took a scenic ride along the coast and
boarded another boat to go see some ancient graves and an underwater city. The
weather was perfect; as was the water and the fish lunch we stopped for. In the
afternoon, we rode to the abandoned city of Kayakoy. This was a city formally
occupied by Greeks. Years ago, the settlers traded homes with Turks living in
Greece, but the Turks were dissatisfied with the homes and moved away. In the
evening, we rode into the mountains for a fabulous dinner at Paolo Volpara's villa.
Paolo, an Italian and founder of the club, is a very impressive person, and we regret not
spending more time with him. He is a former advertising executive who has worked in
many places around the world before settling down in Turkey. His home is a beautiful
place on the side of a mountain with wonderful views for miles around. His wife
cooked us a huge delicious Turkish meal.
Alas, we woke Sunday morning and prepared to leave Turkey.
My mother was coming to meet us in Israel on Nov 4th, so we needed to catch the
Tuesday night ferry from Rhodes which arrived in Haifa (Israel) on the 4th. We rode
an hour north to Marmaris, where we were to find a ferry to Rhodes. The guys from
OMM had a long ride back to Istanbul, so farewells were short but filled with
Because the official tourist season was over, the
Rhodes-Haifa ferry only runs twice a week (Tuesday and Friday). But that wasn't the
real problem. The real problem was getting from Marmaris (Turkey), 50kms to the
Island of Rhodes (Greece). During the season, there are daily ferries from various
companies. However, the season was over and only one company was running a car-ferry
twice a week, based on reservations. As you probably can imagine, there were no
other car reservations, and no guarantees to when the next ferry would run. So, they
offered us space on a passenger-carrying catamaran, for only $242! We were appalled
by the price, but we had no other options (I couldn't ride overland through Syria -- I had
an Israeli stamp in my passport, and our Carnet for the bikes would not be issued for
another 2 weeks).
We loaded the bikes onto the catamaran without a ramp.
This was especially fun because the dock and the boat were not the same height, and
there was about a 2-foot gap between the dock and the boat. I was petrified the bike
would fall into the sea (I could swim, the bikes...). Fortunately the experience was
uneventful. We spent 2 uninteresting days on Rhodes (except for the pension we
stayed in with the fun owners---Greek guy and his American wife), and boarded the ferry to
Haifa on Tuesday evening, Nov 2nd.
The only downside to Turkey was Erin's crash -- She's fine,
just a small bruise. Her bike is technically fine, but looks pretty beat up.
We we're going downhill in a tight "S" curve (not very fast), and some idiot on
a scooter wasn't looking, crossed into her lane = coming head on at her. The problem
with the roads in Greece and Turkey is that they are very slick, and we've been sliding a
lot! Needless to say, Erin spun out on the slick surface, and almost took out the
other guy -- who barely avoided the collision but never even stopped when he saw her go
down. She and the bike slid off the road and into the dirt. Erin was a little
shaken, but fortunately nothing serious happened, and she was actually not too upset as
she didn't cause the accident (she gets upset when she drops the bike). This
probably won't be our last accident, but since we wear protective gear and don't ride very
fast, we (hopefully) won't have major problems in the future. Oh, we wouldn't
consider (at this point) continuing the trip without the bikes.
We repaired the windshield (rivets and flexible plastic),
reattached the bar end weight (after drilling out the broken bolt), and taped the
holes/burns in the Aerostich tank pannier (but will need to sew on permanent
patches). We still have to sand the aluminum pannier (bits of shrapnel -- otherwise
no damage), and weld the end of the clutch lever back on (which broke near the far end
where it's supposed to).
Our time in Turkey was too short, and we plan to return in
the future to see the Black Sea coast, Cappadocia (which we hear is spectacular), and our
Our lack of time in most countries has become a common theme
(22 countries in just over 5 months), and one that we're ready to change. We've
decided not to try to see "everything", but rather to spend more quality time in
fewer places. We will probably travel through 6-8 countries in the next 6
months. If we can keep our expenses down, we would like to extend the trip at least
6 months and go to South America. There are times we miss New York and seeing family
and friends, but email keeps us connected, and the fear of "the end" keeps us
thinking of ways to extend the trip.
We're now getting ourselves prepared for the next phase of
our trip: India and SE Asia. This next phase is really what I've been looking
forward to. I have a healthy mixture of excitement and fear, and I hope we can share
our experiences with you adequately with our stories and photos.