First of all, I would like to thank to my team mate Ergin for preparing this web site. You can send all your complaints about this site to him. He will do the corrections in shortest time without changing the interior and the format of this site. email@example.com
Time really passes very quickly, I cannot say when I had started and come here. When I was back in Helsinki Ertugrul from the Turkish Embassy together with Gokhan from the Tunturi&Hellberg company met me. Tunturi&Hellberg is one of the oldest bicycle companies in Finland and its general director is Tuncay Bey (Bey: Mr). They decided to support my project after they were informed that I am traveling around the world. First I met our Ambassador Huseyin Koruturk at the Embassy. After drinking Turkish coffee and some conversation they took me to the place where I would stay. The next day, we held a press conference in the production site of the company just nearby.
The place arranged for me was Airport Hotel 32 km outside Helsinki. There is no subway running between Helsinki and the Airport. It takes 45 minutes with the bus to go downtown. I mentioned before that the mode of getting along on the road differs from traveler to traveler. If I am going to stay in a large town then I try to overnight in downtown. Yeap, you need to go on sightseeing. The place you stay should not be more than 5 or 10 km away from the city centre allowing you to pedal around. But, if you are going to stay 32 km outside the city and one way ticket for public bus cots 5 €, then you would say, piss off Helsinki. In a country with 6 million inhabitants and annual income of 33,000 $ per capita, a ticket for 5 € is surpassing my household.
Now, had I been in Finland before? I had been but didn’t have the opportunity for sightseeing. I’m sure that there are many nice web sites giving information about the city. The expensiveness of this city being within the top ten cities awarded for the World Design Capital is a handicap for the foreigners coming to visit the city. To point another defect might not be possible, I guess. Oh yeah, the news that the award for “European Capital” displayed on the Kizilay Square in Ankara is “fake” overwhelmed me. Ankara remained its 50th row on the annual list of European capitals. Our mayor gave a press release related to the news. I watched it in the internet. The mayor said “we got the prize at a different category”. No need to ask at which category. This is the end of the discussion for me… Thanks my mayor J
I pedaled on the roads of the city, very clean and neat. There is a systematic of car parking for which specified suitable parking lots are available. As I mentioned before, the city is silent. Access to every corner of the city is quite easy. There are bicycle roads everywhere. When you are walking, you just need to push the buttons attached to traffic lights at almost all junction to cross the street. There are ice skating rinks in the parks functioning only in winter. Youngsters are playing their national game, ice hockey. The event which stops the daily life in this country is the hokey match between Sweden and Finland.
I met Cem at a restaurant. I was able to see the street from my seat. Just as we were chatting the tram passing by stopped and two mounted police women arrived. For as long as I have known, I couldn’t figure out this matter of mounted police.
Okay, it looks esthetic, but ugh, what happens when the horses need to eliminate? Do they put the scat in nylon bags cast away? What I recognized is that the Finns spit and blow their nose while walking on the street. They are so calm. Yet, I don’t think that the societies bearing horse roads would say anything like “Ugh, look at this, horse scat everywhere”. Anyway, one of the women got off her horse and jumped into the tram like Xena the warrior princess. J Don’t know what happened but she got off from the other end with two tramps. Concurrently a police car arrived and the tramps were stuffed into the car. Wow, I was about to say that such things could also happen even in this country, as I heard the roaring from the other end of the street. What is happening there, man? I group gathered with banners in their hands were shouting surrounded by mounted police crew. Hey! I just mentioned that this city is so silent. The group shouting walked down from one end to the other of the street. What this means is that, even though you receive awards and get elected as the one of the best cities in Europe, sorrows and sufferings never end in big cities. However, something was wrong, this was not a protest like I was used to see.
Lately, the minister of the Turkish Family and Social Issues Ministry mentioned that they were going to open a battered men’s shelter. As a matter of fact, I heard that a private organization opened recently such a shelter in Konya. Therefore, I undertook a short research on this subject. Battered men’s shelters have been active since many years. I mentioned afore how much the income per capita is in this country. And women wear the trousers. The captain of the airplane is a woman. The driver of the 18 wheels carrying tons of load is a woman. The taxi driver is a woman. The tram driver, customs officer, mechanic, restaurant owner, civil engineer, half of the parliamentarians are all women. The women population is higher than that of men in the country. If women want something it happens. Since they are the ones giving birth, the whole country is at their beck and call. This being the case, violence to men showed an increasing trend. Men are the ones who are expelled from home, pounded and isolated for having less income. The government has no opportunity other than that opening battered men’s shelters. This is the situation. Holy shit!…While writing this article my teacher Eser Kokeker came to my mind. Years before, I had some girl friends around me as we met in my office. “Girls did you know that Gurkan failed from my women and communication course?” I say hello to her from here. She was a precious and regarded teacher transferring us valuable knowledge during those four years I had studied. In order to pass her course (about 100 males) we had to rewrite the women’s rights and feminism book once more. After the final exam you should had seen us: HURRAY WOMEN, LIBERTY TO WOMEN, STOP VIOLENCE TO WOMEN, WOMEN’S RIGHTS.. Even Emma Goldman’s eyes would had popped out of her head and she would had said “Busters who the hell are you?”.. Hahaha… Those were the days. I got 92 over 100 from this course and retired from the scenes (I am pretty sure that she knocked off those 8 points in order not to give 100. We had had to stay in Cyprus at that hot summer like a hell. I started to hate the hot at this particular summer, buddy. The arctic is nice minus 20, 30 or 40 centigrade)
I run into so many people after bicycle came into my life. From time to time, I try to introduce some of my bicycle companions who impressed me. Kaisa Leka came to my presentation in Finland. Actually, I even didn’t know who she was. She caught my attention during the presentation, because her legs were bionic. I saw such a technology so closely for the first time. Although this is such an amazing technology applied to the legs, you cannot just say to the person “just let me have a look”. During the presentation, she asked me “Why did you prefer to pedal during winter period in Finland?” I answered her and afterwards had a conversation with her. She was also undertaking some bicycle tours. She toured in Finland, Sweden and also in Iceland. She was involved in planning a tour through the Baltic countries for the Summer 2013. Then, she presented me a book printed in limited edition covering her Iceland tour. I thanked her and left the room. In one of the days I was on the road, I started to read her book. Wow… What an awesome narration, what an incredible endurance, what an unbelievable imagination. Another touring cyclist had used the same sentences to express his feelings. Faith! The belief on herself and her capabilities.
It’s time to pedal through Finland. Good to go! I paid attention to that, whenever I had given a break or just taken a rest, the weather calmed down. It didn’t snow, the degree of coldness dropped. Everything in the garden is rosy. J Well, as I go outside my tent I see that it started to snow. I smile J I am smiling, because if it hadn’t snow, I wouldn’t get all the pleasure out of this road. Why else did I come to this region during winter? J
I start to pedal. Let’s go. Is it possible to cross the Arctic Circle in winter? First I anchor the SPD to one pedal CLICK, then the other. After I hear the sound of CLICK my legs start to run like a dynamo. By the way, yes, I do believe that I will be able to cross the Arctic Circle! J
Since I’m now outside of the city, there are no bicycle roads anymore. I have to pedal on the main road. The main road is of course not a highway. As is in our country, to cycle on the highway is not allowed. At every cross to the highways are indicated with signboards. The road I am pedaling on is not a highway but is a main road with four lines. At look at the GPS and see that I have to turn at the first cross. I pass very quickly and enter a side road.
That’s it. I will be pedaling on this road for a long time. The speed of the front wind is increasing. Indeed, I have to take a video at this moment, who knows whenever I come across a blizzard once again. I spent my time taking the GOPRO and the second camera out. I pedaled 40 km without taking a rest. What on the earth is that, there is not even a single service area as far as the eye can reach. Ugh. Just after I have pedaled 50 km I run into a service area. I must have been looking like a snow-man, the people stared at me as I entered the room. I took my clothes off. First the jacket, then the thermal clothes, gloves, balaclava, so on.. Well J. Now it’s time to warm up and eat. The restaurants in Finland are generally self-service. Except of luxury restaurants you won’t see a waiter or a busboy. You take your meals, pay at the cash point, eat and put your dishes on the collectors. Almost in every restaurant you can find lunch meals starting from 7.50 € up to 11 € between 06:30 am and 03:30 pm
Every day I pedaled in Finland it snowed without exception. The weather was pretty good between minus 10 to 5 centigrade. My brother sent me a message
– How is the weather?
– Warm, minus 8
– Have you got nuts? What do you mean with minus 8, warm?
I was tested with cold in Russia during January. The word “cold” won’t come to my lips untill I see a colder weather.
By the way, I mentioned before that I was using ice spiker winter tires. Heavy snow and slick ice are never ending in this country. Therefore, even the city cyclers are using winter tires. I got the best ice spiker winter tires sold on the market, since Tunturi company sponsored me. I wasn’t using SPD for a long time, but now together with these winter tires, I will enjoy using SPD pedaling on the snow and ice. This is amazing. Taking the advantage of 55 kg load on the bicycle, the tires were not sliding even a bit as I speeded up to 30 km/h and pedaled in a zigzag manner at a velocity 20 km/h. There was an ice hokey match in a town. I looked and saw that the hokey pitch was completely iced. Jump on to it! I also pedaled there. Again, I pedaled on a lake which was completely frozen in another town. I pedaled for hours, also uphill, with the SPD on snow and ice. I must say that these winter tires deserve the highest scores. I also shared my opinion about them in the equipments section on my web site. Meanwhile, some components of the bicycle had to be changed. For example, I had to change the XTR chain after 5490 km. If only I hadn’t pedal on snow and slick ice I would had used the chain for 10 000 km. The XT chains are next. Let’s see how long they will last. As with the chains, I changed also the cassette to improve the performance and the XT chain ring All brake and gear shifter cables were also changed. The crank sets were removed and overhauled. That is, after a long time the bicycle was for the first time fully overhauled. In fact, this happened to be good. It was also checked for whether there were any deformations or problems on the main frame. This bicycle was subject to harsh conditions of minus 30, 40, 50 centigrade. It snowed a lot on it. The salted roads, the load and the torque I was applying, the bicycle got really be tested. If Bahadir would be able to realize the touring bicycle of Kron we had designed before departing for my tour, then it would have the chance to find a place on the touring bicycle sector as a Turkish trademark. Bahadir, right here, I passed the torch to you J
Entering every city, town or village in Finland you would definitely encounter a bicycle road. The reverse case won’t even come into question. While pedaling on rural roads, I realized that one would be able to cross the country from the north to the south pedaling through forests. I just recognized this as I erected my tent above a bicycle road within a forest. The bicycle roads not cleaned up during winter are used for skiing. Actually, you can also see people skiing on the bicycle roads within a town. As I mentioned before, small pebbles are dispersed on the icy snow covered roads. I had wondered what would happen when spring comes and the snow melts. The pebbles with sharp edges left where they are could cause flat tires. Mentioning flat tires, I had only three times blowout since I left Turkey. Good.. Two of the blowouts happened in Russia due to the cold. I wish to have any blowouts during winter, if possible J
I try to choose places next to service areas for camping in Finland, as I did in Russia. When ready to start-up, it makes good to sit inside to warm up. Unfortunately, just to run into such restaurants is difficult since they are rare and have various opening and closing schedules. These restaurants open late and close early since there is little demand for them in this under populated land. I saw some closing at 4 pm and some opening at 12 am. Furthermore, at the petrol stations there are mainly automated food and beverage services with no sitting area. That’s, it has gotten some disadvantages pedaling during winter in this country. I started to carry more provision on my bicycle. Meanwhile, my stove had also been broken down. It is still not functioning therefore I managed to eat dry food. In the mornings, I just stop by restaurants asking for hot water and then mix with about 300 g of muesli. I repeat the same in some evenings. Besides this, I started to use canned food. Since I would be able to find a MSR store only in Stockholm, I will try to fix the stove whenever possible while on road. I would probably manage it J (Actually, I was able to fix it during the subsequent days).
I look at the map on the GPS; the red lines are highways, bold yellow lines alternative main roads, slim yellow lines side and rural village roads. The gray lines pass through the forests. Hummm.. I could pass through the forests next to the lakes till north but my bicycle would get embedded in snow. Let’s try this road. I hope it isn’t closed. Enes buddy, would I be able to travel through the country relying on this map? By crossing over rural roads one to the other, I won’t be able to get out of this country.
I like to pedal with Enes Sensoy since our manner of cycling resembles each other. One day as we were attending the “Antique Cities” tour held in Izmir (It will be held also this year, I definitely recommend you to attend):
– Gurkan, look. There is an ascent. We could pedal down the other side of the hill. Let’s go this way.
– Enes, I was also wondering where this road goes, just on time. Let’s go.
The road turned out to be occupied with bee hives. Wuhuuu.. Our skins were covered with bee stings. Before I departed from Turkey, we pedaled together with Ozlem and Enes. Enes saw a path: “Gurkan, come over and have a look. We haven’t used that path before”. I saw a path: “Enes, turn right and look what there is.” “Gurkan, why are you asking me whether that path goes down or not? Just try it”. Poor Ozlem, she was totally beaten up. She was some time or other grumbling next to me:
– My God, please, please, don’t let them see that signboard
– Enes are you turning left or right, which side?
– Ozlem, I saw it although Enes didn’t.
Only to go to a nomad village we let her climb for 5 km. hahaha J
After I entered the forest the environment got really very silent. I was hearing just the noise of squeezing snow. Actually, I don’t like such loneliness but this became a habit since my first tour. Anyway, there is the sound of squeezing snow and the snowy weather. Meanwhile, it has started to snow in flakes. It is really difficult to pedal on snow with the heavy load. I take a look to the GPS, there is still 175 km to the next rural road. Nothing to do, just keep going. I look around whether I could see one of the famous reindeer. Meanwhile, the answer to the question “Are there any wild animals in these unfrequented forests?” is “Of course, yes, it is impossible not to be”. What you don’t know won’t hurt you J No need to search in the internet. But, for any case, I keep my knife always ready to use in my front bag. I started from the south of the country and now pedal towards the middle. I haven’t seen even a single spot without a tree yet, everywhere forest. Beg me pardon, I saw a spot but there were also trees planted. I’m from the Black Sea region of Turkey which I pedaled from one end to the other. Compared to Finland Black Sea looks as if barren land. I pedal overwhelmed with the silence. What are you thinking Gurkan? What?… While I am pedaling lost in this huge silence, I hear the melody of the song “La Vie En Rose”. This must be a joke! As I come closer the music echoes in the forest. A music player its volume turned up. Unbelievable. Listening to this song in a white covered forest is an amazing feeling. I love it. There is a small incline in front of me. After having a short rest, I start to climb. I pedal about 40 km through the silence alone. I really wonder who is listening to this song. First I see a little hut in the middle of forest then right behind it a sizable house. A man sitting alone in the porch with a cup of coffee in his hands is staring at me. When I reach the entrance, I stop to have a break. He immediately stands up and comes next to me. He says something in Finnish. But after I say that I know only English we continue to chat in English.
His name is Hanno and he is living here alone.
– What are you doing here, alone?
– Actually, I must be the one to ask this? What are you doing alone in this huge forest?
Hahaha. This man is right. I introduce myself and tell about what I am on. Nobody cares when you tell that you are traveling around the world in Finland. But answering the question “where do you lodge?” as “in the tent”, they cannot believe their ears.
– What are you doing in this huge forest, Hanno?
– I’m waiting.
– Your family?
This question moved him to tears, but I could not understand why.
Hanno lost his son and wife in a car accident last year. He had left a grandson with his mother in Jamsa. Now, I could understand what he meant with saying that he is waiting.
– It is a nice spot to wait.
– I could also wait somewhere but I preferred to travel around the world. Did you ever go abroad? Believe me, the planet earth is huge. I met Mike, a 55 years old man, traveling around the world in China. What I mean, you are young, travel through the world while you still have time. Seize upon this opportunity. Thanks a lot for coffee. I must go now. I have to reach Langelmaki before it gets dark (It is the best to erect the tent near a settlement).
– I wish you good luck, Gurkan
Coffee and this conversation made me feel good. I arrived to Langelmaki just on time. I asked the people around where the bar is and parked my bicycle right in front of it. Wow nice, looks like an Irish Pub. I immediately socialize with the people at the bar a family run business. I meet with everyone. At the evening I erect my tent at the backyard and settle at the bar. A glass of beer and a huge pizza are just what I need.
The man at the age 70s drunk his third glass of beer since I entered the room. At the end he started to talk to me in Finnish and I in Turkish. Ooooo.. He speaks, so do I and everyone around us are laughing at us. Nothing to do. J The next morning Toni Hataala the young member of the family came also. His mouth got o shaped as he learned what I had undertaken till now. The conversation with Toni was more about online games. I didn’t hang around much and departed from the city.Now is time for “Gurkan Genc Education Scholarship”. I want the ones residing in Izmir to answer the following question only. The person chosen upon drawing will receive free education for one year from Izmir Buca Turkish American Association. The application terms and the e-mail address will be announced on this web page. Please, residents of other cities should not answer. Answers should be submitted at 23rd February 2013 between 14:00-20:00. Replies afterwards will not be accepted. The answers will be evaluated by me. I will announce the winner the same day on my web page. The question is: “In which country had the national parks trekking paths, sign boards and recreational areas I had visited during my Turkey-Japan tour. And the name of the four national parks I traveled through with my bicycle (Since I didn’t receive any answers, there was no winner).
When you enter the super markets in Finland you see a huge variety of products on which their origin is written. Tomatoes looking tasty and aromatic were imported from Austria, 3€ per kg. The tomatoes produced in Finland are placed next to them, 9€ per kg. The Finnish tomatoes were sold out but not the imported ones. I saw this case also in Japan. The Finns prefer to buy national bias.
Jvaskyla or Yuveskula as it is pronounced. On the main road 10 km outside this city is a kebab restaurant. I decided to have a look as I saw the signboard. Are you kidding! There is a 8 wheels from Turkey!! Wow.. How much I missed. I directly parked next to the truck from which the captain was staring at me.
– Selam (Hello)
You should have seen the image on his face.
– I’m coming from Turkey and got happy when I saw your truck
– Really, wait a second, just go to the restaurant. I will be there right after you. Let us drink tea and chat.
His name is Adem driver over 20 years. He is transporting tractor components from Turkey to Finland. The owner of the restaurant is Hayrettin Abi (elder brother). Hearing that I came from Turkey, he gave me the opportunity to take a shower and Adem hosted me in his truck overnight. On top of it, he cooked kelle-pacha (sheep’s head and foot soup) together with sauced pasta which was delicious. We had a good breakfast. As Hayrettin Abi told about me to the Finnish guests, one of them gave me some useful information.
He told me not to use the main road during weekend, because there would be heavy traffic from south towards north due to students and their families on ski holiday. Since I’m taking the side roads this won’t bother me, but I found this information interesting. Finland is divided into 6 regions having different holiday schedules. By this way they prevent huge traffic jams and keep the economy alive.
The parking lot for the students coming to the university with bikes J Wow
I found Yulaskula fully alive after Helsinki. The bicycle roads were heavily occupied. As I was passing by a faculty building I got aware of how frequent bicycle was used in this city.
Pedaling through the city towards the outskirts is always difficult since I am usually not taking the main roads. As I was struggling through the side streets, I fell amidst a street entertainment.
The people were lined up on the sidewalk. Trucks were passing back to back on the road. In the truck frames teenagers in various costumes were saluting the people. Is it Halloween? Just as I took a video, one of the girls on the truck threw a plastic bag full of candies. It landed in front of my bicycle. Before I could bend to take it an old woman snatched the bag. I even wasn’t able to say “Hey auntie, these were my candies”. Look at the witch she snatched all of my candies, my fortune. I watched the entertainment for a while then turned towards the road. A guy was making music, or rather noise with a saucepan. Hey, are you mad you are going to fall down the window. While I was shooting a photo of him three girls passed on me. Whoa..
– Hey, girls you are looking very pretty.
– What is this entertainment? What are you celebrating?
– Our English is not so good. We just graduated from gymnasium… The entertainment will continue downtown in a bar.
Humm. All right. Now, what is the reason for such a garish celebration? When you are 18, that is the age when you graduate from the gymnasium, the government sends a letter, I guess, to your parents in Finland written “Your child is now 18 years old and needs to move into his/her own flat”. And the child leaves her/his family. The family relations and neighborhood are over. The child having access to money meets with drugs. Of course this is not valid for all of the Finnish teenagers. But when you break your relations with your family, a suitable basis arises. Among the countries I traveled, I had not seen teenagers reveling obviously that s/he was using drugs, being physically disabled, being as thin as a rake before. I saw one at the cash point of a super market he dithered so much as if an 80 years old man.
I didn’t stay at a hotel after I left Helsinki. The jacket I am wearing smells. It is time for laundry. I stop in a small town named Konevesi along the road. B&B for two nights for 60€ is a good price for me. I do the laundry and write my articles. Let’s go to the bar next to the hotel in the evening. I don’t have a hope in hell. The bar is full but with people over 60s. The ones recognizing that I am a stranger come next to me and speak in English with me. At last a couple at around 70s sat next to me. Man! The woman drank three barrels of beer.
She was not affected. Buddy. Were the people given alcohol with the baby bottle in this country? They are drinking beer as if water. Scads of people I haven’t met before just became bosom buddy with me. They were hugging, shaking hands and telling me something in English which I was not able to understand. If not, they just continued to speak in Finnish. When drunken they get really on nerves.
When you go to a pizza restaurant in Finland you would find someone speaking Turkish for sure. On the road, I went to Pielavesi and met Ali and Gurkan, in Kiuravesi with Hasan Abi and Elif Abla (elderly sister) and in Kontie with Mehmet Abi, Selcuk and the others. It just follows up like this till the North Pole J Furthermore I got peppermint, thyme, chili pepper and sage from Elif Abla. J The ones I bought in Canakkale were almost run out, so I renewed my reserves. Oh yeah, plus I ate stuffed cabbage after such a long time and on top of it also cig kofte (steak tartar a la Turca) J All very delicious. Oh yes, also Turkish coffee. Hahaha
Kiuravesi is the source of pride on agriculture of Finland. I have never seen in my life such huge tractors, buddy, as huge as a tank. They have also tracks. Every year in May, a huge agriculture festival is held in Kiuravesi. They mentioned that they are very advanced in terms of organic agriculture. I went to the supermarket nearby and checked the fruits and vegetables. Their taste was not so amazing.
There are so many details I just haven’t mention in my articles. I don’t have much time left to write. You know the weather conditions here. I keep going towards north. I will just go to the Arctic Circle and return.
That’s for the time being. With love, kiss youuuu