• 2 November 2013

Traveling around the world

Traveling around the world

Traveling around the world 300 169 Gürkan Genç

We arrived to the town Ruse in the evening and immediately boarded Angeline in the train.

You could see us leaving the city and going to the border gate in such a hurry as if we had motors. We arrived to the border, no passport control, nothing. We didn’t even stop and crossed the Bulgarian border. There is a huge bridge on the river dividing the two countries. As it is getting dark we try to cross the bridge. We both feel uncomfortable while passing borders. I guess that all travelers dislike border crosses not only us. Sometimes there is too much trouble caused by the officers. Open your bags, where do you come from, where will you overnight, with whom will you stay and many more questions. Some officers increase the tension for no reason. Just check my passport I stayed in each country at most for a month not more. I’ll just travel around in your country and then leave. After the visa controls at Romanian border we pass into the dark.

Let’s switch the lights on for the first time in this tour. We plan to camp somewhere near the border. But, unfortunately, we pedaled about 5 km along a cropland which made it impossible to camp. I really don’t like to pedal in the dark especially with such a heavy load. On top of it, it is really very dangerous to pedal on this road with so many 8 wheels passing by nonstop. Since the road is single lane and we are pedaling on this lane, an 8 wheel’s convoy has accumulated behind us. But we have to continue to pedal this way till we find a secure place to camp.

At the end we find a narrow village road. After passing the village we find a suitable place to camp. There is no difference to travel with this guy from pedaling solo. We never speak to each other when on the road. We pedal at a certain speed. Our styles just fit each others.  Chat while preparing your meal, then when it is ready go inside your tent and eat. Since the weather is minus 3 degrees there is no reason to stay outside.

He woke up at 5:30 and me at 6:30 a.m. in the morning. We want to make use of the day light. By the way, the reason he wakes up earlier than me is I get ready in a very short time. I always was told: “Gurkan, you eat too fast.” Hey, weren’t our ancestors also in a hurry? Eat your meal in hurry then ride on your horse. J It is 07:10 a.m., 65 km to Bucharest. The air is really pretty cold, dry cold.

–                    We will be there at 11 a.m. Gurkan.

–                    Ok.

Two minutes after we started to pedal I stopped. Dude, it is really cold. I guess the time for shorts has passed. I also changed my gloves. Nathan did the same and shifted to winter gloves and wear. If a Canadian guy starts to feel cold, it is bloody cold for sure. The road is level. Nathan is in the front, me just behind him. I pedal too slowly, need to speed up. I turn my music player on. Well, in the mean time Nathan just flew off, only after 10 km I was able to catch him. He had stopped for a smoke.  Afterwards, he joined me again. This time I pedaled in front of him. Once I looked backwards Nathan wasn’t there. After 20 km I took a coffee break. He arrived also, had changed his cloths. Quite normal that his body was heated up pedaling at this high speed. I also changed my cloths while I stopped. Let’s speed up. For the next 35 km neither I nor Nathan stopped anymore. At 9:20 a.m. we were strolling in the city, the 65 km were over.  Why were we so speedy? Because of there was nothing interesting along the road but cropland. Also the road was level. We had a lot time left for sightseeing this day. Pedal at high speed the intermediate distances (of course if there is nothing interesting) and have plenty of time for sightseeing afterwards.

I immediately informed that I had arrived to Mr. Mehmet from our Bucharest embassy. I will be staying at a hotel we had arranged previously and Nathan will be hosted by a Warmshowers member. 

Meanwhile, do you know what Warmshowers is? It is a huge community where touring cyclists meet, where cyclists are hosted by members, share stories and a drink. Join this community and you may host the world touring cyclists at your home. J

Since we arrived very early to the city, first we hang around for a while. It seems a pretty nice city. Everybody on the street helps when you ask for an address. No one who just turns his/her head and runs away. Almost everybody speaks at least some broken English.

First we went to my hotel with Nathan. Mehmet Bey (Mr. in Turkish), his wife Rahime Hanim (Mrs in Turkish), Cengiz Bey and Nalan Hanim invited us for a lunch. While we were thinking where to eat this invitation accompanied with a nice conversation came just on time. In upcoming days we had many other opportunities to meet and had really intense conversations. We also attended the commemoration ceremony held for Ataturk on November 10th all together

I held my presentation at Yunus Emre Cultural Center arranged by our embassy. A very familiar scene happened once again. There were a couple of old women and a man attending my presentation. After my speech they came next to me. They were Tatar Turks. The old man said: “My son, we have a custom in that we give some money, though not much, to whom setting off. This is yours. Travel around the world with your flag. God will save you.” and handed an envelope over. Also the aunties came next to me: “God will always bless such a man like you. May god speed you. Good on you.” I was not expecting such a happening, I was really astonished. I came upon the same custom in Japan (You may read my Japan articles). At one of the villages I was handed over an envelope and was told to use that money in case of emergency. And I did it exactly so. When I was turning back from Japan to Turkey I didn’t have enough money to buy the flight ticket. So I used the money I was given. There was also a notice in this envelop which I will keep.

He listens to a radio program while going to work. A man is talking: “I went to Japan. Now, I’m planning to pedal around the world.” He surfs in the internet to check out who the hell that guy is. His name is Sefa and since then he follows me. Then, he came to Bucharest as a part of his job. Of course, he immediately contacted me. J Sefa also attended my presentation and afterwards we spent some time together. First to a Turkish restaurant and then into the night life of Bucharest…

Bucharest did not surprise me! It is a capital just meeting my expectation. Parks, bicycle roads, trolleybuses, there aren’t any underpasses or overpasses. And also they know how to turn a capital into an attraction center. You can see all characteristic local houses of Romania exhibited in one of the parks, a village museum. By the way, almost all the houses are the original ones. There are houses from 1800s, 50-60 of which you immediately recognize that they are old. This park was established in 1937 divided into two sections. In one section, there are cultural activities held also bearing entertainment facilities, in the other there are sports facilities as for jogging, rollerblade, skateboarding. I had never seen such a beautiful park before.

The population of Bucharest is 2.5 million. The bikers are respected. The cars stop immediately when the drivers recognize me. If a driver will turn right and just passed me, he/she waits for me since he knows that I’m heading towards the crossroad.  Also, the large majority of the city is covered with bicycle lanes.

During our sightseeing tours, Sefa and Arkan, a friend of Sefa, accompany us from time to time helping for some shopping. Arkan also works for the same development agency as Sefa. Because of Sefa, Arkan bought a bicycle and is now a much better cyclist than Sefa. Sefa became the one wimping out when it came to go out for a bicycle tour. J Well thanks to both of them. They really did their best to present Bucharest.

One night we went out with Sefa and his Polish friends. But since I was tired from pedaling so long, I hardly managed to sit up till the small hours. But still, we checked out a couple of sites and I acquired some insight into the nightlife of Bucharest. Bucharest has really a bustling nightlife. On top of it, even in the best clubs you pay half you would pay in Turkey. When you go to shops, they see after you and try to solve your problem. 

Sometimes you are not in the mood to move. That was what I felt on Monday and wanted to stay one more day in Bucharest. But Nathan said that he won’t for another day longing for being on the road and added: “We meet in Sinaia in two days. I’ll wait for you till noon. If you won’t show up till that time, I’ll continue”. All right then, we’ll see. It is a town 150 km ahead. I’m not sure whether I’ll find Nathan there or not, but if not I’ll also head up my own route. He is a solo traveler and me another solo man. If not there, we’ll meet some day somewhere to pedal together.

The last night we went out for a dinner with Sefa and Arkan. We had a nice conversation and a good dinner. Sefa’s grandma sent him pekmez (grape molasses) and dried raisins. “Abi, take them you may need on the road.” (Sefa it really happened so. I drank pekmez right from the bottle the whole week. Thanks a lot, but there is no more and I long for it (Don’t let your body habitus adopt to something. J)

On Tuesday, the day I departed, our ambassador Omur Solendil and the embassy employees saw me off. First of all, I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness to our ambassador Omur Bey and also Mehmet Bey for arranging my accommodation, the dinner invitation, arranging my presentation at Yunus Emre Cultural Center, the special document set forth in case of challenges, showing me how a commemoration ceremony for Ataturk is held on November 10th in Romania.

This tour resembles my previous tour from one aspect. In Georgia nobody saw after me. In Azerbaijan I couldn’t meet our ambassador but was hosted for a couple of days.  After Turkmenistan I had close relationships with almost all our ambassadors and embassy employees. As distance to Turkey increases, the supports of both our embassies and that of Turks increase. This voyage is termed as “solo”. If there aren’t any people backing me up and also you, it won’t work…

I went for a stroll around Bucharest by bike and had my first break after 40 km. As soon as I encountered some historical places, I just stopped for taking photos. The villages are quite nice and their inhabitants very kind. Even though I can’t speak a word in Romanian they try to do their best to help. I was pleased with my route that I had chosen, side roads passing through the villages.  Nobody bothered me when I camped near the villages. This increased my trust on this country.

I woke up early in the morning, and since I pedaled for 90 km for the first day, I came early to the town where I was supposed to meet Nathan. He will be waiting at the entrance of the town or for my call. “He might be waiting at this gas station” Yeap, I found him there as if I knew J

I liked the roofs I saw here and there giving a mystic ambience. Transylvania, vampires, Dracula are all produces of this country. In the movies we had watched, the houses were all alike. That day we camped just at the outskirts of Brasov. Nathan chose a camp site just across the railways. I tried to oppose “But it will going to be very loud.” “Yes, but we are outside the town in the mid of the forest, there is no other alternative.” He is right, nothing to do. At night, the air was so humid that my sleeping bag got covered with tiny water drops which I immediately wiped it with a towel in the morning. I have a down sleeping bag if it gets wet there is no way to dry it out in a short time. We tidied our wet tents up. Dude, I couldn’t sleep last night, numberless trains passed by.

I liked the city Brasov very much with its narrow streets surrounded with endless forest. The urban design of this city is superb.  There is a huge park next to the school on the main square. One thing caught my attention that there was no wire fence or so around the basketball field. If they had put some it would had looked really bad. Brasov is a nice city in all aspects. If I were on my own I would thoroughly investigate this city.  As we were strolling among the narrow streets, I saw a store its signboard written in Turkish: “Saray Baklava Borek (Baklava – a sweet dessert made of paper-thin layers of pastry filled with chopped nuts – and filled pastry)”. Super J I just went inside in the thought that I might have some conversation in Turkish. I asked to the cashier whether he knows Turkish but didn’t get any response. No Turks at the store. I went out, “Nathan, this is a Turkish store but nobody knows any Turkish”. The immediate reply of Nathan, “Go to McDonalds over there, they may speak English”, made me smile. J We hang around till evening then headed towards the Carpathian Mountains.

We camped right at the exit of the village Filia. At nights the temperature started drop to minus 4-5 degrees. It is time to zip the sleeping bag. But I was still sleeping with my shorts and short sleeved T-shirts. One day as I woke up, I saw my bicycle and the tent all covered white, gee…

I tried to tidy my tent but couldn’t, it was a frozen stiff. Dude, how come to defrost it? Nathan showed me a practical method but didn’t work out at this cold. Anyway, it may defrost on the road… We pack up and go. There is no asphalt anymore, we entered an earth road. Buddy, it is cold, minus 5 degrees, I have to warm up my feet. I long for climbs so that I heat up. Just at the entrance of the forestry about 20-30 men gathered in front of a house drinking tea.  Let’s drink a cup of tea with them, super.    

–                    Nathan, let’s drink tea with them. We can also ask them which road to chose.

–                    No Gurkan. Let’s take this road over there. No need to talk to them, they are looking weird anyway.

Dude! It is the crack of dawn. It is minus 5 degrees, ice cold, on a silly path two strangers are riding bicycles loaded like 8 wheels. It’s quite normal that those men stare us.  Nathan didn’t stop nor did I. After an hour those men passed us with their off-road vehicles. The next hour we met them on top of the hill once more. One of them came next to us and talked in English: “This is the end of the road, you have to turn back.” Aha, that was what I tried to say buddy, ask for the road, there is no map on the GPS. We turned back the path we hardly climbed till the next cross. I take a look at the compass. North is on the left. We have time. Let’s try this path. Dead end. We return to the cross. At the end, we found the right path on the expense learning all the paths within this forest like the back of our hands.

–                    Nathan we need to take a shower some time or other.

–                    Gurkan there is a river over there let’s go there.

–                    Dude, it is minus 5 degrees, the water isn’t warmer. We are pedaling in Romania not in Tadzhikistan. A room to overnight costs only 12-15 $.

–                    Come on Gurkan, we need to be bold!

Another smile J 

After we managed to find the main road we just stopped at a restaurant outside the city Miercurea Ciuc. No way, I won’t butt out of this restaurant. Well, there is also a place to camp aside. Wait let me ask for rooms to overnight. A room for 15 $ and we ate till our stomach hurt for only 5 $. Buddy! That’s it. I long for a hot shower. All right, we might be backwoods men but after 6 days, sweating out climbing slopes, I stink to high heaven. Let’s sleep like a hominine, take a shower and then continue to move. By the way, there is a celebration to welcome a new born baby this evening. I asked for attending this celebration but was refused, a celebration among family members and close friends. I wished all the very best for their new born baby. As I was about to leave they said: “Over there are Turks living in that house.” “How come?” I looked at the house looking like a small palace. There was someone standing in front of the door.

–          Selam

–          Selam

–          My name is Gurkan Genc

–          I’m Ramazan. Aren’t you the one traveling around the world? I read about you in the newspapers.

Hayat Newspaper 

Hey Turcia

–          That’s me.

They invited me to their house. Ramazan is living with his brother both working at their own forestry company. Be aware of us, Turks are really everywhere. J  After a short conversation I was about to leave while Nathan was waiting for me, but they invited us for a breakfast. I shared this with Nathan. Since he was not glad of staying in a hotel room, he accepted the invitation with a great appreciation.

–          Nathan do you remember that Turkish store in Brasov, nobody knew any Turkish?

–          Yes?

–          Well, if we had met Turks there they would host us and on top of it would bestow us with some provisions for our travel. But when you enter McDonalds, the one who speaks English would only sell you what you want and say good-bye. This is the way we Turks are.

Now, your turn to smile J

The conversation at the breakfast table was interesting. For example, it caught my attention that timber was used heavily in the villages of Japan.  I was curious about where they received all that timber from, because it is prohibited to cut trees down in Japan. All that timber was imported from Romania. Japan has been the biggest importer. And many other interesting information all of which I wrote on my notebook. J

The side roads, we had chosen with Nathan for the next days, turned out really very impressive. We pedaled trough wonderful villages and took nice photos. I saw the signboard Nimet. I knew that there were many monasteries in that region. Well, I’ll take many photos of these monasteries, temples etc. Many people would gossip about me again. I still remember what the people said while I visited the Buddha temples, “Did you become a pagan? Shame on you” And in this tour there are monasteries and churches. Well, guess what people will talk about.  J

Dude! There is a forest ahead. Gosh! It is overcast but at the border where the forest starts fog is settled in.

–          Nathan do you see that also?

–          Well, Gurkan now we are entering into a magic world.

Buddy, this is really very strange. As soon as a car passes through this border, it disappears. Wow, I got so excited. We came closer and closer, then all of a sudden jumped into the fog cloud. For the first time in my life I had experienced such a thing. It starts to drizzle. I’m looking around. There are crucifixes here and there with burning candles underneath. Magic illuminations. What the hell is going on, buddy? Are we in a huge mystery tunnel? What is this? Nathan take a photo of mine right here. It is a pity that there aren’t any photos of mine in Romania. I have got a companion but have to remind him to take a photo of mine. On the contrary, I shot plenty of photos and videos of Nathan. Well, we had camped in the deep forest that night.


At night, before going out to empty my bowels, I thought twice. I unzipped my tent. Looked around. I bet many people wouldn’t go out. I went behind a tree my eyes searching around in the mood to save my ass from red eyed creatures that might jump out of the trees.

After a restless night, I said “All right, we have to arrive to Iasi today” While pedaling a sudden noise CRASHHHH! What the hell was that? Aaaa. This time the bike rack broke down. What on earth! I moved my hands over my head looking around. Where the hell do I get an aluminum weld in this forgotten place? It must be a bloody joke! A signboard on the wall of a factory ahead: “PAKMAYA”. In front of it, on the parking lot Turkish 8 wheels. It must really be a good joke…

I went inside the building, one of the Romanian managers speaking Turkish saw for me. I mentioned my problem. He said: “Don’t panic. We’ll fix it” We went into an atelier. It took about only 5 minutes to weld the rack. This rack is really very lucky. That day we couldn’t make it up to Iasi, but a much better remembrance. Always, do travel with me, always! J

The villagers of Romania are very kind and hostile. They were also so during Soviet era. While people in the cities were struggling for their life, that of the villagers was much better. There is a carpenter atelier in almost every house most of them timber houses, all artwork.

While pedaling through Iasi its liveliness catches my attention. While amusing the city I find myself in a crowded Bazaar. J Timber, sheep, pigs, scraps, nothing they did not sell. By the way, one may find a second hand store in every town and on every street in Bulgaria and Romania.

At the end the city Iasi the third biggest city of Romania was for a while the capital of Moldova. But, even it had been the capital of both countries this city is a pure chaos. As was strolling around the city, the whole city seemed to me a huge construction area. The streets were full of dogs attacking while biking from every corner. I didn’t have much time for sightseeing, anyway.

I didn’t write a word, didn’t post a photo for a long time. Dude! While I was traveling in Asia I wrote much more and shared on my web page. Now, this has two reasons. First, Europe is not as cheap as Asia. Hotel rooms start from 25 $. I was not very lucky for being hosted by Warmshowers and Couchsurfing. Either they were outside the city or not available. Second, I was not on my own till now.

Sivrihisar – Salihli                                          I was on my own,

Salihli – Izmir                                                 with Urim Abi,

Izmir – Ezine                                                  with Enes, Ozlem, Onur and Urim Abi,

Edirne border –Velingrad, Bulgaria              with Ayca,

Velingrad – Sofia                                          with Angelina, Nathan and Ayca,

Sofia – Ruse                                                  with  Angelina and Nathan,

Ruse, Bulgaria – Iasi, Romania                     with Nathan,

Actually, starting at September 9th I pedaled only for 4 days on my own. Hahahha J

Arriving to Iasi, Nathan said he wants to head towards Odessa. Well, that was so far then. “Have a nice and safe trip. We might meet again somewhere sometime.” We moved towards different directions. The planet earth is too small for the voyagers.

During my stay in Iasi I met with Atilla Abi and Tolgay. Atilla Abi listening to my adventures said: “Gurkan, this not just traveling around the world what you are doing. You really travel on earth” He had had a dream of traveling to Nepal, after listening to me he decided to realize his dream. Let’s see when he goes to Nepal. Tolgay was already biking. “Dude! I would for sure pedal to Black Sea coast starting from here, after seeing you pedaling in this cold. If I won’t do it, shame on me. J”

It is good to be on the road.


80 countries remained to travel to. Hahahaha!

Well, I read what I have written down. So obvious that it was written on the road.  Too much remained untold but I’m on the road again. This time on my own J

 Well, let me take you to the very beginning of my journey. I hadn’t told about the part of my journey in Turkey. I knew that my team mate Enes would do it the best way: Izmir Dardanel Tour, Part one


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