A few days pedalling in Alsace

We crossed the Rhine again using the free ferry at Rhinau to ride for a few days in Alsace.  I love being able to cross national borders without any immigration or customs controls.  Is there anywhere in the world where this is possible besides the EU?  I also liked being back in France where I can talk to everyone.  However, the first thing we did in France was stop for a beer — something that we had become accustomed to in Germany — and that’s a mistake.  The beer is better and much cheaper in Germany.

DSCN8735 by bryandkeith on flickr

Instead of the Rhine River for this section we chose to follow the Grand Canal d’Alsace.  Our few hours pedalling along the canal were some of the fastest kilometers of the trip.  There are so many roads and bike routes in this part of Europe that it seems we’re stopping to read signs and/or look at the map every few minutes.  Because the bicycle paths often follow small tracks, finding them can be difficult and counter-intuitive.  You just need to trust the signs, and once you’ve missed a sign, it can be a lot of guesswork to get back to the route.  In the end what this means is that you go less distance in a day than you might expect.  Navigation on the canal, on the other hand, was simple.
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Riding through the heat of southern Germany

One of the reasons to go on a bicycle tour in July was to get away from the heat of Antalya where it’s 35°C every day.  I hate to come to Europe and complain about the heat, but, wow, it can be hot in southern Germany — 35°C every day!  The way we found to keep cool was to get in the water, eat ice cream, and drink beer at every opportunity.  Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that there were lots of opportunities.

Ice cream and beer at the same time by bryandkeith on flickr
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Bicycle touring the Swiss lakes

Riding in Switzerland.  The problem with Ferda doing her first bicycle tour in Switzerland is that it sets the standard pretty high.  The bicycle routes are super, keeping cyclists away from traffic, through picturesque villages, and along the shores of stunning lakes.  We rode from Geneva to Basel via Lac Léman, Lac de Neuchâtel, and Bieler See before arriving again at the water at the Rhine River.

DSCN8443 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Two long days on the Matterhorn

There is heaps to read about the Matterhorn on the internet, but nothing I read prepared me for the mountain.  A number of months ago at a Tuesday night Patika event at Karaf in Kaleiçi, Hasan introduced me to his friend Semra who was visiting from Rize.  Hasan had been talking to both me and Semra separately about a climbing trip to Switzerland.  It was that evening that we started to seriously set our eyes on the Matterhorn.  Like many people, I read a little about the difficulty (it’s not) of the Hörnli Ridge route and said, “yes, let’s do it.”

The wind died down.  Looks good... by bryandkeith on flickr

Upon further research I started to regret our decision.  It seems the route is very crowded, there’s a pecking order regarding who can climb first at the bottlenecks, and the other climbers, well, the guides especially, don’t seem to be very friendly to those who don’t hire their services (for 1000 Swiss Francs/day (US$1045), maximum two people).  We bought tickets to Geneva for late June, knowing that was a bit early for the season and hoping that it might be slightly less crowded.  Expecting to generally be able to follow the hordes, I didn’t pay too much attention to the actual route description — just follow the other groups or the fixed gear that’s abundant on the route (and, as it turns out, slightly off the route as well).

Getting to the mountain is easy if you have a fat wallet.  From Geneva, Hasan, Barış, Semra, and I caught the train to Zermatt (transfer in Visp) and then a teleferique from Zermatt to Schwarzsee at ~2600m.  This bit from Geneva costs more than an air ticket from Antalya to Geneva.  It was windy and cool at Schwarzsee and looked windier and colder up on the mountain.  We set up our base camp at about 2900m in a depression sheltered from the wind, not knowing what other options were higher up.  We saw a couple people walking on the trail between the teleferique and our camping spot.  The views were stellar.
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Climbing friends in Bursa

We had an early flight from Esfahan and Istanbul, and there I had to say goodbye to my parents and Megan.  Megan and I had spent almost every day together for six weeks so it was a big change to have her leave.  We had an emotional goodbye before their 13-hour flight to Los Angeles.

I made my way to the bus station for the four-hour trip to Bursa.  Bursa’s really not that far from Istanbul (about 80 km as the crow flies), but getting out of the city takes over an hour.  Then the bus waits for a ferry across the Marmara Sea, and the ferry itself is rather slow compared to typical highway driving.

Gülşah gave me a warm welcome at the Bursa bus station.  Indeed, welcome to Turkey.  Ferda and I had met Gülşah, her fiancé Mehmet, and Mehmet’s brother, Selman, climbing in Olimpos last year.  We enjoyed spending time with them in Olimpos and then a few days later they came to Antalya for a day of climbing in Geyikbayırı before going back to Bursa.

My main reason to go to Bursa immediately after Iran was to catch one of the last days of Yüksel’s beautiful artwork exhibition that was on display at the Merinos Textile Museum.  Conveniently that’s exactly where Mehmet works, and Mehmet and Gülşah had invited me numerous times to Bursa.  Selman, who’s divorced, and Mehmet live with their parents.  That’s where I stayed, and their mother was super-welcoming to me (the father was recovering from an operation at the time).  Gülşah, who’s divorced and has a child, also lives with her parents.  From the US perspective it seems strange that people in this stage of life live with their parents, but it’s not uncommon in Turkey for people to move back in with their parents after they get divorced.

DSCN0381 by bryandkeith on flickr
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