When I wrote about Tokat, I mentioned how different Tokat was from the mountainous Black Sea start of this tour. Well, the last week of this trip, in Çorum, was also very different — no steep, green Black Sea mountains like in Samsun and Ordu and no more Ottoman monuments like in Tokat and Amasya. Here it was (almost) all about the Hittites.
Crossing into Çorum province (il), I was actually on a big enough road that there was a sign marking the border. I had seen one back in Ordu as well.
The first Hittite site was Şapinuva. The weather was perfect — almost too hot in the sun and almost too cold in the shade. Sitting on the bench under the big tree in the left center of this photo (below) was magical — the clouds, the views, the eagles, the breeze, the (imagined) Hittites.
From Turhal to Amasya one could take a fairly flat road following the Yeşilırmak. I opted for a couple climbs, totally about 1100m, via Ardıçlar, Sarıyar, and Yassıçal. The forecast that day was for 35°C down low (at 400m), but it was pleasant at 1000m where I spent the night near Sarıyar.
Wow, what a difference from the start of this tour. Compared to the ride from Çarşamba to Niksar, my days spent in Tokat Province (il) were practically flat. Not completely flat, of course — there was a 1000m climb leaving Pazar, e.g. — but it sure felt flat after the Black Sea mountains. Another difference was that I saw quite a few cem evi, Alevi worship places (as opposed to mosques). That means, of course, that I went through quite a few Alevi villages. I also visited two historic complexes that were called zaviye, a word that seemed unfamiliar to me. What’s a zaviye, you’re wondering? It’s a Sufi (dervish/Bektaşi/Alevi) religious/cultural complex. Sunnis would use the word külliye.
It’s interesting that here we are in Turkey’s heartland, in the relatively small part of Turkey devoid of foreign influence under the Treaty of Sèvres. And yet, it’s full of Alevis, another of Turkey’s (at times persecuted: remember Sivas) minority groups.
There’s a fast narrow highway connecting Niksar to Tokat. Luckily I was mostly able to avoid it, usually without much more climbing than the highway.
The Greeks called it the Iris. Until the very end of this tour shortly before getting to (spoiler) Ferda’s village in Sungurlu, I was pedaling in the Yeşilırmak drainage basin. Tokat and Amasya (future posts) are both on the Yeşilırmak. Niksar is just above the Kelkit Çayı, the Yeşilırmak’s longest tributary.
This was supposed to be Mehmet’s first self-supported bicycle tour. However, it was not to be. We made the 18-hour (bus) journey from Antalya to Çarşamba together and started pedaling from there, not far from the Black Sea and the mouth of the Yeşilırmak.
No one will look at these photos and say, “wow, what a beautiful route.” It satisfied two of our important criteria — close to Antalya and high (in a failed attempt to get away from the heat).
In mid-August Özgür, Tuğçe, Ferda, and I loaded our bicycles and gear into Özgür’s caravan and drove up to his mother’s summer house in Narpızlı Yaylası at about 1500m. We started our four-day loop the next morning.