Motorbike diaries: Kingdom of Hazelnuts
The town that makes Nutella possible, Turkish Romeo & Juliet, and some eye-candies.
The crowdfunding campaign to make this trip possible was really successful, actually 500% successful. Again, thanks all backers for the contribution, it really helped me and I’m not forgetting the perks!
The last few days were hectic. I travelled non-stop from Ankara to Tbilisi, first trying to escape Turkish highways, then trying to escape rain on the Black Sea Coast. Now I gave myself a day off in Tbilisi, so I can write this update and plan ahead.
The road to Amasya: Boredom & watermelons
One word: boring. Turks have built amazing first-class highways, but they kill any motorbike experience. At least you can buy melons and watermelons from hundreds of sellers lined along the road. This dude didn’t notice me, he’s a really deep sleeper.
When I finally moved away from the highway, the road becomes stunning. For some reason so far all over Anatolya, the clouds are always cute and perfectly formed which allows pretty good pictures.
Amasya — Apples & Love
Amasya is a beautiful town in Anatolya, just before you get to the Black Sea region. The first scene that you see when entering Amasya is this:
It tells the story of Turkish version of Romeo and Juliet that was set in Amasya. The scupltures represent Fehrat and Shirin who fell madly in love, but of course Shirin’s family was having none of it. They told Fehrat that the only way he could marry their Shirin is if he dug a hole through the mountains with his hammer. He began his work, but then after a few months he was sent a message that Shirin had killed herself. This was a lie, but Fehrat threw himself off the mountain in grief. Shirin did the same soonafter. Their statues are nowadays overlooking the town and producing tears in weary travellers’ eyes.
After you enter the city, you are struck by its setting: a river surrounded by old Ottoman buildings located in the deep valley surrounded by mountains. Simply stunning. Amasya is well known for its production of apples, but unfortunately I couldn’t try any — it’s not the season yet.
The caves that you can see on the picture below are actually tombs built by Pontic rulers two millennia ago. After that, as it goes, the tombs were used as prisons and torture chambers.
From Amasya I moved on to Black Sea region. Known for being more conservative than the rest of the country, you could see more women dressed “appropriately”, more flags, more mosques and less opportunities for having a beer. Although not forbidden, alcohol is very expensive in Turkey and the places where you can drink it are quite rare in this region. Oh, and you can’t buy it after 10 pm.
Giresun — no Nutella without Giresun
Everyone knows and loves Nutella. After the World War 2, the inventor of Nutella, Mr. Ferrero decided to substitue very expensive cocoa for hazelnuts that were more readily available. Now more than a quarter of world’s hazelnut production goes into Nutella. And guess who produces 70% of the hazelnuts in the world? Yep, the small town of Giresun on the Black Sea Coast.
The importance of hazelnuts for the town is so great that they erected a monument to hazelnut growers in the city center. When walking around, you can see people growing hazelnuts, picking hazelnuts, drying hazelnuts, selling hazelnuts, talking about hazelnuts.
To finish this already too long update, I want to finish with two great things about Turkey. Food and toilets. Food is predictably amazing.
Second, the toilets. Nowadays most of them are of sitting style, though you can still encounter squatting styles away from urban centres. But withe each of them you get a little faucet that serves as a bidet. So simple. so great!
Coming up next: Georgia, post-communist depression, cows, Stalin and wine.