|The old town in Safranbolu|
When we woke up later that day we went back to the old town and explored, now that everything was open. The old town was full of really quaint cobbled streets that wrapped up and down the hilly landscape. The entire village is packed with markets and tiny Turkish cafes. Nearly all the buildings are old Ottoman wood houses, so the village actually looks like something from the Bavarian countryside.
|The old town is a maze of little cobbled lane ways.|
We spent 4 days in Safranbolu checking out every market stall and becoming friends with the local cafe owners. We caught a dolmus to the new city, stocked up on food, then caught two more buses out to the national park.
We spent 3 nights in Yenice forest, camping in our flimsy tent. We trekked the first 7km of the 56km route, looking for a spot to pitch our tent. We couldn't find anything sufficient but stumbled upon a woodhouse hotel. We walked up and asked the owners if they knew of any areas nearby where we could pitch. They were an old German couple, sympathetic to our condition so let us pitch on the soft grass next in their hotel's garden.
|First night camping for the amateurs. We were too lucky to score this first class camping spot overlooking the mountain range, thank God for the Germans who looked after us.|
|View of the canyon in Yenice Forest.|
On the third day we trekked back down to the Ormani Kent picnic and camping site. Since we'd entered the national park, Ramadan had ended and the national 4 day Bayram holiday had began. When we arrived at the picnic area near the river, hundreds of Turkish families were picnicking with massive feasts of food. They saw us rock up with our packs, exhausted from the trek. Families began coming up to us offering for us to eat with them as they thought we were about to collapse in front of them. After eating until the sun went down with three different families, we quickly set up our tent and cosied in for the night.
|Hiker meets resident.|
|Turkish cattle dog looks after the cows while they have lunch on the high plains.|
|A lake on the high plains reached after a long trek through the pine forest.|
Three bus rides later we arrived into the seaside city. We had been given the name of a hotel to stay at by the German couple we'd camped with, but there were no town maps, the tourist information centre was closed and no one we asked knew it. We read the lonely planet page on Amasra and found out the majority of accommodation was homestead pensions. Instead of both of us walking around with our massive packs and inquiring into random pensions before finding one we liked, we decided to leave me with all the bags whilst Ellen found us somewhere to stay. She was gone for over an hour, so I began scouting out people walking past who might be able to help. It was only old Turkish women and young kids on bikes passing me so I thought I was going to be out of luck, until a group of four western travellers passed me. I saw that they were also carrying tents so asked if they knew a place to stay. They did not. But they turned out to be Russian uni students who had so far hitch-hiked from Moscow, through Georgia and Armenia. They told me they were just going to walk around the headlands until they found a nice spot to set up their tents. I asked if they minded me and Ellen joining them. They were super excited to have some other people join their crew, so two of them dumped their bags and went to scout out a nice camping spot whilst the other two chatted to me. About half an hour later the boys came back stating they'd found a sweet spot. About 10 minutes after that, Ellen returned excited about finding a really nice pension. She saw the four Russian kids standing with me and looked confused. I told her we were going to camp with them so we didn't need the room she'd found. She was quite upset as she'd been through a massive google-translate ordeal just to find this place, haggle a good price, and they'd already given her a key. I went back to the pension with her to help explain to the owners we no longer needed the room.
The spot the boys had found was freakin gorgeous. It was on the top of this small peninsula that comes off the coast from Amasra. By the time we got up to the spot, the sun was just starting to set behind the horizon over the Black Sea. Fifteen minutes later the mosques began projecting the final days prayer. The mountains behind the back of Amasra echoed the resonating prayer back out towards us on the peninsula. It was pretty amazing.
|The view from the peak where we camped looked over the whole town of Amasra.|
We set up our tents, grabbed some kebabs, then began swapping travel stories. The trip these kids were trying to complete was pretty incredible. Not only were they attempting to hitch-hike for 2 months from Moscow, through Georgia, Armenia, Turkey along the black sea coast, into Greece, back to Turkey, along the Mediterranean coast, up the Iranian border, then back into Georgia to cross back into Russia...but they were attempting to achieve this with a budget of $300 each! So far they had been treated to free meals and accommodation by the people who had picked them up and driven them to their desired destinations. The hospitality of Georgia and Armenia sounded absolutely first class.
|By now we considered ourselves expert campers.|
After chatting for a couple hours we cooked up some tea, shared the rest of our safran-coconut flavoured Turkish delight and settled in for the night. It was extremely wet on the Black Sea and we realised our tent was definitely NOT waterproof. We got up and attached our rain coats to the outside in an attempt to stem the flow of water inside. It worked remarkably well. The next morning the Russians woke up just after sunrise, packed up and headed to the highway to find a lift to Istanbul. Although it was incredibly gorgeous watching the sun slowly traverse the skyline over the sea, we were starting to feel the fatigue of travelling. Ellen looked over at me and proposed a ridiculous idea: travel the entire length of the country back to the Mediterranean.
We had been discussing the idea of heading back to Olimpos either just before or just after going to Bulgaria. It is an absolute haven for relaxing in a hammock and indulging in incredible food. We couldn't completely appreciate the last-pace of Olimpos the first time round as we were still full of beans, eager to explore this incredible country. Now, we were exhausted and wet. I contemplated this proposal for a moment. There were still a couple of cities we could fit in along the Black Sea, but it would drag us another 600km East, which would add another night bus trip. We were going to have to head back to Istanbul before heading to Bulgaria anyway, so we decided the ridiculously long trip back to Olimpos would be worth it. So we packed up our bags and headed off for 2 weeks of extreme relaxation to recharge the batteries.