Today my ride in Turkey actually started. I covered almost 400 kms reach the village of Safranbolu, which is derived from the Greek Saframpolis, as it was also known. This literally means the City of Saffron. Even today, just 20 kms away from here, in the village of Davutobasi, perhaps the world’s highest quality Saffron is produced.
Here I would like to pen down my first impressions of riding on Turkish highways and country roads. The expressways or the otoban / otoyol are astonishingly well engineered with very quality asphalt. Here I also learn my next Turkish words – Yolu means road way, and sokak means street.
To use the highways one must pay the toll, including motorcycles. The toll booths are usually traffic free and vehicles pass through very quickly. There are two ways one can pay. One, using the OGS (Otomatik Gecis Sistemi, which means Electronic Pass System), this uses wireless payment menthods in which vehicles don’t have to stop. The other one, which is the one overland travelers and tourists like me should get is the KGS (Kartli Gecis Sistemi) smart card system which is implemented on the same toll booths. Just be careful to get into the KGS lane. Don’t thing of bypassing this since you could be fined upto ten times.
If you manage to lose cards, you can always request the vehicle near you to lend it and then pay to them in cash, or you can look for a booth nearby the toll to load up the card. Just be ready to talk in gestures.
The traffic sense is also very high and motorcycle riding conducive, even on the smaller streets. You will find very few jumping red lights or driving rashly, but most of the time it was fantastic. If you are in the fast lane (inner lane), people will move to the right to give way, but always be prepared to give away youself, especially on otobans where a car could appear behind you very quickly to pass. They would not honk at you, but they expect you to move right post haste. On the super highways the speed limit is 120 kmph, on country highways 90kmph and normal roads 70-50kmph. However you can mostly safely ride at 20% above this prescribed limit as most of the people are doing, and it is also safe to do so as no one will jump in between.
The village of Safranbolu reminded me of an Italian village called Pescoconstanzo which I visited on the Ducati Monster in 2010. It was a tourist destination and there were quite a few of them there. I as a person absolutely want my peace and quiet. Thankfully I got it in the place that I checked into. This was called the Gulevi Safranbolu . It was an old Ottoman house restored to perfection. Every single thing was unique and a reminder of the Ottoman era – from the door knobs to the windows. This was in the old Safranbolu village which has steep stoned narrow streets, the one which give you that Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings feel. It was truly fantastic riding in here.
Safranbolu was also listed as a world heritage site in 1994 due to its well preserved Ottoman era houses and architecture. The Ottoman empire (Turkish Empire) was one the longest and largest empires in history ending as recently as the 1st of November 1922 when the Sultanate was abolished. It started on 27th July 1299!
Note: Please subscribe to my blog by entering you email ID in the text field on the middle right of this page and hit ‘Subscribe’ Button so you will know when I post a new blog!
A typical Turkish highway (not Otoban, they have more lanes):
The Ottoman house where I stayed in Safranbolu:
The Streets of old Safranbolu:
On the rooftop of a house overlooking Safranbolu Old Village
A young couple walking as I shot the MultiStrada
Tradition meets Modern: