Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The dispatches for Turkey will be presented in geographical rather than chronological order. To view the chronological order, go to the itinerary.

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While Corinne and andrEa are cycling from Didim to Selçuk and then Selçuk to Izmir, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic are traveling along Turkey's Mediterranean coast:

topics: Börek (food), Atatürk, HISTORY, Ottoman Empire, Alanya, history of the bicycle; jump to dispatch

Rider Notes: February 16–18, 1998

Food of the Day: Börek

Börek is kind of like a cold cheese lasagna. It is probably hot when it comes out of the oven, but we have only eaten it cold at any time of day. It is many layers of flat pasta with a crumbly cheese in between. Yummy.

Tech Fact of the Day: The bicycle!

For the last five months, our silent partners in BikeAbout have stoically rolled along beneath us, enabling us to cover 4,044 km (2,507 miles) . . . so far. Without them, we would all be a little sad and a lot more tired. But, you might ask, where did they come from?

Well, it might not come as a surprise to you that France, England, and Germany all claim to be the source of the very oldest ancestor of the modern-day bike, dating from as early as the last half of the 17th century (more than 300 years ago!), although little is known about such vehicles. What is recorded is that in the early 19th century, France had a "célérifère" and Germany as a "Draisienne," basically little more than wooden beams with wheels attached to them. The bicycles functioned more as scooters and did not even have a steering wheel, much less brakes. But that didn't stop anyone. The Germans, always hip to improving new inventions, got everyone's wheels turning (so to speak) by adding a steering wheel. The British (who called the new invention the "hobby horse") and French quickly countered with further improvements.

It was, however, the Scottish who were ultimately responsible for the most dramatic early improvements. Kirkpatrick Macmillian, in 1839, added drive levers and pedals creating the first "self-propelled" bicycle. These bikes still didn't look much like what we have today. They were more like recumbents, with a drive mechanism that operated in a manner inspired by antique foot-driven sewing machines. Typically, the frame was made of wood, while the pedals and wheels were iron. This solid construction resulted in the nickname "boneshaker" in England. The late 19th-century use of rubber, and then pneumatic tires, as well as the invention of ball bearings greatly added to bicycling's comfort.

For a brief period during the late 18th century, the use of front wheels that were three times larger than the rear wheels (the Starley bicycle) was popular but quickly replaced by something called the "safety bike" (not surprising really — how did they get on those huge bikes?). The safety bike had a chain, wheels of equal size, seats with springs, hollow tubing (steel, not wood), coaster brakes, and adjustable handlebars. This was the bike that quickly became popular in North America, with production levels reaching one million bikes a year by the end of the 19th century. Pro-bike leagues were a strong part of the early national petition to improve the roads.

Unfortunately, the invention of the car and motorcycle, and modern assembly-line production quickly slowed the spread of cycling in North American society. During the early 20th century though, bike races would draw crowds of thousands to special tracks called velodromes. Some races lasted as long as six days, while the members of each team would take turns racing — whichever team had ridden the furthest after six days won.

Bicycling experienced another boom during the oil crisis of the 1970's, and again during the 80's and 90's as air pollution from cars increased. The increased popularity of mountainbikes (sales of mountainbikes have far surpassed road bikes), has resulted in many new innovations (index shifting, stronger brakes, larger more comfortable tires, and front and rear suspension, for example), while increased awareness of bicycles and the creation of special bike paths and lanes has helped improve bicycling's popularity.

Person of the Day: Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk)

Atatürk, as the Grand National Assembly later renamed Mustafa Kemal in honor of his service to the Turkish nation, founded the Republic of Turkey and was its first president. He is widely considered to be the father of modern Turkey. Few leaders in the world have had as great an impact on a country as Atatürk had on Turkey, and the respect and gratitude that the Turkish people feel towards him is more than apparent. Almost every town that we have visited has his statue in the town center and there are often Monday morning and Friday afternoon flag ceremonies to honor his memory.

During our visit in Alanya (see the Place of the Day), we observed a celebration of the anniversary of little more than Atatürk's visit to the town on one of his journeys. Memorial wreaths were placed around the town's statue of Atatürk and a small ceremony was held. click to view a photograph

Born in 1881, Mustafa Kemal was branded early on as a troublemaker, particularly for his membership in various youth groups opposed to the autocratic government of the Ottoman Empire. He eventually joined the military, but, because of his political activism, was sent to serve in Syria . . . as far from Istanbul as possible. He fought the Italians in Libya, and organized the defense of the Dardanelles (the southern of the two water passages between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea) during the Balkan War. His military reputation was finally firmly established only during the defense of Gallipoli during World War I. Fighting against far superior New Zealand and Australian forces, Atatürk played a vital role in repelling the attack.

During the armistice after World War I, Atatürk organized the various nationalistic forces that had denounced the Istanbul-based Ottoman government for allowing the partition of Anatolia. He then fought to remove the Greek occupying forces.

Having quelled the external threats to his country, Atatürk turned to what he saw as the internal problems: the many conservative and religious political factions that were rallying around the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul. Quickly working to get rid of the sultan, Atatürk formed the People's Party (renamed the Republican Party) and proclaimed the Republic of Turkey. That done, he established a new government with himself as president.

Atatürk then launched an impressive program aimed at building the modern state of Turkey from the tattered remains of the Ottoman Empire. Responsible for the introduction to Turkey of the Latin alphabet, Western-style dress, law codes, and calendar, as well as the legal equal rights for women, Atatürk made drastic changes to make his vision of a secular Turkish state a reality. Abolishing the caliphate and all other Islamic institutions, Atatürk eventually pushed for the removal of the constitutional provision naming Islam as the state religion.

The ideology of Atatürk's regime eventually came to be known as Kemalism or Atatürkism and was composed of six principles: revolutionism, republicanism , statism, populism, secularism, and nationalism.

But he wasn't always as high-minded as he might seem. Using an alleged assassination attempt as an excuse, Atatürk also eliminated all political rivals and ruled as an autocrat until his death in 1938. Atatürk's principal aim had been to save his country from being completely lost after the First World War as the entire Ottoman Empire fell to, and was divided up by, the Allied victors. It was his dream to establish Turkey as a modern 20th century nation. He pursued his goal with a single-minded ruthlessness that combined political realism and dexterity. Under his leadership, many sweeping changes, while not easily implemented or often well received, resulted in the modern state of Turkey.

Today, there is still internal opposition to Turkey's secular nature, and several political parties including Islamic ideology as part of their platform have grown in stature. The existence of these parties is cause for some concern in Turkey; recently the most powerful Islamic party, the Welfare Party, was outlawed (and its leader almost jailed) by the Turkish Supreme Court for violations of the secular charter of the government.

Place of the Day: Alanya

When the abbreviated BikeAbout team — Anthony, Ethan, and Padraic — arrived in Alanya (check out Alanya's Web site), they knew that they would have to spend two nights there. Well, OK, they were pretty much whipped out from the previous two days' biking and would have been hard pressed to bike anywhere the next day, but they were also struck by the majestic beauty of the city. Situated on a peninsula and dominated by a 13th-century Seljuk fortress that sits on a hill over the city click to view a photograph, Alanya has been a resort for the last 700 years.

Second only to Antalya as a Turkish Mediterranean resort, Alanya possesses a beautiful fisherman's port (which now is conveniently able to receive cruise ships) guarded by the Red Tower (Kizil Kule), built in 1226. click to view a photograph The view back towards the mist-covered mountains is breathtaking and at night the dramatically lit fortress and its walls provide for a truly romantic atmosphere. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph

Although Alanya has retained some of its original charm, its ideal location and 22 kilometers (14 miles) of fine sand beaches have made it into somewhat of a tourist center. Only during the winter season does the town slips into a gentle slumber as fishermen repair their boats click to view a photograph and the restaurants, clubs, and resorts prepare for the next summer onslaught.

Group Dispatch, February 16–18

picture of Anthony

Waking early on Sunday morning, the BikeAbouters headed west along the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The program for the next few days was simple: bike as far and as fast as possible. The three biker boys had no desire to kill themselves the first few days of biking, but for the most part any sights of unusual importance that they might have wanted to visit would be too far off the road — and uphill — for it to be worth their while to go there. Besides, there will be plenty on the road ahead.

The two days of biking before they reached Alanya were some of the most beautiful that Ethan, Padraic, and Anthony have ever done — anywhere, anytime. But, if you have been following the BikeAbout dispatches carefully, you might have already noticed that beautiful biking almost always comes at a price: hills, lots and lots of hills. Big hills, little hills, steep hills, and gentle hills, but mostly lots of mean, nasty, vicious, switchbacked, backbiting hills. Still, the results were always spectacular: beautiful panorama click to view a photograph after beautiful panorama. click to view a photograph Sure there were liters of sweat, burning lungs, and aching muscles. But the vistas! click to view a photograph Just when they thought that the views could not possibly get any better, they would climb another hill and again be overwhelmed. click to view a photograph

It was, without a doubt, the most difficult riding the BikeAbout gang has done yet, but it was also some of the most rewarding. Sunny cloudless days warm enough to force the crew to strip down to just biking shorts and short-sleeved jerseys (for the first time since Egypt) helped them regain a little of the tan lost over the break. The valleys were full of cherry blossoms, budding trees, baby sheep, and green fields brimming with red and white crocus. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph It was almost too much . . . the temptation of coming spring.

It was soon obvious why the road was so hilly (on the ride to Anamur six different hills had been climbed — with each one taking over an hour to climb). The coast the boys were following had peninsulas of land that jutted out into the Mediterranean. Instead of following the shoreline all the way out the length of each peninsula, the road would instead cut off each peninsula. click to view a photograph While this made for a much shorter road, it created a challenging bicycling environment. There is little about the southeastern coast of Turkey that is flat and every time the road cut across a peninsula, the cyclists would leave the shore and climb, climb, climb.

They would gather at the top of the hills to take in the views and to make sure that the hill had not actually claimed any victims. click to view a photograph They were also always careful to stop and replenish their fuel tanks with snacks and water click to view a photograph, occasionally taking the opportunity to patch a few tubes. click to view a photograph

If you are biking uphill, you have a lot of time to think, but basically the psychological trick is to try not to think about the hill you are crawling up. Some people think it helps to sing a favorite song (anything from the Simpson's soundtrack is currently a favorite within the group), with the thud of your heart providing the bass line and your screaming muscles singing the chorus. Others riders focus on technique — concentrating on their breathing, and pedaling or looking ahead and try to figure out how high the road goes. "Mountain Goat" Padraic says that he likes to compose love sonnets as he spins up near vertical impasse after impasse, but the rest of the BikeAbout gang does not really believe him. Anthony likes to remind himself that difficult things are often worth doing and to remember that if the hill does not kill him, it will only make him stronger. To Anthony and Padraic's surprise, some members of BikeAbout do not really like hills, and, after the fifth hill in the same day, can be heard to mutter mild obscenities under theirs breaths.

But why would anyone want to tackle so many tough hills? Well, before BikeAbout arrived in Turkey, the riders had looked at a map of Turkey and created an itinerary that they knew was a little ambitious. The itinerary they tried to stick to took into account that they had a lot of ground to cover (especially after having lost a considerable amount of time trying to get into and then around Syria), and that there simply are not a lot of towns on the eastern shore of Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

The first day of this dispatch, from Silifke to Anamur, covered 145 kilometers (90 miles). On a flat road or even a road with a humane number of hills, a ride of this length might be possible. But try as Ethan, Padraic, and Anthony might (and they did try!), they only managed to make it 105 kilometers (65 miles) before the sun began to set. Fortunately, Turkey has an impressive fleet of buses that are the primary means of public transportation throughout the country. They were able to flag one down, wheel their bikes into the storage areas under the bus, and ride the last 40 kilometers (25 miles) through the dark in relative comfort.

The next day, the ride from Anamur to Alanya was full of even more beautiful views and steep hills. While fewer in number, the hills were even longer and steeper than those the BikeAbout boys had done battle with the day before. Once again, the end of the day saw them 40 kilometers (25 miles) from their goal of Alanya; and, once again, a post-sunset bus ride quickly helped them reach their goal.

Arriving in Alanya (see the Place of the Day), the boys congratulated themselves on having followed the original schedule (albeit with the help of a bus or two). Unfortunately, their self-congratulations were lost in the clamor of their screaming leg muscles. It was time to take stock of the situation. With the weekly Chat 'n' Debate looming for the next night (that's not all that was looming on the horizon, as rain had been predicted for the following day), the boys quickly decided that they would spend another day in Alanya, resting their tired muscles and scouting out a location for the Chat 'n' Debate.

The next morning, Anthony and Padraic became quite familiar with the downtown area as they wandered around the city for several hours in the rain looking for a cyber café. They eventually discovered that the only cyber café in town was only three doors down from their hotel! Special thanks to the Genç Bilgisayar (Young Computer) cyber café and Veli Kaya click to view a photograph for helping them get online.

The rest of the day was spent calmly, enjoying the sun and working on dispatches. It certainly was easy to see why Alanya is the second most popular town on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. Ethan, Padraic, and Anthony were glad that they were there during the winter and not the high tourist season when the town fills up with tourists.

Meanwhile, the ladies have cycled from Didim to Selçuk and then Selçuk to Izmir. You can read about their journey in their February 15-16 and February 17 dispatches.

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Internet access while in Turkey was provided by Raksnet.

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