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  • Writer's pictureThomas Sweeney

2016: Turkey

I was nervous about pedaling alone across Turkey in 2016. The following excerpt is taken from several points in the book and blended together.

I was apprehensive about going to Turkey. The previous October, terrorists killed over a hundred people at a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, and on January 12th a suicide bomber murdered ten tourists in Istanbul. In March, a car bomb massacred thirty civilians. The civil war in Syria loomed in my mind too.

“What would it take for a van to pull up beside you and take you into the heart of ISIS territory?” I asked myself.

I wondered what Syria was like and pictured my face plastered across CNN while I told the world how well I was being treated.

For months, I stressed about cycling across the country. And yet…

Random moments, like the day I got a flat and changed the tube next to a field of poppies waving in the afternoon sun, would shake me out of my daydreaming.

I rolled into the small city of Gerede early one evening. Cresting one of the city’s many hillsides, the adhan, or Muslim call to prayer, emanated from hidden speakers affixed to myriad mosques and echoed throughout the valley. I steered to the shoulder and planted my right foot on the ground, savoring the extraordinary scene.

I enjoyed a similar moment in the city of Tosya where I stayed in a hotel sitting all by itself on a hill overlooking the skyline. It was a stunning night, with twinkling lights and white buildings stretching into distant hills.

I climbed onto a spiral fire escape on the fourth floor for a better view of the cityscape. The sky had turned dark enough to see stars dotted across the celestial canvas. It was a dreamlike evening in an otherworldly place.

In Turkey, those magical moments kept coming, one after the next. After a few days of cycling across Anatolia, I forgot I was supposed to be afraid.

By the time I reached the Georgian border, I considered the fears that had consumed my mind for so long. In hindsight, they were all a waste of energy. Turkey, it turns out, is an amazing place, and bicycle friendly.

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