Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Equitourists ride again!

The Great Anatolia Ride 2011, along the first section of the Evliya Çelebi Way from Hersek village to Kütahya, is over. We set out on 2 September, and reached Kütahya on 13 September, with time to sightsee (and shop) in İznik and Bursa en route. Our group was led by Ercihan Dilari (Akhal-Teke Horse Riding Center) on Anadolu as ever, with Susan Wirth on Elis. I was there as historian-in-residence, on Spirit, generously lent by Mehmet who with Serdar looked after us and our wonderful horses.
We had the pleasure of the company of Australian equitourists: Sue K on Zenobia, Margaret Mooney (of Horse Safety Australia) on Sahra, and Rhonda P on Kelebek; and Americans Rich Klauber (master farrier extraordinaire) and Susan Pieper on Leyla and Gül.
The weather was fine all the way!

I was riding the route for the second time, but it was every bit as exciting as the first—the exploratory ride in 2009 that established the Evliya Çelebi Way. We rode rivers and forests, plains and mountains, and marvelled at gorgeous landscapes and dramatic views; we camped in comfort in isolated villages, where we met local people and shared their daily lives; we stopped often for tea, and delighted any children who happened to be there with 'pony rides' around the square; we visited cities and sights that Evliya saw and wrote of, and compared his impressions with ours; we ate utterly scrumptious food; and we left our hoofprints on forest roads, Ottoman paved roads, goatpaths and across open country.
Amazing, even to Australians and Americans, lands where there is plenty of space, is that you can ride all the way from the Gulf of Izmit to Kütahya without having to negotiate a gate or a fence. That is one of the great joys of riding in Turkey, unimaginable elsewhere.

The final highlight was the Balıklı Hamam in Kütahya, where Evliya bathed—on the men's side of course—where we were cleansed of the accumulated grime of our days on the road by the skilful Ayşe Hanım. This, too, we unreservedly recommend, as a fitting conclusion to a journey that began with eager anticipation and ended with a deep glow of contentment.
Such a wonderful trip, in such excellent company. Nostalgia sets in immediately, and next time is too long away...

We have fabulous pics, lots and lots of them, and we will post some once they are sorted—watch this space.

Other news on the Evliya Çelebi Way... the guidebook is at last out. You will soon be able to buy it on our dedicated website. And once you have the book in hand, you can ride, walk or bike the Way. The guidebook is currently being translated into Turkish.

No excuse to stay at home—the Evliya Çelebi Way is open every day of the year, and it is free!

Caroline Finkel

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