Israel/Rhodes/Turkey Tour 1998
This was a 3,000 kilometer ride taken during July and August of 1998. We started in Tel Aviv and rode northeast to (and around) the Sea of Gallilee before cycling west to the port city of Haifa. From Haifa we took a ferry to Rhodes and then to Marmaris, Turkey. In Turkey we cycled along the southern, or “Turquoise”, coast to Side before heading inland over the Taurus Mountains to the Sufi religious center of Konya. From there we cycled east through the spectacular terrain of Cappadocia. After a bus ride to Istanbul we cycled through the rolling farm land along the Asian side of the Sea of Marmosa (crossing into the European side for the battle site at Gallipoli) and along the Aegean sea to Izmir. We then took buses and ferries back to Tel Aviv for our return flight to the U.S.
(Click to enlarge)
Personal Highlights: We have good friends in Tel Aviv and Haifa and they graciously introduced us to Israeli culture and showed us many sights that would be difficult to see by bicycle. For anyone with a sense of history, it is hard to find a more awe inspiring place than Israel and Turkey. All of the following are experiences we will not soon forget: climbing Masada before dawn and watching the sun rise over the Dead Sea; wandering the streets in the old city of Jerusalem; touring the labyrinth of caves dug by monks during the Byzantine period in Cappadocia; seeing a lock of Mohammed’s hair and the bones of John the Baptist’s hand at Topkapi in Istanbul; reveling in the magnificence of Sancta Sophia in Istanbul. Although I am not a Christian, I was particularly moved by the ruins at Capernaum, the town where Jesus spent his youth and early adult years.
Cycling Conditions: We would not recommend cycling these countries in the middle of summer as the heat is intense and there is rarely cloud cover or forest canopy to protect one from the sun. When that heat is combined with mountainous terrain, as is particularly the case in southern and central Turkey, it can make for some very tough cycling. That being said, I think that cycling in Turkey in April/May or September/October could be a spectacular experience.
Many of the roads in Israel are wide and safe, but when you are on a narrow road conditions can be quite dangerous. As the one Israeli cyclist we met said about Israeli drivers, “They treat cyclists worse than the PLO!” The traffic in Israel is heavy almost everywhere and almost all the time. In Tel Aviv we confronted gridlock driving conditions (in a car) at 1:30 in the morning. In our short time in Israel we saw the aftereffects of three fatal car accidents (more than I had seen in my entire prior life).
Although the traffic in Turkey is utterly chaotic, we found cycling to be quite safe outside of the bigger cities. As in other third world nations, the roads are full of obstacles for car drivers and so they are well aware of bicycles. Drivers almost always gave us wide berth and we were rarely in danger.
Accommodations: Israel does not have a well-developed infrastructure for low budget travelers. We never did find a campground, although we looked for a couple which were indicated on our maps. The youth hostel we stayed at in Tiberius was probably the most uncomfortable public accommodation we have ever had to endure. We did free camp for a night along the banks of the Sea of Galillee, but were kept awake until almost 4:00 a.m. by blasting disco music from a hotel at least a half mile away.
Finding a reasonably priced place to stay in Turkey was usually not a problem. We generally found a basic non-air conditioned room for around $10 a night. We sometimes had problems with mosquitoes as screens were rare and it was almost impossible to sleep in the heat with closed windows.
Dangers: At the time of our trip in 1998 we never felt a sense of danger anywhere we traveled.