For the month of June, we pedalled the length of Turkey straight through the middle. It was a month of amazing hospitality, countless kebabs, and great riding conditions. These are the nine things that stuck out most to us.
1. White cars are fashionable: We had cycled through a third of Turkey when we suddenly realised that we were only seeing white cars on the road! One Turkish host told us it was because a white car was a status symbol but a quick Google informed us that its probably because white paint is cheaper than metallic and stays cooler in hot weather.
2. Drink Chai tea or miss out on sweet interactions with locals: Neither of us were big tea drinkers before Turkey but that changed very quickly when we realised it was easier to find a pot of chai than cold water. We were offered chai tea in Turkish homes, outside mosques, on the side of the road and in restaurants at the end of a meal. We noticed drinking habits changed as we moved east - with Turks placing a cube of sugar between their teeth and drinking their tea through it or adding lemon to their tea glasses.
3. Turks love Ataturk: We saw so many pictures and statutes of the popular Turkish leader everywhere. Ataturk almost single-handedly created modern-day Turkey - he changed the alphabet from Arabic script to Roman letters, separated religion and state (by removing Islam as the state religion and upholding civil law over Islamic law), and adopted the Western calendar amongst other things.
4. Ramadan can be enjoyed by foreigners too: For the month of June, many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The first meal eaten at sunset is called Iftar. We took part in many Iftar - our favourite was in a Ramadan tent in a small village with 800 people. We took our canteen style trays up and it filled with meat, bread, and rice and tucked in with everyone else.
5. "I love you Sarah and Rebecca": It always surprised us how emotional our very hospitable hosts were when we were leaving them after a meal, visit or night of accommodation. So many I love yous! Many Turkish people believe that an unexpected guest has been sent by "greater powers" and they have a duty to serve a stranger.
6. Kurds are fighting to keep their language and culture alive: The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey comprising 15% of the population. We met many lovely Kurds on our travels. They explained that Kurdish people inhabit land spanning four different countries – southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northern Syria and northwestern Iran - making them the worlds largest nation without a state. It's also illegal to teach the Kurdish language in schools in Turkey.
7. Ballooning in Cappadoccia is truly a once in a lifetime experience: 26 hot air balloon companies currently operate in Cappadoccia with a combined fleet of 200 balloons. More than 25,000 rides take place every year. We were lucky to go up in one before sunrise - incredible!
8. Mount Ararat is HUGE: In Eastern Turkey, we cycled up a particularly long climb and was greeted with views of Mount Ararat. The snow covered peak was beautiful. Legend has it that Mount Ararat was where Noah's Ark rested. Since the 1800s, several dozen expeditions have scaled Mt. Ararat in hopes of finding evidence of the giant wooden boat (nothing yet!). It is also the national symbol of Armenia and has been considered sacred by Armenians.
9. Malatya is heaven for apricot lovers: We ate our bodyweight in apricots cycling through the Malatya region. Malatya provides 90 per cent of the worlds dried apricot supply. We saw thousands of apricot trees and the fruit being dried on huge blue tarpaulins.