When going east along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, Rize is the last of the large cities one passes through. A lift out of Rize usually means one can finally break free of the long coastal strip where hitchhiking is somewhat difficult, because where one town ends, another begins. But this time I didn’t escape at first, because my driver insisted on taking me back into Rize and showing me the sights. Rize does have a few nice things to offer.
First we went to the ruins of a castle built during the Byzantine era. After that, we stopped by the city’s botanical garden. Both of these places had elaborate cafés run by the Çaykur tea company, but these were entirely deserted because of Ramadan (Rize seems considerably more religiously observant than other coastal cities).
A drive inland from the city revealed where this tea comes from, as the surrounding hills are covered with tea plantations and dotted here and there with the smokestacks of tea processing facilities. There are nice views of the city with its waterfront and new highrise buildings.
I’ve tried a couple of methods of getting east out of Istanbul before, namely first some cloverleaf intersection on the Asian side close to where I was staying at the time, and the second time taking the train to Gebze and getting a lift from there to a service station on the motorway. This time, however, I’ve found an option vastly superior to the others. I took bus 19Y from Kadiköy to the stop Ferhatpasa Meydani and then walked 10 minutes to a parking area and restaurant on the motorway at GPS coordinates 40.98835° 29.19258°. The motorway is blocked by a fence with razor wire which looks scary, until you notice that whole sections have been cut down. Once I got into the parking area, within 30 seconds I got a lift from the first truck driver I asked, who was on a long journey from the Netherlands to Mersin in the south of Turkey on the Mediterranean. We are at a highway restaurant having dinner as I write this. He will drop me off at the intersection near Gerede, from which it is still a long inland route to Samsun and the Black Sea coast.