In Turkey many of the touristic places are often marked with a brown sign. These signs are typically placed along busy highways to get the attention of people passing by. Since people often don’t pay attention to more important signs like speed limits and stop signs it is no wonder that these brown tourism signs are overlooked. However, for those adventure inclined these are little reminders that there is an adventure waiting. And that’s how I stumbled upon this adventure to Kestane Köy Kemer Köprüsü.
Outside the town of Gülyalı, across from the construction of the new Ordu-Giresun Airport, there was the sign putting towards a one lane road. One day when I had the desire for something different, I thought I would take a look at what this little brown sign meant for me to see. I simply turned where the sign suggested and began my adventure.
Kestane Köy Kemer Köprüsü translates as Village of Kestane (chestnut) Arch Bridge. If you read my bio you will know that I am a civil engineer. One of the things that I enjoy looking at are bridges, especially if these bridges are old. I am constantly fascinated on how people were able to construct bridges in remote places and in very difficult terrain without all the fancy design software that is available today. The fact that these bridges are still usable after hundreds of years is a testament to people’s ingenuity. Anyway, after my adventure I looked up some information about the bridge. What I found out is that it was constructed of field cut stone and built between 1890 and 1895. It is definitely not one of the older bridges in Turkey, but still worth seeing.
Now you might be thinking, if someone actually took the time to make a road sign to direct people to something they wanted a tourist to see they would probably make sure that they placed other signs along the way to give directions. Well, if you were thinking that then you would be wrong. I have followed enough “brown signs” in Turkey to know that there is no guarantee that sign is either accurate or that other signs will follow showing the way, even if you come to several forks in the road. I knew that by following the first brown sign, I may not ever actually find the bridge. After passing several turns I began to wonder if I was supposed to turn, but I figured the best bet was to stay on the “paved” road, and I’ll eventually get there. Right?
Here is a good place to make a comment about the roads (I will have other detailed posts about the roads later). In Ordu, there are basically 3 types of road. There is THE asphalt road which is the main highway that runs along the coast, and in some sections of the larger towns. Then there is the other type of paved road. Paved road here means that it is covered with something other than dirt or gravel. Typically this is tar with a layer of crushed stone poured on top, but in villages the roads often composed of laid stone or brick. The “paved” roads connect the larger towns, but to get to many of the villages you have to travel over dirt or gravel roads. I have found many of these to be better suited for animals. But these types of roads are perfect for adventure enthusiasts as you always have to be attentive to your surroundings.
After traveling about 10 km up steep inclines and encountering many switch backs I started to wonder if I perhaps made a wrong turn. Another thought came to me. Bridges are typically over water, and I am on top of a mountain ridge probably more than 1000 feet above the valley. There is no way that there is a bridge up here. I need to be at the bottom of the valley, not the top. Never the less I kept going, because I allowed myself to be fooled into thinking that there would have been another sign. After another 15 minutes the paved road became dirt, and I was forced to make a decision. Continue or give up.
Well, I am embarrassed to say I retreated from the adventure. I decided to turn back and look for a sign, either a sign to the bridge or a sign leading to the village. As I retraced my route I stopped at each intersect and looked for a sign hidden in the bushes, but I found nothing. When I reached the coastal highway, I again found the “brown sign” pointing back from where I had come. I was defeated and I did not have the energy to try again. I felt like there was someone watching from the bushes somewhere laughing and giggling to themselves, ”hahaha we fooled another one”.
A couple weeks later, I passed the sign again and it reminded me my failure to find the illusive bridge. I became even more determined to find the bridge, but I couldn’t help to wonder if it was even going to be worth seeing. Besides it’s only 120 years old. At my next opportunity, I decided to try my luck again. This time though I would use my secret weapon, Google Maps.
I am usually very good at navigating. I only need to look at a map once, and I can remember the route without looking back or using GPS. I typed the location into google maps, and nothing came up. I guess it’s not important enough to be included in their database. My last try was to just google the name of the village. I found the village and google once again easily computed the quickest and easiest route to my destination. Of course it was down the road I travel a couple weeks earlier, but I discovered that there was a turn that I had missed the first time. This time I was prepared, and I knew where I was going. As I passed the brown sign I said to myself, “this time I win.”
This time I rode with confidence the same road I traversed last time. I was able to travel faster this time because I remembered the turns and the rough sections. As I neared the area where I thought the turnoff was I slowed and looked carefully at my surroundings. Once again I noticed that I was on the top of a mountain ridge with steep cliffs on both sides of the road. I wondered what type of road would lead me down to the valley floor. From the map I knew that the turn would be next to a mosque, so I was confident that I would not miss the turn. Sure enough I came to an empty mosque in the middle of the country side. I stopped and looked around, but I didn’t see a road. I turned off my bike and walked around the mosque to see if there was something hidden behind the building, and that’s when I found it. The road I missed before. As I looked down the road, my head dropped and my excitement turned to disappointment. The road was steep and it was not paved.
I love my motorcycle, but it is not designed for off-road. The truth is that it can go “off-road”, but I am a novice when it comes to riding a motorcycle on this type of terrain. Again I was forced to make a decision…give up and face the laughing man behind the brown sign or give it a try and take the dirt road. I decided to give it a try. Besides it is a road, even if it is steep and dirt. And there were tire tracks at least someone else tried before me.
The road was steep and parts of the road were rocky. The good news was that the road was all downhill, because I was not sure that I would have the traction needed to go up. I bounced along slowly down the hill. Thankfully I remembered reading that on these types of roads it is better to use mostly the rear brake. If I used the front brake, the front tire will slide and I will lose steering and my balance. That advice was perfect as I was able to remain in control even as the rear tire locked and slid in steep areas. Descending the slope I felt my confidence slowly overcoming my fear, and I started to enjoy myself. Occasionally I allowed myself to stop and look back at what I had accomplished and to look over the incredible scenery. It didn’t take long (though it felt like forever), before I reached the bottom of the hill. To my delight the road became paved again. In the distance I could see a white minaret of a mosque and I knew that must be the village ahead.
Then I passed a very old lady carrying the equivalent of a tree’s worth of branches up hill, and I noticed her surprise to encounter a vehicle on the road. After just coming down the steep dirt road to the village I knew not very many cars travelled this way. I couldn’t help feel sorry for her, because she probably was going to carry those branches up to the top of the hill. I knew that I could not help her either. I could only say a prayer that locals say when the encounter such things, “kolay gelsin” (may your work go easy for you). As soon as I spoke my prayer I found the bridge.
To be honest the bridge was a disappointment. Yes, it was old and arched but it didn’t have the charm that I expected. I parked my bike, and walked around taking a few pictures. Next to the bridge was an old değirmen, or mill. This mill actually looked like it could still be functioning. I could hear the water of the stream turning a wheel inside the house. I actually enjoyed the mill more than the bridge.
I rested of about 20 minutes, then I decided to figure out how I was going to get back. I guessed it would be too difficult to come back the way I came. So I went up the road to the village to ask about a different way to get back. Once I got to the village I found several cars. Not just any cars but nice cars. I knew there was no way that these cars could have come the same way I did. Sure enough when I asked how to get back, he said the best way was to go through Giresun.
The return trip through Giresun was much easier. To my surprise the road was nicely paved the entire way to the coastal highway. Once I got back to the highway I couldn’t help to notice that there was no little brown sign pointing towards the old bridge along the easy route. There was only the original one down the highway pointing towards the harder and less travelled route. Instead of being frustrated, I was thankful for the opportunity for a little extra adventure.