After three adventurous cycling days in western Turkey, which had a bit of everything (great stretches of road and ugly ones, silence and crazy traffic, warm nights and thunderstorms) and a great warm welcome of all the Turkish people we met (at least 30 invitations for chai, melon, coffee, place for the night), we arrived in Istanbul pretty exhausted.
The last 100 km from around Corlu to Istanbul were without doubt the most exhausting and horrible stretch of road we encountered so far. Istanbul basically starts already 80 km before the “Istanbul” sign, with non-stop industrial, holiday and urban areas along the once probably quite pretty coast of the Marmara Sea. All those cluster towns have one thing in common: Awful crazy traffic! We already cycled the smaller of the two big parallel roads, the D100, but still were confronted with increasing traffic as closer we got towards Istanbul. From Büyükcekmece onwards it was a great “rooaaar” surrounding us every meter of the road, accompanied by heavy smog and fumes from cars, trucks and industry as well as reckless driving skills. The peak of all this was the stretch from the Beylikdüzü Peninsula till Istanbul itself. The road became a 6 + 6 lane highway crawling up steep hills with additional lanes joining in from left and right, others leaving, highway crosses and finally a huge traffic jam downhill for about 15 km. Maria was close to desperation and all the solution I found was to scream continuously: “Focus! Focus! We have to focus if we wanna get out of here in one piece!”
Our rims were smoking hot and the brakes at the limits when we managed to leave this vein of madness. During the boat ride towards the Asian side of Istanbul we still had the mad roar in our ears – but a relieving gladness was rising, having managed to reach our first big goal of the journey. Istanbul! The city of all cities!
Being back in Emin’s flat in Kadiköy for the first time since October 2013 felt just great – seeing Emin, his girlfriend Lenka, his flatmates and in the end our old friends Alp, Caner and Yakup was some kind of homecoming. Well, some kind of home Istanbul is indeed, as it was my fifth time in the city and Maria’s second visit. A pleasant surprise was the arrival of an old friend from Germany, Johannes, at the very same day. Consequently, for the next days the adventure was on pause but replaced nicely by quality social time with friends. Eating Simit, drinking Chai or beers, walking along the Bosphorus, going out in the evenings – we nearly forgot about all those things we had to arrange in Istanbul!
After staying ten days the decision was finalized to indeed delay our main goals for Istanbul (Visa application for Iran and Pakistan, getting missing Vaccinations) to Ankara, as there the main consulates can be found and we were hoping due to its slightly smaller size and better infrastructure, the “business” might be easier to manage in the Turkish capital.
Looking back, it didn’t really feel like staying ten full days in Istanbul – the time was flying as fast as that crazy city moves! The days we mostly spent walking the different parts of Istanbul, managing small things here and there like getting bike parts, winter equipment and small necessities as well as busking in different areas to keep our wallet alive (Istanbul is expensive…). But this part of our trip will be mainly memorized for the nice moments we had with our friends. One more time we left the city with the feeling of leaving some kind of family in a part of this world, where our trail will always lead us back to sooner or later.
Note: We decided to avoid another horrible cycle experience on the way out of Istanbul and to also to save time to get things done in Ankara quicker. So we stuffed our bikes in a bus and entered the great Anatolian plateau in a fancy Turkish intercity bus. But watching the suburban industrial madness pass by the bus window for some good 100 km again, the regret was minimized!