Distance: 252km| Total: 2,004km
After 20 days in the saddle my 2000km journey from the Stephan’s dome in Vienna, via Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and even a bit of Greece all the way to Istanbul is over and many fantastic memories are made.
It was not easy even though the daily distances between 60-120km are not huge as such. It is the constant moving and getting on the saddle despite sore legs (bum!) or bad weather that is the real challenge. It is a mental test, less so a physical one i think. In the end the route proved shorter than planned, as i stayed away from some of the off-road GPS track to save time and because some parts were just hard with my touring bike and ended up in pushing it.
In any case, it was amazing to travel through this part of europe, catch up with friends, meet many new people and see both nice and not so nice parts of the six countries i crossed. Cycle on!
Heading south from Edirne
I left it late to leave Edirne (pronounced with a long E). Sleep, breakfast and not feeling in a rush. It was a cold morning. Grey. Looked like rain is on the cards sometime today. There are some 250km left to Istanbul and i figures i give myself three days to cover them.
Today i followed the highway D100 most of the way. Not to appealing judging by traffic passing by, but a good road leading straight to Istanbul. The other plus is the hard shoulder. 2m wide and thus making for a perfect cycle lane. Nice actually with many fields passing by.
First stop was Havsa late morning. I stopped at a local tea place and found myself soon in the company of two older turkish guys (not that they bothered to ask if they could join ✌️). One was the owner. We talked about my trip and one told me of his son living in Germany. He was there too as Gastarbeiter and thus german was the chosen language. People clearly not happy with what the lira has done though seemingly in the believe the USD had gone up rather than the lira down!?! Maybe just lost in translation.
After 4 free teas i had to move on to the town of Babeski with a little rain drizzling down. I was hungry and tried the fast food version of Döner. Dont! While cheap (€1 including coke) it was not very tasty at all. Well, fast food. I also managed to fix myself up with a local SIM card even though i understood nothing. People just speak turkish. Not even a hint of english. Much more problematic than in the other countries i have to say. Well, i got my data now. 😁
I moved on to my final destination today – Lüleburgaz some 80km into my day. First up, a place to stay. Since turkey has banned booking.com (well, it still works from abroad or with foreign SIM cards or if you use a browser with hidden VPN like puffin), i now use alternative websites and checked into a nice hotel for less than €20/night. Best to get the details online and then go there. Saved me 30%. Time for a little washing today. My bike gears smells horrible and the roof terrace is an ideal place to hang it all up. 😉
Culture check: i have been to turkey many times though mainly in Istanbul (a different planet). So far, it feels a bit weird. Not sure why, but it seems like a different world. One thing is the language barrier that i am not used to generally anymore. The turkish language is just very different. The other thing i noticed is the tendency to do things local. Like turksih pizza, electronics, ice cream, kit at, cars at times and not to mention all the imitated clothing etc. Gives it all a bit of a copy taste to me. For me, italian pizza as well as ice cream is just better.
I actually listened to the press conference of the german national team ahead of playing france tomorrow. I think we will get killed and am not on the side of our coach. Mentally the team still needs a complete restart. Well, lets see tomorrow. I hope i am dead wrong.
I spent the evening texting with laura and frances and had some beers while watching turkish soap operas. Strange, but enjoyable. Bedtime…
Cycling to the seaside
The journey to Silivri was uneventful and mainly along the D100 again for the best part of 95km. Up and downhill went hand in hand. The wind picked up though and as you would expect not in the right direction 😐. I was getting closer to the sea.
Late afternoon i had made it and was welcomed with a nice and warm evening. I booked myself into a local hotel (€16 a night for a big room with sea view and breakfast… Cant argue with that).
I spent the evening having food and a few drinks in the seaside restaurants and reminded myself of previous times in Istanbul… By listening to turkish rapper Ceza. Fast this guy!
Istanbul – here i come
It must have been my latest start on the tour other than that rainy morning in Serbia. Only 11:30 or so i was rolling towards Istanbul. A good 70km left to my final destination. Traffic now picked up markedly and the signposts with the remaining km to Istanbul acted as a sort of count down. 60km, 40km, 20km… And suddenly i was in the big city.
Traffic was crazy as i maneuvered towards the blue mosque. About 10km were left when a cycle path (a blue cycle path) made life substantially easier. I stopped at the embankment to take in the scenery – fishermen, large vessels anchored, people taking a stroll.
And then i was done. I made it to sulthanahmet and had my memory picture taken at the blue mosque. I was pretty tired and happy to have arrived. Now time to hang out two days in this fabulous city. My sultans trail was over.
So off to the hostel and dinner with a bunch of other travellers from all over the world.
I had no intention to do much sightseeing having been here before. My legs also begged for a rest. But i wanted to catch up with two people i hadn’t seen in a long while.
First up was Lale, who i worked with back at kbw on the eastern European coverage. She had since worked for a london wealth management boutique, done her MBA in paris, worked for credit suisse in wealth management and now runs the office for a turkish AI start-up. We both had our stories to tell about our lives and people we both know. It was fun.
Second was Hasan. He used to be our local brokerage contact here in Istanbul, but more importantly he is a great guy. I remember well when i came here with aldo to launch turkish banks research, the time in istanbul meeting rooms, clubs and rooftops as well as our trip to ankara… Most notably the road trip back by car. Good times. We headed for a restaurant in taksim and talked for a few hours. Good to see you man. All the best.
The first weird thing i saw was several guys with head bandages near the blue mosque. And i many more i counted after in the streets of Istanbul. Turns out that the city has become a prime destination for hair transplants with costs around GBP1500 vs. GBP12000 in the UK. I guess the weak lira will keep customers coming.
So now off to the airport. Got my bike box sorted albeit i was called back by the good man having paid him with a fake TL50 note apparently… Justice came quickly, as the guy at the airport burger king (yep, sorry) charged me me TL51 but gave it back to me 🤔. So we are square turkey! Time to drop off the bike af home quickly and get ready for the next trip.