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Istanbul and Winter Plans

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After arrriving at the Black Sea we camped the first night near the cliffs. The next morning we went for a swim at a beach a few kilometers down the road. The weather was beautiful and that day we cycled for a while close to the seaside before we had to continue on a busier road further from the sea. From the point on where we left the coastline and cycled upcountry the way was goimg uphill for several kilometers as the bordercrossing is about 650m above sealevel. Arriving there, we had to wait for two hours as there were some technical difficulties: due to a power outage the border officials were not able to check the passports. Suddenly everything went quickly and with a new stamp in our passports we cycled on.
Already during our first days in Turkey we experienced the hospitality and helpfulness of the people here. Often it happened to us that a car stopped next to us on the road and the driver gave us some fresh water, ice tea or lemonade. When stopping for a break in some villages the neıghbours came (often together with a bunch of family members) to bring us something to drink, invite us for a coffee or tea even if we often didnt have a shared language. One day we were just taking a break in the shadow of a house in Emirali when Elvin and her mother Nergis came around the corner. It was their house and they invited us in for something to drink. There we met Bünyamin and the father Ahmet. We were offered some coffee, tea and food, a shower and then found out that they had already made plans for us to stay for the night. Elvin and Bünyamin were very happy about that and we spent the afternoon playing soccer together. We communicated with each other using google translate and with Nergis a little bit in English. Meeting them seemed to happen in the exactly right moment because after nearly three weeks of wild camping a warm shower and a bed were a huge gift to us.
Another day, a man must have watched Laura emptying the watercan when she filled it in our drinking bottles. Some minutes later he came out of the supermarket (where we were just taking a break) and put a newly bought watercan right in front of us. He left again, went to the bakery store and came back with two sesame bagles (simit).
Another day we took a break in a palette-cafe which means a cafe where lots of the furniture was made of palettes. We asked if they had coffee and then ordered some and took a seat – we were the only guests. When the waiter drove off with his scooter three times in total (to probably buy things as we assumed) we were wondered if they actually served coffee. Some time later we were offered coffee and cookies and when saying goodbye the waiter gave us his prayer beads as a present.
Every day we hear the muezzin at certain times which gives us some orientation what time it is. Sometimes, when we camp in front of a town we hear different muezzin at the same time. One evening we were at a junction at the brink of a small village considering which way to take for finding a good campsite. While we were standing there a man on a scooter stopped and signed us that we shouldnt go into the direction we had chosen and that we should wait a few minutes. Some moments later Büşra approached us and told us – caring and vigorous at the same time and especially with lots of laughing – that onder no circumstances we should go that direction. She was even more puzzled when she heard about our trip and that we were camping a lot. Therefore, she decided we should come to her house and have some fruit. There we met her grandparents, her uncle and her parents who all decided we should better stay for the night. Again we used google translate to communicate which sometimes led to funny misunderstandings. We never found out if Büşra was told by that man who had stopped that we were there or if she had heard otherwise that two strangers are in the village. Even without speaking a common language we all had lots of fun and laughed a lot. The next morning they made sure we had a good breakfast and gave us figs, apples and pears from their garden for lunch. Then Büşra and her mom showed us another road that was leading to Istanbul. As in Nergis and Ahmets house, we had to promise to visit again someday.
Cycling into Istanbul was one of the most busiest experience (regarding the traffic) we have had so far while cycling. There are 15-20 million people living in this city which makes it one of the largest cities in the world. It takes you 100 km (driving at the sea) and 50 km when going up the Bosporus to cross it. The road leading to Istanbul had up to 6 lanes. When we came into the rush hour we had to leave it to avoid being stuck. Generally, the traffic is very chaotic and people honk a lot. Tired but glad we had made it we arrived at Philipp and Ankes place in the evening. There we were welcomed friendly and they helped us to bring the luggage and our bikes up into their apartment. They live at a quite central position on the European side of the city. The apartment is beautiful and covers two floors. On the third floor there is a roof terrace where we often sat together having dinner or once an unbelievably delicious Turkısh-Iranian breakfast. From up there you have a great view on the water and parts of this huge city full of chaos and life. The area we stay is a cozy and hip place where lots of cats live! You cant really call them streetcats as most of the times the whole neighbourhood takes care of them, puts up little houses for them, gives them food, takes care of their vaccinations or takes them in their own houses in winter.
Our arrival to Istanbul is already two weeks ago and we are still here. On our second day we got the news that Lauras parents surprisingly and spontaneously had booked a flight to Istanbul and would spend a week here. It was great to meet them here after we hadnt seen each other for several months. Together we visited some famous places in the city as the prince islands, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Great Bazaar where we practised bargaining, had lots of good food and enjoyed our time together. Of course we also spent (as always) lots of time in the bike shop which we visited three times in total. Getting there was always a little journey on its own as the shop is on the Asian side of the city and therefore we had to take the ferry which usually took 1-2 hours. Now our bikes are in great shape again and ready for new adventures.
Quite some time of our stay we were busy planning how to continue the tour. We had arrived much later in Istanbul than originally expected and you can feel that autumn is there as the temperature decreases (especially in Eastern highland areas of Turkey) its raining more often and days that become shorter and shorter. In the bike shop we had already gotten some advice how to get out of the city while avoiding the traffic as much as possible. Together with Anke and Philipp we looked at climate tables altitude profiles and as a back up train connections for the East of Turkey in order to find out which way we can avoid the cold as long as possible.
Several days long we had the tempting idea to follow the sun and sunshine to New Zealand. There we could cycle, work and after 4 months of travelling stay at one place some longer time. We could earn money for future travels and approach Nepal from the other side. Moreover, the border between China and İndia is currently closed which would make it a way longer travel to Nepal than expected. And we found out that a flight would be the same price as buying proper equipment for the winter (better sleeping bags and down jackets). We got so far that we even applied for our New Zealand visa but then realized that our original idea had gotten so important to us that for now we decided to continue cycling through Turkey towards Georgia. For the next two weeks the weather forecast is still good and we are planning to take a winter break in Georgia (which is about 2000 km away from here). In case we are reaching our limits due to cold weather or anything else we will think of something and may realise our New Zealand idea then (the visa is valid for one year).
We are so lucky we had such lovely hosts as Philipp and Anke during our time in Istanbul and for their help with taking a decision on how to continue our travels. From the very first day they naturally shared their home with us and supported us in many ways. Together with them we discovered a number of great breakfast places, had a lot of interesting talks, and one evening went for some beautiful live music to a place nearby. Grateful for meeting the two of them and for the great and intense time in Istanbul we are now leaving heading further east.
The Black Sea.

 

Short break to dip into the sea.

 

Time to think.
The view from our campsite on the cliffs.

 

It was a never ending way.
This Family invited us over.

Breakfast with our hosts.

We had to take a street with 6 lines into the center of Istanbul.

Our view from the roof terrace.Our new neighbour.

 Surprise visit from Lauras parents!

 

 

 

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