Europe’s finale: Reaching Istanbul by bike

Reaching Istanbul and visiting a market.

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If you look closely, Istanbul is a tale of two cities, the tiny ‘Bosporus Strait’ connecting the Black Sea from the north to the more southern Sea of Marmara, dividing it in two. All traffic is funnelled through this symbolic gateway, marking the end of Europe, and the start of Asia, and all the cultural changes that that entails.

Cycling to Istanbul and meeting friendly locals.
Chilling with some friendly guys I met ~5 minutes earlier

I was extremely excited about reaching Istanbul. I had been since the start, but there was one more challenge before I got into Istanbul, and that was getting into Istanbul! As I said above, it is a narrow area, with lots of traffic passing through. The moment I had passed into Turkey, I got forced onto main roads (including the infamous 4-lane D100), making a beeline for the city, sharing the road with monstrous lorries, and speeding cars, all moving with purpose, all seemingly horn-happy. It wasn’t enjoyable cycling, and sometimes was downright terrifying.

A watermelon selfie - my refuge from the onslaught of traffic
A watermelon selfie - finding a simple solace and refuge from the onslaught of traffic
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'Just' 460km to go!

I came off the main roads, but soon got horrifically lost in the black hole that is Istanbul’s back streets, from which there seemed no escape, and I resigned myself to living out the rest of my life here. I hit the coast, and found my way into the centre of the city, along nice cycle paths and through parks, looking upwards to the many minarets dotting the skyline for guidance (the directional, not spiritual type).

 

I had expected to be overwhelmed with a similar sense of achievement and pride as seen in my popular video in which I reached Slovenia. That did come, but not until later. My initial emotions was relief. Relief and exhaustion.

Enjoying a meal on the terrace. The spectacular blue mosque to my right, musically calling it followers to prayer, the Bosporous Strait on my left, reflecting the moon. and beyond that? The whole of Asia - full of promise, and adventures, and experiences, and challenges, awaiting me.
Enjoying a meal on the terrace. The spectacular blue mosque to my right, musically calling it followers to prayer, the Bosporous Strait on my left, reflecting the moon. and beyond that? The whole of Asia - full of promise, and adventures, and experiences, and challenges, awaiting me.

 

I’ve now had time to relax, and reflect. I’m still in the process of compiling some thoughts, so I’ll just write (for now) a very simple list of some of what is going through my head.

- I am completely speechless that I cycled here, that my legs alone brought me here.
- If I’m honest, I’m not sure I actually expected to get this far - it just seemed like such a far-flung and impossible notion when I was planning, and even when I left!
- We can achieve so much more than we think possible, and should strive for more, and be more ambitious.
- We can achieve our dreams, and doing so is worth the effort – it’s important to commit to them, and chase them.
- My life on the road is simple, and right now, I love it!

I've enjoyed a great rest seeing some of the highlights during my short time in Istanbul! My cousin, Josh, came out to visit, and booked us a 5* hotel, which seems ridiculously luxurious compared to what I’m used to. (When I turned up, the concierge asked me three times if I was sure I had the right hotel – I assume I’m not their typical clientele?)

 

9 Replies to “Europe’s finale: Reaching Istanbul by bike”

  1. Hey! Nothing about Thessaloniki? ^^

    1. Some things you just need to commit to memory and some experiences are not meant to be shared!

  2. Lorene Penner says: Reply

    I’m amazed that you have travelled so far in a relatively short period of time since you left Slovenia. I’m sure the road is sometimes lonely but you seem to have a gift of connecting with strangers and enriching your life with new friends. I’ve been Turkey on two occasions. I will never forget the drive from the airport to my hotel the first time. The contrast from the first moment between East & West, modern (cars & buses) & not so modern (donkey & cart), all sharing the same road, will stay with me forever. It is still one of my favorite vacation memories although Slovenia ranks right up there. I look forward to the continuing saga of your journey along the “road less travelled”.

    Take care … travel safe.
    Blessings,
    Lorene

    1. Thanks for your comment Lorene!

      Yes! I can’t believe how far I’ve come in what is only a fairly short time – mind you… Slovenia feels like a lifetime ago, so much has happened since!

      Turkey has been amazing so far, and I have a few posts which I can’t wait to share. You are absolutely spot on – It is a very exciting place to be travelling 🙂

  3. Wow, Your blog sounds all so amazing but terrifying. Glad you had a nice break, you really do deserve it! x

  4. Margaret Taylor says: Reply

    Well done Jo. Great photos and appreciate your thoughts and comments about ‘reaching for the impossible’ I must admit we thought that cycling to Australia seemed impossible but…… you have made it to Istanbul – where East meets West – amazing! We haven’t seen you for a few years now but appreciate your allowing us to enjoy your blog and adventures. Thank you. We loved Istanbul when we visited – all the interesting buildings, people and markets. Enjoy the next journey. Margaret T

    1. I still struggle to believe it myself… and the thought of cycling all the way to Australia still feels so far-fetched… Pinch me, I’m dreaming!
      It would be good to see you too when I’m back in the UK.

  5. What a tremendous achievement to have entered another continent through nothing more than a bike, hard work and determination. God makes all things possible!

    1. It’s a crazy thought isn’t it… To have literally cycled an entire continent!

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