Ok, this is turning more into a travel journal than a blog, hope you enjoy reading anyway! Here`s Albert`s part........ en español.

02 Februar 2012


Istanbul - a huge pulsating city, where Europe ends and Asia begins.  Not that this would really mean anything.. but it does make it sound like an important destination doesen't it.  Even though Albert and I had not talked about it this way before, it seems that we were both feeling that Istanbul would be the finish line of the first chapter of our trip.  So far so good.  We decided to take it easy here for a while before continuing with part II -Turkey, Iran, Central Asia...ooohhhh, how exciting!!

It took forever to reach the city center, and when we asked a tea vendor by the highway how far it would be to Istanbul, he said: "20km!  Up and down and up and down, but actually you are already in Istanbul!"  He was right. Up and down and up and down for 20km -next to cars and trucks- argh..! We were told that the population of Istanbul is something between 15-20 million people (what a wide range?!) whereas the population of the whole country of Greece is only around 10million!  I felt absolutely overwhelmed by the vitality and density of Istanbul.

Those two guys are Daniele and Mattia from Italy who we met by a beach around 100km before Istanbul.  An unexpected encounter, considering that most of the houses were summer houses and therefore empty.  The beach was absolutely unspectacular.  And they were not even camping on the beach.  We found their tent next to a concrete wall on a patch of grass where I would normally go to take a pee.  How nice it was to find out that they were also cyclists!  And not only cyclists: They were backpacker-cyclists.  In fact, not only backpacker-cyclists...

But apart from all their stuff, they carry an even bigger amount of cheerful energy, courage and a very funny sense of self-irony with them..  We travelled with them for 3 days and still meet up sometimes in Istanbul.  They are currently looking for jobs in Istanbul (so if anyone knows of anything, please contact us) and Daniele is trying to get a license to play some music in the metro... very cool!

Going back to how we reached Istanbul:
To minimize the hassle of high traffic, Albert tried to find us secondary roads.  He bravely took over the role of a leader, which brought us here:

                        A local market.

    More of it.

                            And here.

(Note the small person in the left corner.  It's poor Mattia pushing his bike up the dirt road with full trust in Albert.  Daniel and I were rather skeptical and decided to wait down there next to the sign-posting. It turned out to be the wiser thing to do....).

(So we went back on the main road)

Finally, we arrived.  Time flies bys so quickly.  Apart from some beaurocractical stuff I had to take care of (to renew my passport), we mainly hang out with people, work on our bikes here and there, try out delicious food, and another day is over.  We have spent the first couple of days in Cihangir, a part of town with old European-style buildings, nice Coffee Shops and Bars.  Stayed with Simon (as couchsurfers) in his very cozy and beautiful flat with a view over the Bosphorus, Sultanahmed to the right (the old town where some of the major mosques are situated) and the Asian part to the left. 
He offered us a bed in our own big room.
We had breakfast on his balcony.
We cooked food in a real proper kitchen.
We washed our clothes in a washing machine.  
We had wine in the evenings.
We went out to bars.
Even the street cats in Cihangir look more elegant than ordinary ones.  They have long hair and look like Persian cats.

This was a get-together with Simon's friends and their couchsurfers, who are currently hitch-hiking through Europe.  Albert made Spanish Tortillas for 14 people that night.

From the bubble in Cihangir, we moved to Fatih, a more conservative, Turkish neighborhood without any tourists. Our host Necip, a Turkish medical student lives here with his German-Turkish and American flatmates (..did I say conservative?)  There is Necip's French girlfriend and a Turkish doctor who is squatting Necip's room. Plus another Swedish Couchsurfer (originally from Ghana) who, after he left to a Hotel to stay there with his younger brother and sister, actually came back with them.  So the apartment is pretty full and super lively. Maybe this also explains why the days fly by so fast.

Consumed by Turkish Star Wars (with Indiana Jones music): 

A visit in the Hammam, the Turkish bath. 

We have been very lucky with the people we meet and host us..  Meeting all these people with such diverse backgrounds and personalities has been super interesting.  The fact that we can connect and really have fun together are very precious experiences.  Of course, "fun" is just one aspect of life but cracking up with a stranger is quite an unforgettable experience!

Some more impressions of Istanbul..

On a rainy day... 

The entire bridge is full with people fishing day AND night!


 (The city wall)

The prettiest butcher SHOP ever.

One strange morning in Cihangir..

Gökhan took us to his university to eat - 1 Turkish Lira (around 40 cents) for a whole plate with soup, salad, main dish (chicken or fish), water, bread and dessert.

 Peers, one of the four English bicyclists we met in Greece and Junior, our fellow couchsurfer.  We met this kind Turkish man when we were having dinner in a  "Lokanta" - a canteen-like restaurant with precooked, usually simple, delicious and more than reasonably priced "homy" food.   He then invited us for a tea...

 ..and somehow we ended up being invited to more drinks and superb seafood on a rooftop terrace of a fancy restaurant.. : )

Ebru- another super nice host who hosted us for 2 days on the "Asian" side (there isn't anything more Asian there than there is on the European side.  In fact, it seemed more modern and organized -in my opinion rather European!)


..getting ready to go on...


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