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The Road to Istanbul – Cycle Tourist Central

So, we decided to cross the border into Turkey at Malko Tarnavo, (surprisingly pleasant little border town) which is mostly used by tourists coming from Burgas (be warned though, during summer this road becomes some nightmare hell-world of flies!). We cycled into town early and stumbled across a group of seven cycle tourists including 2 Kiwi’s, 1 Swiss, 2 Austrian’s and 2 South Korean’s. The South Korean’s were cycling in the opposite direction, but we joined the others to the Turkish border in some crazy cycle tourist convoy swapping stories on the way… we must have been quite a sight.

Turkey Border Cycle Convoy

Cycle convoy across the Turkish Border

The Kiwi’s, Richie and Julia, are on a big multi-year trek back home that has seen them through Europe and will take them through Central Asia (rather than cheating and flying part of the way like us). Being on the bike for several years they had packed everything, even a coffee machine! Daniel and Andrew from Vienna were doing a summer trip along the Danube to Istanbul. Beat had cycled by himself from Switzerland before meeting the others in Bulgaria.

The road to the border is an uphill slog and in big need of some work; the border crossing, however, is relatively painless (much quicker than the cars) and border guards are really friendly (not even sure if they checked our passports). One thing about the Turks, they sure know how to build roads! When you cross into Turkey, the road suddenly becomes amazing, one of the best we’ve come across since France or Spain with 2m shoulders down the sides and bugger all traffic, (all the trucks go through at the Lesovo). It’s brand new, smooth and takes you up and down rollercoaster hills until you reach Kirklareli; Phil reached a new top speed of 78 km/h downhill (I was mad!).

We went our separate ways at Kirklareli, (the group were heading south before going to Istanbul) promising to meet up in Istanbul. We followed the advice of fellow cycle tourists Freddie & Guy in their blog and continued along the 020 to come into Istanbul from the north. The route has changed since they rode it in 2010 so we’ve written an update of this route.

We met two French guys on our second day along the 020 and cycled with them for the afternoon. Bertrand and Loic have a crazy schedule for cycling around the world for a year. They both had Surly Long Haul Truckers like me, (champions). You can read their blog Ride on the World.

Loic and Bertrand

Us with Loic and Bertrand on the road

In Istanbul we stayed at the pension in Beyoglu where our new friend Neri lives (who we randomly met in Bulgaria) around Taksim, it was great to finally reach Istanbul and we settled in for a week of sightseeing, boozing, bike maintenance and general catching up on admin. The view from the terrace was amazing overlooking the best of Istanbul,and there were loads of trendy cafes, bars and antique shops around the area to look through, (recommended highly as an area to stay in). Neri took us for a ride around Istanbul over the bridge to Serkeci (quite possibly the scariest cycling trip of my life), the traffic is mental! Istanbul is NOT a cycle friendly city. Pushing our bikes around the city, we did meet a few other cycle tourists reinforcing just how many are in Istanbul at any one time, either finishing their trip from Europe or continuing through Turkey.

Istanbul Dusk Skyline

View from our pension rooftop terrace

We kept pretty busy for the first few days, seeing the sites: Blue Mosque, Haiga Sophia, Sultanahmet, ferry ride on the Bosphorus, Taksim Square, bazaars and Istiklal Cadesi… the usual. We applied for our Iranian visa here through Iranian Visa and stocked up on things we needed for our trip including my clothes for Iran i.e. headscarf and knee length jacket, I will look very trendy in Iran. We also attempted to get our bikes serviced at a bike shop in the north of the city; they had done 700km and we thought it couldn’t hurt to have a ‘professional’ take a look at them. It turned out to be quite traumatic, they didn’t do a good job (don’t mention it to Phil, he gets a little upset about it)… an update on bike shops in Istanbul to follow.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia: First a church, then a mosque, now a museum

We had a few great nights out with the crew from the Turkish border, drinking on the terrace, eating at Mama’s (a great all you can eat vegetarian buffet for 10TL) and exploring the night life.

Kat, Mama and Beat

Kat and Beat at Mama's infamous veggie buffet

We were having a blast, then, Phil got sick. Really sick for him… I’ll spare you the details, but he was out for 4 days before he finally felt back to normal again. The only thing we managed to accomplish in that time was to buy a map for Turkey (really hard to get a good one so try and get one in Europe before you get here), and to watch the whole season of Game of Thrones (oh Sean).

By the time we left Istanbul, we’d definitely stayed too long, but we had to wait until Phil was fully recovered before riding again. We finally departed after 10 nights and left via the morning ferry to Yalova. Wonderful city and a wonderful introduction to Turkey, (sickness aside)!


5 comments to The Road to Istanbul – Cycle Tourist Central

  • […] via Birch Blooms and The Cycling Tour Review) Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in […]

  • soulofwind

    can u give me names,coordinates of the 2 South Korean’s guys,please,please,please

  • Phil

    Don’t remember their names, sorry, (only met briefly) and as for ‘coordinates’… not sure what you mean? Because rumours of me tagging other bike tourists with GPS tracking are greatly exaggerated.

  • soulofwind

    thank u for di answer so much,i hope if u remind something(or meet them again..) will write me :)

  • soulofwind

    apropos i like yr post,u are great guys!))

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