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Tuesday, 26 January 2016 07:12

From Trakya Bisiklet to Otogar in Istanbul

Author: Eni
Translated by: Gréta Kojsza

So we cycled a lot from Edirne to the direction of Silivri and finally reached a small town on the coast. We arrived late at night to Gümüskaya. As only built up beaches can be found we couldn’t set up our tent on the seaside. In the middle of thinking about the next step, a middle-aged gentleman from a restaurant has just invited us in for a tea. We accepted the invitation with pleasure, one (German) word let to another, we must have been really sympathetic to the manager, because they already decided on the place where we’re going to spend the night. What is more, the handmaid has just escorted me to the kitchen, so I could prepare our dinner in normal circumstances. During cooking I learnt the Turkish names of the ingredients. Chairs and tables were already placed in front of the restaurant and a small stall as well, probably for the night guard. This hut was our place to stay for the night with two beds and a little table. We couldn’t dream of a better accommodation 20 meters far from the Sea of Marmara with full bellies, in a warm place. It was heaven for an exhausted biker
We could make our breakfast in the kitchen again, while the night guard was offering us tea and coffee continually, who slept in the kitchen because of us…We only realized it in the morning…He put some chairs together and slept on them… We had no idea how we could thank you for it, as we have never experienced such a gesture nowhere else before. The lighter with the Chain Bridge on it, hidden in our bag somewhere, popped into our minds. As the guard and the lady smoke, they might appreciate our little gift. We absolutely won’t forget the little town of Gümüsyaka.
Both of was very excited, counting the kilometers in our minds… We were cycling on undulating slopes, sometimes with heavy upgrades.
The most determining, complex and diverse experience of our journey so far: Istanbul. As we read other Hungarian bikers’ stories, it’s really not easy to take the city in.
Riding on road D-100 towards the center, you get the feeling that the peak hours traffic in Budapest is nothing compared to it. Cars steam in 4x3 tracks, tooting, overtaking and thrusting. Somehow we felt like it’s really serious as they were quite aggressive. Some of them has often rewritten the rules of the road and used 2 tracks as 3. Solid white line? Prohibition of overtaking? Right-hand rule? Red lights? Just let it go..!
We were trying to get into the center as fast as possible, but the 40 kilometers seemed three times longer on such a difficult track. New tracks joined to the main road from the right, where cars pulled out with 50km/h. Trying to stay at the edge of the road sometimes seemed like a scene in a circus, because drivers are simply unable to define people riding bikes on streets. Fatal error… Beginners and neurotic people shall only pass with a huge amount of tranquillizer or with parental surveillance!
I just really have to talk about the tooting habits of Turkish drivers. What do you do, if you’re a Turkish driver? You don’t need any reason to toot, because any situation can provoke you to push the toot: a pedestrian passing by, a car right next to you, another car that you’ve just passed by. Taxis probably have accelerators and brakes with toots installed on them, as they continuously push the toot. What do you do if you see a cyclist while driving your car? Of course you push the toot! The advanced drivers of Otokar (Turkish-made) cars have this special toot which is not the best sound you can hear. After several heart-attack close situations, we finally managed to escape from road D-100.

Besides the first night in a hostel, we stayed with Ahmet in Istanbul. Ahmet studies neurology. He works a lot and as he wants to make a carrier, he left the city of Konya and moved to Istanbul. He’s got better chances here.
Istanbul is a real two-folded city in every aspect. We experienced side by side the continuous vibration and the calmness of the place, the endless past and the modern 21st century.
After walking around on the European part of Istanbul, we came to the conclusion that it is absolutely a tourist destination, where everything shines a bit more and the prices of foods and drinks are much higher. The huge number of tourists is absolutely attended and this part of the city never sleeps. From Ahmet’s place on the 14th floor, we often watched the endless traffic. Thousands of buses, loud Otokar minibuses, cabs and cars were tooling along on the 2x2 tracks of the road. We saw some interesting solutions to by-pass the traffic. Huge green check marks and red Xs were used to let drivers know where exactly they can enter or which road has only one-way. This enormous crowd indeed requires some kind of guidance
The Asian part can be reached in different ways, we chose ‘feribot’ , namely the ferry. Time passes slower here. We could see cafés where old men were sitting around a small table, were drinking tea and played some kind of board-games or cards. Even the market was different: it was somehow more ‘original’ compared to the touristic ‘Grand Bazar’. Bazar-women were shouting behind or next to their counter, but some of them shouted from the top of the counter to lure the mostly local costumers. You can get anything here of course: clothes, scarves, jewelry, vegetables, fruits, spices, domesticities. During their tea brake with the neighbor bazaar-woman, none of them was screaming.
We met Arslan, the ex football coach on the Asian side of Istanbul. He studies sociology and history in Canada and in India. Currently he’s making a living out of fishing. After the really talkative and sporty gentlemen instructed us, he immediately invited us for a beer. Well, that’s what we didn’t expect! We didn’t reject the invitation and set off towards the beach. After passing a gate, we entered to the land of fishermen. Only fishermen or people invited by fishermen can enter. Arslan speaks English fluently and he loves telling stories, so we were listening to him. He was talking about today’s Turkey, politics, religion, traditions, Istanbul. We got to know which flows we have to take care of at the Bosporus and where is it worth to fish in the Black-Sea. In his opinion, you’ve only got to understand Istanbul when you already know the Bosporus. He likes fish and raki (Turkish shot, similar to ouzo). We missed fish, but tried the other!
We had an official program as well, as we had to arrange our visa to Iran. The invitation letter which we got from our Iranian friends made the process much simple. I put on the scarf and we went to the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. We got a number and after Zsófi and Zsolt (biker couple from Dies Diem Docet), we were next in the queue. The administrator was very nice, took our papers and checked the invitation letter which already had the registration number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After paying for the visa fee, we took the payment certificate back to the office then the administrator told us that the visas would be ready the following day in the afternoon.

We were aware of the fact that the city has so many places to visit that even 2 or 3 weeks wouldn’t be enough to see everything. We wanted to make the best out of those few days spent in the city, so we completed our own sightseeing tour with an official one, right after the official visa claiming process. We joined altogether with Zsófi and Zsolt to the tour, where we visited the most important sights in the city center. It was great to meet them again and share each other’s experiences. Istanbul was exactly the point where our journeys met. We said goodbye with a huge smile: See you somewhere in South-East Asia!
The following day we got our visas to Iran and took the subway to get to our lodging rapidly. We packed everything then set off to Otogar (bus station). We’ve already changed into Rambo-mode as we were already familiar with the local morals when it comes to traffic, but after the second crossroads we had to realize that few days are not enough to become fully trained. An exhausting 10 kilometers long way lied ahead, but we managed to get there for 19:30. Life on Otogara is something amazing. Locals told us that a lot of private bus companies compete for the travelers, but we weren’t prepared enough… The bus station is full of with the smaller or bigger offices of the companies and all of them got 2 or 3 newsboy standing in front of them and shouting the destinations. Can you imagine the situation when they saw us with the bikes? They literally raided us, explaining and showing every detail. Everything was ‘OK’, nothing meant a problem to them, though we didn’t understand too much from their offers which we were bombarded by. We were brave enough to start speaking to one of them. The other newsboys soon realized that they lost this round, so they started to look for other travelers. I stayed outside to look after the bikes, but after a few minutes Balázs came back with a huge smile on his face that we got the tickets to Aksaray and everything is fine with the bikes too! Wonderful! Let’s go to Cappadocia!