So, my bicycle fundraiser called the “Ride to Read” (website: www.ridetoread.wordpress.com ) has finished in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul, and here I have been for over a week – resting, meeting different and fascinating people, and trying to find some coherence and shreds of eco-sanity in this chaotic city.
My first WarmShowers hosts in Istanbul, Kagan and girlfriend Sema, took us (as I was soon joined by three other bicycle travelers from UK ad Germany) around to the good spots on Asian side Istanbul (Kadiköy). Our meanderings would often turn into food-crawls as we went from typical Turkish breakfast, to tea (çaj), to ice-cream and finishing usually with deliciously rich Baklava . Yummmm!!
Turkish coffee is also a treat… Especially when you can have your fortune read from your cup afterwards.. :)
Regular city cycling becomes urban adventure cycling in Istanbul. Cars have
zero respect for cyclists. Their deep-seated Turkish kindness wont let them actually flatten you on the road, but they’ll stop inches from your heels and holler and honk at you plenty. One must holler back and continue on in the hot vehicle maze or stop on the side of the road for a pity-cry…cycling here is not for the faint-hearted!
Ecologically, this metropolis (3rd largest in the world from what I’ve heard) is a disaster. Recycling is an outlandish concept and cars guzzle fuel like it’s nobody’s concern where it comes from and what impact it may have. Gardens are rare and I haven’t observed any food-producing balconies here… Not the least shred of potted parsley to break up the mundane supermarket visits. I wonder that they don’t wonder where and how all of the glorious food for each evening’s iftar (the large meal at the end of the day during the month of Ramadan) actually comes from…
The in-city streams I’ve seen are quite disgusting too…
..but Geez is it ever beautiful here. The ancient mosques, amazing Grand Bazaar, the hustle and bustle of a restless city that never sleeps, that acts like a drug upon its millions of inhabitants. More than one Istanbulite has told me “I could not live anywhere else, I am from Istanbul”. Personally, I cannot understand or comprehend it… my pull to nature, to silence, to order is too strong to invision ever living here
Which is probably why my favourite part is the ride across the Bosphorus on the ferries that zip back and forth between Europe and Asia all day long. It’s soothing, still and always scenic.
Istanbul, and Turkey in general, is not as cheap as you’d think. The Turkish Lira is about 2:1 to the Euro and throughout the day common purchases like food, lodging and transportation can add up quickly and reflect Western expenses.
So, in part, that’s why we liked the fresh fish sandwiches sold near the ports. At 5 TL it’s a bargain and quite tasty – a white bun, freshly cooked fish and salad. It’s filling too :)
The curious AyaSofia, ex-church-turned-mosque and now a museum. No symmatry or order here, just beauty and amazing murals throughout. An enjoyable way to escape the afternoon heat on a July Thursday in Istanbul.
Really enjoyed meeting this Mexican family during my visit to the AyaSofia, their passion and excitement as tourists was inspirational.
French cyclists Sylvain and Maryvonne are an inspiration as they have come all the way from France to the Bosphorus on their tandem bicycle :) It is a pleasure to spend time, salads and stories from the road with these open-minded and gentle people.
(photo II) the cyclists at home at our WarmShowers host, some downtime and blogging catch-up to do !