Unlike Thessaloniki, Alexandropolis was a surprising nice city and we enjoyed a little ride in the center the next morning before leaving the last big Greek town on our way behind us and making a start on the last 40km before the border crossing. The constantly strong headwind made these last kilometers, that were leading on a busy road through boring and desolate rolling hills, quite a challenge.
After spending all our remaining European roaming credit for a last call home , we eventually said Goodbye to this wonderful country that welcomed us with so much hospitality and unforgettable scenery and rolled through no-man’s-land to the Turkish border. The border crossing went without any troubles and soon we set foot on Turkish ground for the first time.
Since we had read a lot of negative reports about approaching Istanbul by bike we were already thinking about taking a train or bus at the next big city. When we then saw an empty truck passing by right after the customs check we didn’t think twice, stopped him with friendly but determined waving and asked for his destination. In broken German we figured out that he is on the way to Istanbul and open for the idea of giving us a ride 🙂 For Martina it was even a premiere since she has never been in a truck cabin before!
After the first 50km it was already clear that we took the right decision: the roads were crowed with speeding trucks and the service lane, our only hope to survive on this express way, was regularly used to avoid one of the hundreds of knee-deep potholes.
The driver, who was working all over Europe in the last 20 years, was really friendly and took us to several gas stations to proudly show off with us in front of his colleagues while serving us our first Turkish Chai. Late after midnight we were finally approaching Istanbul where, according to the driver, Istanbul’s traffic “lunapark” begins… Like all the others, he started to drive his 33 tons truck like a go-kart, constantly changing lanes wherever a little hole in the traffic jam opens, forcing his way with deafening honking and Turkish cursing. Clearly there was no time for discussing our exit point and before we knew what’s going on, we crossed the Bosphorus and were just able to sneak a glimpse on the sign “Welcome to Asia”. Slightly concerned about this rapid development, we tried to encourage him to drop us at the next highway exit. When he vehemently refused we started to feel more than a little queasy. He rejects all our further suggested dropping points with “no good, no hotel, no problem” and we slowly figured out that he intends to bring us to his company’s parking place. When we finally reached the garage after crossing a labyrinth of suburb alleys that took all the pitiful remains of our sense of direction he explained us in his broken German: “sleep here, ferry tomorrow”. Undoubtedly he had the best intentions and he actually was a trustworthy person but nevertheless the whole situation gave us a weird and creepy feeling. But without any choice, in the middle of nowhere at 3 o’clock in the morning, we came to terms with our inevitable fate and got ready for sharing an uncomfortable and sleepless night in the truck cabin.
The next morning the whole crew – together with the smell of gasoline and old motor oil – welcomed us warmly with sweet chai and incredulous questions about our trip. After serving as an attraction for several hours our kind truck driver organized a pickup to load our bikes on and did not miss the chance to bring us to the next ferry port himself.