Aǧri – Doǧubayazit

Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat

Under constant headwind and some more downpours later we arrived in Doǧubayazit, the last Turkish town before the border-crossing to Iran with a spectacular view on the 5137m high Mount Ararat.

Ishak Pasha Palace
Ishak Pasha Palace

Since we still had a couple of days left before our planned entry into Iran, we took the opportunity to visit the ancient and stunningly beautiful Ishak Paşa Palast, situated a few kilometers up in the mountains behind the city. On the way to the city center to catch a domuş (=minibus) that would bring us up, a van with a young couple stopped to give us a lift. It turned out that Anna is originally from Poland and her husband Saffet is a Kurdish nomad from this area and they were organizing guided tours to Mount Ararat (www.ararattours.com)

One piece Column
One piece Column

Unfortunately they couldn’t give us a tour to Mount Ararat’s peak (you wait two month for the permit to go up), but the brought us all the way up to the palest and gave us a comprehensive tour full of witty anecdotes about the former court life.

Ararattrip.com Magic couple
Ararat tour guides

In gratitude for the spontaneous tour we wanted to invite them for lunch but instead we ended up having an hilarious BBQ pick nick at a small creek nearby. Thanks a lot to both of you for this great day!

 

Cathedral
Ruins of Ani

They also gave us the tip that we must not miss to visit the ruins of Ani, the former capital of the Armenian Empire but now abandoned since 300 years. So we took a bus the next day directions north close to the Armenian border and were really not disappointed: Ani exudes the creepy ambiance of a ghost town surrounded by the remote landscape of the rolling Turkish steppe, the tension of the adjacent contested border and the heavy weight of a long and tragic history.

Barbe au cul
Barbe au cul

Back in our hotel we met 3 young, crazy students from the UK: Fred, Max and William. They were on their way back from Japan with a Honda car they had bought there and had made the whole way through Russia and East Europe down to Turkey. We spent a great evening together (with our first beers since a while) and shared through funny road trip stories about the crazy Turkish style of driving and much more. The next day they took us in their Japanese car back to Doǧubayazit where we once again ended up around a nice campfire roasting chicken wings with the imposing Ishak Paşa Palast towering up above us.

Trabzon – Doǧubayazit

International Dinner
International Dinner

The next days in Trabzon, Emre, a convivial and helpful member of couchsurfing hosted us in his shared student housing. At the same time he was accommodating two other cyclists from Germany (www.assling-peking.de) and we had fun sharing our bike experiences and sumptuous meals together.

Sumela Monastery
Sumela Monastery

Besides of maintaining our equipment, the time-out in Trabzon gave us the opportunity the only two main attractions of Trabzon: on a rainy day we hitchhiked south in the mountainous back-country to the spectacular Sumela monastery, a rock-hewn monastery perched dramatically on the narrow ledge of a steep cliff in the forest. Especially the foggy weather conditions that didn’t allow more than an occasional glimpse on the  imposing building on our steep way up until we reached the gates, gave it an eminently mystique atmosphere. Unfortunately our trip found a less pleasant end when Martina dropped our camera on the floor… Back in Trabzon, after an intense but unsuccessful search for a well-assorted photo-shop, we finally found a guy in a small back alley who could repair it in two hours 🙂

While waiting for the camera to be repaired we paid a visit to the Atatürk main square (each Turkish town, no matter the size, has at least one square or road named like this). But due to Ramadan, instead of cheerful old men stirring in their ҫay while playing Backgammon, we found a tense ambiance among the still well-frequented coffee houses where nobody is drinking or feeling like doing something else than gazing in abstraction.

Therefore we weren’t too sad when leaving Trabzon direction Erzurum the next day. The way to Erzurum leads through the densely forested mountains south of the coast until we reached the high-plateau where we followed wide rolling hills covered with high swaying grass and purple flower fields surrounded by partly snow covered mountains. This scenic but rough and inhospitable landscape is completely different than what we’ve seen so far in Turkey, yet it has its own unique beauty.

Roaring Storm
Roaring Storm

We enjoyed biking through this spectacular scenery a lot although we had heavy and quite unpredictable thunderstorms minimum twice a day and had to dig ditches with stone shovels around our tent in order to allow the mass of water the sky was pouring out over our heads to drain away. But although it was storming like there were no tomorrow, inside our tent it was cozy and dry and we had hot pasta 🙂

After such a night we stopped in the morning at a coffee house for a hot ҫay. When we were about to leave, Gui noticed that his pepper spray that is normally mounted in front of his handlebar for quick access, was gone. Assuming that we had lost at the parking, we started to search for it. When explaining to the shop owner with great pantomimic skills what we were searching, he directly knew what we were talking about send his son on the tractor to the nearby housings. On his return he brought a poor little ten years old boy with big, red, swollen eyes and his, not in the slightest, amused father. Underlining his word with angry gestures, including throwing stones after his frightened son, he explained us that his son had “found” the spray and – of course – couldn’t resist to try it out, whereby the wind had blown a full charge into his eyes! Terrified and probably blind with pain he had thrown the spray away. The father ensured us several times that he would recompense our loss what we vehemently rejected. This poor little boy had already suffered enough and we didn’t want that he has to pay the next three years for this can (especially since we were sure that the glazing red, painful eyes were not the allow punishment waiting for him). Thus, we were really relieved when we eventually found the spray in the grass behind the house.

The funny fact is that his was the first time ever that the spray called into action but not the last time on this day. But let’s start this story from the beginning…

Highest point...so far
Highest point, so far…

After this delayed departure we continued our way and when we had just climbed our highest pass so far with over 2000m, we saw once again dark clouds gathering at the horizon. So we didn’t any time at the top and were hurrying down to find shelter from the imminent cloudburst.

Roaring Storm
Roaring Storm

Not even 5min later it started to rain and we pulled out at the first house to ask for a roof. But although the kids playing in the yard were really happy to see us, the mother was waving us away (first time that somebody spurned us since we are in Turkey). So we had to continue our way under the rain until we reached a couple of houses enclosed by a high fence. The gate was wide open so we entered the yard to knock on one of the doors, when 5 huge, terrifying dogs approached us and started to surround us. They were barking aggressively, baring their teeth and no sign from their owner to call them back. As they were inexorably coming closer and didn’t seem to be intimated by our shouting, we had no other choice than using our pepper spray on two of them to keep them at distance. At this moment a minibus turned into the yard and 5 guys jumped out of the car to come to our rescue. This chased the dogs away and finally and old lady came out of one of the houses (armed with a broom against the dogs). She asked us in to get a warm and shake off the shock.

Kurdish Lunch
Kurdish Lunch

In the end we were anyway happy to have stopped here because shortly after her seven sons came home from the fields and we shared a simple but delicious lunch at the floor of the warm and snugly hut.

Amasra – Trabzon

In the end we spent three days in the beautiful Amasra having a great time with our new friends. The day we left, we stopped quickly in a little coffee bar to check our emails and got a pleasant surprise: Tamer could come to meet us in Sinop, in two days! There were still 300km between us and Sinop, no chance to make that in 48h, panic!! 🙂 So we had to find an alternative way of transport and since the train network in Turkey is more or less inexistent we had to resort to our good old friend the “otobüs”.

Conference
Conference

Taking the bus with the bike is always a special experience in itself and although they ensure you in the ticket office “bisiklet problem yok” (= “bicycles no problem”, our most favorite Turkish sentence) you are then totally at the bus “captain’s” mercy who holds the sole dictatorship about his baggage compartment and sometimes tries to rip us off by charging extra money for the bikes. But sometimes a nice chat with the policemen brings some crucial extra points 🙂

Hugs à Tamer
Hugs à Tamer

Two days and four buses later we arrived late at Sinop and the expected 2km drive to the nearest camping turned into a 10km circumnavigation of the airport in the dark. But the next morning when we met Tamer, and Seyit invited us for breakfast in his luxury hotel with awesome sea view really compensated for the last two nerve-racking days.

Frisbee 2 hands

The next two days we spend most of the daytime on the white beach playing Frisbee, letting the sun shine on our bellies, swimming in the crystal clear water, having the one or other beer and having a lot of fun with Tamer, sharing all crazy stories since we had met last time. Seyit, a high school friend of Tamer and the manager of the hotel, let us enjoy the beach and the comprehensive breakfast every day

Sinop peninsula
Sinop peninsula

(Gui gave his best to live up the Turkish expectations that “only a hungry guest is a good guest”), gave us a tour around the town and peninsula, though we couldn’t find the legendary lighthouse, and took good care of our well-being in the evening with delicious fish, which – according to a Turkish idiom – has to be enjoyed with lots of Raki in order to don’t make it cry 🙂

Deluxe dinner
Deluxe dinner

As a simple token of gratitude Gui even shared his “grandmother’s” quiche recipe with Seyit’s wife. Hope to see a picture of quiche made in Turkey soon! 🙂

After three absolutely great days it was time to say Goodbye to Tamer, Seyit and Gui’s wobbly kickstand and continue our way to Samsun. We made good progress on the completely flat road and only when the sun started to sink and clouds were gathering, we realized that we actually didn’t buy anything for dinner yet and the road that is built between the sea on one side and steep cliffs on the other side doesn’t allow any detours to nearby villages.

Truck Kitchen
Truck Kitchen

No reason for concern for us, our guardian angel already had a plan and when we stopped shortly after at a parking two truck drivers where already waving at us with a well-known gesture: cay! And although it was the first day of Ramadan they were preparing a little dinner for all of us in their perfectly equipped kitchen box mounted under the truck trailer, what luck!

First fishing lesson
First fishing lesson

On the following day we nearly reached Samsun after a long day on the road and when we stopped in a little village 20km before, we were really happy to find somebody who speaks English and could help us on our search for a camping spot. Although his family didn’t have any garden he was happy to offer us his neighbor’s garden who was not at home 🙂

Invitation ramazan dinner
Invitation for Ramadan dinner

And since it’s Ramadan, they insisted that we come over for dinner as well and so we found ourselves shortly after 8 with the whole family around the bountiful table while waiting for the TV lead-in to announce that it’s time for breaking the fasting for today.

The last 20km to Samsun we were following a bad but traffic free beach promenade road where Gui had his probably last swim in the black sea and after another 20km searching up and downhill in town (for an unknown reasons all cities in Turkey seem to be built on the highest hills in the proximity) we finally found the “otogar” (bus terminal) where after some hard negotiations we eventually found a bus driver that was willing to take us to Trabzon! Seven long and cramped hours of bus ride later we arrived under heavy rain late at night and were quite relieved when we tiredly sank into bed in our small hotel room.

Akҫakoca – Amasra

Erigli tourist boatAfter this marvelous luxury day we were heading further east along the coast to Eregli where the biggest steel factory of Turkey and the military zone beside it provided a quite ugly and repellent welcome. But once you passed this polluted industrial area the town presented itself with a lovely and green beach promenade where we found lots of booths selling cotton candy – yum-yum 🙂 – and the first cycling way so far! Additionally we found a friendly a yacht club that allowed us to use their facilities and setup our tent directly on their pier where we could watch the coming and going of the brand new sailing boats and the army’s submarine training until the sun sank into the sea.

Since the local people have told us that the way to Zonguldak is really shitty, crowded with multiple tunnels we decided to take a bus to Bartin after an unsuccessful two our try to hitchhike. When we arrived in Bartin and had just finished to load our bikes we discovered that Martina’s Kindle was missing, what a disaster! (she already read 7 books since the beginning, what a gain of weight if we would have to carry all of them!) We rushed into the office and tried to explain them, once again more pantomimic than with words, what happened. But it was hopeless until we found a guy with a smartphone. Thanks to google translate they finally  understood our excitement and started to make several phone calls, sometimes even one on each ear. The result was that we were wordlessly pushing us and our fully loaded bike in an empty bus and before we knew what’s happening we found ourselves on the way to Amasra, luckily our next target anyway.

After half an hour drive on the curvy road to Amasra that had more resemblance with a go-kart race the bus driver suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere, a guy entered the bus and handed over the Kindle to us. This time we were speechless, how did this miracle just happen?!

Amasra centerWithout further stops or passengers the bus was continuing speeding to Amasra, a lovely old town in a narrow bay with light blue water, two small offshore islands, connected with stone bridges, that hold the ruins of an ancient Roman fort and a well-preserved historical city center.

Unfortunately the town didn’t offer any place for our tent and all the people we asked were pointing us to a place between the bus terminal and the local waste dump, not really attractive…

Party at Emins placeDesperately we stopped to have dinner in a small restaurant with a great view on the whole page. It didn’t take long until Emin, the boss of the restaurant, a fisherman and a former army captain, came on our table to chat with us. Several glasses of ҫay – and wine for him – later he offered us to setup our tent on his terrace. Gladly we accepted his hospitable offer and when he then invited some more friends over we spent an entertaining evening all together with lots of raki until late after midnight.

Happy Birthday

 

Auf Magdalenas zweitem Bild ist mehr Action. Links das riesige Gesicht einer Katze, Martina mit - deutscher, sorry - Flagge radelt im Vordergrund (Nase, Ohren :-)) Über ihr tobt ein Gewitter mit Donnerblitzen (schwarz) und Lichtblitzen (gelb), im Hintergrund ein schwarzer Mond (black moon rising) und eine Sonne. Turning 30 is commonly considered as a big change, it’s the beginning of a new chapter of one’s life. The wild twenties are definitely over and you are supposed to be more settled down with a regular life. Currently without permanent residence or job I somehow have the feeling I failed in terms of that. But on the other hand I was never happier in my life. Living this dream, intensively experiencing every single day on this adventure is something so precious I would not trade for all the riches in the world. And every bit as precious are the people who share this journey with me and who made this day for me special by giving me the most valuable gift ever: a little bit of their time to share or to tell me they are thinking of me, making their best to let me forget that I already miss them all a lot 🙂

Thank you all so much for your lovely wishes and especially to Gui, who really gave his best to make this day a perfect day, even with cake and candle to make a wish for an exciting future!

BDay cake 2 BDay cake 1 BDay cake 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Istanbul – Akҫakoca

view on BosphorusThe Asian side of Turkey awaited us directly with a huge climb uphill to the ruins of an old castle that provided a wonderful view on the Bosphorus. Luckily two young sportive guys helped us pushing our bikes the two steep kilometers on the ascending cobbled path since our legs were not in their best shape due to the two week break.

first black sea beach
first black sea beach, quite disappointing

We continued our way through the hilly back-country until we finally rolled down two our first black sea beach where we wanted to take a small road along the coast to reach our destination for this day. Unfortunately a military zone was lying behind us and the last 5km of this day. Entry was strictly forbidden and even Gui’s charming powers of persuasion couldn’t make them change their mind. But at least it resulted in some fresh water and sesame pretzels for free 🙂 Since we couldn’t cross the area it meant for us that we had to go back the last 10km we just rolled down to make a big detour around the forbidden zone. I guess you can imagine our frustration.

welcome amuse bouche
welcome amuse bouche

Our detour lead us deep into the nearly uninhabited back-country and when the sun was sinking we were relieved to reach a little village. As every village in Turkey, no matter how small, it had a nice mosque with a high minaret. Close by there were two old men sitting on a terrace idly steering in their ҫay. When we asked if they knew a place for our “ҫadir” they were livening up and invited us to stay in the garden. 15 Minutes later we found ourselves on the family table of the local muezzin, well wrapped up in hand-knitted jackets and the mother served us one homemade delicacy after the other one. And when Gui then started to teach the children how to juggle they were overjoyed to host such rare and peculiar guests. What a great first (out of many) warm welcome in this hospitable country!

Cloudy dayIn the next days our way continued to lead us through the mountainous back-country and although it is physically and mentally exhausting to climb one pass after the other one just to roll down again on the other side, the landscape and rich vegetation full of shady pine forests, blooming meadows and hazelnut and strawberry field is really rewarding.

Tea timeFrom time to time we passed through small villages where groups of old, well-dressed men with weather beaten faces are sitting at the village square greeting and waving to us to invite us for ҫay. They always give us friendly, nearly toothless smiles while the major is curiously asking questions whose meaning we can only guess and we try our best to answer them with hands and feet. In those situations our little point-it picture dictionary has already proven itself to be worth a mint.

Feeding the baby goatThe Turkish people, no matter if young or old, are really friendly and open to foreigners. Once we stopped late at a mountain hut alike house on the top of a pass and although it was actually a (completely empty) restaurant we shared dinner together while petting their little goat that obviously fancied itself as a dog and therefor followed its master everywhere, including the house 🙂 And even in bigger towns the first guy that we ask for the way to a hotel doesn’t hesitate a second to act as our guide showing us the way through the ally labyrinth to the only hotel.

First flat tire with audienceOn our fifth day after Istanbul we had our first flat tire – as chance would have it – in the middle of a small hamlet. While Gui was repairing the tube all the children of the surrounding houses came running to watch these two aliens with their weird bikes. They were really shy at the beginning but curiosity won and they started to push each other forward to try out the few English phrases they knew. In the end they even gained enough confidence to share some cookies with us before we continued our way.

Nest for 3 nightsThis night we stopped in a nearly untouched nature reserve along a sullen river where a young and generous Turk who had grown up in Hamburg had built a little café & pick-nick place and he offered us to stay in his new built tree house! The one night we had planned to stay turned into three because it was raining the next days without cease and we were happy to have a roof over our heads while watching the falling rain and listening to the never ending frog concert.

When the weather finally got better we continued to Akҫakoca and since it was the night before my birthday we afforded a 4-star hotel with pool, Hamam and sauna! Thanks a lot to our generous sponsors 😉 Halil, the friendly and nearly over-endeavored sales manager of the hotel even invited us for dinner (and breakfast) in honor of this occasion, so that I’m inclined to forgive him the embarrassing situation when he started to sing happy birthday for me in the elevator 🙂

BDay cake 2We started the next day, my 30th birthday, with a late and sumptuous breakfast accompanied by the sound of the sea, an extended walk on the long, sandy beach, a relaxing visit to the sauna and completed this perfect day with a delicious fish dinner on nice terrace topped off with ҫay and cheese cake – even with a candle and sparkler!

 

Istanbul, Part II

Not before 8
Not before 8

For our last days in Istanbul, Nurbanu, a friend of a good Turkish friend of us, offered us a place on her couch, which we appreciated a lot since Istanbul so far had left a big hole in our travel budget. To avoid Istanbul’s traffic chaos for our fourth accommodation change we decided to take the metro this time, what a great idea! Although the security guard ensured us that we are allowed to take the metro with our bikes, they let us wait two hours due to the current rush hour… But at least we had our private security escort that accompanied us all along the way when we were finally allowed to pass the gates.

chicken tajine dinner
chicken tajine dinner

Nurbanu is working as a graphics design and illustration freelancer and she took us to her co-working space where two French guys happened to give a talk about their 3 year cycling world trip on recumbent bikes as well, a great opportunity for us to drill them with questions about their experiences with driving in Turkey and those kind of bikes in general. They also do great artistic projects all around the world related to the growing open source community (their website)

without trailer on the Bosphorus
without trailer on the Bosphorus

Nurbanu and her cousin really made us feel at home at their place and together with the fact that we were able to successfully pick up our two missing visas, it made those last days in Istanbul a real pleasure. Thanks a lot again!
Due to Nurbanu’s sincere concerns about the Turkish traffic style we left Istanbul early on Sunday morning, not without a wonderful homemade pancake breakfast 🙂 It turned out that it was a really great advice and after an enjoyable 20km ride north along the Bosporus coast we crossed over to the Asian side by ferry and finally continued our trip!

Birthday Visit Weekend!

Eagerly anticipated, impatiently awaited: finally the day came for Kathi’s and Wolfgang’s arrival to celebrate our upcoming 30th twin birthday! After crossing Istanbul’s numerous hills for the third time now to change for our new common apartment we went to the airport to finally enfold them in our arms and also shed one or two tears 😉

Turkish Lunch
Turkish Lunch

The “taksi” drive back was a really special experience in itself and showed us one again that the level of insanity of the ordinary Turkish driver should not be underestimated. Another nasty surprise was awaiting us when we came back to the hotel: due to a breakdown of the local water supply the whole quarter had no water for an indefinite period of time.

cay time
cay time

We made the best out of the situation and directly visited the famous and indeed impressive Blue Mosque & Spice Market and arrived just in time at the Galata Bridge for enjoying a golden sunset behind the hills of Istanbul and another delicious excursion to the fish-market, yum-yum 🙂 By the time we came back to our apartment water was back again, unfortunately not only was it coming out of the shower but also the wall setting the whole kitchen under water! What would life be without surprises?

cistern
Basilica Cistern
Hagia Sophia 2
Hagia Sophia 2

We spent the next days visiting (nearly) all of Istanbul’s great architectural and cultural highlights but took also time for various side trips to the extraordinary Turkish cuisine, a relaxing morning in a traditional Hamam (a truly unique and unforgettable experience) and some extensive sister-chatting.

cartoon baggage handler

The day when they had to leave came far too fast and in exchange of all the wonderful things they brought us from home we managed to get rid of almost 10kg of luggage including Gui’s big camera – he is missing it already – and our trailer (which has turned out to be quite bulky on narrow roads and made the bike handling much more complicated)! Thanks to Wolfgang’s artistic drawing skills everything arrived home without the slightest damage 🙂 We had a great time together in Istanbul and it was the best birthday present ever to especially come to visit us here for celebrating, thank you sooo much little sister!

Istanbul, Part I

Right on our first days in Istanbul we got started doing all the paper work for our upcoming visa applications. After applying online with an agency for our Iranian visa we headed early in the morning to the other end of the city to queue up in front of the Uzbekistan consulate. Unfortunately the guard at the door was unable or not willing to understand a word of English but somehow we figured out to put our names on a grubby paper list on the gate and sat down prepared for a long waiting time. After a couple of hours another guy showed up and based on his lightly lost facial expression and his pale backs of his hands it was obvious that we just met our first cycle companion!
Nick from Great Britain is also on the way to China by sharing biker stories time was passing by fast, when two other cycling couples from Switzerland showed up! Suddenly the boring and annoying waiting time turned into a rewarding and amusing exchange of experiences 🙂

After we were eventually allowed to squeeze our application forms through a tiny, metal-grilled window into the hands of an ill-tempered and daunting officer (10 working days process time, it’s not required to let the passports), we decided to make this visa-day complete by accompanying Nick to the Tajikistan embassy at the opposite end of Istanbul. Nearly 1.5h sweetening hours later, cooped up in a packed bus, we had the pleasure to experience the complete opposite visa application procedure when we entered the Tajikistan embassy: the door guard was snoozing with his crocks shod feet up in front of a TV, languidly signaling us to pass, the employees were friendly and happy to welcome foreigners to their country and embassy. They were even close to serve us tea while we were waiting in comfortable leather chairs in a perfectly tempered room and half an hour later we had our first visa sticker in our passports! Time to celebrate this successful day with more chai and the best cheese-cake of our life 🙂

Fish & Nick
Fish & Nick

Thanks to Nick we also discovered our favorite dinner AND lunch place for the next couple of days: the fish-market! The fish sandwiches there were as cheap as delicious and Martina was happy to hoover up tons of these little fried sardines several days in a row 🙂

big bicycle service guy
big bike service guy

Together with our new bike friend we also explored the deeps of Istanbul’s bicycle shop district where they sell and repair everything, except the one little thing you were looking for 😉 It was exactly on this day that we had our first technical incident since the beginning of our trip when on the way home – after we had spent nearly the whole day in hundreds of bike shops – Martina’s chain all in a sudden broke – bad karma or sabotage?


Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque 1
Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque

But as always, nothing happens without reason. This unplanned interruption made us stop directly in front of a mosque they were about to close but a few people were still stepping out after their evening prayers. When we asked if we could have a quick look inside the Imam himself switched on all the lights for us again and showed us around not without several hints what we must not forget to take pictures of. To our question for the meaning of the artistic calligraphies all along the walls he answered by singing them for us since this is the only proper way to express their message. It was a truly magical and intense experience far from the typical touristic sightseeing visits.

Alexandropolis – Istanbul

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.

good bye GreeceAfter 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!

Ready to Load
Ready to Load

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.

helping truck driverThe 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.

europe to asiaWithin no time the next boat brought us to our first big destination in Turkey: Istanbul, the door of Persia, historical and legendary melting pot between Europe and Asia!