Istanbul was a fascinating city where we took a big break and ended up staying longerthan anticipated due to a religious holiday. But before we get into our stay there I have to go over the cycle into the city.
As I mentioned yesterday we had teamed up with English tourer Josh and American tourer Abey just outside Silivri. Both of them were on their first big tour. Today was their last day and they were excited to arrive in Istanbul. We were excited too as we knew a nice long break awaited us once we got in.
We left the BP we had camped at, 40km outside the city and started the run into the centre. As soon as we were in the road we were in developed, urban area and it didn’t let up all the way in. The road was, of course, bust and only got busier the closer we got to Istanbul. We had avoided the motorway into the city, opting instead for the quieter highway D100 (which was still, at its peak, five lanes wide on either side). The difficult part of the ride wasn’t the traffic or the size of the road, in fact navigating this was fun in itself. The real difficulty was the frequency of two lane wide on and off ramps that required a lot of concentration and speed to get across safely.
Josh was supposed to meet his mother at the airport at noon today but he also really didn’t want to miss cycling into the centre of the city with us. The airport was right on the route into Istanbul for us so we figured, he why not check out Istanbul airport. It also served as a nice break from the traffic.
After the brief rendezvous with Josh’s mother in arrivals we were back on the road. During our time at the airport we had looked up what we presumed would be a nice ride into the centre than the road we had been on. We joined up with a road that ran by the coast which was considerably less busy and actually we soon found a park next to the sea with a cycle path through it. Suddenly we could relax and enjoy the ride and watch as we got closer to the centre with the mouth of the Bospherous drawing ever nearer.
The cycle lane ran out abruptly and dumped us back on the road. Fortunately, or perhaps by design, the cycle track ended just opposite the turn off for the Sultanamet, the centre of the historic old peninsula on the European side that house the Aya Sofia and the Grand Bazaar. This was perfect and we made our way up to the Aya Sofia to get some end of trip photos of the two guys and some end of Europe photos for us two.
We said goodbye to Abey here and then waved Josh off after we got to the Galata bridge on the the other side of the Sultanahmet. Our cycle through Istanbul wasn’t over yet though, we still had to get over the Bosphorous and onto the Asian side of the city.
Clearly, the best way to get across would be to cycle across the big bridge that spanned the two continents so we made our way towards it. Our plan of following the bank of the Bosphorous until we came to the bridge didn’t really work out as the by the time we arrived at the bridge it was far above us.
Trying to cycle back up the hills away from the river to get on the bridge didn’t really work out either. A bit of a struggle up some steep roads took us away from where we presumed we could get onto the bridge, but did lead us to a lovely panoramic viewpoint where we had a great chat with the guys working in the car park.
It was another hour navigating on ramps, overpasses and roundabouts before we finally made it onto the road that would take us to the bridge! We were very pleased with ourselves and were soon riding downhill, the Bosphorous and the bridge spread out before us.
At the last merging lane before the bridge we were stopped by the police. Even though the sign before the bridge said we could ride over it on a bike, they didn’t want us to. But we were at a but of an impasse. We couldn’t go forward, the police wouldn’t allow it, but we couldn’t really go backwards either. They didn’t really know what to do, and we were kind of hoping they’d just let us go and be done with it but that didn’t look likely.
In the end we got lucky, a friendly guy in a van pulled onto the little triangle island between the merging Kane and the main road and offered us and the bikes a lift over the bridge! So we didn’t get to ride it, but we did get to cross the bridge a way which was a little victory in itself.
Our driver brought us over the bridge and all the way to the turn off for the neighbourhood where we Couchsurfing, the very pleasant Kadiköy. Anyway, to cut a long post short we finally made it to our hosts Ozgurs place. It was a long day cycling into Istanbul, but I wouldn’t really expect any less.