The last push from Europe into Asia

The last push from Europe into Asia

I’m scared. For the first time in a long time I feel really scared. Just before dark I cycled into an abandoned village. An area with old half-collapsed buildings and in one of these buildings I laid down my sleeping bag. I doubted, because it still feels very uncomfortable to go alone for a night rest somewhere in an abandoned ghost town. And now that I lie here the fear of that hasn’t improved. Of each sound that I hear my heart beats stronger. If no one comes to rob me then maybe the roof above me will collapse. I think I should just get used to it because sometimes this happens to me, it’s my new lifestyle. I am now officially a wanderer.

Sleeping in an abandoned village

I follow a long first class road for already two days. It is the road that is going to Istanbul after the border with Greece. Turkey is large, only this road is 300 kilometers in distance. I take a side road that leads me through one of the small towns. Along this road. It is in the afternoon and I didn’t had any lunch yet. This a good moment to buy a sandwich in one of the bakeries. I see in the crowded shopping street four different bakeries. I stop at a bakery called Cafe Fury. A man has come directly from inside to the entrance and does some exited waving at me.

Turkey, the country that is so big that I probably need a month to get through with my bicycle. Only in Istanbul, there are more people living than in the Netherlands. I do not mind, no even crazier, I look forward to it. Stories about the Turkey’s hospitality motivate me even more to explore this amazing country.

Hitchhiking on dangerous road

Inside Cafe Fury, I point out two kind of sandwich rolls with unknown contents at the woman behind the counter. The man who kindly waved me inside introduces himself as Alex, and asks if I speak Spanish, Portuguese or Italian. Unfortunately not. After telling him where I come from, he shouts: “Terneuzen!” He seems to know someone living in Terneuzen, a city in the south of the Netherlands. I keep hanging around because Alex don’t stop talking. After a few minutes he invite me to take a seat at a table in the back of his bakery. I received a cup with Ayran, I’m told that it’s milk original from Iran. I do not find it very tasty but do my best to improve that. My hand slides into my pocket to grab my phone and to find the Turkish word for thank you. Alex does not allow that: “no pay, no pay!” he says while his hand prevents me to say thank you in Turkish. Well then: “gracias!”

For the first time I experience hospitality in Turkey. Alex proudly says in Turkish to the woman, probably his wife, that I’m Dutch and I come all the way from there with my bike. It’s nice when people respond in that way, a kind of appreciation. I let myself retrain some Turkish words and continue again on that long road that will bring me some day in Istanbul.

Turkish cycle pad in Istanbul

After a few days I cycle into Istanbul. And I find the largest traffic jam that I’ve ever experienced in my life. Paris doesn’t even come close. Here everything runs jumble. It’s a great thing for me to experience, it’s like Grand Theft Auto in real life on my bike. I just maneuver everywhere in between. It took me four hours to get through the European part to the bridge to cycle to the Asian part of the city.

Bridge in Istanbul

In probably the only long distance bicycle shop in Istanbul, I scheduled a bike check. Exciting because if the technical parts of my second hand bike survived Europe than it must also succeed in Asia.

To celebrate that I arrived in Istanbul I took part in some protest against the non respectable traffic and for more awareness for the few cyclists in Istanbul. Whether the traffic is ever going to be less chaotic I really wonder.

Laterally creating awareness for cycling in Istanbul

During the cleanup of my bike it was also time for a cleanup for myself. Turkey is known for it. The traditional hammam. It was time to scrub all the dust out of my beard. What a relieve.

Istanbul is so large and chaotic that I didn’t know what to discover. Partly because the prices were back on Western European level, I decided not to stay too long and focus the trip more on the Black Sea. After three nights in the city and a lot of fun in the hostel where I stayed, I got back on my bike to enjoy even more of the world famous Turkish hospitality and the wonderful coast of the Black Sea.

Black Sea

In Sile I had a spontaneous encounter. A man was staring at my bike during my coffee break for non-stop 30 minutes. After not having to pay for my coffee and arriving back at my bike, he said enthusiastically that he was a big fan of traveling on his Honda motorcycle. He proudly showed the stickers on his motorbike: Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and much more. I don’t have room for that stickers on my bike, only a pin-up girl which I removed because I thought it will probably be offense in this Islamic cultures.

Fellow (motor) bike traveler in Sile, Turkey

That night the chaos changed from traffic into a heavy rain and thunderstorm. The first night on the Black Sea was not really comfortable. It rained all night and at times it rained so hard that I began to doubt whether my tent was resistant for such a rain. But fortunately, me and the tent survived and I am now back on the road with sweat on my forehead.

The route along the Black Sea is amazing. Lots of climbing and descending. The next two weeks I will be cycling it. Trabzon, a city 1,000 kilometers from here, is where I’ll stay for a few days to arrange my visa for Iran.

North Turkey mountain region

Oh, and I have good news! In a few days video number 2 will be online, Eastern Europe in moving images.

Until then!