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logbook Update 6

Update 6 - The Istanbul Experience

We love Istanbul! Personally I don't go in for cities much - I'm a country boy (Andy) - but Istanbul is the best city ever. Just as well, because we ended up staying there for over 2 weeks!

Our love affair with Istanbul didn't start to well though. The ride in was not exactly a pleasant pootle in the park. The roads in Istanbul are ruled by thousands of yellow taxis - and anyone who gets in their way is fair game - especially if they are on a bike. They don't use indicators here, and we later learned that they use their horns instead - one beep for left, two for right and multiple beeps for "please move out the way swiftly, my dear chap", possibly.

We stayed at the Yucelt Hostel right beside the Aya Sofya in the centre of the tourist area, Sultanahmet. This place was to become our home for a quarter of the trip so far, and realising this, Matt and I decided to rough it on the terrace under the stars, whilst Adrian moved into a cheap hotel in Aksaray, the place to stay in Istanbul (where he was served çay by a little guy who looked like NikNak from James Bond's "The Man With The Golden Gun"). A visa for Iran was the priority during our stay in Istanbul and after a nervous (but thoroughly enjoyable!) 11-day wait we were successful.

So why exactly is Istanbul so good? That's a hard one to answer, actually. Istanbul has an atmosphere like nowhere else we have ever been. All the guidebooks describe it as an "East meets West" place. This, together with the Turkish hospitality, friendliness and liveliness sometimes makes the place feel a little crazy.


  • Aya Sofya - an ancient basilica (built during the Byzantine Empire around 532AD) and later converted to a mosque by the Ottomans. Now it's a museum.

  • The Blue Mosque - an extravagant and beautiful mosque, both outside and inside.

  • Süleymaniye Mosque - a larger, simpler and less popular mosque, but no less beautiful. The courtyard in front of the mosque was so cool and peaceful - perfect for people watching.

  • The Bosphorus - the narrow strait that separates Europe and Asia, and connects the Med and Black Seas - a busy and bustling place.


Istanbul is a great place for hungry cyclists. Okke and Suzan, our Dutch friends who arrived in Istanbul one week before, introduced us to perhaps the best place to eat in the whole of Istanbul. They were staying in Aksaray, a few tram stops from Sultanahmet, and had discovered a restaurant which was always crammed with locals, day and night. They named it "The Grey Wolf" after the boss - a friendly old Turkish guy with grey slicked back hair. It was one of those Turkish food bar places, where you just point to what you fancy and one minute later it is served in front of you with bread that is so fresh it is too hot to eat and a bowl of tasty Ayran - a sort of yoghurty buttermilk drink. Nobody spoke a word of English but they were so friendly it quickly became a favourite of ours. Adrian ended up eating breakfast and dinner there - it's so cheap! £1 typically for as much as you can eat. Elsewhere, there were kebab places everywhere. In contrast to the UK, kebaps in Turkey are not a post-drinking snack that's always regretted later - here the kebab is a super tasty snack for all meals (bar breakfast perhaps).

We can suggest: Paçaci Hasan, Sok No. 8, 1 Aksaray. (The Grey Wolf).


If you want anything (except decent cycle touring tyres and a cheap good SW radio), you can buy it somewhere in Istanbul, probably. There are two huge bazaars - the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar - but they are a bit disappointing - loads of tourists, tacky T-shirts, overpriced carpets and hassling shopkeepers. Between and around the bazaars were many more shops selling everything - pots and pans, backgammon sets, Turkish Delight, jewellery, clothes and more clothes. All cheap too. In fact there was hardly any point in haggling - just learn your 1 to 10 in Turkish and listen to what the stallkeepers are shouting at any potential Turkish customers.


Aksaray was also the place to get a super dooper haircut and cut-throat shave for silly money. Our friendly barbers, Fevzi and Erhan, even made my attempt at a beard look respectable. And the conversations as they cut your hair were far better than those back home in the UK, so long as the topic was Galatasaray football club! Çok Guzel! Also every time we would walk past they would wave and offer us çay and fruit!


But it's not the sights and shops that make a city. It's the people - the people you meet and the people you observe everyday and everywhere. Even tourists are interesting people-watching material in Istanbul. We must now say a big thank you to everybody we met for making our stay in Istanbul so great (please note that some of these are not their real names!):

  • Mehmet - the most laid back carpet seller in the whole of Turkey, who supplied us with çay and raki, and whose friends - the waiter and the security guard - entertained us with their belly dancing.

  • Wobbly Kebab Man - nice kebabs. Yum yum.

  • The Grey Wolf - real name Hosik Memet - and all his friendly staff. Tasty food, all the time.

  • Happy Fatty Pastry Man - nice fatty pastry things and always happy.

  • Funny Rip Off Çay Man - how do 3 çays cost 2 million when 1 çay costs ½ million?

  • The Happy Barbers - real names Fevzi Turkgeldi and Erhan Cetin - Go Galatasaray!!! And please don't give Katharina the the cutthroat razor again, dodgy!

  • Cetin and Alp up at the Gypsy Bar - fantastic hospitality and a great view of the Blue Mosque (even from the toilet).

And of course, how can we forget all our overlanding friends:

  • The Swiss - Loic the Magnificent and Bertrand the Brave. We're catching up, guys.

  • The recumbent Dutch - Okke and Suzan - hope your bikes are still in one piece.

  • The solo Belgian - Dan.

  • The (5-1, 5-1, 5-1, sorry guys) Germans - Kevin and Felix.

  • The Solo German - Katharina - who walked to Vienna, biked to Istanbul and is now bussing it to Kathmandu. You can stop following us now! Only joking!

Back on the bikes..... We did eventually make it back onto the bikes, though that was a struggle. We have to admit we cheated - taking the ferry from Istanbul to Bandirma, 2 hours south west across the Sea of Marmara. But we believe it's thoroughly justified - missing out the crazy Istanbul traffic and it's rather gutting cycling in completely the wrong direction for a couple of days. Convinced?

We arrived in Bandirma in mid-afternoon and headed west for Çannakale, free camping behind a petrol station and truckers cafe that night. The following day was a long hot one through some very hilly terrain, only stopping to chat with some friendly policemen and a very generous fruit seller. Nice figs!

We arrived in Çannakale and settled down in Anzac House by the ferry port. The following day we cycled over to the Gallipoli Peninsula to explore the World War 1 battlegrounds and memorials. The peninsula is now a beautiful, pine-covered forest and it was sometimes hard to imagine that it was once the scene of some of the fiercest and bravest fighting in WWI. Back in Çannakale we met up with Aussie Tom, who is to join us for the next leg of the trip. Good on ya, mate.