Chai, Chai, Chai, Chai, Chai!!! As we passed this small Turkish tea shop a man stood and starting shouting for us to join him for tea. We had no option but to stop since he was so excited to see us. We sat with him at this little tea house and although he spoke no En
glish and us very little Turkish, we made conversation about our trip. Where we were going and where we are from. This is Turkey. A place so hospitable that it can take you by surprise. People will open their doors to you, buy you breakfast, lunch, dinner and always tea. Turkey is the tea drinking capitol and the average person will consume 2.5kg of tea each year. (Britain is second at 1.9kgpp) You cannot cycle anywhere in Turkey without being offered their tea, called Cay.
We entered Turkey at the border crossing of Kirkaleri, which is the most eastern border crossing with Bulgaria and we cycled on wards to the main city of Kirkaleri-where we stopped for lunch. We bought borek which is a Turkish meat pastry dish and very cheap, it cost us just 1 pound to fill us both up over lunch. As eating a nice lady bought us our first Turkish tea and we swapped stories about our travels and her travels in Turkey. We said our goodbyes and headed east towards Istanbul. The following day we reached a nice lunch spot in a town called Karnaca, a small village with lots of fresh water. As we walked to the main river, we met a group of five Turkish men so called us over and we got chatting, it turned out that this was the last day of Ramadan, a Muslim festival and it is therefore a big celebration day in Turkey. We joined them for the fest ivies but not before they had arranged their mother to do our washing and set us up a bed in their house for the night! They really were fantastic hosts and we had a great time meeting all their friends and family and drinking long into the night. We awoke the following day with hangovers but a large Turkish breakfast greeted us downstairs so that quickly sorted us out. Turkish breakfast is called Kavalti and includes eggs, omlettes, olives, bread, honey, jam, cheese, cream, cold meats and even chips! It is truly the king of the breakfast, something to rival our own British offering.
We then cycled the next 150km to Istanbul, the capital of Turkey and the city which marks the end of Europe with a crossing of the Bospherus. We had read before that Istanbul is a dangerous city to cycle into so we picked our route carefully to avoid any main roads and motorways. We arrived into the City on road D020 which is on the north west of Isanbul and runs right down to the marmaran sea, this route was perfect since it was not too busy. Buses are very annoying since there seem to be hundreads of local buses who stop and start without any notice!! Also on this route once you have arrived at the sea all you do is follow the coastal path to the heart of Istanbul, easy!! Once we arrived we checked into a hostel for the night called Sinbads hostel just a five minute walk from the Blue Mosque, the owner (not called sinbad!) is an avid cyclist and we could store our bikes their without worry. Also at twelve pounds per night for a basic double room you cannot go wrong.
We walked the five minutes to the Blue Mosque and took in the sights. It is such a large beautiful building but it does get very busy so try to go early if you can also Finola had to wear her home made headscarf much to my amusement!! We then went to the Spice bazaar (very good) and the grand bazaar (not very good) before going for traditional kebab and returning to the hostel. The following day it was time to leave Europe and enter Asia. To do this you must cross the Bosporus, we joined the car queue and for the small price of just 4 lira each (one pound) including a bicycle we hopped on the ferry and crossed into Asia!!
The Sea!! we have reached the coast and it is time for a holiday! :) It has been almost three months since we have seen the sea we are both so happy to be reunited. We arrived at the Black Sea at Constanta before heading South down to the Romanian coastal resort of Varma Veche. This is a small Romanian party resort with beach clubs, restaurants, shacks and accomodation options. Varma has a feel of a new party destination so I would recommend a few nights here if passing through. Varma is also right on the border between Romania and Bulgaria, so once we passed over we were in country number ten :)
In Bulgaria we cycled 30km to the coastal town of Krapets. This is a beautiful little fishing village high up on the bluff, There is a shop, atm and two restaurents and a bar and is a really nice little chill out spot. We drank beer in the small bar overlooking the sea then set up a wild camp up on teh headland. Perfect camping spot. From here we then headed south again past Varna and towards Sunny Beach. Sunny Beach is famous in England as an 18-30 party resort and something I thought we should best avoid but it is actually quite nice!! The beach is very nice and although it is very busy in the middle of the strip, the bars at the end of the strip are very nice and cheap (40p a beer.) We also met some of the reps trying to get tourists into their bars and they were really nice and sat us down in their bar and gave us three free beers each!! Sunny Beach Woohoo!!
It is now very wise to point out that Bulguria is seriously hilly. We thought that the road would be flat since it followed the coast but the road actually rises and falls again and again and the further south you get the more this increases until you are shouting at the hills and wondering what you doing! Think Muswell Hill but you have to go up and down it all day! We did however meet a man at the top of one of these hills who saw us stuggling, His name was Krasim and he seemed quite drank so we were quite hesitant at first but he invited us into his home for some Pilinca (home made local spirits made from plums) We drank and it turned out he was the record javelin thrower from the 70's and a massive Julio Englasis fan so we spent the evening singing spanish eyes at his friends house. Never underestimate the drunk guys on the street!!
We then headed towards Turkey and this was the first time we needed a real visa. We cycled to Malko Tarnovo, the most eastern border post between Bulgaira and Turkey. Please note that the border post is about 900m up the mountain and the road from Malko Tarnovo goes straight up for 9km so please give yourself time for the climb since it sapped us of all our energy. At the top we changed some money and went to the border post to pay for our visa. This can be done in USD or Euro. We paid USD since it was what we had and cost us $30pp. We wanted to get our visa on the border as opposed to an Evisa since we did not have access to a printer and there were no problems. We were given a 30 day visa and waved onwards to enter Turkey. Please note this infomation is correct as of 15/06/15.
Turkey is a fantastic country and the people and hospitality is exceptional. We have recived places to stay, food, water, advice and lots of tea! We will update again with our views of Turkey and the people we have met :)
Tim and Fin
Top Speed: 54.90km/h
Countries Visited: 11
Cheapest Country: Bulgaria
Highest climb: 1600m Turkey
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.