Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Across the Sea of Marmara to Istanbul

From Iznik Lake we had only one small pass to cross before the Sea of Marmara. At the top we headed west off the highway and into rural/mountainous country again, heading for Termal, a hot spring complex 15-20km from the coast. There were some pricey looking retreats but the country was very much unspoilt otherwise. A hodge podge of unmarked country lanes eventually got us to Termal. We bypassed the tourist hotels with private spas and went to the most traditional public bath, with its many cupolas, abundance of marble, and separate male/female baths.

(This was a pricier resort hot swimming pool - didn't go here, though it looked great at night with the steam rising.)

In the male baths I met some local men from Yalova and managed a basic conversation in Turkish - always a thrill. (Soon I'll lose most of my Turkish.) One of them then offered to wash me! It was a public place and it seemed above board so I agreed. I got a good scrub down with no added extras - very good! So much grime and maybe a little fatigue. My host refused a scrub in return... The tent found a spot on one of the forest walking trails nearby.

The next morning it was a simple roll downhill to the small port city of Yalova where we joined large numbers of bored commuters on a Channel crossing style ferry over to Istanbul. All of a sudden Europe felt close.

Here's Julie coming off the ferry and arriving in Europe!
Yenikapı port, on the western side of the Bosphorus, and only a short walk to Sultanahmet and the Golden Horn.
Wow - Istanbul. A bustling almost-European megalopolis, in an extraordinary location between Black and Marmara Seas, saturated with competing Western and Eastern influences.

A plate of börek to celebrate. They gave us tea on the house - even here in Istanbul.

This was it, for now, after almost 11,000km and 7 months. Continuing on into Greece seemed the most natural thing to do - if it weren't for the increasing drizzle, cold weather and approaching winter (and a few other commitments!). I don't get bored of bike touring - how could you? The equilibrium which you develop over months is sustainable over years, as some of the characters you meet on the road demonstrate - but something slowly happens to your mind, and it gets harder and harder to even think of going home...

A special mention has to go to my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (700C x 38mm)
- not a single puncture over that whole distance. Outrageous.

(En route to the airport bus stop, where the bikes went into the boxes.)

1 comment:

Andrei Nicoara said...

This is such a great trip. I'm surprised there are no comments :) My girlfriend just discovered it while documenting for a bike trip in Turkey we are planing for the summer. You should extend the blog to other trips you did. I'm sure someone who did something so great would have allot of other great things to share.