**Welcome to Asia**
Before I left Thassos on Sunday, 21. Oct, I went on a small hiking trip and then enjoyed cycling flat roads. In Thassos I passed marble quarries and Thassos’ marble is considered among the whitest in the world.
Mostly I followed the coastline and the night from Monday to Tuesday I slept at the airport of Alexandroupolis. In general airports seem to be quite a nice spot for spending the night at. You have internet connection, it’s light and warm, there are bathroom facilities and when you make friends with the stuff from the snack shops you could get the day’s leftovers at the end of the day.
From Alexandroupolis it’s not so far to Turkey and the street was nice to cycle on. But there was nearly any traffic towards Turkey – the highway was deserted.
The border crossing was easy and I was in the Orient. What a feeling to be here again: People drinking çay everywhere, the muezzins calling to pray and experiencing the crazy traffic. Actually I thought it would be more dangerous. Sure I had to concentrate a lot but most of the time I had the impression the drivers respected a loaded bicycle. Of course they honked a lot – outside of the towns it was mostly a greeting and inside ’cause it’s part of the culture, I guess.
On Thursday, 27th Oct, I arrived in Istanbul. Following the 8 lane road I wanted to crash at Atatürk Airport. But because of the terrorist threat and the attack in summer I was stopped at the police checkpoint and had to answer questions, like why I want to go to the airport, what is in my bags, if it wasn’t cold cycling now, blablabla. They were relaxed and polite, offering me tea and a place to sit. Pictures of my passport were taken etc. After one hour I was thanked for my cooperation and I was free to go to the building where the security check ignored me taking a bottle of petrol and my camping cooker inside. Finally I sat at the airport because I was supposed to couchsurf from the next day. But then my host U. invited me earlier so, I cycled back on the 8 lane highway in the dark. But I survived it and was happy to meet him and his girlfriend Y. Their parents don’t know that they’re living together and U.’s parents don’t even know that he’s living in Istanbul. It was a bit like in Iran.
On Friday I went to Decathlon to change my tent and buy new rain proof trousers. First the employees refused exchange the tent, didn’t speak English but French. So at least I was able to complain on a medium level and in the end they made an exception “but just this one time”.
On Saturday I had to get my front rack welded. It was the first time something was seriously broken. But U. and Y. helped me finding a place and I payed 20TL (6.30$). In the after-noon I met with a couple who wanted to improve their German. Apart from not living together the situation was the same as with U. and Y. Their parents don’t know about their relationship and that they plan to go to Munich for Erasmus. We went to Kadiköy which is the popular centre on the Asian side. There are not so many tourists and alone that you can take a beautiful ferry ride crossing Bosphorus there makes a worth visiting.
The next day I continued strolling through the city, enjoyed the food and cooked falafel for me and my new host near Taksim. I mean I knew nearly all the famous sights since I’ve been to Istanbul five years ago. But it was such a strange feeling to walk through the streets that I remember but knowing to have reached this city by bicycle.
Pictures of Istanbul