Friday, 25 May 2012

Three days in Istanbul

Istanbul Three days worth and pics to follow very shortly! Like in about 15 mins

We're here at long last. Had a great today – warm and sunny all the way but very windy, which was a bit rough on the neck and back muscles. Did a bit of main road but mostly local stuff through small towns and villages off the beaten track. It is such a good way to see the country and ride some awesome twisties along the coast. Had lunch in an olive grove overlooking the Sea of Marmara.

There seems to be some sort of National celebration going on – lots of vehicles with flags, bands and parties in many communities, soldiers on the road. Its something to do with young people and National Service., but not sure exactly what. Came face to face with some tanks going the other way in the middle of nowhere, which was a bit odd. Don't think the place has been invaded though.

Also turns out there was a minor earthquake here last night. I slept through the whole thing but Nadine was shaken awake. I think they're quite common in Turkey though.

Met this little fella crossing the road. He got a bit of a wiggle on and made it safely though. Really pretty markings but sharp toenails.

Had the maddest ride of the trip so far into Istanbul. Arrived in the evening and the traffic was insanely mad with nose to tail traffic all going at full pelt, swapping lanes and ignoring all traffic signs. There must be rules of the road but goodness knows what they are. Even had people hanging out of vehicle windows as the sped past, yelling 'welcome' and ' where are you from'. Full on wacky races gone bonkers. Loved it, and a real rush to ride.

Made it to the Istanbul Bike Club where we hooked up with Iain , Debz and Will who had arrived yesterday. It was great to see them again, particularly after missing them in Bulgaria. Dazzer and Leigh are also here ( Adv riders). Had a nice welcome from Mehmet and the riders here. Very nice people and exceptionally welcoming. Rode our bikes right in through the front door of the club and parked them inside; can't get much more secure than that, and the timing was great because about ten minutes after we got here and the heavens opened with a major hail storm. Pellets of ice the size of marbles bombarded the ground and that would have been very uncomfortable to ride in.
Our passports with the visas for The Stans were waiting for us, as were some bits we'd had sent down from London. We're staying in a two bedroom rooftop apartment right opposite the Club, and overlooking the city. It's a really nice place and belongs to the parents of one of the blokes in the moto club. I'd be happy to live here full time – very nice place.

The tourist thing and some serious bike farkling is on the cards for the next few days,in readiness for Russia and The Stans. Need to do proper clutch adjusting and fix the exhaust if possible, but the bike have been surprisingly reliable to date. Fingers crossed they stay that way but they should do as long as we keep them happy and keep an eye on them.

Farkle Fest

Spent all day today fiddling with the bikes. Sorted Nads' first. Mended the indicators which had given up the ghost, did the chain, both brakes, and topped up the oil, but otherwise it was fine. Then we started on mine. Oh dear. We already knew about the broken stud in the exhaust and one of the blokes ( a mechanic) said he will sort that for us tomorrow. But Just as the rear wheel went back on after checking the brakes shoes, two broken spokes appeared. Don't know how that happened and I certainly didn't feel them pop when riding but it must have been in the last few days.

What a bugger that was to fix. We'd got spare spokes but we had to take several good ones out in order to fit the new ones in. That was a fag and a half but luckily, Iain was still here and showed us how to do it. But it even foxed him for a while.

The lovely Mehmet kept us supplied with tea and snacks as we worked though. They are such nice people here and really great guys.

Managed to take a walk up through the market. Its a once a week job and the whole area is taken over with all sorts of stuff. We were the only westerners there and people were again lovely to us, chatting, inviting us to take photos and generally showing us stuff.

It was one of the Club blokes' birthdays today, so of course there was a party, involving lots of birthday cake and snacks. Another pleasant evening just hanging around, chatting and doing nothing in particular.

Istanbul Tour

Iain , Debz, Darren, Leigh and Will all left this morning, bound for inner Turkey. It was hard to see them go, but we will (hopefully) catch up with them again in about a week at the Georgian border.

Spent the rest of the day wandering around Istanbul with Mehmet who gave us the most fantastic tour of the place. Into the Bazaars, the Blue Mosque, the water Bascilica, San Sophia church, the bridge over the sea, and then down some back street where we ate traditional turkish food, which was exceptionally good.
I had forgotten how much city walking makes your feet ache, but I soon remembered. Well worth the effort though, and even better that Mehmet knows the place so well and was eager to take us to interesting places. That made it even better because he was able to tell us interesting little snippets about various things that we would never have found out ourselves. Things like the tale behind the most expensive mosque in the city – the architect was a famous man who took ages building. He waited eight years for the floor to settle properly before carrying on. A neighbouring Sultan wrongly assumed that the city had run out of money and so sent jewels to help him out, but the architect was so angry and offended by the slur on his professionalism that he tipped the gems into the brick mix and used it in the walls. Now when the sun sets over the Bosphorous, it shines on the walls and the jewels can be seen clearly (true story apparently).

Or the story about the golden head of the three intertwined serpents having been nicked by Bulgarian soldiers billeted in the city.

 Or the promenade on the palace , built for favourite daughter of the Sultan who wanted something different for her, so the architect designed something from which she could watch the sun rise between the minarets of one mosque at prayer time, and set between those of another at evening prayers. Or even the fact that in the Blue Mosque, the joins between stones were finished by egg albumen to ensure a lasting sheen and protect the stone surface.

Stopped for tea just beyond the Blue Mosque where by chance, we met Wayne, bother Shaun and their dad John. Has a good old jaw with , and they were very cool – Wayne now lives in Istanbul by Shaun and John restore old Brit bikes back in Portsmouth. We only met them because Nadine blasphemed a bit too loudly and was overheard by Wayne who was sitting just behind us.

Its funny the things you notice about other cities that you don't even notice about the place where yoyu live. Like these coppers doing their thing, two up on bikes. Apparently they are doubled up always, one to do the talking, the otrher to watch their backs. Pretty cool on bikes though.
Or this young lad dressed up like some mad fairy talke sultan. Its actually a circumcision party , although I'm not sure if he knew what was in store for him. But I reckon he'll be adopting that pose quite a bit over the next few days. But maybe it's worth it for all the presents he will receive.