Destination: Istanbul. Total 4036kms/2523 miles
Jumped on the bike this morning, saddle sores now a distant memory, to do the 25kms to the ferry port in Mudanya….but hadn’t bargained on this ‘lumpy bit’ on the way
…so glad I had a fresher pair of legs to tackle it. When I got to the port, I asked directions to the ticket office from someone who spoke very good English, and it turned out he worked as a chef (in an Italian restaurant, of all things!) in Camden Town. One of his family party had dropped out from their trip, so he sold me his spare ticket. Otherwise I wouldn’t have got on board…..this high speed catamaran was completely sold out, everyone carrying suitcases on this passenger-only ferry, so I was surprised when they let me on with the bicycle. And the 2 hour trip across the Marmara Sea cost the princely sum of £4 (5 euros). You can’t get much cheaper than that.
And disembarkation was perfectly situated for the historic centre of Istanbul. Within 20 minutes I was checking into a Lonely Planet recommended backpackers hostel, which promised an open rooftop terrace for sleeping.
I have very pleasant memories of visiting Athens when I was a student, and sleeping on an open rooftop overlooking the illuminated Acropolis. It was magic.
Well, the 22 bed dorm where I will lay my head tonight is not on the roof, but on the floor beneath , but still with a completely open aspect, and this stunning view of the magnificent Hagia Sophia
…I will see it from my bed, illuminated, at wakeful moments during the night.
Now let me ask you a question: is it better to pay £7 (8 euros) per night B&B for this, or pay ten times the amount to be cocooned in an air conditioned hotel? And to boot, backpackers make great company. They are invariably young adventurous people, who come from around the globe, and have interesting stories to tell.
Of course, I don’t yet know if I’ll have the company of a snorer tonight…..but it’s a gamble worth taking.
When I asked the young lad on reception about where to store the bike, he said “no, problem, I’ll help you carry it up to the balcony in your dorm”…..that’s up three flights of a spiral staircase!
Nothing was too much trouble.
(As I pen this post at 17.10, a few dozen mosques in the vicinity have just started their call to prayer, and the combined wailing is reverberating around the city).
So, another end to yet another journey.I exceeded my calculated estimate by over 1000kms….but I’m not complaining. I got to see a few places that weren’t on my original itinerary, and I wasn’t disappointed with any of them. I also now have three full days in Istanbul, a prospect that gave a degree of urgency to the daily mileages. And I know I will not be disappointed. This is a city I’ve been longing to visit for a long time.
If you want my fleeting impressions of Istanbul, stay with me.