Well I’m finally back on the road and have just finished my first little stint. I momentarily considered changing my route, heading south to Cyprus, but changed my mind yet again after realising the ferry to the island costs almost as much as a flight from London. I’ll save that trip for another day.
Joy! I’ve just reached Istanbul having cycled all the way across Europe from London. I was worried that it wouldn’t feel special to reach here as Istanbul is somewhere I’ve visited before, but, as it turned out, during the agonising three days cycling towards it my memories of the place are what spurred me on to reach it a day early. This may seem like a depressing post but I will now detail probably the three most physically gruelling days of my life.
I spent last week in northern Iraq and when I booked the flights six months ago I arranged for a one day layover in Istanbul to get a feel for the place, little did I know that it would end up being a major highlight of this trip. About 2 weeks before my arrival massive protests broke out across Turkey due to anti-government sentiment, in particular a disdain for the current Prime Minister Erdogen, which was all sparked by a plan to redevelop Istanbuls central square (Taksim) and a park (Gezi) into a new complex.
I initially vowed to steer clear of those protests as getting caught up in something like this in a foreign country is not really advisable, however, it appeared that the harsh police intervention against these protests was consistently only occurring at night when the crowds were at their lowest numbers. I reckoned that heading there in the afternoon would be reasonably safe and that I would leave immediately at any sign of trouble. When I noticed there was a direct tram straight from my hostel that really sealed the deal.