Into Asia

I heard the muezzin’s call and I knew I was somewhere else. The muezzin was calling for the Maghrib prayer just when I was arriving to María José and Gabriel’s apartment. It was a good sign, I like cities with muezzin calls.

There’s is so much to say about Istanbul and so little words, maybe the stupendous welcome from Gabriel and María José helped me perceive this city as I did (Thank you María José and Gabriel!!!). Maybe the city is just magnificent on its own. For a fan of maps, a city that spans over two continents is already something worthy of attention. You arrive on one side, let’s say Europe and you can leave from the other side into Asia.

The bridge to the other side
Bridge to Asia

The first day I stayed on the European side. No particular reason other than that the most well-known attractions are on that side, in that part of the city that is Istanbul proper. I visited, among other attractions, the blue mosque and Ayasofya. Amazing! In the evening we went to a local restaurant to taste the local specialties and it was very good but the shock was yet to come: we went for a walk after dinner into the crowded Istikal street. On a Thursday! It wasn’t even Friday. On the next day I went on my own only to be confronted with hordes of people walking on the same street. This city has such a vibe, there is parties everywhere, bars everywhere, restaurants, it’s just amazing.

The next day I decided to take the bike because I wanted to buy some Scottoiler oil. After the failure to do so in Bulgaria, I was hoping I had better luck in Istanbul. I did, in a way. The city’s road network is huge and there are urban highways connecting the neighborhoods all around and if you don’t know which to take or where to get out, you can ride for a long time and end up very far from where you intended to be. That’s exactly what happened and it took me at least 45 minutes to do what google says should take 14 minutes at most. I didn’t record it so you won’t see how I got lost and lost and lost all over again. There was also the traffic, manic as Neil accurately describes it on his blog. In the end I found the shop, got the oil, talked to the shop guys about bikes and travel and they sold me one more useful piece of kit. I was sort of looking for a new jacket because the one I have is too hot for this weather and they wanted to show me the cheapest one the had but they also showed me this, an air mattress for the bike seat. For having been already almost three weeks on the bike, I know it’s a much more important piece of kit than a summer jacket.

The third day I went on my own with the bike to the Grand Bazaar and managed to not get lost while getting there and to do get lost after 2 minutes inside. It’s almost a miracle I managed to exit through the same entrance and find the place where I had left the bike. That place is a maze! Whatever landmark you try to remember, you will find it somewhere else and realize it was a useless landmark. On the other hand, the secret to not getting lost while getting there is simple: I didn’t aim for the Grand Bazaar, I aimed for the Grand Bazaar OR Hagia Sophia. That way, when I got to one of them, I could say I didn’t get lost and got to my original destination. One of them at least.

Me and some flags
Me and some flags

This third day was also the extra day, it was July 14th and Gabriel had invited me, as soon as I got to Istanbul to the consulate party for Bastille day and since I am a good citizen, I accepted joyfully. That and the free wine, the free dinner (including pork cold cuts) and the chance to see where my tax money goes. If you are a French taxpayer and wonder where your money goes, now I can tell you: Into big awesome parties!

But I digress, better leave you with the Turkey photo album to see what I’m talking about.

Paris-Metz

It’s funny how travelers sometimes end up in the same places for no reason. Yesterday on the road to Metz, I met the same German hitchhiker at two different gas stations more than a hundred km away. The second time I just had to talk to him, he was just hitchhiking his way back to Germany and needed to be there at the latest on Wednesday. It sounds to me like something from the Middle Ages to think that one could travel at that pace and with that (lack of) urgency. Then again, it’s just what I’m about to do, albeit a bit faster.

Moselle
Missing Paris already?

Yesterday was a pretty nice day, after all the things I had to do in the “morning”, I set off quite late but finally vaccinated against yellow fever, typhoid fever and difteria, tetanus, polio. Yes, I had left that for the last moment, that’s just me and my just in time planning. Since I was so late and didn’t want to reach Metz after dark, I decided to take the toll highway. Not the best “roadseeing” (road sightseeing, I’ve just made that word up) option but I really didn’t want to ride for 6 to 7 hours because I was already thinking of taking a nap. And that’s what I did.

I had my first roadside nap 100km before Metz. I had been dreaming of a roadside nap since my trip to ski in March when the elements (all of them) didn’t let me have a nap. It was just a technical stop, lay on the curb and close my eyes. It was sunny, naps in the sun are the best, you wake up completely recharged and ready to take on the rest of the road.

When I arrived to Metz, I was greeted by my good friends Boris and Tzveti who provided me with a couch and a nice dinner and of course some rakia. I was so tired that it completely knocked me out, although the wine may have contributed to the TKO.

Big cathedral doesn't fit the lens
The beautiful Metz Cathedral

Today was Metz visit day and working on the bike day. See, I have this Scottoiler that I had bought off the internet and that I still hadn’t installed. So, after noon I went out for a stroll and next to a city map I ran into this George guy, he’s a tattoo artist and he is traveling by bicycle, from Leeds in the UK to Portugal via Rome, from one tattoo parlor to the next one. Haha, yes, via Rome, that’s what he said. We talked for a while about the road and how he was managing on his 2-gear bike and then I took him to the street he was looking for, a little advantage I still have while I’m in France: 3G.

Now it’s the end of the day, the Scottoiler is installed and seems to be working alright, I’m finally going to bed. We’ll see tomorrow when I start riding if it works as good as it looks :). I was scared of doing the installation because I had to cut a pipe, an engine vacuum pipe in order to install it. It’s done now.

Scottoiler
My Scottoiler if fitted and primed

Going to bed

Going to b…

Going t…

Goi…

G…

PS: I had to go to Castorama during the installation because as it turns out, I didn’t have any tool allowing me to remove the rear wheel. Good one…