10-21-2012, 11:33 AM
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: East Anglia
Day 7 Varna to Istanbul, Turkey.
Up early this again this morning, it was the big push to Istanbul. We were going to get a hotel and have our first shower and bed of the trip. We had not booked as we thought it would be easy to find a hotel in the city. I had asked for some recommendations on UKGser site but not really had much response so we had decided to wing it, I mean how hard could it be.
We spent a few hours on the motorway to eat up some of the miles for the day but around 11 o clock stopped for fuel in a town called Zagora. It was attended service and a nice young lady came over to fill my bike up for me. She spoke no English but we did the normal hand gestures and laying out of maps to show her where we were going. She then spent about 15 minutes trying to explain directions to us and a road we should avoid. We had absolutely no idea what she was going on about but just smiled and nodded until she was happy.
I had a new favourite road, as soon as we left Zagora the road turned into a bikers dream flip flopping bends, we were both enjoying it immensely. We then came across a police car that was blocking the road and pointing into a field.
The Police director
Al said I think he wants us to go that way. Surely not I thought but we went for it anyway and it was a diversion around some workers on the road. They were diverting cars and busses alike around this field and I thought there is no way this would happen in the UK.
The Bulgarian Diversion
After another few miles the road disappeared completely to be replaced by a gravel road under construction. I had road tyres on but I was feeling confident, ABS off lets have some fun. We were riding along at a fair old lick waving at all the road workers in their massive machines when immediately in front of me was a ramp!
Fuck it go for it I thought and accelerated. I took off and sailed gracefully through the air and landed about 10 feet in front of the take off point. Later talking to Al he says in reality I nearly got my back wheel off the ground, nearly:(
Turkish customs was fairly easy, we bought insurance in the duty free shop, paid our 15 euros for a visa, had our passport checked and then imported the bike through customs. All completed within an hour. Just the small matter of 200 miles to go to Istanbul now.
I had heard Istanbul was crazy but OMG! It was a culture shock even for me. I have been to many major cities but nothing could have prepared me for this. I can only describe it as mad, chaotic and beautiful all at the same time. When we came to the toll road the traffic just stopped and stayed stopped. There was no chance of filtering as Taxis were fighting with vans for every inch of space. There were millions of scooters buzzing around like angry wasps around a picnic. There were people walking in-between the traffic selling all types of tat, at least there was no chance of them being run over.
As I said we had decided not to pre book a hotel as we did not know what day we would arrive. I punched hotel into the Sat Nav and we were off to the Radisson. On arrival they took one look at the state of us and said "I'm sorry sir but we have no vacancies". Ok we thought lets go down market, just a little bit. How about the Holiday Inn. Same result, The Hotel Grand, Same result. We tried another 20 hotels and had been looking for about 3 hours and nobody had any room at all.
Things were getting desperate. We talked about another plan and decided to push through Istanbul and try to get to Izmit tonight. A guy walked over and said "If you are looking for a hotel try the Sultanahmet area". One last try we thought. We followed the guys' directions, parked up and went into the nearest hotel. Still no room. There were hundreds of hotels so I was dispatched to try and get a room. I must have tried another 10 hotels all with the same negative answer.
Then an angel in the form of Mahmud appeared in front of me. "Hotel", "Yes, please". The conversation then went along the lines of me asking a question and him saying "No problem"
We had a room for 2 nights, parking for the bikes and breakfast all for 200 euros.
Mahmud sitting down
The bikes were squeezed into a tiny spot right outside the hotel, padlocks were put in place and a security guard was designated to watch them.
We had a quick shower and headed out into the night to get smashed and grab some kebabs. The location of the hotel could not have been better, we were right in the middle of things, the Blue Mosque was practically next door, pubs, café's and shops abound. This was going to be a good 2 days. We had a good few hours out, stopped in a restaurant to be relieved of over 100 euros, had a couple of beers but we were so knackered there was no way we could stay out all night so by 10 o clock we were both in bed. So much for getting smashed.