Archive for February, 2009

Ode to Istanbul

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

over istanbul

After our winter hibernation, we’ve just posted some Istanbul photos.
Click here to view.

Material World

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Posted by Krista
Istanbul, Turkey

Photo: Dan and I crossing the border into Turkey in October 2008

As you know, we chose the ‘slow road’, which meant a meandering summer bike ride through Europe, a rest stop in Istanbul for autumn and winter 2008, and the ‘road to Lhasa’ continuing in spring 2009.

So for 5 months, we’ve been living in Istanbul, amongst a population of 20 million other souls, all breathing and striving together, shoulder to shoulder. It hasn’t been easy – with the traffic more crazy than Cairo, the mayhem more than I’ve known before (perhaps I’m just less tolerant these days), and the wheelings and dealings enough to exhaust even the most energetic.

We both found work teaching English, exercising our knowledge of our native tongue and transmitting this to ever eager students… and slowly, surely, with a sprinkle of snow for Christmas, the winter has passed. Spring is here. Our cycling is about to recommence.

But not without hours of preparation. The most tiring has been trundling off to the various embassies: Azeri, Turkmen, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Chinese… It was easy enough to procure visas for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (just answer questions on a form about “your material status”), but the others have proved to be more of a headache.

We’ve reluctantly surrendered to the fact that we won’t be able to get our Chinese visa here in Istanbul, and will reapply in Tashkent (Uzbekistan),,, then again in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) if that’s unsuccessful. And as for Turkmenistan, well, we may not be able to go through there at all as their visa requirements are so strict. We should:
1. have a letter of invitation (at the cost of $40 – $60 USD each)
2. hire a guide for the duration of the trip (at the cost of $120 USD each per day)
3. specify each place you will stay each night
4. give specific entry and exit dates
5. not stray from your planned itinery
So we’re considering a detour through Kazakstan instead…

Bike maintenance has taken up alot of time too, as both our freewheels broke – this is unheard of with new bikes,,, and we’ve been liasing with bike shops back in the UK to sort this out. My least favourite task has been purchasing yet more equipment (water filter, a pair of 17 inch hub spanners, a Brooks saddle, some new panniers, new tyres,,,)

Tell you what, we can’t wait to hit the road again.

Sat in the shadow

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Posted by Dan
Istanbul, Turkey

Sat in the shadow of the British consulate I realise that I have recently climbed out of my own shadow – the first real bout of homesickness. Seeking the ominous experience of a global coffee chain – a place I can sit for an hour or two without being encouraged by way of pestering to either move on or buy another cup of 40 pence tea Turkish tea. And so use their wireless internet for an hour or three!

When we cycle we are usually focused and charged with adrenalin, excitement or amusement at the turn of every corner, seeing what we didn’t expect (or what we did) and I am usually presented with something to think about whether it pleases me or not. There is something to take up the space and thoughts during the times that I have felt a longing to be amongst the familiar, comfortable or with friends and family. Lacking the chance to ride my bike, to cycle the energy and thoughts around my body, to generally exercise has lead me to feel intense frustration for a great deal of the four months we’ve spent in Istanbul.

Finally, we have become comfortable in a small studio flat, learned how to do our English teaching jobs and realised that we have indeed got a very easy life. That one reason for being here is to wait for our families to visit, and that that lack of exercise and frustration is a small sacrifice to pay in order to see the people we love. Additionally, that while we wait out the next month, which we so offered to the sky above to bring the winter to an end and return us a warm spring temperature to cycle on with, we have made a lot of friends who bring us warmth, inspiration, fun and energy.

Content again, I watch the street while enduring the insipid and globally non-offensive music that this coffee chain plays. The men scrub the street outside their shops, pouring steaming hot water and bleach onto the pavement, scrubbing ferociously the water and mess into the drain, which more than likely runs directly into the nearby Marmara Sea!

And I wonder, as I see the Union Jack flag high above the consulate – hanging limp and still against the crisp blue sky, just how life is at home?