Hibernating By The Bosporus

posted by: Emma

These last few days, winter has started to wrap itself around Istanbul. We haveLamps in Grand Bazaar watched blue skies grey over and rain soak through our shoes as the outside temperature has plummeted from 30 down to 10 degrees. While the Blue Mosque looks particularly impressive against the muted sky, our building’s central heating has been turned on and it feels good just to be indoors with thick walls between us and the elements. As we unpack the last of our panniers and start the tasks of cleaning and stowing kit, its starting to sink in that we’re staying put for a while.

When we planned this trip, we realised that the first winter would be a bit of a problem logistically. We wanted to see a good chunk of Europe, spend some time cycling in Turkey and cross through either Central Asia or Russia and Mongolia to China, then end up in South East Asia for a few months. Taking a fairly wiggly line from London to Istanbul, if we continually cycled we would hit the most isolated parts of our journey when they were covered with thick winter snow. There are some people who are quite keen on that sort of cycle touring, but we’re pretty certain we’re not on that list.Eating fish sandwiches

Gear repairs were also a factor in wanting to stop. To ensure we were in top shape for the next leg we figured we would need at least a month in a reasonably big city to fix broken technology, buy new tyres and replace various other things lost or broken along the way. We could have done this entirely on the road but even thinking through the logistics gave us a headache. Basing ourselves in a big city for a while would be the easier option.

We toyed with working at ski resorts or on a farm but soon realised that we didn’t want to spend all summer sorting out winter work, plus most options open to us would mean backtracking into Western Europe and we weren’t ready to give up on cycling through some of Turkey. Justin contacted his old work about the possibility of contracting, and the idea of a six month pause on the edge of Asia started to appeal – we were going there anyway, so why not stop for a while.

After a nine day vacation from the bikes in Cappadocia we returned by bus to IstanbulGulls over Bosphorous at sunset exactly 6 months after setting out from London. While the bus trip itself was not exactly stress-free, things have fallen into place pretty easily in Istanbul. We found a one bedroom flat quickly, discovered a local fruit and vegetable market and have befriended our building’s cats. We signed up as cycle touring hosts for Warmshowers.org and have already had the privilege of meeting Mike from Boston who is bravely cycling into Turkey’s autumn when he leaves us tomorrow.

Justin has completed a week of working from home and I’ve finished my first week of Turkish lessons, an intensive programme which will run every morning until November. Job-wise, I’ll hunt around for some freelance travel writing work and see if there is any part-time or short term work I can get here in Istanbul. We’ll also start working through our long list of preparations for next year’s trip.

Big winter projects

These are some of the bigger things we’d like toSound sculpture do over winter:

  • Fix the bikes so they’re in best possible shape
  • Plan our route and organise any visas and vaccinations
  • Learn to cook with Turkish ingredients
  • See more of Turkey / drink beer in Germany / have a few meals in Greece

Plus (of course) there will be some sitting watching movies in a warm house, drinking beer which is kept cold in our very own fridge and cooking meals that require more than one gas hob.

Winter may get a bit colder here in Istanbul, but we’ll bravely tough it out.

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6 responses to “Hibernating By The Bosporus”

  • Hi guys,
    great to hear your plans, loving the photos of the bazaar, send me your addy via e-mail and we’ll send photos of Lily. Arohanui x x x

  • Andrea on October 11th, 2010 at 1:23 pm
  • I’m happy to see that u really enjoying! Greetings from (cold) Sarajevo!

  • Tigar Gr Cat on October 16th, 2010 at 1:33 am
  • Oh ho! So it is possible that we might catch you up 🙂
    We’ll keep an eye on you. Have a good winter. We’re currently in South France and it’s pretty nippy. Heading south as fast as our legs and the hills will allow us. Gorgeous, though, and great fun.
    Take care!
    Oanh (& Nic)

  • oanh on October 18th, 2010 at 10:28 pm
  • Hey Oanh, glad to hear you are on the road even if it is a bit nippy but hopefully the southward cycling will gradually warm up a bit. Istanbul has been pretty wet for the last few weeks but today is a lovely sunny day that makes me wish I was back cycling instead of stuck in front of my computer. Enjoy your cycling time and stay in touch as it would be great to catchup with you and Nic if our paths look like crossing.

    Hi Amin, indeed we are enjoying Istanbul a lot although we did consider towards the end of our cycling coming back to Sarajevo for winter as we missed Tiger! I hope the weather doesnt get you down to much but I guess it will keep your bike in storage for a while. Our bikes just got serviced and we are about to replace our drive trains with new components in preparation for next years cycling so although we cant ride them we can still look forward to more riding.

    Thanks both for your comments.

  • Justin on October 19th, 2010 at 1:00 pm
  • Hey guys, great to hear about your adventures – still very jealous! Sounds like it’s worked out well with stopping for a while and doing some freelance work?? Emma, I’m expecting you to be fluent in Turkish by November! How long do you think you’ll be cycling for on the next leg of the journey? And are you still hoping to end up in NZ for a bit eventually?? It’s going to have been so long since we’ve seen you by the time we meet again!

    Things with us are pretty good, Richie’s enjoying the winter trips up the mountain and getting much better at snowboarding, I’m counting down to my marine biology exam next week and looking forward to my summer of continuing to work part time but not having to study!


  • Stacy and Richie on October 21st, 2010 at 3:07 am
  • Stacy + Richie

    We think we’ll be in New Zealand by March 2012 and for at least six months to see what we think of home after so long away. We’re suitably jealous of your snowboarding adventures – I think NZ is the only country I can afford to do that to any reasonable proficiency. If 2012 is too long to wait, you can always come see us in Asia somewhere next year?

  • Emma on October 27th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

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