These last few days, winter has started to wrap itself around Istanbul. We have 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.
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 Istanbul 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
- 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.