There’s a dread that fills my heart a little whenever I know I’m going to be entering or leaving a big city by bicycle. At their core these cities are usually pretty good, with pedestrianised streets and even the occasional bike lane. One ring further out, the suburbs also provide sometimes quiet streets and residential shortcuts. The real problem is the final layer, the mesh of highways, industrial zones, flyovers, and airports that snarl around these cities. They orchestrate thousands of cars and trucks on their intertwined journeys, but for all the vastness of their footprint, leave little room for a bicycle.
Pushing off in (the already hectic) centre of Istanbul then certainly reminded me of these concerns! I’d be crossing from the European to Asian continent and heading up to the follow the relatively less hilly north sea coast east. Once I’d cleared the maelstrom of traffic and noise.
I already knew that you weren’t allowed to cycle across the bridges over the Bosporus and that most attempts are met by a police car. Instead I headed to the ferry dock to take a small boat across the water, and in a sneaky tactical move, north along the Asian coast to just outside of the hectic city itself. This was my master plan to avoid repeating my grueling ride into the city, and so it will surely not surprise you at all to hear that, it didn’t work!
Three boats trips back and forth confirmed that no boat was going to take me north, so after eating a sustaining snack muffin or two, I pulled my socks up and cycled off into the traffic on this eastern side.
After a few hours the city started to subside, much faster than on the west. The hills began to roll, and the roads twist, and fold over them. The skyscrapers gave way to mansions, then houses, and farms, then forest. Perhaps the easiest departure from a big city I’d ever had!
Time passed, kilometres fell, and snacks were eaten. Eventually I started glancing around searching for somewhere to set my tent. The search was short and resulted as it so often does in a spectacular camp site. This one perched on a cliff overlooking the woods.
So began the Black Sea coast run. For the next few days I’d wake at dawn with the sunrise working it’s way into the tent, breakfast, ride, snack, ride, lunch, and ride onwards to the goal of Samsun.
The coast itself was at times disappointing, no beach, just sea defences (a theme that would continue for all of Turkey). But the real joy was the routine of cycling till I was tired, then resting, and repeating. The real joy of bicycle touring!