Finishing our cycle tour to Istanbul

After 30 days of straight riding, with no lazy rest days like the Tour de France gets, we had managed to cover 3000km of cycling. Since leaving France we have had many adventures but finally we arrived in Istanbul. The picture is the bridge representing the border into Turkey, we passed through about 5 check points before riding past 6 armed soldiers evenly stationed on the bridge, they let us take the below picture on the agreement that none of them would be in shot!
In hindsight we probably should have had a day off but the route was a bit harder and further than we had anticipated, also I get bored when I am not riding a bike! The heat started rising again into the 30’s as we approached the Turkish border from Greece. We got up early and enjoyed riding through fields of sunflowers and past friendly old men sitting outside cafes, there was a genuine relief we had achieved what we set out to do.
Cycling through sunflower fields north east of Istanbul;

We were glad to still have a couple of days, exploring the city of Istanbul before our flights home and a bit of relief at not having to jump back on the bike! Istanbul is such an amazing place, the unfathomable age and the spectacular designs of the buildings is simply mind blowing. If I had to choose a city to end a tour in this one doesn’t despite. We did all the usual tourist things, ate good food, drank strong Turkish coffee and generally just explored on foot finding new areas to appreciate.
We also wandered the vast covered market of the Grand Bizarre, sadly much more sanitised and tourist based than you might expect, however a few interesting vendors remain such as this lantern seller;

A cat sits watching the tourists in the Hagia Sophia, built as a cathedral in 5th century, then converted to a mosque much later, the building is now a stunning museum.

The stunning city skyline has to be seen to be believed, this is a view from a small window in the impressive Hagia Sophia over to the blue mosque

A surprise find was the Cistern Basillica, a huge underground water storage cistern built around the 5thcentury with 100s of new and recycled pillars supporting the spectacular domed ceiling.

We stayed at a fancy place in Istanbul to celebrate Marion’s 30th birthday, see the link below. The apartment suites were pretty much brand new and really nice new but the owners have had a rough time of it. They were rafting guides in rural Turkey, until the government dammed and created a lake where the river they had license to raft was, they then received a bit of compensation so set up the T loft, then the riots broke out a week later in Taksim square next door, so all their bookings got cancelled and I imagine cashflow must be tight. They were incredibly helpful. Guided us around, fed us tea and snacks, even helped us escape a stampeding riot!

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