Thursday, 17 April 2008

EVENTUALLY IN ISTANBUL







From the Med Coast to Istanbul has taken a while longer than expected. Firstly the cold and mountains of the interior highlands held us back, and later we followed the longer scenic route and admired the beauty of the area around the Marmaris Sea. In the few days we've been in Istanbul we've found this city of 15 million to be a wonderful, vibrant place with friendly inhabitants (as is the rest of Turkey). There is lots to do and see, involving the surrounding waterways, bridges, ferries, trains, trams, and busses. There are many ancient landmarks, and the Ayasofya, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace are all within about 5 minutes' walk from our room. We've also been able to stock up on necessities and repair equipment. All this has taken up time, and as a result we only have a few days of visa left. We attempted to get an extention at the local immigration office, but with the language problem and throngs of people we couldn't even figure out which que to join. At some stage I found myself standing with an application form for permanent residence (surprising, as I don't think my present looks would encourage anyone to want me as a permanent resident). We decided to try another option: The following day we would take a train to the Bulgarian border, and without really entering Bulgaria we would see if we could buy another Turkish visa on the way back into Turkey. Somewhere down the line the train took a different route, and we ended up not really going to Greece instead. Actually, we really ended up inside Greece, but the Greeks promptly returned us on the same train without stamping our passports. Without that stamp our exit was cancelled, leaving us with only 4 days of visa. However, the train ride was interesting, and after leaving Istanbul at 8 am we were back in our room again before 11 pm - quite a day! We've since decided not to pursue the visa thing any further, and to cross that bridge when we get to it (as long as they don't deport us back to SA!). In 2 days' time Leana's friend from Scotland (Esther) will join us for a 2-week cycling holiday (hopefully she doesn't need another holiday to recover). Distances cycled since Sandikli were:- Altintas 108 km; Inonu 82 km; Inegol 112 km; Gemlik 88 km; Cinarcik 70 km; and Istanbul 21 km.