We spent 12 days in Istanbul. Basically, we were planning to spend just a week there, but we were faster than we had calculated. Finally, we are very happy with this good break. It allowed us to make a good point and rest... before starting season 2 of our adventure: Asia!
Our sleep spots in Istanbul
We had to find a roof during all this time! We did a bit of everything.
- A youth hostel on the first evening upon arriving: the Mavi Hostel. Very nice, 3 minutes from Saint Sophia and yet not very expensive; and a good Turkish breakfast! It had been recommended to us by 2 German cyclists we met on the road to Tekirdag: thank you guys!
- Then we spent 4 nights in a student roommate. We had the big living room all to ourselves, cool! Unfortunately, they were in exam week, so we didn't have much time to share much...
- And to finish 7 nights in a little “home”: an airbnb apartment. The luxury of being able to feel a little “at home” for a few days. We took full advantage of this luxury, with the family.
The gear point
This big break in Istanbul was an opportunity to check the condition of our equipment after 2 and a half months of mop!
- on the bike side: we changed the brakes, the gear cables, tightened all the screws that had taken some play!
We also have…
- repaired our stove (pump seal that kept coming undone, he gave us a lot of fun!)
- cleaned duvets, water bottles, saddlebags, bicycles…
- fait réparer la fermeture éclair de ma sacoche-valise : un turc francophone, croisé dans la rue, nous a emmené de magasin en magasin jusqu’à nous trouver quelqu’un capable de réparer. On était prêts à en racheter une, au final il suffisait de 2-3 coups de pinces ! Top !
- Créé nos cartes visites ! Ça faisait un bon moment qu’on en avait envie, mais on n’avait jamais eu le temps. Ça va être super pratique pour donner l’adresse du site aux gens qu’on croise. Si vous venez nous voir, promis vous en aurez une ! 😉
Du tourisme en famille, et une belle surprise !
Thomas' parents came to join us for our 2nd week, from Sunday to Friday. We were super happy to be able to discover the tourist sites of the city with them.
On Monday evening, while we are tasting a good piece of Roquefort (how good it is to find flavors from home!) our apartment rental comes to ring. He tells us that we have to leave the apartment because someone is coming tonight. We remain taken aback for a few seconds, the rental is done for another 4 days, before we see going up the stairs… Émilie, Pascal and Inès (either Thomas’ sister, the beauf’, and the 9-month-old little niece!). We are all moved by this surprise that we absolutely did not expect.
In short, so we were finally at 7 to visit Istanbul!
We walked a lot, European side but also Asian side (Kadiköy, a district on the Asian side, quite modern and very much alive with “real life”). We liked the tourist places but not what gravitates around them: restaurants that triple the prices, touts in front of the restaurants, the "errors" of calculating the notes... In short, all these little things that we did not find in the rest of the country and which make us feel that in the eyes of traders we are “purses on legs”.
But we liked...
- The cistern-basilica
- Hagia Sophia Church/Mosque
- The beautiful blue mosque
- The Grand Bazaar, with its alleys where you get lost
- The spice market
- The huge palace of the Sultans (Topkapi) and its Harem full of blue painted tiles (Iznik ceramics)
- And... take the boat from one bank to the other: get an overview of the whole city, and above all watch the seagulls following the boat very close to us, being able to carefully observe their smallest details!
Well, Istanbul is cool... but it's not all rosy either!
- in December, it is not hot! We had only 2 days of sunshine, and often temperatures at 7-8°. Fortunately, tea is a tradition here! The advantage? Surely fewer people than in mid-season in tourist places! And that, we love!
- public transport: when you know what to take, no problem, metros and trams including super clean and modern, no problem. On the other hand, when it comes to looking for a trip on the internet… ouch, we tear our hair out! The site of their RATP equivalent simply seemed unusable to us.
- pollution: we were warned, and it's true! Istanbul is a very polluted city. It really tingles your throat when you take an avenue that's a little too busy...
- taxis vs bikes: ouch, ouch, ouch! I believe that for the moment Istanbul wins the trophy of the difficult city by bike: you can ride, ok; but it is better to have your eyes wide open, because for many cars and in particular taxis, we do not even exist I think!
- We were surprised to have trouble finding wifi in bars and restaurants. But hey, we always had some where we slept.
What we liked about the city….
- A brand new metro, without ads, and with beautiful decorations.
- The Baklavas of Karakoy Guluoglu, reputed to be the best in town. For the trouble, we went there twice! We don't have a reputation as foodies for nothing!
- Entire districts dedicated to one type of store: DIY, jewellery, bicycles (too practical!*), fabrics (the Marché Saint Pierre district in Paris, next to that, is a joke!) and even a district for the belt buckles!
- For Thomas: recognize the neighborhoods of the city and the monuments where he spent a lot of time playing... in Assassin’s Creed Revelation! (Video game)
- For Thomas again: spend 1 hour at the barber, super nice and funny. For me: being offered teas while waiting, and taking pictures.
- Discover that Mc Donalds and Burger King home deliveries exist! Oh yeah !
- The spectacle of the beautiful skewer of fishermen present day and night on the main bridge of the city.
- Meet a Turkish class! But to find out more… it happens over there !
* for fellow cyclists who are interested, the district of bicycle shops in Istanbul is west of the station in Sirkeci, on the other side of Ankara Cd, in Piri Reis Sk street and its neighbours. We looked for a little info so we share!
One evening, it was impossible to open the bottom lock on the apartment door… The key did not fit.
Armed with an expired credit card, and helped by the neighbors, Thomas managed to open the door! Future gentleman burglar?
The proof in pictures…