Istanbul ↑ all posts


The D100 into Istanbul is by far the scariest road I’ve ever cycled on. Leaving Silivri there’s a 10 km stretch which is downright terrifying: the nice hard shoulder I’ve been on since Greece disappears and becomes a third lane on what is rapidly turning into a motorway. The roadside is potholed and rocky - impossible to cycle on a road bike - so I’m forced to stick to the edge of the road. Huge trucks thunder past me, a rush of air following them. Sometimes they give a honk of their horn - it’s not clear at this point whether it’s to let me know they’re there or in anger that I’m taking up their precious lane space.

At one point I look round to see a line of trucks advancing and so I squeeze right up to the edge of the road on a long fast downhill section. I’m buffeted by the air blast from the first truck so much that I start to lose control and bounce off onto the rocky verge nearly coming off the bike at 30 km/h. I think what a waste it would be to die now so close to Istanbul, but there’s not much I can do but be as vigilant as possible and press on. Not much fun.

Luckily this section of the D100 is relatively brief, and 10 km later the lovely wide hard shoulder returns for a while. It’s difficult to say at which point the outlying towns end and Istanbul starts and I fail to spot any ‘Welcome to Istanbul’ signs if there are any. The D100 is now three lanes in each direction and every so often a new two lane road merges in from the right. A few times I end up sitting stopped in the hashed triangle at one of these junctions waiting for a gap in the endless stream of trucks.

Finally, near the airport I turn off the main road and head along the coast. There is a half-hearted cycle path at points running through the parks lining the coast, but for the most part I stick to the road - a few irate taxi drivers is nothing compared to earlier in the day.

To the right is the sea of Marmara, with huge container ships heading for the Bosphorous. The skyline ahead is dotted with minarets, guiding me onwards to the towering spires of the blue mosque. I follow signs to the old town and am soon on narrow cobbled streets and the final few hundred metres into Sultanahmet square. My parents and sister are here to meet me and I find them on a bench in front of the Hagia Sophia. It’s pretty overwhelming and I’m not sure how I feel getting off the bike for the last time. Jubilantly happy obviously, especially given that my closest family are here, but also exhausted, relieved, and thankful that it’s over, at least for now.

Time for a beer.