After being in the same place for 2 weeks at Motocamp Bulgaria, however nice it may be, we are eager to get going again. Alpi, Havva, Jörg and us set off together late morning. But not before saying goodbye and doing some obligatory photo shoots.
The ride down to Turkey is pretty smooth and uneventful. Of course we cross Shipka pass again, which is no punishment at all. When we arrive at the border it is extremely busy, a lot busier than the previous time. With the bikes we slip past the waiting trucks and cars, so our waiting time in the harsh midday sun is limited. Until, at least, it is Jörg’s turn to be processed into Turkey.
It seems the customs officer made a mistake when he last exited the country. He forgot or neglected to export the motorbike properly. So now Jörg is trying to import a motorbike that according to records is already in the country. A small administrative nightmare. With Alpi’s help a senior official manages to get things sorted though. And at least they offer Jörg a comfy seat in the shade while all of this is going on.
When all the paperwork is sorted, we continue our trip south to Galipoli and cross over to Çanakkale on a pleasant ferry ride. We even get some time to chill and to admire the views. All of us are looking forward to the seafood bbq Alpi and Havva’s friend Hakan is preparing for us.
We arrive rather late, but are quickly shown to our rooms and the bathroom for a shower while the bbq is fired up. The scent of roasted freshly caught fish and squid folks the air and gets the taste buds going.
An equally tasty breakfast the next morning makes us hesitant to leave, but there’s things to do and places to see. After a group picture we follow Alpi again direction Troy.
Troy, or Troya as the Turks call it, is a pretty interesting place with a rich history. Although it seems a little smaller than I expected and there’s little left that is really recognisable. But the history goes way beyond the stories of Homer and Hollywood. Layers upon layers of Troy were built, destroyed and rebuilt. Making it a pretty complex structure on top of a hill dominating the landscape around it. The only very recognisable structure and at the same time the most camp is a “life-size replica” of the Troyan horse. More like a movie gimmick really, but we do take the photo opportunity.
After being submerged in so much history, there’s one more thing Alpi wants to do before taking us to his home. And that’s taste his and Havva’s favourite desert, a regional specialty made of fried sweet milky dumplings with ice cream. It is as delicious as they claim, especially when accompanied by some good Turkish tea.
Since it is so warm today we try to find a quiet spot to take a quick dive into the Marmara sea. We don’t succeed in finding an appealing beach, but it does give the opportunity to take some shots of our beloved bikes on the waterfront.
As we started of rather late this morning and took our time to visit Troy, we won’t make it to Istanbul by dinner time. Luckily there’s a good Köfte restaurant on our route. The service is more than enthusiastic.
After a copious meal we don’t really feel like riding all the way to Istanbul ourselves. So we use the Ferry to take a shortcut. On board our bikes are parked next to a lorry driver transporting fresh fruit. We all get a nice and juicy nectarine.
Just after we arrive, Alpi gets a phone call. It appears some other guests will be arriving later this evening. Four Bulgarian adventure riders on their way back from a trip to Armenia will be spending the night with us. It is starting to look like a mini Horizons Unlimited meeting in Istanbul. Dima, Dimo, Sabin and … Have been doing some off-road riding on big bikes and covered a lot of miles in a short period. They also have some great stories to tell. In the morning we give them a big send-off and Alpi will set them on the right route with his little scooter.
We are enjoying ourselves so much that we decide to hang around for a few days. Since it is Sofie’s birthday a big festive meal is organised with her favourite baklava desert. And of course presents are exchanged. Sofie had gotten a surprise package from Polly back at Motocamp that she is now allowed to open. The hand-made bracelet is an immediate hit!
After a few days of enjoying the location and the company both Jörg and us have planned to leave. Jörg sticks to his plan and returns towards Bulgaria. But we don’t really seem to get started. We end up staying and chilling by the pool. In the evening Alpi and Havva want to take us to the Bosphor for some dinner and tea.
We ride into the city to up on Sofie’s bike. Istanbul traffic doesn’t seem that bad anymore after we have experienced Tbilisi and Tehran. We end up at a lovely little bistro called Betty Blue’s, owned by a friend of our hosts. We can leave our gear with her while we walk around the neighbourhood to admire the traditional wooden houses. Then it is time for some pide and tea, after which we take another walk, but this time towards the Bosphor strait. We end up very close to the Bosphor bridge and get some really nice opportunities to take night time pictures.
The Alpi suggest to quickly cross the bridge to the European side, just for the fun of it and to have a look around. While we are walking back to our bikes, the owner of Betty Blue’s comes walking over and tells us something is up. There’s a lot of police activity and there’s rumours the bridge is blockaded. It might be safer for us to return home. At this point we still don’t have a clue what is going on, but people are looking a bit worried.
We gear up and start making our way back. Everything goes without further incidents until we hit a police blockade right on the exit we need to take. The police doesn’t share any info on what is going on exactly, but the radios in the cars around us are talking about a military coup! We wait for about 30 minutes and nothing has moved. Meanwhile we see cars coming from the other side taking the same exit unimpeded. A few other Turks have noticed this as well and have already run the blockade with some creative detours. Alpi is also tired of waiting and suggest we do the same. Running a police blockade in the middle of a military coup? Why not! They don’t seem to be taking any aggressive action against the others that have done so as well. So we zig-zag our way through the queued up cars and get on a parrallel lane where there’s currently no officer present and just pass the police cars and immediately take a left on the off-ramp.
Once at home the TV is turned on immediately and tuned into the news channels. We don’t understand a lot of it but we see images of a lot of tanks on the streets in Istanbul and Ankara. There’s a mixture of fear and excitement, but no-one really knows whether this will succeed or not and whether anyone will get hurt in the process. It is late in the night when we get to bed. But before we do Alpi already says it might be safer to stick around for an extra day or two, just until it is clear that everything is safe in the direction we are heading.