Istanbul has a history of being a great crossroads. The ethnic blend of the Turkish people in general is reminiscent of our own country and in the urban center-of-it-all this becomes even more distilled and obvious. Of course, this idea of “east meets west” is heavily marketed and commercialised in a city overflowing with tourists and, following a sojourn through more authentic places, this quickly rubbed us the wrong way. We have learned from living in a tourist area that every such place has a more realistic side where day to day life rolls on and the beauty of banality lies in open display. One day, while eating baklava and watching the throngs of tourists march by, two folks came along and opened the door to such a culture in Istanbul . (Shaun and Maarten)
Because the city is formed on two peninsulas separated by the Bosphorus, it is only natural that so many travellers would make their way through on their way to somewhere. This includes bike tourists who, while relatively few in number, seem to congregate wherever beer and tires are sold. Hence, as we watched two fellow dirtbags looking over our bikes we were quickly able to deduce thatÂ they were indeed members of our own far flung tribe. After a brief conversation we were off together for the other side of the straight to an unassuming neighborhood where we would share two days of storytelling, information exchange, and the good natured comeradery that comes from mutual understanding. There are a lot of ways to see the world, only a few of us are doing it this way. This makes our path feel unusual at times in that we get a unique view of the places we visit while presenting a unique sight for the folks we meet. There is also an air of freedom amongst cyclists that does not seem to pervade in the tourist crowd at large. Perhaps this is due to the self sufficiency or the feeling that we are somehow embodying the changes we wish to see in our world… Perhaps. But more so this feeling, this sense of adventure seems to be rooted in the very nature of our endeavor. When we commit to travelling this way, we are making a move that contraindicates obligations, embraces difficulties that conventional vacations are designed to steer around, and in doing so places us at the mercy of everyday people and everyday circumstances. Most of us assume that the banal, the mundane, and the industrial are filled with a timeless beauty that fully reveals itself at the pace of a bicycle. The few walkers we meet (and we do meet them, walking from, say, Paris to Jerusalem) would say that even this is much too fast.
Spending a few days with members of our own mental breed was revitalising. It is always nice to meet others who have cast aside traditionalisms for the sake of life on their terms. The time we shared was filled with laughs, discussions, and fresh ideas. The stuff that good diplomacy is made of; eating smoked muscles on the stairs, washing them down with cold beer, in the company of youth from a legion of nations. The stories of our elders tell us that these moments were so empowering. They still are. This life is timeless………