Our big fat Greek bedding and arriving in Istanbul
We stood in the doorway of an old wooden slaughter house in deserted rural Greece and looked at each other. It was getting dark and we needed somewhere to sleep. Cristo and Toli had approached us about twenty minutes earlier and, despite a serious language barrier, apparently they had somewhere for us to sleep.
Maybe we should have been terrified by the wooden slaughter tables, but our guts said that Cristo and Toli had no intention of making us the meat in tomorrow’s souvlaki. If our guts were wrong, they would soon find out.
Cristo’s phone buzzed and he signalled for us to follow him to a building across the road. As we pushed the bikes through the drive, a women popped her head out of the first floor terrace, the black dye in her hair still wet, and gave us a big smile and a wave. We were going to be OK. The woman was Larissa, Toli’s wife, and we weren’t going to be sleeping on slaughter tables, but in warm, soft beds. But before sleep, Cristo, Toli and Larissa had a spread of food, including home grown olives, for us to eat and plenty of wine mixed with coke for us to drink.
We left Cristo, Toli and Larissa the following morning with a packed lunch, a box of cakes and contact details for their son who lived in Germany and wanted to visit London.
The Greek hospitality would be matched by Işil and Nejmettin in Turkey. Işil and Nejmettin were fellow cyclists who treated us to coffees, showed us their local bike shop for a quick bike check-up and took us to the picturesque summer house of Işil's parents for tea and Turkish home baking.
Shortly after enjoying the trappings of local hospitality, we were tyre-deep in ten lanes of Istanbul traffic. We had made it; eight weeks after rolling off the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle we were in the heart of Istanbul. Before us lay the Bosphorus and the gateway to Asia.
We have been lucky enough to have Harriet’s mum join us to celebrate making it to Istanbul and to explore the city. It has been wonderful to see a familiar face as we get ready to tackle the rest of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and then the Caspian Sea crossing to central Asia.
If you’re interested in our exact route so far, we have logged it on Polar Steps and you can check it out here.
This week’s highlights
Celebrating our Istanbul arrival with Harriet's mum. Especially steaming up the glittering Bosphorus on a boat and getting our Ottoman look on point (see below)
Meeting seasoned Dutch cycle tourists, Kees and Nicole, and sharing stories from the road
Turkish food! Turkish coffee! Everything is delicious
This week’s lowlights
The Turkish border guard looking from the passports to our bikes and saying with a grin “Surname ‘Ford’, but no car?” bringing back childhood teasing at Langloan Primary School about Matt’s surname
A pack of wild Greek dogs, attracted by meaty calves, chasing our bikes as we tried to outpace them
Attempting to camp in the middle of a Turkish music festival - you'd think that the early years of Rockness, T in the Park, Wickerman and V Festival might have prepared us, but unfortunately not