Image courtesy of Romanian tourist board
That’s Europe done. We arrived in Turkey about a month ago after completing the Eastern European leg of our trip. Since our last update from Munich we have passed through five countries and we have now cycled over 4000km – around one third of the trip.
From Munich we headed east to Vienna along the Danube Cycle Way and then continued along the Danube into Eastern Europe – first stop Bratislava in Slovakia – home to some of the most beautiful women in the world! Eastern Europe was a pleasant surprise. After the “frostiness” of the Austrians, the friendliness of the Eastern Europeans, notably the Romanians and the Bulgarians, was fantastic – lots of people waving, saying hello or bon voyage (or possibly something completely different!) and honking their horn. We even got honked by a train in Bulgaria. That, together with the pleasant countryside and cheap prices, puts Eastern Europe high on the “Must go there again” list.
It wasn’t all cheap, however. We spent two rest-days in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Hungary has become more westernised than any other ex-Soviet country we cycled through. Whilst there we went on a bike tour of the city, with a young knowlegeable guy called Csaba. Even in a busy city ike Budapest they had managed to find space for a few bike paths and it was definitely the best and easiest way to see the city.
The cycling? We had a hard 8 days in a row, cycling from Budapest to Sofia, crossing a few high passes (notably the Petrolan Pass north of Sofia – at 1440m the highest point of the Charityride thus far), but we’ve been generally fairly lucky with terrain and weather. It’s been relatively flat easy cycling, and we have been helped by a nice tailwind and good weather for the majority of the time – long may it continue…… We have relatively few problems in general on the trip so far – almost no “mechanicals”, no problems with the locals and we have only had to use our Dog Dazers (the ultrasonic dog repelling things) three times (successfully too I might add).
Our biggest test so far was probably the ride in to Istanbul. Istanbul is huge and sprawls about 50km in each direction and the Turks are rather … errr … enthusiatic drivers! For a start they honk their horns at us even more than Bulgarians, and most of the time it is a friendly sign of encouragement. However, sometimes (and especially after 4pm on the drive home) you are not sure what the horn is implying – is it a friendly “keep going” or a “get off my road”. In Istanbul they use their horn instead of their indicators – one beep for left and two for right, but we didn’t work out what the multiple blasts, or single long blasts followed by a volley of Turkish shouting meant. I am sure it was all nice and friendly stuff. Probably.
We made it though and spent two very enjoyable and lazy weeks in Istanbul – successfully applying for Iranian (11 days) and Indian (6 days) visas, and waiting for news on World War 3 which appears to be rather inconveniently occurring on our route. We are still waiting to decide what to do, but are pretty sure we will continue onwards through Turkey to Iran, and decide there. Until then we will just keep cycling, enjoying the warm Mediterannean weather and great Turkish food. Yum yum.
Editor’s note: You keep up to date by checking out the guys’ charityride.org website.