Istanbul and yet more rain
We set off from Budapest and headed for the Romanian border. Weather and roads were great but after making a slight navigational error, we ended up in a small town called Debrecen about 30 miles off our route. But what the heck, that's travelling, so we found a nice enough place to stay and parked up for the night.
Next day we picked up our road and crossed into Romania without any hold ups or problems at the border post. There is a lot of difference between the two countries - with gypsies, horse and carts featuring large amongst the many hazards on the road. Whilst there was a fair stretch of pot-holed road, there must have been a huge recent, and ongoing, ec investment because most of the roads were fabulous, pristine tarmac. This place would be fabulous on an R1 believe it or not. There are an awful lot of small villages and towns along the major roads which slowed progress a little - along with the periodic teams of road builders who always stopped work to stare at the bikes as we passed. A few made gestures which I think were friendly. A misfiring Porsche would attract less attention I feel.
Anyway, we found a small family run guest house for the evening and flaked out. By this time we were a little concerned as the locals were bringing home the cattle along the major roads. I have a sneaking suspicion we were 'ripped off' for breakfast but prices were so cheap it seemed unimportant. Next day we headed for Vlad's pad and did our first real tourist stuff at the Transylvanian village of Sighisoara. Suprisingly we found out very little about the Impaler, so we saddled up and headed south for the Bulgarian border.
Given that we had hear some unfavourable reports about Bulgaria, we holed up just shy of the border at a truck stop in a place called Giorgiou. A meal, a few more beers and we crawled into bed feeling pretty shattered. An off duty copper spotted us kerb crawling for hotels and escorted us to one run by his 'good friend'.
The crossing into Bulgaria also went pretty smoothly with no delays and we set off aiming to cover the remaining distance to Turkey in one hit. Impressions of Bulgaria were brief but favourable. There seemed few people around compared with Romania and some fantastic mountains with Swiss style chalets were a suprise. The weather picked up as we dropped down the mountain and the sun seemed to become somehow more intense. I suppose we were now heading south rather than east.
We crossed Bulgarias easily by late afternoon and reached the Turkish border post. Bumped into a Brit on a pedal bike who had spent 4 weeks cycling from the UK. And I though we had it tough as he'd lost one and a half stone in the process! We had to front up some cash for a visa and insurance but otherwise had no difficulties getting through. Just seemed to take a long time.
After this, things went down hill and we had torrential rain as we drove along the excellent motorway to Istanbul. Adrian's tacho packed up, my bike developed a slight misfire and our intercoms stopped working. This slowed progress and we finally entered Istanbul a lot later than we would have liked. The roads and traffic were so bad in the rain that we bottled out and checked into a very posh hotel - the first we could actually reach. Not very hard core I know - but you should have seen the weather!
This afternoon we were going to walk to the Blue Mosque, but the heavens opened up on us yet again. WHAT IS GOING ON WITH US AND THE WEATHER!!!!! The streets were completely and utterley awash as there must be no drainage whatsoever. Lots of pedestrians were getting drowned by splash from the traffic. So we didn't walk, left the bikes making the hotel look scruffy and got a cab instead....
My ears are still ringing, we and the bikes are filthy but after 8 countries and 2300 miles in 6 days we have made it to the start of the Eastern phase of our jouney unscathed. And now I think is where the fun begins.
Oh, and we're already fed up of carrying our gear in and out of everywhere.
Posted by Sean Kelly at September 16, 2002 03:17 PM GMT