October 11, 2009 GMT
Edge Of Europe

The day before yesterday we arrived safe and sound in Istanbul, after reaching the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast a few days before.

They say you should never return to places visited in the past. That Black Sea coast is just such a place. Anyone driving this way expecting to see the road skirting around endless empty sandy beaches, as it did thirteen years ago when Caroline and I were last here cruising along on a Ducati V-twin, will be seriously disappointed.
Our maps still show campsites dotted all along those beaches. But when we enquired at the endless concrete hotels now crowding out completely the old sandy coastline (with the road shoved back inland maybe a kilometre or so), the replies we received were all the same. Shrugged shoulders, waved arms, and sufficient words to confirm that all those campsites, and most if not all of the sandunes, have been covered with concrete and glass.
And not even providing employment for these local people. It's only the first week of October, the sun is warm and reliable, but everywhere is closed and empty. Closed hotels (many "For Sale"), empty apartment blocks, closed bars and restaurants, stagnant swimming pools, and a half-built-and-abandoned selection of all of these as well.

It's late in the day, and we pass hotel after hotel (having given up on finding a camping place), until we find one open. And then move on quickly into Turkey the next day.

That next afternoon we find another campsite by the road, but the road is being widened and the campsite is closed and almost flattened. So we continue to Luleburgaz. There's only one big 3-star on the main road through town but a large motorbike shop nearby. Here we are welcomed like old family with tea and the services of the young son of the owner who speaks perfect English. After the tea and hospitality, and the kind donation to our journey of some new luggage straps needed by Caroline and Beau, the shop's delivery driver leads us to the old town centre and their recommended hotel. All very nice.

Then next day......... an upset. Beau learns that his half-sister has suddenly died back home in Ottawa, so our plans are abandoned and new ones constructed. We find ourselves late in the evening at Istanbul Airport. Driving to Istanbul Airport is NOT like driving to Heathrow or Gatwick! Dodgem cars at Southend's Kuursal might provide a mere introduction to an attempt at a description.
But this gives Beau easy communication with family back home, and flights if he decides to go to the funeral. After much family discusion it's agreed he won't go to Ottawa so we fight our way through the airport hotel touts and find a place a shuttle-bus-ride away for the night. Also we find that the car park is well guarded and the guards point out a place were we can leave the bikes for free.

So here we are now in Sultanahmet, central Istanbul with a bit of time at last, and decent internet, to do an update.

Last night we met a young Australian on his way home from London on a Honda CG250. He left England the day after us and is an old hand at this sort of thing having done London to Egypt on the same bike 18 months ago. He's obtaining an Iranian visa here, we, Syrian visas. So it's likely we'll depart Istanbul for the south on the same day. We stay in touch.

So some photos.

Our camping somewhere in Holland:


Adrian and Lianna with their bikes (a CX500 and a Dominator), who kindly hosted us for two days in Cluj Napoca, the capital city of Transylvania. Adrian is a builder of custom choppers and kindly fixed a leak in the petrol tank on Beau's bike. They also showed us the sights of the old city of Cluj.


At first we put the bikes in the entrance-way to Lianna's apartment, which she had arranged for:


But later the smell of petrol told us this wasn't a good idea, it was the fire escape for ten floors of flats, so we parked securely in the garden just outside.

Departure from Lianna's home:


Transylvanian mountain village:


Misty Transylvanian valley scenery:


Transylvanian farmhouse B&B where we stopped early one day because of fog and rain on rough mountain roads:


One for the GPO veterans - Telephone cable jointing in the ancient city of Sighisoara (birthplace of Vlad Dracul, father of Dracula). Old hands will notice the way the neck of the lemonade bottle (Sleeve 13A if I remember correctly) is meticulously wired to a nail in the fence. All very neat.........


Romanian villager on the way to Tescos (yes they are in Romania). Buying or selling, we don't know:


In stark contrast, the concrete of the Bulgarian Black Sea resorts:


Next to our hotel in Luleburgaz was Sezgin Tyres. The owner, Metin, was very interested in our tyres and our journey, and told us stories of his stay in London in a Hyde Park hotel. He offered us new tyres which he just happened to have parked in the street. He thought that in Istanbul we may find someone who could fit them, but no luck so far.


Here in Istanbul, Caroline and Beau outside The Blue Mosque - looking for a tyre fitter:


Posted by Ken Thomas at October 11, 2009 12:36 PM GMT

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