Yuri and Oli’s story is a bit less physical than their counterpart’s. Out of their ten day stay in Athens seven were spent in search for new wheels, but nothing was found that was up to the task of conquering the Silk Road. While they were each dragging about 40 kilos of luggage towards the bus station, they could hear Stef’s harmonica tunes fading in the distance, and realized no bicycle would carry their bag for a long long time.
Our journey towards Istanbul consisted of 20 hours of busrides, with a layover in the beautiful Izmir. Our first impressions were not at all what we expected Turkey to be. I don’t know what we were expecting, but definitely not this super friendly, polite and clean country. On the streets of Izmir you could not find a piece of trash if you looked for an hour. Even then, it might just be a napkin blown off a restaurant table by accident. Our depressed feelings were fading every minute and left completely when a local street vendor offered us an extra large portion of donut shaped fried pastries for free. We had gone around town trying all the new dishes this continent had to offer and with our bellies about to burst we boarded the bus headed for the great Istanbul. The true start of the Silk Road.
The next couple of days we spent exploring the city by looking for bikes and, in the evenings, socializing with the volunteers working at Hush hostel. Mo, Aybike and Jasmina made us feel right at home. After meeting them it was clear that they needed some distraction from the day to day life. Aybike runs her own IT-firm, and had just moved to Istanbul. It didn’t take long for her to admit that she was a bit stressed out about the whole situation. Jasmina’s appearance, beautiful but rare, since she spends quite some time in her room, studying. And finally Mo, the Michellin star chef (in training) always down to clown around, but no one to clown out with. They explained that the place was usually calm, quiet and loungey, so our instincts urged us to entertain and spread our energy. It didn’t take long before we were playing games, sharing drinks and goofing around in our animal themed pyjamas.
The days flew by and it was time to decide between some used bikes we had found and tested or buying new ones. Every used bike seemed to have something wrong with it, and came with a pricetag only slightly lower than the new ones we were eyeing. In the end we decided to buy two new VSF TX-400’s. In the morning we got up to buy our new bikes, meanwhile Stef and Anton…
… didn’t rest on the 7th day. This was the day we’d pound through to Istanbul to meet Oli and Yuri. We took the ferry in Yalova to cross the Marmara, but we had one more stop before we were going to this huge metropole. Stef wanted to visit his old collegues in Gebze, a city close to Istanbul. He worked there for two months right before he started cycling to China, and since this was only a 20 km detour there was no way we wouldn’t go there. “Oh my god, Stef! Haha is everything okay? We thought you’d be one hour earlier, we were almost worried!” Nez welcomed us at Katoen Natie Gebze as only Turkish people do. Never decline the hospitality you receive, you’ll regret it. Our bellies full, we let the words waterfall their way out of our mouths, while narrating all our stories and explaining why it was just the two of us. After a full tour around the building and saying hello to all the old colleagues, it was time to go. Anton and Stef snapped one last picture with the Turkish KTN team and with a ‘Tespih’ (prayer beads) as parting gift to keep them safe, they took off.
After a quick swim in the chilly Marmara, the 4 friends were reunited at the meeting point: the Bisiklet Gezgini bicycle shop, probably the only place in Turkey that specialized in touring bikes. The moment Oli and Yuri had their new bikes in their hands, Anton and Stef reached the finish line at the porch of the bike shop, after 700 km of freewheeling. First the traditional ‘high five’ round, then a close inspection of the new VSF bikes their friends were holding. Beautiful steel steeds indeed, jolly good choice lads, let’s have it!