Before I embarked on this journey, I had always dreamed of visiting Turkey, so I was very excited when I knew that we would be passing through Turkey. But it was just unfortunate that we entered Turkey while it was still winter. It would have been great to cycle most of the way but as we went further the conditions were really bad in a lot of places of the Anatolian region, as it was covered in snow. So after Agri we had no choice but to take a coach towards Ankara as we thought it would be better there and that we could cycle towards Istanbul. But when we got to Ankara it was still snowing heavily, that we couldn’t even get out of the bus terminal. We then had to make a tough decision to just take another coach to Istanbul.
I am truly blessed to be here in Istanbul. It is a really magnificent city with a lot of beautiful historical buildings from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. You really have to be here to fully appreciate the beauty of Istanbul. We only visited the Blue Mosque as the entry was free. We just can’t afford to pay to enter museums and the other places of interest, but there are still many interesting relics and things to look at and take pictures of. Most of the tourist sites are located in the Sultanahmet area and are just jam- packed with tourists, even in winter! As with all tourist sites, there will be people trying to sell you something from Turkish carpets to locally made porcelain products, small trinkets and also guide books. Sometimes the sellers can be pushy, which can be quite annoying. Looking for affordable food can be quite a challenge, too. You will have to venture out from the Sultanahmet area and in to some quiet alley to look for a Lokantasi (restaurant) or a shack like cafe which sells ‘Doner kebab’.
While we were travelling from Dogubeyazit, towards Ankara, I received some very sad and shocking news. 2 of my friends Kathrine and Suleman whom we had befriended while in Pakistan(Lahore Backpakers) were shot dead in Peshawar, while they were out shopping at the local bazaar. The motive was unclear at first but after a few days, a local Taliban outfit admitted to the shooting and it was a revenge killing to what was going on in China with the killing of Uighur Muslims. I was truly shocked as she had left a comment on my facebook album the day we left for Ankara and that was the day they were shot. It just sent chills down my spine. It was just unfortunate as they were very nice people and we had good times together while in Lahore. May they R.I.P. Thinking back, we were really lucky that nothing untoward happened to us while we were in Peshawar. There are bombings and killings going on there everyday.
Today is the last day we are going to be in Istanbul. Since it is no longer snowing we will start cycling towards Edirne and the Bulgarian border, and just hope and pray that the weather will be fine.