Some serious hours of pedalling were required in order to make our deadline to Istanbul, and the reason for the urgency was a visit from the (more) Senior Johnsons. Mr & Mrs Johnson(I) had made their way from the UK to greet Mr & Mrs Johnson(II), and would have probably been travelling well within their baggage allowance had it not been for the suitcase full of bike supplies we had pre-ordered for their journey. As a couple who don’t frequently get to see our parents, it was a delight to share this time with them both and what’s more, their generosity resulted in some quite unfamiliar (but very welcome) luxury, in addition to some quite necessary indulgence. As the first familiar faces we had met since departing, the tales from our past few months soon flowed freely while we all attempted to understand Istanbul.
Anyone returning from a week-long holiday in this city who claims to know or – worse still – to ‘have done’ Istanbul, is either an exceptional time manager, or is talking nonsense and deserves no more of your attention.
Istanbul sits at the divide of Asia and mainland Europe and has been somewhat of a big deal for several empires in history. Fantastically important events have occurred here over the last two thousand years that we had very little prior knowledge of, though the architecture left behind stands as a conspicuous and impressive reminder of this past. It is also a vast place; with a population that dwarfs London and with city limits that sprawl much further than a man can reasonably ride in one day. The result is a labyrinth of a city built on eclectic influences, where a guide book is as useful or as useless as you want it to be. You could likely live in Istanbul for a year and still find an exciting new district, some new detail in the Hagia Sophia, an alternative eatery, or realise that an entire century of history is hidden away next to your house. Most endearing though, is the intangible sense of effortless cool which it seems to now enjoy, and which is no longer easily found in established European or Australian cities. It is a coolness that allows you to chill out on the streets enjoying an evening beer while listening to buskers, without fearing arrest or impending chaos.
We were captivated and very much sold on this place from the outset, and if ever we should be a little fed up in the future, a week in Istanbul would likely be a good tonic.