2 – Welcome to Galata

img_20161010_191035-01They were in our mind since a long time, the first pedal strokes, and that’s it, here we are, on the bikes in direction of Istanbul from the Sabiha Gökçen airport. About 40 km seperate us from our destination, 35 by bike and 5 on a ferry, or rather a « vapur » which is a kind of steam boat. After a short distance on flat ground, the first hill feels terrible. We must say that between the bike itself, the luggage and our own weight, there’s around a hundred kilos to pull. We’ll have to get used to it, it’s only the beginning and it’s far from being the biggest challenge we’ll have to go through until we get to Indonesia. Once on top, our efforts reserve a first major satisfaction, a wide angle view on the huge Istanbul. At this moment we stand on the Asian bank, staring at our old native continent. Follows an endless and acrobatic journey through the traffic, until we get to Kadıköy’s harbor. We desperately look for a way of buying a ticket for the boating trip. Luckily, I head to a young Turkish couple, in their 20’s who, in an unparalleled kindness, offer me their istanbulkart. The cards reloaded, we can climb into our craft. img_20161012_180801-01At this moment, we’re very exactly between Asia and Europe, it’s one of the distinctive features of the city, crossed by the Bosphore, a strait linking the Black See to the Marmara see, dividing line of the two continents. That’s a symbol.. We then arrive at Karaköy’s harbor. The GPS shows 450 meters to get to the meeting point we had settled with our host, the tower of Galata. It culminates on top of a hill of 60 m height, needless to say that the last portion was a little steep ! We enter at Hervé’s. I forgot to tell you about this detail. Through an acquaintance of one of Romain’s acquaintance, Hervé has adorably proposed to accommodate us during our stay. Hervé’s a math teacher in Galatasaray’s high school. He lives in Turkey since 20 years, is a leaving encyclopedia, and had an unrivaled smell when buying his apartment, which is stick to the Galata tower, ten years ago for a pittance. The district has now become one of the most popular of the city. Let’s talk about this district. The people here live in a slope. Rather it goes up, or down, everywhere, at anytime. It’s a place where the passing of visitors from every horizons, including the inhabitant of Istanbul is non-stop. During the day, every street has its specific features, in one you will find lights, the other only musical instruments...At night, you can’t make 100 meters without falling on a nice bar. Central is the best place to start your discovery of the city. Let’s get back to our story, at Hervé’s we meet with his wife Maryam and a friend named Franck, both French. A king’s meal is waiting for us and the Rake, a local aniseed alcohol in the style of Pastis is there to create a friendly atmosphere. We discuss about our project, their lives, about the old and the actual Turkey, Iran...A very nice evening overall. img_20161011_132139-01The next days, we visit this city of unrivaled history. First, Bizantium from the VIIe century b.c. to 324, Greek city, capital of the Trace, then Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire until 1452, and finally capital of the Ottoman Empire. Every centimeter is filled with memories of theses pasts. The blue mosques and Sokollu Mehmet Pacha, Dolmabahçe et Topkapı the sultanian palaces, basilica San Sofia, the basilica cistern, the grand bazaar...It’s culturally impossible to get bored in Istanbul. And, of course, the Galata tower, buid in 1348 by the Genoese, the word galata probably comes from the Italian « calata » meaning « sloping ». Ancient watchtower, transformed into a prison then back into a watchtower, it was abandoned and finally restored for the tourists to benefit from its stunning view. This view, we have it in better and for free on the roof deck of the building where we stay. We get to see flamboyant sunsets from here. img_20161012_175348_7cs-01You must know the Galatasaray Spor Kulübü football club. So here’s an interesting anecdote. During the next derby against Fenerbahçe (closer to the working-class), notice that the songs against Galatasaray are often insults, en français, s’il vous plaît. Why ? In fact, the Galatasaray club is an emanation of the Galatasaray high school team. This high school was reserved to the country’s elite. And the classes are dispensed in French since 1868. Although there is no more affiliations between the educational establishment and the football giant, the historic connection remains in the people’s memory. Take that as a gift for your next pizza / « ligue des champions » night.  I would have so many things to say about this city that it could take an entire book so I’ll stop there. We had a great time here in Galata. Tomorrow we’re heading east and we look forword to share the road with you.