I know you are all anxious to hear about my arrival on Taksim square. How did it feel? What did I think? Did I get from it what I expected? I do not know the answers on all of these questions yet, but let me try.
Its temting to start at the Turkish border, Monday. It was on a hill top, freezing cold when I set up my tent. As I was gathering grass and hay to isolate my tent, I found a 100tl. Enough for two hotel nights, I thought and decided to spend the last two lone nights of my trip in a hotel. Tuesday I succeeded to find a hotel in Vize. Wednesday I cycled 120km to end up in a very busy kind of suburb with no hotel whatsoever. The next one was miles away I was told. The Turks are friendly and tried to get my bike and cart on a full bus. I had tell them twice or thirce there was no way of me taking a bus. I was on bike.
Outside the town the road got bigger, busier and darker. No way I was reaching a hotel tonight. So the last night of my trip was a real adventure. I pitched my tent next to a main highway going to Istanbul. Cars, busses and lorries rushing by and dogs around me trying to defent their territories. No sleep for me this night…
At half past 6 I decided to move. I just pulled my cart back on the road when I saw a Turkish cyclist approach. Mustafa cycled to his work every day along this highway, what a hero! He guided me along the major roads into the city. It saved me a lot of time and effort of finding the right roads. The going was easy. A big paved shoulder along most roads left enough room for us. As we turned right to have some day, the road was so slippery I crashed and almost ended up under a big bus. The elbow is a bit blue and purple, but nothing serious.
After breakfast I was on my own again. I wanted to arrive on Taksim square. The easiest way to come would have been from the Golden Horn up, along the Istiklal street, Istanbul’s main shopping street. But I had visioned myself coming from the other side, so planned my approach accordingly. I cycled along the far end of the Golden Horn, going steeply up and down as I approached and left the water. I cycled streets where no tourist ever comes. I saw the city like I’d never seen it before. Millions of people living there lives between massive concrete buildings with views of nothing but endless concrete buildings. Still, the vibe had something magical, something relaxed, something vaguely reminding me of the Turkish countryside. Here however, no ‘Hosgeldinis‘ or ‘Merhaba‘ ( welcome and good day). Cycling in the city is fun and dangerous. I enjoyed myself even when I had to cycle the last 100s of meters against traffic to reach my destination.
As I cycled on the Taksim square, I saw the flag, the statue, the people, simit sellers, ppolice, tram. It was all there. My mind was blanc. What was there to think? What was there to feel? This was it. This was where I set out for, where I laughed for, cried for, walked for, cycled for, this is why I pushed myself beyond my limits. This was where I would know if what I wanted to achieve, was really achieved. I dropped my bike against the small white fences around the grass and set down. As I did in May this year. Back then I cried because I hated this city, I was angry because my girlfriend broke up with me, for this city, for a guy living in this city. I was angry at myself for what I had done on my turn in the past, or for what I had not done.
Now, I cried again. The tears were a relief. I was happy, the square was mine. ‘Eat this, Istanbul!’ Was what I thought. I got what I came for. Father and brother were there with me. The reunion was great! Photos were being taken and we took photos of and for other people. That’s how tourist life on Taksim is.
As I am typing to you from my hotel bed, I feel a bit sad as well. No more biking today. Or tomorrow. I booked a ticket home. I go with my father and brother Sunday morning early. I will arrive by train in Dieren and symbolically walk home from there. It will be around midday. All those who want to walk with me and drink a cup of coffee at my parent’s place are invited to do so. Specific time will follow.