Jun 292010

Katowice – Sofya – Istanbul

So, determined as I was at the end of June 2007 I packed my bike alongside my clothes, toiletries and books. It travelled all the way to Sofia in the luggage hold for just 20 zlotys (5 euros!) and then from Sofia to Istanbul for free. At that time I took the driver by surprise and he simply failed to come up with a price but no, this is how things are in Turkey. Drivers occasionally complain of lack of space and no wonder why – officially there’s no baggage weight or size limit and when I look at the passengers I sometimes suspect they use buses to move houses or transport goods for sale. Anyway, somehow drivers always find a way to cram in a bike or two.

A useless bike

Umut, my boyfriend, picked me up from the Bayrampaşa, the main bus terminal, an hour and a half’s ride from home by underground, tram and ferry. He kept tapping his forehead and pointing at tailback traffic on the roads, narrow pavements, high kerbs. For one hour and a half we didn’t notice any cyclist, which made a slight dent in my self-confidence and enthusiasm….

What was worse, the job that was supposedly waiting for me here had been given to someone else. I didn’t fancy getting toasted in Istanbul without money or a chance of finding another employer quickly so I decided to leave Turkey for a couple of months and look for a job somewhere else, that is – Scotland (for sentimental reasons).

How bikes multiply rapidly

My bike stayed on the balcony in our flat in Acıbadem – unused, useless. Umut took pity on it and went for a ride here and there, most probably to work (well, it only took him 25 minutes to walk to his office, so cycling saved him 15-20 minutes one way, a bit more sleep in the morning). He must have enjoyed it because when I came back there were two bikes in our flat. Also, in these three months, Umut had managed to surpass me in technical competence, bought a manual of mountain bike techniques and even taught me how to ”attack” these high kerbs (however, hasn’t mastered the more advanced moves until now but let’s not lose hope).

Istanbul shrinks

As far as the lost job opportunity is concerned – nothing to cry over. The Hollywood company distibuting B class movies did not survive as long as one season on the Turkish market. How do I know? Istanbul can be surprisingly small, especially when it comes to expats. A year and a half later I met and befriended Patrycja who had been employed in my place. She misses cycling too and promised herself to buy one as soon as she comes back from holiday. Well, one week has already passed.

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