Istanbul – a megacity with flair

Written by Sebastian on July 20th, 2011. Posted in Allgemein

Sebastian: We wake up a little bit later than planned (no wonder after the consumption of the day before) but get ready quite fast – not always an easy task… After a short pit stop at the most expensive gas station so far (1,70/l). The highway is nothing but straight and at 150km/h we empty our tanks faster than expected which leads once again to a delicate “lack of gas situation” that we handle with care (rolling down the hills as usual) and success. The wind also picks up and driving as straight as the street is build turns out a real challenge. After a while we cross the greek border and enter Turkey over a bridge. Where we are about to arrive is indicated with huge flags at every corner. Our motorcycle papers are checked 3 times, we buy a visa and after 15 minutes we are officialy in Turkey!

A toll station for free!

At an even more expensive gas station right after the border we stop and a truck driver starts talking to us. He spent some time in Germany and speaks some German. After around 20 seconds he invites us to have a so called “cay” which means tea and after enjoying it and chatting a bit he explains us the way to our hotel in Istanbul. There was something with the asian site and a bridge that we have to cross – we thought to have understood everything and went on… only later we will realize that we didnt. Shortly before Istanbul we have to pass a toll station but do not have any clue how. Since its open and the driver behind us very nervously indicates us to go on, we take this for a “yes,please drive for free on the turkish highways” and continued to reach Istanbul after around 50km. Suddenly Martin screams in his microphone that we have to take the next exit, fast fast! No problem, being a spontanious person I take a hard right turn and we are off to the district that we believe we are looking for. So far so good. First problem, the toll station at the exit is closed. Not good. I find one open passsage and go for it, triggering an alarm for the whole station. Martin, in the meanwhile, tries to get by the bar and gets stuck with his case. Luckily the driver behind him opens it for him and he is safed. Driving away we enjoy this situation but our hearts stop at any police sirene for the next hour.

Also, still laughing about our first illegal action, we realize that we did not find what we were looking for… So the asking begins and around 3 hours of asking driving asking driving we do finally arrive at the hotel at midnight. Three things to mention about these 3 hours: 1.) the people here are amazingly helpfull and friendly. Some spent 20 minutes with us explaining the way, others drove in front of us to lead us the way and others indicated the right way with hands and feet because of language incompabilities. 2.) all of this didnt help us until we realized that we were misinterpreting our map. As it seems it was just a small map of the center which looks at first site exactly like the big map of Istanbul. So, when we showed on the map where we want to go, we didnt actually indicate the right place… stupid us! 3. Last but not least: the turkish drivers make you believe that Albania is a beginners course for drivers. Just incredible at what speed cars pass you left, right, under and over… even trucks were amused to honk us from the street (how should we know that we use THEIR lane???)


The first day in Istanbul we spent in the hotel, happy to have a working internet connection and updating the blog. The next day yet another colleague of Martin (his network of colleagues really helped us to get started into this trip) picks us up to bring us to the Trenkwalder office. Here we discuss a couple of things concerning the Iran visa and our problem with the Nikon camera. We get to know Alaattin, an employee who will turn out as our “ghost out of the magic lamp”. He contacts Nikon Turkey to solve our problem much faster than we could have done it and drives us around in Istanbul. This is, by the way, a horrible job because traffic is as mentioned frightening and during the day veeery slow. Our first trip to the citycenter takes 1,5 hours… Aytac, a colleague of Alaattin comes with us and shows us around the Hagia Sophia (an ancient church “converted” to a mosque by Sultan Mehmet in 1453 after having conquered the city) and the Blue Mosque. Aytac also explains us that Istanbul consists of different districts which have all of them their own center and that people hardly leave their area due to the slow transports. Reminds me a little bit of Paris :). Getting from the asian to the european site is a desaster if you take the car but a nice trip if you decide to take the ferry over the Bosporus. By the way, around 30-40 years ago the asian part of Istanbul was kind of a vacation and weekend area. Due to the strong growth this changed naturally and today it is an intensively populated area. Istanbul counts in total around 20 million inhabitants… thats a lot 😮

After a while Alaattin joins us again (he left us for checking out the Nikon store) and after having visited the palace of the Sultans (which, at one point, offers a beautiful view over the city and the Bosporus) we decide to stop the sightseeing and to go to a nice area around the Taksim tower to have a drink and to eat something. As it turns out this area is really a hotspot and tons of people see it the same way :). The mainstreet is completely crowded but all the sidestreets are a little bit more quiet and you find nice places to eat on a terrace or to enjoy a waterpipe. After doing exactly this (yes, I smoked a Shisha, believe it or not), we decide to go home. On the way we get ourselfs some muscles with rice – tasty tasty yamm yamm :). The trip home takes us just 2 hours and at 2.00 am we arrive at the hotel. Pour Alaattin and Aytac, they had to work the next day and have still to drive home… we felt a little bit guilty 🙁

The next day our first stop is the KTM Dealer to make a check-up of our bikes. The next stop is not planned for over 10.000km, so better save than sorry. Alaattin organized that for us too of course, and after he gives us the good news that our passports with the long desired indian visa have arrived I am sure: he definitly lives in a bottle somewhere and only comes out to help us. With him we also visit a nice area (Kadiköy) on the asian site where people like to go out. Here its a little bit more chilled out than on the european site the other day, but the atmosphere is still great. The same night we go out to have dinner with Karl,the CEO of Trenkwalder Turkey and enjoy good food and a couple of bottles of wine.
Bosporus round trip

New day new programm. Karl told us that we have to go on a Bosporus roundtrip so thats what we did this day. Alaattin brings us to the boat and leaves to pick up the camera (which turned out not to be ready yet). The boattrip is indeed a nice thing to do for any tourist and takes around 2,5 houres. The view on both, the european and the asian sites of the town are beautiful and at the end one can even see the black sea opening up. Along the river we find beautiful small vacation houses (definitly for the rich people!) in quite some european architectural style. At the end, yes guess who, our magic buddy picked us up and had yet another good news for us. They found Martins SIM card which he had lost the day before… lucky bastard as always (did anybody find MY glasses???). On the way back we had the feeling to be either on the Donauinsel or on the Höhenstrasse close to Vienna. The street leaded us through beautiful forests and close to the shore of the Bosporus where people where swimming and hanging out in the sun.

Back in the center we go to Nikon and have to pay because the warranty doesnt seem to be valid outside of Austria (wtf???). Now we have to see how we can get the money back for the reparation of a 2 weeks old camera… Afterwards we visit the famous bazar of Istanbul to be disappointed. This place has been calmed down completely (the people are not allowed to scream and offer there products this way). It reminds us of an american shopping mall only in a nicer ambiance. At night we take some pictures of the famous sunset at the Bosporus which is indeed a highlight.

The next day we check out and pick up our bikes before going to the flagship-like store of KTM ( to get some more pieces and to the other one (where we had done the check-up) to have them put on. Thanks god the owner of the first shop leads us the way (again somebody leading us the way, thats incredible!) to the latter – we would not have found it by our own…

After 5 days in Istanbul we can say that we experienced a great, vibrant city and amazingly nice people so far. Thanks also to the whole Trenkwalder team who supported us in many ways and was a great help to us. We do not like to leave because this city has somehow taken control over us. But what the heck, we want to travel the world so on we go direction Cappadocia… and this will be yet another great story!