In between other adventures I went for a 3300km bike ride  from Holland to Istanbul.

This journey was different from any other, because for the first time I hadn’t researched anything.

I knew of many long distance biking stories, so I didn’t worry at all. I would be cycling through West and Eastern Europe, and I didn’t foresee much trouble.

Boy, did I learn my lesson. Not preparing lead to many challenges that could have easily been avoided.

The entire first week, while cycling through Germany, I stressed about the upcoming mountains in Austria. As I finally got closer I found that I could simply follow the Danube through northern Austria. This meant I could bike on a level surface almost the entire way to the Black Sea.

As I made my way through Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Serbia, I started hearing rumors of vicious street dogs in Romania.

I tried to buy some pepperspray in Serbia, but failed. Instead, I filled the map case on my steering wheel with rocks, and hoped to defend my self with them.

A few days into Romania the first packs of wild dogs started chasing me down the poor street of Southern Romanian villages.

I threw rocks, and yelled at them, it didn’t work.

The only thing that seemed to help was to outrun them. Which is quite a feat considering the amount of weight I was carrying on my bike.

Eventually I learnt the counter-intuitive truth.

You have to get off your bike. And chase after the dogs yourself. This is quit scary, especially when the saliva is dripping from their teeth. But as soon as you do, they take off and leave you alone.

Eventually I made it into Bulgaria, and to the Black Sea. From there I just had to follow the coast line into Turkey and down into Istanbul.

After a long day of biking I reached the Turkish border. Unfortunately I was told I couldn’t enter, because I didn’t have a visa.

Since I hadn’t researched anything, and just took off on my bike, I also forgot to google if I would need a visa for Turkey.

I incorrectly assumed that Europeans could enter Turkey without a visa, or at the very least, that I could get one at the border.

I was told that I could only apply online for a visa, and that I would have to go back into Bulgaria to apply for it.

I talked to the border control agent for almost twenty minutes until he told me to go to section 56, where I could pay cash, and maybe get a visa.

Finally some progress, the only problem was, I didn’t have any cash on me.

At section 56 the man kept pointing at the “cash only” sign. Since he didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Turkish, I couldn’t make him understand that I didn’t have any cash. I showed him bankcards, be he just kept pointing at the “cash only” sign.

After about an hour of waiting the man came out, and told me there was an ATM machine in a building about 200 meters away.

Half an hour later I could finally pass through border control. As I did, I saw a group of almost ten Turkish trying to flee the country.

They were caught before they got anywhere.

I wonder why anyone would try to cross a border illegally through highway checkpoints. If you’re that desperate, wouldn’t you cross it somewhere far away from the highways? Far away from dozens of border patrol agents.

Istanbul is such a huge city, that it was practically impossible to ride a bike into the centre. Or at the very least it was very dangerous.

In hindsight it was interesting being confronted with these unexpected challenges. Most of them could have been avoided by researching it before hand.

Next time, I’ll be doing extensive research like I normally do, and avoid any unexpected dangers. On the other hand, adventurers of old didn’t have acces to this information either, and they still ventured across the globe.


 

I tried to buy some pepperspray in Serbia, but failed. Instead, I filled the map case on my steering wheel with rocks, and hoped to defend my self with them.