The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized!

on a bicycle from France to Istanbul

Traveling by bike? What a strange idea! For example, why it takes 1 month and a half, last Summer, to arrive in Istanbul from France whereas it only takes 3 hours by plane… or an instant thanks to telepathy (you know what I mean?) 

Some anecdotes in order to try to understand…

In Austria, along the road, we meet a farmer with whom we discuss a little bit: our trip from France, our desire to reach Istanbul, his difficulties to earn enough money. He talks to us about difficult times and finishes warning us about what to come:

“The Slovaks are less likeable than the Austrians and… always keep  an eye on your belongings!!!”

In Slovakia, where nothing wrong happened to us (!), the people we’ve met never stopped warning us about dangers to come in Serbia:

“Drivers are pure crazy, you can see crushed dogs everywhere and above all… always keep  an eye on your belongings!!!”

In Serbia, where nothing wrong happened to us (except meeting very open-minded and cool persons), we are kindly warned about incurred dangers… in Bulgaria:

“All the drivers are dangerous, the roads are narrow and above all… always keep  an eye on your belongings!!!”

In Bulgaria, where nothing wrong happened to us (except meetings with very open-minded and cool persons – they know who they are), we are kindly warned about incurred dangers… in Turkey:

“All the drivers are irascible, the dogs are generally ferocious and above all… always keep  an eye on your belongings!!!”

Then, the arrival in Turkey… We’re both still alive and we didn’t faced the terrifying perils which people promised us.

The first sentence uttered by the person who hosted us was:

“Well, the Bulgarian roads, not so dangerous?”

Just one conclusion: ignorance leads to fear, fear of the other, fear of others.

To ride a bicycle in Istanbul is a fascinating and… so dangerous experience! In this megalopolis, a cyclist does not exist. Buses, cars, trucks overtake even without deviating off their line. Only the noise of a horn makes us really, suddenly and deeply, understand that the driver took into account the disturbing element we are. By dint of being brushed once, twice… ten times… fifty times and running the risk of falling at every moment, the tension goes up, goes up, goes up. It is necessary to act!

A bus brushes me so close that it throws me off balance. This is the good one! I sprint, zigzag in the traffic, and am about to catch it! Shit! It goes away again! No, it has to stop at a red light! I arrive just near the driver. I look at him, he doesn’t look at me but his window is open;  I shout out as loudly as I can…  in French. Anyway, nothing would have come in another language! “Connard!” He looks at me, incredulous; he does not understand! It doesn’t matter, I enjoy this little personal useless victory. However, a bus driver now knows that some cyclists ride in Istanbul!

During another bike trip, in Italy this time, I had decided to ride to Bologna to assist a DIY gig of Tragedy (yes, in bike we crust or… in crust, we bike!). Memorable gig in a memorable place with memorable persons! I was like hypnotized. The following day, long trip between Bologna and Firenze through the mountains range of the Apennines. The weather was cold, the road didn’t look particularly beautiful, wedged between hills and a motorway, and, nevertheless… it looked like ecstasy! While pedaling, you аре always “floating” a little bit… on two well-inflated tires! Well, that day, I’ve floated all day long, even deeply than when I had floated the evening before. Bike as a sensation amplifier…

Before entering Bulgaria, after a 50 km ride, we stop on the central square of Negotin in Serbia. The sun strikes us, we seek the shade. In front of a church, a band plays some typical Balkan rhythms. A baptism is celebrated. The one after the other, the guests, astonished by our loaded bikes, come to discuss with us. Some are admiring, while others circumspect, some others nearly seem to be envious… Whereas everyone went back to the celebration, an old man approaches us. He doesn’t speak any language but Serbian, we don’t speak Serbian. We understand he wants to offer us something to drink. Politely, we refuse, he insists. What should we do with a glass of alcohol under that heat whereas a long road is waiting for us to Vidin? He insists, insists again so that we accept his offer. With his short perky steps, we look at him moving away. We are now expecting  him to come back with rakia… and, finally, as happy as possible, he offers us… half a bottle of Coke!  

Come back in Istanbul.

The guy who’ve hosted us propose us going for a night bike spin through the city. Yippee! Even if  the traffic is less dense, the first hundreds of meters are still so dangerous. Then, gradually, the good reflexes come, we slalom, zigzag, turn, overtake, howl, slow down, accelerate… Delightful!!!

We decide to follow the Asian coast of the Bosphorus. The night is so dark and now we ride by 6 am. A delicious feeling is growing: the road is ours! Like a small critical mass! We pass under the lighted bridge that links the two parts of the city, we go on pedaling, pedaling… drunk with fresh air, freedom, drunk with sounds: tires hissing on the asphalt, brakes squealing, chain jumping from one pinion to an other…

Now, we are under the motorway bridge. The goal of the ride is nearly to come. Stop in front of an insignificant shop window: it is there, in front of this tiny shop, that we will taste the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul! The way back, moment of pure delight, will end in the most beautiful way… at 3 am: with a small glass of tea tasted along the Bosphorus, the lights of the languid city right in front of our eyes. 

Your turn to leave now, isn’t it?!!

Written by Richard. The author resides in France and loves bikes & punk. Communication’s more important than consumption. So, feel free to send an e-mail to: [email protected] (in English, French, Italian or Esperanto)

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