Back in Europe again

When we left Iran last Friday, it felt like we closed another big chapter of our journey. By entering Turkey, we left Central Asia behind and homed in on our final destination: Holland. We originally planned to travel to Georgia after leaving Iran, but although its capital Tblisi prominently features on our road map on the hood of our car, we decided to skip this part of our journey, to be able to arrive in Holland a little bit earlier than originally planned, because of family reasons.

Although we regret not visiting Georgia, we very much were looking forward to the Istanbul part of our trip. As frequent readers of this blog already may have noticed, we love cities and city life and Istanbul has always been pretty much on top of our wish list. We heard so many good stories from friends who visited this city on the Bosphorus, we just had to make it part of our trip. The more so, since good friends of ours who are living in Shanghai were in Istanbul for their holiday just at this moment and we wanted to meet up with them to spend some days together and catch up.

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About 1800 kilometers west of Tabriz (our last stop in Iran) Istanbul is a long drive though, but we decided to drive that distance in two days. We first stayed for the night in Erzincan, a small village in eastern Turkey, where we found a nice hotel with a roof terrace where we had a very good meal and nice breakfast outside with a good cup of coffee, which we enjoyed so much, since it was a long time ago.

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The next morning we left early for the final leg of 1050 kilometers to Istanbul. After encountering some pretty funny speed limit signs along the way, informing us about the local maximum speed of 82 kilometers an hour, we made good progress since the roads in Turkey were the best we had so far. Smooth two or three lane tarmac all the way to Istanbul. After about 11 hours we arrived in Istanbul, where found ourselves in a huge traffic jam in the last ten kilometers, which took us an hour.

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Driving across the Bosphorus felt like a watershed moment, since we actually entered Europe. The fact that we saw a lot of Dutch license plated cars also made us realize we’re not that special anymore. In every country we’ve been people were curious about our journey and wanted to see the road map on our car, but that part now is clearly over…. Although still 2740 kilometers away from Amsterdam we’re nearly home. At least, that’s how it feels to us.

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Tired but relieved we arrived safely at the hotel where our friends Jasper & Elly were already were waiting for us outside. We had a drink with them before we headed to a beautiful roof terrace overlooking the Bosphorus for a late night dinner. It was great catching up with them, especially since they were also at our farewell party in Shanghai. We finished the night off with some drinks until deep into the night.

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The next day we walked across the bridge to the old part of town and visited the very impressive Blue Mosque, drank some tea at one of the million little terraces, had a nice late lunch and a fantastic dinner in a crowded local bar street. We love Istanbul. Not only is it a hectic, busy, historic soccer loving place, it just feels good to be here.There is so much going on here, the river dividing a city in half is always a big draw to us, people here are friendly and the city life is very energizing. After one day already we heard more blaring sirens than in seven years in Shanghai for example and we saw more outdoor terraces and bars than in the last two months together.

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We’re going to stay in Turkey for a couple of more days before starting our final leg to Amsterdam. It may sound strange, but after more than two months driving we pretty tired and in need of some relaxing days. We’ve now driven almost 18.000 kilometers which means we drove on average 225 kilometers a day for 80 days continuously. The places we’ve visited were spectacular, but we slept almost every day in a different hotel, guesthouse, B&B, ger or camping site. Packing and unpacking the car every night, long border crossings, we’re pretty much done with it and are looking forward to stay in one place a bit longer again.

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I know it sounds spoiled and of course we are, but driving every day a couple of hundreds kilometers is pretty tiresome. But don’t be fooled: we would not have missed a single day of our fantastic trip for the world and encourage everyone to do the same one day!

One Response to Back in Europe again

  1. Nico en May

    Welkom in Europa! Wij vinden het fantastisch dat jullie deze lange reis gemaakt hebben. We hebben al jullie verhalen op de voet gevolgd. Geniet nog lekker van een paar dagen Istanbul en heel veel succes met het laatste deel van jullie reis! Groetjes, Nico en May.

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