john d dec17

John Durley

Once or twice a year, my friend John Durley and two or three of his friends, all in their 70’s, pack their bikes and fly to some far country and bike the back roads for several weeks. When they begin in the morning they don’t know where they will sleep that night, where or what they will eat, what adventures are in store for them. And in rural China, India, Tibet, for example, those are major challenges. Challenges to be overcome perhaps by signs or sign-language with surprised or bemused country folk.

Below, are a a few paragraphs written by John from Istanbul, along with a couple of pictures of him and friends, towards the end of their most recent six week trip from Kiev to Varna in Bulgaria, mostly by pedal power, perhaps 50 or even 100 kms/day. I think that they are an inspiration for all, not just for those of us in their age group.



In Shabla, Bulgaria, we tried to look inside a small, old Orthodox
church, but it was locked. As we walked away the priest came around a
corner and invited us in. He explained the wall of icons with an
opening for the altar and when we left I gave him a Canadian flag
pin. After a short pause, he called for us to wait and returned with
a tiny picture of an icon for each of us.

In Istanbul we took the ferry up the Golden Horn, a long inlet. Off at
last stop and saw the oldest mosque (1453) in Istanbul and surrounding
“private” tombs. Definitely out of the tourist zone.

Another day, we visited a cistern built in the 600’s, one of two that
held water for the city. You go down some stairs and come to a huge
underground warehouse with water and over 300 columns supporting a
roof of domes. The columns are about 80 feet high and when the
cistern was in use, the water would have been nearly up to the top of
them. There is a walkway now at the bottom of the cistern, just above
about a foot of water. The area is well lit and very much a world
unto itself.

We are staying in the ‘old city’ which has no highrises, so you quickly
forget that metro Istanbul has 16-18 million people. It is hard to
believe, as it is not circular, but more like some plates of spaghetti
around irregularly-shaped bodies of water. Istanbul is the only city
on two continents (Europe and Asia), and when I went to the airport on
the asian side, I was taken aback by the number of highrises during
my 50 km ride.

There are two markets in the ‘old city’ that are must-sees: Spice
Market and Grand Bazaar. While more and more of the vendors put fixed
prices on things, in reality everything is negotiable. I asked three
vendors the price of identical scarves and was quoted 35 lira, 20 and
10. Another vendor said to me:
“How come you say you want to buy and then say - ‘I’m just looking’?”
I tried to explain that our shopping patterns are complicated, which
further confused him. It takes some adjusting for Westerners. We were
offered discounts in restaurants without asking; one near our hotel
offered a free pre-dinner drink, which we gladly accepted!



Tags: John Durley