Having last been in Istanbul 15 years ago the change in the city is huge. Most noticeable was the increase in prosperity which was evidenced in the quality of the cars on the road, the cleanliness of the city (the lack of litter in the streets would put London to shame) and the fact that even the locals were drinking Starbucks at £3 a pop when you could buy a traditional Turkish coffee for less than a third of the price.
When I was last there the old city district of Sultanahmet was almost the sole preserve of backpackers and you could still find the odd die hard hippy hanging out in the famous Pudding Shop looking to hitch a lift out east to Shangri La or Kathmandu. Not now; the area is awash with bus in bus out tour groups being whizzed around the Blue Mosque Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace and both the Pudding Shop and Grand Bazaar are sanitised versions of the bustling traveller haunts of old. That said, Istanbul is still an exciting city to visit where the old and new sit comfortably alongside each other.
On the biking front perhaps the biggest surprise was how few there were out on the streets – you’d see more in ten minutes in London than in two days in this city on the banks of the Bosphorus. From what I did see, Harley Davidsons were the most popular brand of big bikes and adventure bikes were the most popular style. There was almost a complete lack of sports motorcycles, though with the traffic chaos that is this city I couldn’t think of one reason for owning one.
Here’s a selection of bikes in Istanbul;
I spotted three Suzuki V Stroms – all 650s
A Honda Varadero taking in the atmospher of Istanbul
This was a surprise – a KTM 990 Adventure
A BMW R1100 taking a little shade in the mid day heat
This was a Greek guy who had rode his V Strom 650 up to Istanbul for the day. He was big into touring and hoping to get to the UK sometime over the next couple of years. I explained to hime what waterproofs meant.
A 650cc Honda Transalp in Sultanahmed