Arriving in Istanbul represented the end of my Silk Road adventure and it was an incredibly emotional experience for so many reasons.
I first travelled to Istanbul ten years beforehand when it was my first time in the Middle East. That was an overwhelming visit where I was mesmerised by the incredible history and architecture of Sultanhamet. I was also overwhelmed by the strong interest the Turkish men had in me, a young blonde Aussie girl!
On that trip I fell head over heels for the country of Turkey and it’s capital.
This time I arrived in Istanbul after having followed the ancient caravan route of the Silk Road for close to four months. A journey I had longed to do for a many years and that required a LOT of planning.
The Silk Road evokes images of caravans of camels, caravanserais, bazars and teahouses. An ancient trade route stretching from Ch’ang-an (now Xian) to Constantinople (now Istanbul) that threads through some of the world’s harshest landscapes. Extreme deserts. Spectacular mountains. The name itself is full of romance, intrigue and adventure.
It was a trip that saw me travel from the dazzling lights of cosmopolitan Shanghai, China…
…..across the mountains into Kyrgyzstan…..
….through the unique and unusual Uzbekistan…..
…..onto the even stranger country that is Turkmenistan…..
…..on to incredible Iran….
…..and finally through Eastern Turkey to reach Istanbul.
I arrived in Istanbul having travelled close to 13,000 kilometres completely overland as a solo female!
It was a massive undertaking.
I had tracked down many visas and spent way too much time in embassies. I had navigated my way through some of the most interesting border crossings in the world. I had survived the crazy driving that is so prevalent in Central Asia.
I had seen so many wonderful things – the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors, stunning mountains and lakes in Kyrgyzstan, the brilliant blue-tiled buildings in the oh so romantic sounding Samarkand and Bukhara of Uzbekistan, weird and wonderful buildings in Ashgabat, deserts, deserts and more deserts, and beautiful mosques of Iran.
It truly was an EPIC journey!
But what completely blew me away when I arrived in Istanbul was that I had done it! I had travelled the Silk Road completely overland on my own.
The sense of achievement was incredibly intense but there was also a shadow of sadness. My big crazy trip that I’d dreamt about for so, so long was over! How was it possible that my Silk Road adventure was at an end?
But thankfully returning to Istanbul meant I was in one of my all-time favourite cities that was now incredibly hip and happening. I love, love this city!!
The majestic Aya Sophia paired with the elegant Blue Mosque.
Nearby the craziness that is the Grand Bazaar where I could go crazy buying the gorgeous colourful lights and bowls.
The sensory overload of the Spice Market and turkish delight everywhere in the city.
The waterfront of the Bosphorus dividing Europe and Asia.
The oh so hop neighbourhood of Beyoglu.
And I was extremely thankful that my travels and adventures weren’t over yet. From Istanbul I planned to continue travelling overland all the way to London and then onto South America.
If my epic journey had finished in Istanbul I know I would’ve felt so full from the Silk Road experience but also empty for the future. What could compare?
Travelling the Silk Road has to be one of my ultimate adventures. A trip that continue to pulls at my heart and mind. A journey full of many challenges but an adventure I can’t ever imagine not having done.
My Silk Road adventure is a part of me and always will be!