Orient express- Istanbul to London

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  • I’ve just had 9 weeks sabbatical approved for the summer to cycle from Istanbul back to london. Current thinking is to across the top of Greece to the Adriatic, work my way up that to Slovenia, zig zag over the alps, then through Switzerland and see how long I have left for how to get back (rough sketch below). Beyond the alps I can’t say I know much about where to go/ not so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    I’ve done 2k km tours before, although never took anything for cooking and I think for this one I’m going to need to so as well any recommendations on what’s reasonably small and can pack up easy.

    Also thinking about actually moving to spds for this one as I know I won’t be able to take 9 weeks of sliding around in spd sl so what’s good for them?

    Anyone had any experience with Turkish airlines for bike handling? Going to pack it up well here and then fly it out with me and just don’t want to find out it’s over as soon as I get there.

    Finally thinking of moving to a tailfin aeropack from a saddle bag for a little extra volume, solid waterproof and the extra stability. Anyone got any experience with them/ one they are looking to move on

    Cheers all

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  • I rode Amsterdam to Patras, Greece this summer (and back). I would right away suggest picking a nice route incorporating more inland Montenegro and Bosnia especially rather than hugging the Adriatic Coast. You can also include the SH20 Road in Albania (After popping through some of Macedonia and Kosovo). Sublime. I can be more specific if you like :o) It's some of the most stunning parts of Europe and pretty empty of people. (The short time I was on the coast of Montenegro was the only time I was pretty sure I might die. So little respect for my life)

    Its only my opinion of course but for me these are the interesting parts of Europe, I would then straight line after the Alps if you needed to make up time.

    My Talfin, coupled with the larger of the "mini" pannier bags was on the rear of my set up. It worked flawlessly right up until I got back across the channel on the home leg when an inner frame bolt gave up which I bodged and then both bolts holding the struts on completely shat it on my very last day descending back into Edinburgh. I informed Tailfin, they didn't give me anything but did assure me the new pack frame I was buying to replace it was now stronger. I've no real complaints tbh. I wanted a light set up that I could remove easily when I wanted to bomb around unloaded and it did the job great.

    I used XTR SPDs with, hear me out, Shimano AM9 mtb shoes. Very comfortable, easily stiff enough, can walk around all day if you like. Would definitely use them again. They are chunky, if you get hot feet (is that a thing?) then you're going to be hot. It didn't bother me even in 44 degrees. Basically any shoe that is comfortable that you would be willing to walk in, if you had to or wanted to.

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  • I rode slowly to Instabul with my partner, over six months, ending in November 2022. I'd agree with the above, definitely go inland Montenegro and Bosnia, lots of really good quality, pretty quiet roads, and welcoming people. Croatian coast was a nightmare in summer with traffic and too hot.

    We went along the Greek Aegean coast towards Turkey for a bit but found it boring so headed to Bulgaria. The Rhodope mountains were a trip highlight for me, there's a Eurovelo route and takes you into the top of Turkey. From there it's about three days to/from Istanbul and there's a cool warmshowers host along the way.

    Also really enjoyed Slovenia, the Soca valley in particular was beautiful. In general, we much preferred inland mountain to coastal roads.

    We boxed the bikes and flew home with no issues, with Pegasus airlines.

  • Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

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  • Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

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  • Would deffo echo some of the above re the Croatian coast road. My TCR route last year took me along a long section and it was pretty horrendous for the most part and I actually got hit by a guy in a RV. Lots of tourists and generally bad driving so would really avoid there. That road aside I found Croatia amazing and the roads were pretty good for the most part.

  • Slovenia is fabulous.

  • Find all the early (TCR4 and below) TCR routes, reverse them and then avoid all those roads. Should make for nice riding :)

  • Been thinking about doing something similar in reverse some day. Want to trace Patrick Leigh Fermour’s route (he walked it in the mid-thirties) up the Rhine, across Austria, then down the Danube east. He never made it to Constantinople though, ended up on Mt Athos hanging out with monks. Think I’ll pass on that.

  • I googled that last night having read the first post on this thread. Nick Hunt's Walking the Woods and the Water website has links to the Google Maps route he took, retracing PLF's steps. Worth a look.

  • Ooh thanks so much! Read them on and off over the last few years, was vaguely aware that someone had re-traced his route but hadn’t discovered whom. Brilliant

  • No worries. I've been considering doing something trying to re-trace the route by bike for some time, but just wondering when I'll ever get the chance.

  • I know the general logic is to start here and fly back but thought flying out means I get a bit more freedom of where to spend time as I won’t be worried about making that final flight home. Even crossed my mind to head to Bilbao if I had time and get the ferry back but that might be a bit of a stretch.

    Definitely a lesson learnt here about avoiding the Croatian coast, listen to the ones who braved it so I don’t have to.
    Other than lake bled in Slovenia I don’t really have any other knowledge of places so can start to join up these recommendations.

    Good to hear some pro words for the tailfin as well. It’s pricey but does solve the problem. Anyone ever used anything like a cranktank as well? Looks like a good way to help manage the heat which will probably be my biggest rival.

  • get the chance.

    You don't get chances, you take them.
    -Great Filo-sopher hippy

  • I just finished reading https://www.traversa.co.uk/ which was introduced to me by a cyclist I met coming back on the train from Glasgow who'd blogged about cycling his cross-Africa route. Not quite related to orient express but another walk -> cycle story.

  • Slovenia has everything.

    Bled is class, its pretty busy with good reason.

    Lake Jasna near Kranskja Gora, if you get to Bovec then take the Vrsic Pass to Lake Jasna and Kranskja Gora. Would be lovely.

    But Bled and Jasna are not really on the same route north.

    I didn't actually cycle through Slovenia (but I've been 9 times over the years, its my favourite)

  • flying out means I get a bit more freedom of where to spend time as I won’t be worried about making that final flight home.

    Ooh you’re good.

  • A must do is Zabljak to Pluzine in Montenegro, through the Durmitor National Park, from there I would go to the border at Hum and into Bosnia.

    Im getting carried away remembering everything.

  • LOL, not if you've got kids.

  • Shkodra Lake was also a highlight in Montenegro/Albania. Really good route on the west side.

  • You were a couple of months ahead and much faster than us, but think it was something you wrote in another thread that made us go the Hum-Pluzine route, so thanks!

  • Ah cool, good to hear! :)

    How insanely beautiful is that border?

  • That’s on the route list then, anywhere else I’m all ears.

    Also for crossing the alps I know I want to do stelvio but other than that not too sure where to go. I’ve heard good things about lake como so maybe there but other than that not sure. I’ve had a trip around alp d’huez before so don’t really want to go there so thinking zermatt to Lausanne?

  • Someone else will know a lot more about Alpine mountain passes. By that point I was straightlining home from Bari, Italy and I crossed over at Passo del Sempio/Simplon Pass as it was one of the easier ways over and it was not far from Morzine (I was popping in for a few days)

    But if you find yourself on the Italian side of the Alps and want an "easier" way over, Sempio was pretty decent, quiet and I dont think there are any ugly Alpine passes. Just various degrees of traffic.

  • I'm quite capable of ruining my own life. I don't help from children :P

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Orient express- Istanbul to London

Posted by Avatar for yepre @yepre