After more than 2,800 miles in the saddle, cyclist Adrian Bird has completed an amazing trans-Europe challenge he set himself to mark his 50th birthday, raising more than £1,100 for Autism Berkshire.
Adrian reached Turkey’s biggest city on Saturday, 41 days after setting off from his home in Sonning Common, well inside the 50 days he had allowed himself. He is pictured outside the Hagia Sophia museum, which was built as a cathedral and was later used as a mosque.
Along the way to Istanbul, he was knocked off his bike or run off the road by lorries and chased by wild dogs.
In a message from Turkey, he told us: “I made it to Istanbul after a very crazy 48 hours of massive storms, being hit by a lorry yet again, then being given a lift by another lorry driver, but I’m here 2,860 miles later in beautiful Istanbul.
“I feel happy as can be. The brain and body are struggling with the sudden end of ‘sleep, eat, cycle, repeat’, but they will learn.
“Other things I will have to get used to are: not all dogs are going to chase and bite me; I won’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes each night as I put my tent up; I won’t have to wash in rivers and streams; and eating a family-size tub of ice cream as a pick-me-up is okay.
“The journey has been amazing from the start to the finish.
“Among the highs were pushing my bike out of the door on the 11th of July at 6am, the moments I thought and then laughed out loud to myself ‘I’m cycling to Istanbul, crazy old fool’. And Cologne, because it was the first big city I cycled through and stopped. Also Speyer in Germany, because it was my first day off the bike and because it was so beautiful and calm – and getting to the River Danube after a very hilly day.
“But above all, the first cold beer once I arrived at my night’s camp. Be it wild or at a campsite, I still had a beer.
“The downs were the wild dogs in Bulgaria and Hungary, the endless mosquitoes each night, the lorry and bus drivers trying to run me down and the tunnels that just scared the hell out of me – but I survived them all to tell my tale.”
He added: “An odd thing was that before each country I went into, the night before someone would warn me about the place and the people of the next country. This went on all the way to Istanbul, mainly Istanbul, because of what happened the weekend before I left (the terrorist attack at the city’s airport).
“But each country has been welcoming and friendly (but not the dogs), proving that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
“Istanbul’s tourist industry is dead and you can count the westerners walking around on your two hands. I don’t feel unsafe here but it’s a shame this information doesn’t get in the news. No one was really worried about the buses and lorries, which posed a much higher danger to me than Isis.”