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The journey starts with a two week-long train and bus oddyssey, getting us and our bikes across Europe to the edge of the Asian continent. Our choice of not taking the plane cost us time, but was paid back in experience.
– 30 June 2007: Departure from the Lycée Les Bruyères (Sotteville-lès-Rouen) in France, through the streets of Rouen accompanied by other cyclists and friends, and on towards Paris.
– 1 July: Arrival in Paris - Gare du Nord.
Read "La grande messe avant le départ du Dévélotour Asia..." et "Le Dévélotour Asia est en selle". – 2-3 July: Night train to Berlin, then Warsaw. – 5 July: The train journey across Europe continues, with three changes - Vienna, Budapest, Sofia - all the way to Istanbul.
Read "Cycle-railing it across Europe...".
Turkey: One wheel in Asia
Despite our short stay, we were swept away by the charm and dynamism of Turkey in the midst of a presidential election campaign. Smiling, hospitable people, and a surprisingly well developed country with strong traditions.
– 6 July: Arrival at Istanbul Sirkeci train station; "forced" to stay 4 days in Istanbul (yes!!!) to wait for our Azeri visas.
Read "One wheel in Asia" and see Turkey: Eastern faces looking West". – 10 July: Crossing Turkey by bus, up to Kars. – 11 July: Across the Georgian border by dolmus (mini-bus), then bus. Night in Tbilisi. – 12 July: Night train to Baku.
Azerbaijan: Post-Soviet visions of doom Our impressions of Azerbaijan are unfortunately limited to Baku, a petrol boom city that remains one of the most polluted on the planet and still bears the scars of Soviet decadence.
Although much of our time was spent hunting down embassy personnel and dealing with the unhelpful staff at the ferry terminal who refused to sell us tickets, there were a few memorable encounters too with simple, hospitable people. The rest of the country is said to be much more pleasant to visit than the capital.
– 13- 18 July: Looking around Baku and the industrial wasteland port of Sumquait.
Read "Paris-Baku: to fly or not to fly?" and "Baku: petrol, pollution and a warm welcome". – 19 July: Finally embarking on the ferry, a Yugoslavian vessel with dubious safety features, for a 30-hour crossing of the Caspian Sea - read "Crossing the Caspian Sea: the Ferry of Chaos".