Three and a half weeks of fresh fruit, amazing hospitality and at least 10 cups of tea a day. Yes, welcome to Turkey!
For the first time so far during this trip, we have spent enough time in the same country to pick up a tiny bit of the language and to get almost addicted to both the food and the culture. Maybe it has to do with that the tourist season is more or less over, but Turkey wasn’t what we expected. It was much better!
People have given us so many presents that we barely know what to do with it all!
Also, we finally caught up with the warm season.
No more freezing nights for a while! Asia is entered.
We crossed the border from Bulgaria, or, as the Turks call it, “Bulgaristan” with a man who was on his way to a car mechanic on the Turkish side. As soon as he dropped us of a few hours outside Istanbul, we realized two things:
1. “India” doesn’t mean anything in Turkey. A sign saying “Hindistan” makes sense, though.
2. There is not much of a need for that sign since people stop their cars before you stick your thumb out.
The first guy screamed that we had to “Hurry hurry, go party party, jump in, now!”, but since he wasn’t driving towards Istanbul we decide not to join in.
Istanbul was an amazing experience, though we actually didn’t spend more than one night there. We felt like we would have to stay a few weeks to really get an overview of this huge city, and at the moment that didn’t really suit our equipment or our wallets. What we brought with us from Istanbul is a picture of east meeting west, with an impressive infra structure and a modern touch.
Somebody said it was supposed to be more or less impossible to hitchhike around Istanbul.
The hard part is to figure out where to go and to get out of the city center to a better spot.
The easy thing is there is always somebody doing this for you, since people always stop to drive us to a perfect place or to give us some advice. This time it was a very nice couple. We are sorry to say we lost the map you gave us where your names were written! Anyhow, they drove us to the ferry crossing to Yalova, taught us some useful Turkish and bought us ferry tickets. Thank you so much!
From Yalova we tried to reach Ayvalik on the coast, but somehow we ended up in Izmir. We are very happy we did so, because that’s how we met our new friend Ali, who invited us to stay one night with him and his parents. They didn’t speak any English and our Turkish was obviously not that impressive. But don’t underestimate the power of body language…
When we finally made it to the beautiful archipelago of Ayvalik, the lovley weather decided to change and it started to rain.
Heavily. And belive us, we mean HEAVILY. Our tent would have been gone by now if we didn’t manage to move it to a not-as-wet-spot. Later on we saw some reports on the national TV about the monster floods, and realized it wasn’t just us being Swedish chickens ;) .
In other words, it was a few very wet days in Ayvalik, but we still made new friends.
One of them was Öcal, a fully convinced atheist who invited us to his home after meeting him at a local birtday party (which we ALSO got invited to – love Turkey!). We spent a few amazing hours with him, his wife and some of their neighbors.
We drank lots of chai, as usually.
From Ayvalik we went to Bergama, the origin of the parchment. Bergama has an amazing roman theatre witch makes the city well worth a visit.
Our personal experience raised to the sky as we got invited to Ömer, Makbule and their 4 year old son. We had brunch and played games in the mall, went to the coast to stroll around and drink tea (chai, chai, chai!), and later on we spent the evening with the young family in their apartment eating pide, playing guitar and talking about life.
A great time. We hope to see you again, dear friends!
After a quick visit in Selcuk and Feythie and many, many cups of chai, we arrived in Olympos, famous for it’s tree houses.
We didn’t feel paticulary healed after our one night in one of those, but what really healed us was Sima Peace Pension just a few kilometer away. Aynur, who runs this small but very charming guest house is somewhat an attraction herself when she walks up to you every morning just to kiss you and tell you how nice you are and how much she loves you. Or why not go there
just to hear her knock on your door at night to give you a few kilos of fresh fruit? Her parrot is quite cool, too. Aynur claimes people come back year after year. We are not surprised.
If you go to Olympos, don’t forget to visit Cimeras, a little miracle happening up in the mountains. There is some sort of gas sipping out of the rocks that creates a constant fire. Barbeque for free! Just pay attention when you put your jacket down. 50% of us (OK, it was me, Amanda) forgot to do so. But who said a melted nylone jacket isn’t fashionable?
After Olympos we went to Antalya to meet up with some member of the family in which melted nylon jackets are considered really cool. In other words Amanda’s father Ulf and sister Alice who left the darkness of Sweden for a quick visit and some fresh Turkish fruits. A whole little vacation for all of us during 36 hours.
Since our plan was to go to Syria after this, we just had to do one more thing: Succeed with the arrangement of at least ONE Turkish Chicken Dance. It had been very hard all through Turkey because of communication, so we are extremley proud about this one. It is a piece of history.
Our last days in Turkey gave us one more interesting night with a new found friend, Mustafa, who had two Russian girlfriends constantly calling him. Mustafa arranged a little party with us, himself and his brother in his apartment outside Alanya.
Once again, our host didn’t speak English, but our Turkish was now a tiny bit better and we communicated quite well.
It took us about 8 hours to get a Syrian visa on the border, so we had lots of time to reflect over our good time in Turkey.
It is very hard for Turkish people to get a passpost, and no matter how ironic it might sound, this was probably an egoistic win for our individual travel experiences. People have been so curious about us and so keen to invite us to their homes. One guy followed us to our hostel just to sit down on the bed for a few minutes and ask “What is it like in you country?”.
We have not had the same references as the people we’ve met. YouTube was for instance blocked since three years when we arrived, because of a video including some bad words about Atatürk, the father of the nation of Turkey.
The ban was lifted during our stay in the country.
It surely wasn’t the last time we visited Turkey. This is a country where you find a home almost anywhere you go, and a friend in every other person you meet.
Unfortunately we lost the note with all the names of different drivers through Turkey.
We are sorry about this, but we want to thank you all for making our time in Turkey something special.
Thank you very much, Teşekkür ederim!
- The couple who picked us up in Istanbul , drove us to the ferry and bought us tickets to Yalova. THANKS!
- Engin who fixed a cheap rate for us in Yalova
- Ali with family who invited us in Izmir
- The restaurant in Ayvalik where we got to join a birthday party
- Öcal with wife and friends for teaching us about Turkey and for the unbeatable breakfast!
- Zeki & Gözde who picked us up in Ayvlik when we had a loooong walk ahead
- Sedik who brought us to his office for chai and who connected us with Ömer
- Makbule & Ömer who took us for a day trip and dinner in Bergama. A lovley day!
- The police station in Bergama for helping us with the Chicken Dance (though we still failed)
- Greame who drove us from Fethiye and shared his stories with us
- The young man who drove us from Olympos at night and then back when we realized we had gone the wrong direction
- Aynur at Sima Peace Pension, thanks for your love!
- Patrick and Carol who gave us a ride to Antalya
- Mustafa & Mehmet who brought us home and arranged a little party for us
- Ahmet & Mehmet for driving us a whole day AND fixing a hostel for us in Dörtyol
- And, all the rest of you very, very open hearted people who have driven us, laughed with us and provided us with chai.
Because of you, we love Turkey!