It’s the Turkey round-up! Last time we left off at Launch Day +7, so in this blog we cover Day +8 to Day +10!
As is tradition (can we call something tradition when we do it for the 3rd time?), we’ll just drop you a link for our Bulgaria & Turkey Round-up video!
So yea Day +8 actually started in Bulgaria, but I’ve got nothing worthwhile to talk about, so I’m just going to jump straight to Turkey. Well, actually not, on the way to the Turkish border we did come across something funny. We unintentionally ended up on the back-end of a Fiat Panda convoy. Now you may remember that we’ve driven in a Mongol Rally Panda convoy before, and we both assumed we must’ve caught up with them once again, when we noticed that these were all different Pandas. A bunch of Italian boys basically swerving all over the road just so they could take good video. I don’t hate it.
When we arrived at the Bulgaria-Turkey border, we had to clear a Bulgarian exit customs, as well as two Turkish entry customs. Took us like an hour and a half, which honestly wasn’t that bad after the stories we had heard from other rally participants. The atmosphere was really relaxed and we could just freely roam around the place. Mongol Rally cars once again abounded, up to a point where 12 out of the total 20 cars in line had the recognizable stickers on them. I managed to sneak in a quick photo at the Bulgarian border, only to have a scary looking Border Patrol guy tell me not to do it again. I figured I’d comply.
Clearing the border was relatively easy, so we set out for Istanbul. Zerrin, a good friend of Luca’s who had just finished her semester abroad in Groningen, was willing to host us on the 24th of July in the Mecidiye district. Finding some parking was quite the challenge.
Zerrin took us around for some sightseeing and kebab. We couldn’t have asked for anything better even if we tried. First off, the Bosphorus river separating Europe and Asia. I guess the southern bridge is quite decent in size.
We also saw this mosque. No clue what the name is and with the slow internet we get here I can’t really look it up. Feel free to point out to us what the name of the thing is!
Before we go any further though we should mention the flags. As soon as we drove into Turkey, we saw flags everywhere. Flags with such sizes that they covered entire buildings. Flags on the back window of cars. Flags on the top of cars, on the hood of cars, people holding flags manually. Literally, flags everywhere. We hit a traffic jam outside Istanbul because guys were selling flags on foot in between the lanes of the highway. And people bought them. Truly a bizarre scene, all in celebration of the failed coup we assume. Just check the video up top for flag footage, and we decided to drop some photos here as well.
Ever since the failed coup there has been speculation as to who was behind the attempt. I think we may have just found the culprit. As it is with anything, cui bono? Who benefits? Clearly flag and canvas makers. Follow the money. They must have made millions since the failed coup attempt. Was the Turkish coup attempt an inside job to provide job security to flag and canvas workers in a failing sector? It may very well be. If you follow the dots and connect the lines, there really is no other plausible conclusion
Let me take off my tin-foil hat before continuing.
Where were we? That’s right, kebab! And just small portions of kebab, huge plates of kebab!
The best part about it? Apparently Turkish people love dairy products with food. We drank Ayren, a more drinkable version of Yoghurt (basically just watered down yoghurt really), to go with the spicy meat. I loved it. I always drink milk with everything -breakfast, lunch, dinner, anything – and get ridiculed for it all the time (and rightfully so), so I really enjoyed the fact that there is at least one country in the world that shares my dairy obsession.
Lovely. Afterward we crossed the Bosphorus by ferry (which was free in celebration of the failed coup; I guess I should start staging these things if it gets me free public transport), and I for the first time ever set foot into Asia! If only for 15 minutes before getting back on the ferry.
Afterward Zerrin took us to the Besiktas neighborhood and we actually did a beer or two at one of the bars there. Turkish beer, Efes, fresh from the tap (except for he who must not be named who drank from a bottle instead). We don’t have video footage as my camera battery was dead, so the Turkey recap video without alcohol is a little off line! Photo credits to Zerrin.
“Just two beers though, I don’t have a problem” – said every alcoholic ever.
The next morning we went full tourist mode, and Antoine and Coco bought some fancy Ottoman hats! Here’s Luca posing with one as well
Then we visited the blue mosque. A truly impressive mosque, but then again I had never been in a mosque before so that doesn’t mean much coming from me. Antoine said it wasn’t as cool as the Taj Mahal, so I guess that’s a way of saying it wasn’t that impressive. Typical French cynicism.
Since we were in a mosque and my shorts didn’t cover my knees, I had to wear a very fashionable blue knee cover the mosque provided. I also happened to be wearing dark grey socks with orange/pink dots. Lo and behold, the new fashion trend of 2017! Heard it here first!
After visiting the cistern, having Turkish meat balls for lunch, and taking a well-deserved nap in the park, we headed back to pack up our stuff and we drove out of Istanbul at 5ish in the afternoon. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Zerrin already, and I think all of us would have loved to see more of the city before we left.
We drove all through the night and headed straight for a camping at Unye, northern Turkey, right on the Black Sea.
Some coffees and midnight food later, we reached Unye just in time to watch the sun rise over the sea!
We slept up, and in the early afternoon tried to find a canyon in the hillside. Let’s just we got somewhat lost.
When we did eventually find the road, we realized we had to drive at least 20 minutes there and back on bad offroad sand/rock paths, and as one of our cars in the convoy wasn’t performing well, we decided to stop. We got invited in straight away by an elder Turkish woman who told Luca he looked like her son (we used a translate app to communicate. Technology, huh?), treated us to çay, nuts and apples, and we gave her some cigarettes in return. A way more memorable experience than a canyon anyway!
After a Turkish barbecue on the night of the 26th we had to say goodbye to Antoine and Coco on the morning of the 27th. We had convoyed ever since Budapest and I have had such a great time traveling with those guys, but our route takes us into Iran while they are heading for Georgia and Azerbaijan before crossing the Caspian.
We drove some 750km yesterday all the way to Dogubayazit, some 40km from the Turkey-Iran border. We got into town just after sunset, and when we used our maps’ quickest route to the camping, we found ourselves blocked by a military roadblock. The second and third roads we tried also led us to military roadblocks. Not small roadblacks either. I’m talking heavy trucks, machine guns on top, and police shields etc. Pretty tired and antsy, we asked some of the guys at the road block. They were both extremely helpful, showed us what detours we had to take to avoid the roadblocks, and made it easy for us to find the camping! Once there we heard it is common for the police and military to shut down access to certain strategic buildings at nighttime, while they do allow all traffic between places to go through via small detours. So nothing to worry about in the end, but quite an experience nonetheless! This was our view over breakfast. Not bad huh?
Today we’re heading for Iran, and let’s hope we’ll have a smooth border crossing. A team that we know that crossed two days ago were even treated to tea by Iranian border patrol and were asked to do selfies with the personnel at the border crossing. Let’s hope for similar results!
Luca & Abel