Published: November 25th 2010November 15th 2010
The Jordanian, the Syrian and the Serb
It took me sometime till I got to idea that I should complete my AIESEC cycle and do an internship somewhere, while always hoping to get something in Iran, I was pretty much excited when I got accepted for Ankara, and get the opportunity to learn Turkish and explore nearby countries which usually I won’t have the opportunity to visit, such as Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
To save money – which now I think was a very wise choice- I took the bus from Amman to Ankara, not really a bus all the way, I took a shared cab from Amman to Damascus, it costed me about 9 Jordanian Dinars (JD) to get to Damask. on the down side of this sharing a cab all the way to Syria is smocking, Of course regardless of anything they assume that you are fine with smoke and chocking every 10 minuets as one by one they start to smoke.
I traveled in the car with a married couple, the man being Syrian and the wife is Jordanian, they were nice except that the husband is a heavy smoker, lucky me.
When presented and cramped with such a small segment of different society you notice the small disparities between them, although Amman and Damask are 4 hours apart (2 without the boarder mess) you could see in the sardine can the small differences in the accent and some habits, for when I was offered some snacks from the the Syrian guy he gave me 3 pieces of chocolate, immediately his wife told me to give me more and how rude it was of him to just give me 3. True, when it comes to food and hospitality Jordanians are more generous and wouldn’t let go of you till you get a good share of whatever they got, even if you are full and what they got makes you want to vomit.
On the other hand, the man was so delightful, smiling and throwing jokes every now and then, while his wife had a grumpy face (a dragon face), like mine, at most I try to hide this and keep smiling when needed but the Jordan gene pops out quite often.
The Jordanian crossing was very smooth and fast, it didn’t take us much time to pass to the buffer zone, unfortunately it was so slow on the road that it took us almost 2 hours to get to the Syrian side, it seems like earlier today someone was trying to smuggle a hell of a lot of stuff to Syria, he was scared and ditched the car right in the middle of the buffer zone, thank you whoever you are for making me endure a 2 hours smoking frenzy.
Nevertheless, we arrived to the Syrian side, got searched, stamped my passport, exchanged some Syrian liras, and took off.
As we approached Damascus, you can see the lights filling the sky from distance, a huge city compared with Amman , it harbors about 4 million people.
Just before 9:30 PM we arrived to our destination, and now I needed to fix a ride to the Bollman bus station (بولمان) in Damascus, my ticket to Ankara via Antakya was at 10 - I was able to book it 5 days before my trip, the company that I used was called Nur, a Turkish one - so there was not way I would make it on time, I took a cab and of course he tried to cheat me by saying that the fair is 1000 liras which is damn too much, it should not cost you more than 200 liras to get from anywhere in Damascus to the Bollman, plus there is no way for any taxi to be unaware of its location, it is like a land mark in Damascus with buses going every where in Syria and other nearby and neighboring countries.
I arrived at the Bollman at 10:15, the bus was gone, but the good thing is that they have a bus to Antakya almost every hour, I had to pay 10 Dollars to change the tickets, still not sure if I got cheated, but I was glad just to find another bus. But if you think the cheating streak ended, well think again, when I was going on the bus, one of the employees which was in the office when I arrived and asked for a new ticket approached me and said “Ah, my boss just said we need 10 more Dollars for the bus and it turns out not to be enough, so can you give it to me before you get on the bus”. Of course I knew it was an attempt to get some money, I told him that he should tell the bus to wait and I will go pay in the office, he looked strained and told me that it is ok and they forgive me with the money and there is no need for me to pay and that he likes me so he will cover for me amount, just because he likes. How stupid does he think I am!.
So, an advice when it comes to Syria haggle the price at any point, it is not an expensive country and it shouldn’t cost you much, even the bus fair was cheap, costing me 30 Euros from Damascus to Ankara, if you removed the additional 10 Dollar fee for changing the ticket.
The bus to Antakya was filled with people from Syria, Jordan, Turks, and one guy from Turkmenistan that was on a Russian business visa and staying in Sochi.
On the way I heard so many arguments between Syrians and Lebanese about Lebanon and the Syrian role there, once in a jiffy an old Jordanian couple would turn and have a quarrel with 2 Lebanese guys going to Istanbul over Palestinians in Lebanon, a long list of nonsense gibberish.
But the most common topic or lets say moaning evolved around a Syrian guy that is talking English rather than Arabic to communicate, now he says that his mom is Scottish and that he is not a holder of the “Scottish” passport. But who am I to judge, I don’t care, neither should anyone.
After 7 agonizing hours we arrived to the Syrian Boarder, took us some time because there were some Yemen's couple, I think they were diplomats and it took them ages to get done with their papers, as soon as we got to the Turkish side there was a massive search by the customs, they confiscated so many packs of cigarettes and alcohol, good that I was too cheap to buy anything, good thing though, this meant that we have about 2 hours till we get to Antakya.
Sunshine, lollypops! we arrived to Antakya, almost everyone there speaks Arabic, mostly because everyone there is originally Syrian, I were hoping to see the sea but sadly it is not Antakya that is a shore city as I’ve hoped but it is a city called Iskenderun, ah well that is ok at least I am half way there.
When we arrived we had to check in for the connective bus, almost everyone was going to Istanbul except for me going to Ankara, I was happy, no more arguments more sleep for me, as I was searching for my passport to give it to the people working in the office and as I was searching in my folder, my Serbian passport was visible, I heard someone say “Jesi iz Srbije bre?.”, meaning are from Serbia bro?. What a small world this is, his name is Alexander and he was touring the middle east and now returning to Serbia on bus via Istanbul.
it was 7 Am and my bus to Ankara was at 9:30 Am, others going to Istanbul had to endure a much horrible waiting time till 2:30 Pm, I was lucky this time. So to pass time Alex from Serbia, the Syrian guy – who doesn’t speak Arabic- and me sat in a caffee had some strong Turkish coffee.
The Syrian guy said that he is an active member of Couch Surfing, he is going to stay with a guy that is offering accommodation in Istanbul, pretty neat but if I was the host it would be hard to control who or what you might get, but the more you get involved the more people indorse you and therefore you are more credible.
Any way, as we were talking, the Syrian suggested that we commemorate this meeting of total stranger who know just about what the other told about him self, with a picture since at the bus station in Antakya.
Still got lots of miles to go, paid for my coffee, took my bags and hopped in the bus heading to Ankara, looking forward for some adventures.