Edit Blog Post
Published: August 17th 2015
Many of our encounters with Turkish people were overwhelmingly welcoming. We had been welcomed in camps , on beaches, on boats and ferries by many Turks. In country parts and provincial cities ordinary Turks extended a warm welcome offering fruit and tea. These gestures and conversations showed us the traditional Turkish culture which puts a high value on welcoming strangers. They used what English they had and where they had little or none they chatted away in their native tongue and we knew by tone and gesture that we were welcome. Those who could muster some English were curious about anything “western” and quizzed us about life outside Turkey. Invariably they wanted to know our thoughts on their country.
At the Black sea town of Akcakoca we camped right on the beach and other campers gave us fruit at sunset. The sand ( or gritty gravel) at this part of the Black sea is in fact black.
We bought fuel from a servo. The owner admired the van and allowed me to fill with water ( usually about 120 or more litres). Then while I was filling with water he rushed into his
garden and returned with a heap of tomatoes and then went back to get green chillies. We were embarrassed at this spontaneous generosity and a little relieved he did not fetch any of the water melons we could see in the garden. The fridge is just not big enough for a melon.
It’s sad to comment that a huge proportion of Turkish men – younger men in particular- have a tendency to stare and gawk at any non Turkish female. Perhaps they are just curious about western people. Perhaps they have some perverted view of westerners based on the fantasy land of Hollywood films. When you see how their own women appear so mistreated as to be forced to wear ridiculously unbearably hot clothing in extreme heat and generally treated as something like beasts of burden. The fact that they can not see whatever beauty their women have because of the covering, and social gathering places like restaurants are patronised mainly by men combine to prevent their developing normal social behaviour and conversation skills.
After 3 weeks of crappy food supplies, ( their supermarkets stock mainly products made from olives and wheat) no booze ( shiraz
grapes are sold as table grapes), 40 degree heat, omnipotent smooth as silk approaches from local carpet salesmen and the inescapable lecherous leering stares from Muslim men, we were more than overdue for a change of postcode.
So, on a steamy Friday morning we left Istanbul’s barking dogs, bellowing Mosque loud speakers and that ever present waft of poorly installed sewerage devices. Driving north toward Edernie there is a great freeway which charges a toll. We chose the scenic route instead. Our drive took us along some quite clean and well treed waterfront parkland where Istanbul “puts on the dog” of first and lasting favourable impressions for fly in visitors. Then it was back to reality – endless kilometres of urban development without a tree in cooee. Their urban streetscape includes mostly low rise apartment blocks which have quite ornate decorative finishes interspersed with shopping malls and commercial establishments of every shape and size. We recognise names like KIPA ( a supermarket that sells bugger all, ECO ( fuel stations selling liquid carbon to Turkey’s vast fleet of huffing and puffing vehicles), and Restaurants everywhere. At night the word RESTAURANT becomes code for PUB and that’s where
Turkish men flock to so they watch porn and drink booze while they wait for the morning call to prayer at 5am.
When we get to the border, it seems everyone else is wanting to leave Turkey. After a brief wait we make it to the Turkish exit. The attendant checks us and we go through.
What awaits us is an everlasting queue.
We get in line. There are about 6 lines. We inch forward – one car length at a time. Cars continue to stack on at the end of the lines until the far end of the 6 queues extend out of sight. On the way into Turkey we noticed the queue for trucks getting back to Bulgaria or Greece extended about 7 or 8 kilometres. Today its our turn to wait in line. We continue to inch forward occasionally. Sometimes one line moves just one car length and another line moves 6 or 8 car length while ours stayed put. We turn the engine off. Then we inch forward. Occasionally someone blows their horn. Then a few others try it too. And few more. Its like someone is trying to get the automobile equivalent
of a Mexican wave going. Eventually the horn blowing fades. And we sit and wait and inch forward. Having left Turkey and not yet in Bulgaria, we are in no mans land. There is a duty free shopping mall so Pat goes for a look and comes back half an hour later. I had moved my seat back one notch – so as Skippy had not moved, in fact I had gone backwards in the half hour Pat was away. Pat makes a coffee on the stove and we move forward a bit .This continues for about 4 hours.
Then we go through a preliminary passport control. The polite man there merely looks at our passports – no stamp and waves us on. We move to the next holding area. After a bit we start moving forward again – and then reach a place where we drive over a pit. The underside of the vehicle is sprayed. Presumably the Bulgarians don’t want Turkish crap falling form under vehicles on their side. Then at the next window the attendant charges us 3 Euro for the squirt.
Now we are getting down to business. We get on the end of
one of the queues which would be about 500 meters long. We wait. We inch forward. After 4 hours in the previous queue, everyone is queue trained. In the previous queue, where one car might be slow to move up a car from an adjacent queue would zip into the vacant spot. Now in this latter queue, if a car is slow to move up other drives politely wait where they are and allow the slower vehicle to take its time. We are all here for the long haul. The only interesting thing to do is observe the number plates of the vehicles. Mostly German - Netherlands is next. By the looks of the headgear most are in fact Turks or European Muslims. Germany has long employed Turkish people in its factories and Turks seem happy to let Germans tell them what to do – a relationship which saw German directed Turkish casualties at Gallipoli outnumber British allied casualties 3 to 1.
We inch forward in the queue. This one is short – just one hour and we are through. Eventually we reach the border check – all cars had the boots and other cavities inspected for illegal persons.
The check on our van’s inside took only a minute and we were through.
European twilights in August last to after 8pm. And the twilight was fading when we arrived at our Bulgarian camp ground. A guy at the campground says that its the Americans who are to blame for the long wait at the border. The crossing from Turkey to EU member Bulgaria is like a frontier. A last opportunity to check for illegal immigrants. US influences caused an overhaul of the border procedures. Against a history of widespread Bulgarian corruption all staff were sacked and the campground informer says that the current pay on offer is not enough to attract enough of the right people. So the border remains undermanned – hence the long wait.
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