Hitchhiking in Turkey: road stories #1 – from Ankara to Trabzon
Our stay in Ankara
We started our 11-month hitchhiking adventure across Asia in Ankara, where we flew into from London.
We arranged to stay with a lovely Turkish guy, called Özkan who worked for the customs section in the Ministry. He showed us how to make Turkish tea and we taught him how to drink wine using a traditional Spanish porrón in the first part of our Cultural Relay Project.
After spending a couple of days with Özkan, we met our dear Turkish friend Can, who we hadn’t seen for 4 years, and who just returned from his military service.
Every man is obliged to do his military service in Turkey and its duration depends on whether you have a university degree or not (therefore you can imagine, many people go to university nowadays). For those without a four-year higher education degree, the conscription is obligatory for 12 months. For those who finished university, it could be either 1 year as officers or 6 months as privates. And if you have around 6000 Euros, you can buy your freedom and be exempt from the national service.
Seeing our friend was great although he had lost a lot of weight in the army and seemed less happy than when we last saw him. He arranged us to stay at his friend’s house where we had a great time, drinking tonnes of alcohol and dancing with gym weights.
We stayed in the capital for a week, waiting for our Uzbekistan visa and on the day we got it, we headed north towards the Black Sea coast, to the city of Samsun.
Hitchhiking to Samsun
We knew that hitchhiking in Turkey would be very easy as we hitched across the whole country for a month four years ago. Our first driver stopped after about 30 min and promised to drive us quite a long way. Before we had even covered one third of the planned distance together, his car had a puncture and we had to stop. As we were getting ready to change the tyre, another driver stopped by to give us a hand. His name was Biröl and he gave our driver some compressed air and then took us for another stretch of our journey. We stopped for lunch and although he didn’t speak any English, we had a good time together.
He left us at a petrol station from where we started to go to the main road. Before we even reached our hitchhiking spot, a bus driver in an empty bus had stopped next to us. We explained that we were hitchhiking and weren’t ready to pay, but he only laughed and told us to jump in. He spoke some broken English and explained he was on his way to the next town along in order to meet his Georgian girlfriend, get drunk and go dancing. He invited us to join them and promised we could sleep in his bus afterwards but because we had already organised couchsurfing in Samsun and our host was waiting for us, we had to reject his offer.
Soon after we got out of his bus it got dark. We never like hitchhiking in the dark but because we had to collect our visa in the morning we didn’t leave early enough and we had only a few hours of daylight. As our host was waiting for us, we decided to hitch on and reach our destination although we were still 200 km away.
The road was completely dark as there were no street lights at all, so we put on our head torches, attached our tent light to our bags and prayed that it would be enough for the speeding drivers to see us.
Finally, we got two more lifts: one with a lovely young couple who gave us some chocolate bars to cheer us up, and another one with a guy who offered Jon a prostitute, maybe with the same intention.
written by: Ania
Staying in Samsun
We arrived in Samsun late and the groups of people singing, dancing and creating a racket with drums was certainly a little confusing at first. Later we found out that it was a common ceremony for the poor young men who have been enlisted to the army, but to us it seemed like a strange protest or a football crowd making their way to a game.
Our couchsurfing hosts Nanouk & Sinan were really welcoming people, and after being fed upon our arrival we played a German board game together at which I was thoroughly beaten into the ground. I would like to say that I took being destroyed well, but I don’t like losing.
I thought that Samsun was an interesting town, if a little lacking in sights and architectural beauty. The next day we went for a walk down the hill into town, ending up walking along the sea front staring out to the blue horizon swallowing the setting sun. There are worse ways to spend your time.
Our last night in Samsun was spent cooking our hosts a traditional English meat-pie and taking another board game beating, the time at Carcassonne. I put up more of a fight but I think I am always doomed to losing.
Hitchhiking to Trabzon
The hitchhike to Trabzon was relatively easy, although slightly slower than we were expecting. After 2 cars we had reached the other side of the pleasant looking seaside resort of Ordu, a truck driver who had just finished praying took us on a knuckle-clenching ride, in which I think he only touched the brakes to let us off before our final lift with a van driver on delivery. Space was at a premium before he made the drop off and we spent a very uncomfortable 2 hours with all our positions on our laps. Numbness fails to cover it. Once he dropped off everything in the back, though, things got easier and we rolled into Trabzon an hour or two after dark…
written by: Jon