Hitchhiking in Turkey: road stories #2 – from Trabzon to Erzurum
Our way-too-long stay in Trabzon
The first thing to do in Trabzon was meet our couchsurfing host. This proved to be a lot more difficult than you might expect. Many phone calls and a lot of waiting later, he approached us on the central square before quickly whisking us off to his friend’s house.
Our suspicions started rising about our new friend quite quickly. Firstly, he had ‘Mein Kampf’ tattooed on his arm. Secondly, please revert to number one. He was strange, there is no denying it, and it is fair to say that we were not the most comfortable in his presence. After spending the first night at his friend’s house, he then dragged us to a shopping centre, us paying for transport as he had ‘lost his wallet’, where he had a job interview. We then proceeded to sit in the food court for an hour until he returned. His addiction to WOW (World of Warcraft) was one thing, his living off couchsurfers who paid for his food by insisting they cook, another.
Fortunately, his home was also a centre for many couchsurfers so whilst there, we met some really nice folks. Hanging out with Rolling Potatoes or Aleisso & Binh, an Italian-Vietnamese couple cycling from France to start a new life in her country, was a highlight and we certainly enjoyed his French chef skills. It was also the first time we met the Swiss Elias & Nadia who would become consistent companions over the next month. We also had the opportunity to visit a family and have dinner with them which was a fun experience. Like every family in Turkey they had a huge fridge and interestingly they spoke the local language of Romeika, a descendant of Ancient Greek. The cooked the local favourite of Kuymak.
We had originally come to Trabzon as it used to be the place to go to get an Iranian visa. But as the progress wasn’t so seamless (you can read all about it here), we filled our days the best we could. A visit to the Aya Sofya was nice, Ania enjoying a photo walk with Elias was her highlight, whilst I got to know the next participant in our Cultural Relay Project -Gokhan who would teach us the game of Mancala in exchange for learning our personal favourite card game Cribbage.
Time was dragging though, and our host and his hygiene levels were becoming a sore point. With this dragging us down, we made the decision to go and visit the tea production centre of Rize, to escape the feeling of powerlessness. The hitchhike was quite a simply one, not wanting to walk a long distance to the edge of the city like we normally do. We merely headed down to the main road running along the coast and through the city. 30 minutes later we were steaming towards Rize with 2 men who kept shouting down the phone and nearly running over dogs, which upset Ania greatly.
written by: Jon
Our little escape to Rize
Rize was a nice break from the stress and boredom we had experienced in Trabzon. We’d arranged our stay with 4 maritime students who offered to host us in their student apartment.
As soon as we arrived in Rize and got out of our last car, a couple of guys approached us. They turned out to be our hosts, Yunus and Fatih, on their way to the shops so it was a great stroke of luck to meet them just the instant we got into town. They turned out to be a jolly bunch who took us on a day out round town the next morning.
While hitchhiking around Turkey, we have realised that their towns and cities are generally much bigger than ours, so what to them is a small backwater like Rize, to us is quite a big town of 100,000 inhabitants.
Rize is pleasant enough with a little castle atop a hill, where we drank some tea looking at the Black Sea below us and the rolling green hills in the distant where tasty Turkish tea is grown (Rize’s main produce).
After 5 relaxing days in the great company of maritime students, who taught us who to cook some prime dishes of Turkish cuisine (including gutting fish, which we did for the first time), it was time to head back to Trabzon and pray that our Iranian visas were ready.
The hitchhike was very easy and took only one lift with a talkative Turkish language secondary school teacher.
Our second stay in Trabzon and hitchhiking to Erzurum
We had to stay in town for another 5 days to wait for the visa to be processed and in the meanwhile we went for a day trip and hitchhiked in the snowy Pontic Mountains to the Sumela Monastery and back.
We received our Iranian visas on Friday and on Saturday we were back on the road again, hitchhiking inland, surrounded by snow-topped mountains and hoping to cover the whole distance before it gets dark, so that we wouldn’t have to camp in the snow. The first lift were three guys who bought us some coke and biscuits to keep us going and drove us to Maçka, a town we had already explored on the way to Sumela a couple of days earlier.
From there we were taken onwards by a guy in a pickup truck whose car broke down in the middle of nowhere, so he had to get back to the nearest town, leaving us on the road.
We didn’t wait long, until another car pulled over and the driver turned out to be a university English professor. His name was Tunc and he was on his way to Erzurum to visit his ex-wife and son. We spent a great time, talking about Turkish politics, especially the Kurdish matter; eating traditional Turkish sweets resembling sausages called Cevizli Sucuk, and exchanging music. Tunc introduced us to a Turkish rock band called MFÖ and in exchange we gave him “13” by Blur. Reaching the top of a mountain was the highlight of our journey and we were able to see nothing but rolling snowy hills beneath and couldn’t believe this kind of landscape was Turkey!
written by: Ania