Hitchhiking in Turkey: road stories #3 – from Erzurum to Doğubayazıt

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Learning to dance in Erzurum

Traditional Erzurum tea house. from Erzurum to Doğubayazıt

Traditional Erzurum tea house

We reached Erzurum in the late afternoon. As we had visited the city 4 years ago, we didn’t really feel the need to do any sightseeing, so instead our host Mehmet took us for tea in a traditional Erzurum merchant house.

Later on, eager to participate in our Cultural Relay Project, he showed us how to make traditional Turkish coffee. In return, Jon cooked his speciality – an English meat pie which we ate Turkish style, on the floor.

It was a very intense day, but we wanted to spend as much time with our hosts as possible, since we were planning to stay in Erzurum for only one night and we’d got on really well right from the beginning. So instead of going to bed, we used our time learning how to dance the typical Turkish dances, Horon and Hoptek. It was a lot of fun, but as you can imagine we weren’t good at it in the slightest.

Mehmet, his flatmate and their friend, who we visited for breakfast the following morning, were all academics doing their PhDs in agricultural economy. Very hospitable and open people, it was such a shame we couldn’t stay with them for longer, but due to the delay in getting our Iranian visa, our time in Turkey was running out and we had to rush to the border.

Hitchhiking to Doğubayazıt

After breakfast, Mehmet drove us to the road and as soon as he disappeared back into town, a group of nosy kids approached us.  Hitchhiking in non-touristy places always draws people’s attention, but having a big group of onlookers decreases your chances of getting a lift, so we had to say our goodbyes and walk on a bit.

The first driver to stop was an old man in a rundown car, which was surprisingly fast and before we realised, we had reached the next town along the road. As we needed to find a toilet, we left the road and walked into town, which caused some commotion with the local folk. I don’t think they’d seen a tourist for a long while.

Soon after getting back on the road, we were scooped up by three jolly men. As we were driving off, Jon realised he was not wearing his glasses and in panic started to explain that they needed to stop the car as he would have to go back to that toiled to look for them. Initially, they were very confused by his screaming and flapping his arms, but they soon understood what we were trying to tell them and stopped the car. As Jon was getting out, one of the men realised the glasses had been on the floor all along, so there was no need to go back and we could continue our journey. This small incident made everybody laugh and we drove off in good spirits. They were playing some Turkish music, so I pulled out our piece of paper where I’d phonetically written how to say “would you like to exchange a CD?”.

CD takas etmek istermisin? – said I, and the driver nodded his head very content at my Turkish.

As the music he was playing was by a female pop singer, we thought we should give him something matching his tastes. Thanks to our sponsors, Amoeba Music from Hollywood, we had started off with a set of CDs that represent English, Polish and Spanish music, across all different genres. We weren’t sure if they’d like our choice, but the Spice Girls were the only female pop musicians we had in our selection, so we pulled out their first album (the exact same one as I had as a 12 year old girl) and handed it to the driver.

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want…” screamed out from the car speakers and we all burst out laughing. We never found out if they really liked it or if they were just having fun, but they turned it up even more and shaking our heads to the rhythm of the music, all spiced up, we whizzed past snow-covered villages.

Hitchhiking in Turkey. from Erzurum to DoğubayazıtThey left us two hundred kilometres from our destination at the edge of a small town. Only a couple of friendly dogs walked past and we had to wait for a long time before we saw any cars drive past. They didn’t stop so we continued waiting, hoping we wouldn’t have to spend the night there.  Eventually, a truck appeared on the horizon and it was a lucky truck for us. We jumped on board, happy to be warm and comfortable again.

As the sun was setting, we could see pink Mt Ararat dominating the snowy landscape and we knew we were getting near Doğubayazıt, only a stone’s throw from the Iranian and Armenian borders.

We said goodbye to our driver at the city limits, from where we had to hitch in the dark to get to our hosts’ place. The man who gave us a lift was a friendly Kurdish guy, who didn’t forget to mention we were now in Kurdistan.

– “Spas” (“thank you” in Kurdish) – we said as we got off the car, right in front of our hosts’ block of flats.

written by: Ania

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