Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I hate people

I have to admit it, I'm usually a very bad travel mate. I really mean it, so don't travel with me unless you're totally crazy. In recent months my conclusions after even not really prolonged times of traveling with someone are mainly connected with... how much I hate people (many thanks to these ones who didn't make me think this way). I was blowing my top traveling with people who couldn't hold up their end, making me responsible for planning the route, looking at the map, speaking with the drivers, paying attention to where we have to get off the car or change the direction. People who have to be hammered in the most evident things. People who are dependent and incessantly have to be babysat.

But there's also one more reason. I cherish freedom and creating my own happiness too much. I'm too independent to spend 24 hours a day in a bigger companionship than just myself. I prefer marching to the beat of my own drum rather than puzzling over the needs of other people or adjusting to their plans. When somebody's chivvying me along, I delight in lingering in a place reasons they'll never grasp. Many of my fondest travel memories were made while traveling on my own. So far all of my hitches in Turkey were done alone. Sometimes it worked to my advantage, sometimes I wished I were with someone to make me feel more secure.

Last week my housemate Monique and I were thinking about going out somewhere out for the weekend. "She'd make a good travel partner," I thought. Well-traveled, also in countries where nothing is comfortable, nothing is organized and nothing can be expected, she didn't seem to be a person who would nag if she had to lumber a long ride in a dirty truck or cry because nothing is stopping for 30 minutes. We sent some couchsurfing requests and the first reply came from Safranbolu - a UNESCO-listed town I visited just for less than one hour on my way to Ankara last year, but which I yearned to see again.

After Turkish classes and a short visit in our organization, we caught a bus to Yaşamkent, from where we planned to start our hitchhiking. To our surprise, the first ride materialized even before reaching the spot. While speaking a mixture of English and Turkish, a man standing next to us said "excuse me for interrupting, but that's actually the best way to get to know the city (I was describing my unfortunate attempt to hitchhike to Eskişehir, which, after taking the wrong bus, ended somewhere near Batıkent)." He turned out to be a retired army officer and we spoke with him until getting off the bus, after which he said he would take us to a good place to hitchhike from... and it was already on the outer beltway of Ankara. The first driver who stopped didn't inspire out trust, so we rejected the ride, after which he persistently stayed in our lay-by and even got out of the car... to try to get to know us a little closer. Not the best place for advances; we shooed him away and waited for the next car... which was driven by a Turkish-German owner of a casino in İstanbul and his not any less frightening father. One of the positive sides of traveling with someone is the feeling that you're safer than being in the situation on your own, and that was definitely one of these moments. The mafia guys ignored our request to leave us in the exit direction Safranbolu and dropped us on a gas station, from where we had to find a way to get to the opposite side of the highway, jumping over fences and stumbling upon bones of some unidentified giant mammals.

It was not so much time left until the dusk, so we wanted to catch any ride, which this time was a truck. The driver dropped us at the crossroads Karabük-Samsun, after which another truck took us to our final destination.
On the way back we were nigh of getting into some trouble with the police. Their car was parked close to a place we hitchhiked from, and while trying to score a ride, one of the policemen was staring us, as we were up to no good. After a while he started walking our way, so we only hoped that any car would stop and save us from a chat with the authorities. As if on our beck and call, a truck stopped, and we could gasp with relief (already in Ankara, Monique found this article. Who knows, maybe for these policemen we were also workers looking for a job).

Running away from the police turned out not to be so easy. What we escaped in Karabük, reached us in Gerede. "Where are you going?" the policeman asked us in English. "Ankara'ya," we replied. "Come with me." We looked at each other, not knowing if this was getting into some trouble or actually getting some help. He left us in Gerede, right where the old road to Ankara started. I took this road two months ago on the way back from Istanbul and wanted Monique to see how beautiful it was. Although snow was gone long ago, the verdant hills weren't any less charming than Alps-like scenery.

About Safranbolu itself, words fall short to describe how beautiful it is. I could only say it's my best discovery in the west of Turkey. The town is like a white island in the middle of verdant ocean. After almost four months of living in the capital and visiting mainly bigger cities, my craving for nature was fulfilled.

Many thanks to our hosts, Hakan and Emre, for taking their time to show us their town - and to Monique, who made my un-lonely travels enjoyable again.


The first of Safranbolu

Çay in a mosque

I want a garden like that!

So communist-like

The old road to Ankara

The place above in wintertime

Our driver told us this awkward statue represented a melon. I though it was a fig...

Ankara'da tekrar hoşgeldiniz!

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