Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Turkey: Traveling Between Mountains and the Sea and other Interesting Things- Trabzon, Turkey-May 17,2011

“This feels right”, I told Joe, my hitchhiking partner from Luxembourg, as we got off the truck that brought us from Trabzon into Samsun through the Black Sea coast. “I feel this really is enjoying life; the right moment and the right place”.

We had just started a two day hitchhiking journey to get from Trabzon, close to the north east border of Turkey into Cappadocia, in Central Anatolia. The direct way was 667 km, but our group decided it was better to split the journey in two stages; stay the first night in Samsun (337 km from Trabzon) and then from Samsun-Nevsehir (453 km). I joined this group of three European volunteers (1 Lithuanian girl and two boys, Luxembourg and Estonia) that were working in Georgia, which I met where I was staying in Trabzon. They had planned to travel to Capadoccia by hitchhiking and staying with local people through an online traveling club called Couchsurfing, where locals offer a couch, or advise to travelers visiting their city. [Trabzon-Samsun-Valley of the Fairy Chimneys-Sivas-Giresun (not shown)-Trabzon]

We arrived safely at our destination, after two days of travel. The views of the towns of Goreme and Urgup in Cappadocia, in the Central Anatolian region were something I have never experienced before. This place is unique; a result of volcanic eruptions more than ten thousand years ago, transformed rocks into chimney like formations. In the Bronze Age, it was home to Assyrian populations. The first Christians hid in underground cities like Derinkuyu, with over 8 stories down to escape the persecution of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century B.C. It was also one of the most important places during the spread of Christianity. [Image from the internet, you will know why later in the post, Goreme, Cappadocia]

Our hosts were great. Couchsurfing and hitchhiking are an alternative way of traveling. You get a taste of the real life by meeting lots of local people. The main thing for hitchhiking is to have a good map and to be patient…..very patient, and positive. You never know what you are going to get, or where you are going to end up. It was relatively easy to hitchhike, mainly with truck drivers. We usually did not wait more than 10 minutes between rides and people were very welcoming. While hitchhiking, in trucks going as far as Uzbekistan, Iran, or here inside Turkey, I realized how small the world is and how far things and people can travel. I have delivered stones for construction, flowers and supervised a road construction; we even met with the major from the Kavak municipality, part of Samsun, when we hitchhiked with a civil engineer. [Image from the internet, you will know why later in the post, Urgup, Cappadocia]

I have been in Turkey for a month now and I have not paid for any accommodation, always staying with local people. I even got a free hotel room since one of my hosts worked in a hotel. I have met so many different and cool people, hosts and travelers. I have tasted the country’s different flavors, the Turkish Kurdistan, the Black Sea region and the Central Anatolia –of course not everything- the beauty, hospitality and diversity of Turkey are unique I have enjoyed the hospitality of Kurdish, Uigur hosts, and Turks from Arab descent. In all these days I have been treated with great respect. I have eaten the most delicious pastries and danced to the sticky rhythm of Turkish and Kurdish music.

Looking out the truck window, I could see the different green tones accompanied by white tops of peaks far away. We are driving around a small road surrounded by mountains -it didn’t look like a small road on our map-. There are no houses or any other cars or human beings around, just us and the immensity and beauty of the landscape of Şebinkarahisar, a town which was one of the few locations where Armenians actively resisted the Armenian Genocide.

We were dropped at the Şebinkarahisar Otogar and started to walk. It was impossible to hitchhike from there. A car stopped and with my beginner Turkish, I managed to understand that the guy would take us to a better place where there would be more trucks. Yakub, our driver for that moment, took us several kilometers away, and pointed to the mountain, where there was an old church. Then, he left us at a cross road from a quarry, where there were supposed to be a lot of trucks coming. A guy offered us to take us to the bus station, insisting there were no trucks, but we wanted to wait. I guess he was right; there was no one there for a long period of time. I kept thinking that we shouldn’t have left the first truck which was going to Erzincan, but the truck had some problems so we got off and kept going. We took another car for one kilometer or so, and kept waiting. After about one hour later, waiting in the cold, an old car with four young guys stopped and confirmed that they were going to Giresun, 112 km away. We couldn’t believe it; I thought that no one will ever stop in that very small and curved road. We continued on the curved road for about two hours. Our young driver played loud Turkish dance music and I couldn’t help but to laugh at all this craziness, while looking out the window to the beauty of the landscape. I could still see snow at the peak of the mountains. Our car hosts invited us for tea in a lokanta by the side of the road. Later they bought some cakes, chips and juice.

We made it safely into Giresun, trying to figure out how we got into that small and almost impossible to hitchhike road. We were about to take our last hike into Trabzon, about 150 km from Giresun. I wanted to go to the toilet and I saw there was a place by the side of the road where cars couldn’t see. I jumped through the grass to one big rock and all of a sudden I fell. I tried to incorporate, realizing that I have twisted my foot and could not stand up. I yelled to Viljar, my traveling partner and he came quickly, he put some spray and scotch tape to support my injured foot. He carried me out of the rocks into the main road, where he managed to find a truck. Viljar carried me again, running with all the bags, then I managed to hold myself to the side of the truck, jumping in one leg until I got up in the cabin. Counting my bags to make sure I had everything with me, I realized I had lost my camera, probably where I felt. That hurt me more than my twisted foot!! The driver stopped for tea and I stayed in the truck. A guy brought me a cup of tea.

Next day I was very sad, wanting at all costs to go back to Giresun to look for my camera. The one detail was that besides I could not walk, I wasn’t exactly sure were the car had left us, and the exact place where the camera could be. I looked at the map and was more confused about the exact place. I burst into tears, tears of frustration, tiredness, anger… My working instrument, I had lost all my pictures, my memories. I was so angry! How could this happen to me? Since I got into Turkey, (a month now) I had been sick, first a bad cold, followed by a urinary infection-which made me spend one whole day in the hospital in Nevsehir, now I twisted my foot and lost my camera…..The only thought in my mind was that I wanted to be home, safe and to see my family.

One of my flat-mates came and said something in Turkish, not literally, but something like this: Everything happens for a reason and something better will come out of this. I calmed down and stopped blaming myself and everyone else. I had to get over it, rest and try to get better as soon as possible. Maybe something better will really come out of this…