Taking a fancy Turkish bus onto a small ferry has to be the strangest transportation method that we have taken on our round-the-world trip so far! I could not believe it when the bus boarded the ferry with all of us passengers, a real deja vu moment of clanging and chaos, reminding us of all the ferry boarding with our camper. Hear again, we were crossing a sea between Europe and Asia as this was apparently the only way to get to Canakkale.
It had been a day of wild and strange transportation, starting with a very scary ride thru Istanbul, sans seat belts, dodging traffic at breakneck speed for no apparent reason, to get to the bus depot in an old van. Yes, I asked him to slow down, but like my experience in Greece, these crazy drivers just smile and tell me its safe. The radio was blasting away in Turkish hard beating rap music at full volume and we went thru some of the worst areas of Istanbul to add to the surreal nightmare.
I breathed a sigh of relief to finally get to the station in one piece. We had bought the bus tickets at a travel agency near our hotel and this was a complementary bus. The only good news about it, was we met a very sweet couple from Barcelona who were taking some time off from law school to travel, who also got picked up in Istanbul and were going to Canakkale.
Bus travel in Turkey is just odd, but interesting and most of the people are Turkish so it seems very normal to them. The attendants serve water in little cup sized containers on a cart similar to the ones they use in air planes. They pass around some kind of lotion that has a strong smell that the people love to put on their hands and faces. They pass out cakes that are individually wrapped and quite tasty.
The scariest part for me is when they poor out the boiling hot tea as they do not do it in the safer fashion which I was taught when I flew for TWA. I kept worrying that someone (hopefully not my child) was going to get scalded to death. Then there are the smoking bus drivers, that always made me very glad that I was in the back of the bus. They also hang up little teddy bears on the windows with suction cups which is a sweet, but kooky touch.
Of course the welcome mats as you entered were interesting and how much they liked to wash their bus when it was stopped for a break. We found it funny that the attendants actually slept somewhere deep inside some dark opening, near the second door, as we saw a few crawl out at one stop.
We enjoyed watching the pretty country side go by and especially loved the millions of sunflowers that we saw. I wonder what they do with all of those sunflowers. It is the most I have seen in my life.
At one point two soldiers with rifles got on with a handcuffed prisoner and sat a few seats ahead of us and kicked out the people who were sitting there. I was dumbstruck and could hardly believe my eyes as I had been on a few Turkey busses and had never seen anything like this. Up to this point, it had been a pretty uneventful, normal trip, but suddenly I was feeling uneasy.
Luckily there was a friendly Turkish man with some kids on the bus who lived in France who was on his way to his mother’s house in Canakkale and he spoke perfect English and French. He explained that this event was highly unusual, that we were near a military base and that the man was the equivalent of our AWOL (away without leave) and they were escorting him back to finish his service. It seemed odd to me that they would do this on a public bus, but such is life and transportation in Turkey I guess. I worried about the rifles going off.
We got into some good conversation with our friends from Spain and also this man who lives in France. He happens to be in the motor home business in France and said we should have brought our motor home to Turkey as he thought it was the best place in the world to do it. He loves doing it and indeed I see the advantages, but we just did not want to put that many miles on our little camper as Turkey is a really big country.
We also liked getting the experience of the people and the busses, their main mode of travel. We experienced more of their everyday life. We enjoyed talking to one man who was one who got kicked out of his seat, so then was sitting very close to us. He had dark blond hair and blue eyes and I would have guessed him as a Swede rather than a Turk. His English was almost as poor as our Turkish, but we stumbled thru some communication and we enjoyed his sweetness. I had to snap a picture when he got off midway as his T-shirt was very appropriate and said in English, “We- R- just- Angels”! I often felt like the people were like angels in Turkey with their pure hearts and open hospitality.
Every where we went in Turkey there were strange flags that they must use for their political announcements. They decorated Istanbul and they were all over the small towns too. Vans and caravans would go by with loud microphones and music that I guess were the equivalent of our endless political ads before an election.
Our main reason to go to Canakkale is that is the only way we could visit Troy and that was a “must see” on Mozart’s list. Who knew it was going to be such an adventure getting there?