Introduction to Turkey – Istanbul to Ankara,
Croatia was so much fun, the total and utter relaxation we partook in re-energised us for the next little adventure so at the beginning of July we semi-reluctantly jumped on a plane to Turkey.
Since we enjoyed driving around in Jean Claude so much we decided it was only fitting that we do the same in Turkey. Being such a big country the thought of the “in betweener” spots was alluring since that was often a highlight of our other driving trips. So that’s what we did. Upon landing in Istanbul we were greeted (for the first time ever) by a Turkish dude holding up a sign with my name on it, pretty fancy right.
Off we trot to meet our new ride expecting something only slightly more sophisticated than a donkey hauling a cart with a couple of basketball cards pegged to its spokes. We were pleasantly surprised when it was a brand new Fiat Linear, which is where Freddy Fiat became our newest travel buddy – boring name and all.
Since we were going to come back to Istanbul we pinned it straight out of there and headed East, staying the night in a little place called Düzce as we didn’t feel like driving too far after a late flight. It was a bit of an experience.
We learnt two things this day:
1) Turkish drivers are full blown nut bags and the next 5 weeks would require severe anger management to ensure my head didn’t explode at the wheel and;
2) Düzce is not a tourist destination, in fact I’m almost certain we were the first tourists they’ve ever seen – something that was reinforced by every one of our Turkish mates we made along the way over the following weeks.
Regardless of fact #2, it was a brilliant introduction to Turkey. Nobody spoke English, not even at the hotel we stayed in except one Iranian bloke we met at dinner. There was a huge park there where hundreds of men played backgammon of an evening while having a cheeky beer and we found the best baklava in the world – still better than any other we found for the rest of the trip, and believe me I sampled A LOT.
We ate dinner at a little restaurant in town for 8 Lira, which is about $4.50 in Aussie dollars. $4.50! And that included drinks, mains, salads etc. Unfortunately that was pretty much where this type of bang-for-your-buck ended as I’m certain everywhere else in the country has two menus – one for the tourists and one for the locals. Still, it’s bloody cheap.
From Düzce we drove South-East to the country’s capital city of Ankara which is getting fairly well into central Turkey. Here we stayed with a young Turkish guy for a couple of nights named Mustafa who was on the cabin crew for Turkish Airlines. He was a damn fine host and just quietly he cooks a pretty mean curry.
To be honest there’s not a huge amount to see in Ankara, although we did get a good idea of how much the Turks love Ataturk and made our way into our first (of many) Mosques. The Kocatepe Mosque is still one of the most impressive I’ve seen, I’d rate it above the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
Anyway, if nothing else it was a good way to acclimatise ourselves to the heat because Turkey’s pretty hot in summer, not unbearably hot but certainly on par with an average Aussie summer day. Oh, we also began our love affair with proper Turkish Pides.