24th September, Tuesday
Today we finally leave the European Union – First Visa we needed to apply.
It has been a short ride but a long day for us. It already started raining before we left Alexandropolis. But it was not so much that we didn’t put on our rain jacket. Before we finally headed for border crossing, Kay needed to dispose one of our “Might-Be-Needed-on-this-Trip” stuff – the Axe. We have never used it and Kay read that it is forbidden to bring jnto Turkey. At the last Petrol station, Kay handed it over to the staff. At first he wanted to pay for it, but Kay insisted that it’s a gift to him rather than to trash it to the bin. Nonetheless, Mae and Kay enjoyed the iced coffee he offered us.
Now at the border crossing, the rain still continued pouring. At least as we stop for the passport and visa control, there was a roof to protect us. On the other hand, Mae was a bit worried because she didn’t have a return flight ticket, as it was mentioned to be brought for supporting documents of her e-visa. Then our turn. Kay is visa-free on this country. So Mae handed over her passport, German residence card permit, and e-visa. Not too long, we got back all our documents with entry stamp, not even one question asked. The officers were even all-smiling and very friendly.
It was our first experience of the friendliest border officials. Next step is the checking of our GS. The vehicles of everyone ahead of us were being searched, whether Turks or foreigners. Many brought fruits as `gift` for the officers which we didn’t have of course. We are not looking forward to unpacking all our bags. Kay rolled the GS in front of the Customs office, while Mae walked by the side.
“So tell me, what’s inside the luggage,” asked the officer.
“20 cigarettes, 50ml bottle of Schnaps (Liquor), camping equipments, cooking wares, etc.,” Kay honestly declared.
To our surprise, the GS panniers were never opened and searched. They then asked where is our next destination. As we mentioned Istanbul. The officers just replied: “Alright, have a safe trip and a nice holiday!” That´s it? Puh, that was easy. Welcome to Turkey! Yes…get up and here we go. As we exit the border facilities, a euphoric construction worker friendly waves at us: “Germany, Germany!”
The rain didn’t really got better. In fact, it had gotten worst minute by minute. Istanbul is still a long way. So today, we faced one of our rare wet rides – a rain welcome of Turkey.
Our first stop was petrol station. We didn’t fill in Greece as it is much cheaper here. To get a local sim card, we left the highway to head to the nearest small city of Keşan. And we might just end up here for the night. By this time, it’s been raining cats and dogs, and no sign of stopping. After a short search, we found a good place for a meal, and even with a roofed parking (on the pavement). They just offer Döner and soup here – we order both. And so we were also stuck here due to heavy rain downpour. We’re stuck in a good place, though. It has been like 4 hours that we used this Döner place as our refuge from the rain. The owners were very kind to let us sit around, made use of their internet data to look for accommodation. Connected to the web, Mae immediately cancelled the fake hotel booking for Istanbul tonight. To reach Istanbul with this heavy rain is not possible anymore.
Mae felt sorry for Kay. While she had been enjoying warm Turkish tea, Kay had been running around in the center like a wet donkey (perhaps a horse), trying to get our Turkish sim cards and pulling Liras from the ATM. All hotels Mae discovered online were expensive. We didn´t understand why as it is a small city and no attractions nearby. Mae asked the Döner house owner if he had any recommendations for us within our budget. To her surprise, he made some calls and found us a place to stay right in the middle of the city – on a discounted price. At least, Mae had accomplished something today other than lounging around.
Kay, on the other hand, saw the hotel we recommended to in-between his walks to all ATM providers. Finally, the 3rd Credit Card makes the automatic teller machine spitting Turkish lira. Please don´t ask why the first two have not been working here. Neither we can pay our food with the European Maestro card, nor with any credit card. Lucky us, they accepted our € notes (we brought some to exchange a few weeks later in Iran). While all that, rain was never stopping. So the people of Keşan could watch our wet Kay in his so-white Astronaut-like suit. He stumbled many times in the city, heavy boots and a sun-hat to protect from the pouring rain.
But how about the sim-Cards in Turkey? At first shop they tell – foreigners cannot register for any. Second shop: No problem at all, but sold out, maybe tomorrow. Then to the big red shining Vodafone shop: No problem, right away! Jippieh! But guess who didn’t bring the passports? So out in the rain for another walk back to the Döner house. Back at the Cellshop 30 minutes later, there was even a German-speaking salesman. After he entered all data in the system, followed by digital signature, there was a network issue. We tried for few times but no success, so the seller came up with a good old paper form in Turkish language. The procedure had already taken more than one hour and both Sim-Cards were now working. Now Kay was asked to sign a blank contract form to finally finish the process. By its name Vodafone can really be trusted, but signing unfilled contract forms? in a foreign language? – NO WAY MAN! So, the needed information was clearly written, double-checked the price (20 € for 20 GB in 30 days), then finally gave the signature. The other sellers really wondered as Kay asked for a copy of the signed document. All Turks laughed silently because of the pedantic German guy in the displaced outfit…
Next task: Find a safe and dry shelter for the GS. Checking all car parks of the inner city, Kay soon realized that it was already too late, they were closed at this time. When he was about to give up, a bright alighted backyard turned up on his way, equipped with CCTV and a roof. 3€ price tag, one hour till closing time – that´s it. Saving the coordinates, he rushed back to Mae.
Now the rain has stopped. A quick goodbye, and I, H1, had gained a friend – his name is Lyaz. We hurriedly drove to the hotel for a quick check-in, took the luggage up to the room and drove the GS to the parking garage.
It was now 10 pm, so a much-awaited dinner was needed. In the traditional restaurant nearby Kay seemed needed to order another type of drink. “No beer Sir, we are a Muslim country,” the waiter replied. How could he forget that! Later that night, we became a witness of a martial dispute. Below our room, a couple had a heavy argument. Their shadow portrayed on the wall on the next building was like a pantomime show. After half an hour, somebody appeared to settle the dispute. Then again the argument continued. But there was silence around midnight. At the second intervention, they must have been separated by the management, we thought. What a play!
At the very first day we thought we had been here in the country for long – very friendly officers at the border, helpful citizens of Keşan, challenging errands and a heart-breaking domestic quarrel. Turkey had welcomed us with real mixture of feelings and experiences, much like the heavy downpour of rain. We are looking forward to the next weeks and we are already keen to be in the lively Istanbul! Tired we fall asleep for now.
Lesson for the Day:
- Never start a ride too late, especially into a new country
- Ask and you will find