Friday, 30 November 2012
Day 242 – Challenges and friendly faces. (Turkey)
After successfully entering Turkey as two Australians and two Brits our plan was to stop somewhere, get some money out, have lunch, buy groceries for dinner and find a campsite somewhere along the Black Sea coast. We realised in the small town we stopped in to use an ATM that parking was going to be a challenge in this country. I triple parked and waited with the car while the others went to take care of business. A car drove up behind me but couldn’t pass so I had to move up a little, blocking another entrance, only to move straight back to let a woman get her car out. I watched as a vehicle shuffle took place up ahead resulting in a free spot (not just a space that was able to be double/triple parked in but a real one with markings on the ground), but nobody took it because then to get back out again you need to negotiate with half a dozen other drivers.
Our first impressions of Turkish people were fairly positive. The man in the kebab shop where we ate lunch was very helpful and appropriately concerned about the quantity and quality of mayonnaise on our table. At the supermarket next door we were greeted by the friendliest and most enthusiastic supermarket manager in the world. Never wiping the grin off his face he excitedly pointed out all the items he thought we might be interested in – huge tubs of chocolate spread, Turka cola, Turkish delight and many more. When we started approaching the exit he quickly ran out the front of the shop and along the street to meet us at the other side of the check-out, plastic bags in hand and ready to go.
The roads in Turkey are truly fantastic – newly built, well maintained, wide and clearly marked. In the style adopted by many European countries though, the road and the railway run right along the waterfront, making it a very pleasant drive, but detracting dramatically from the integrity of the coastline. The entire coast is also entirely built up. There are continuous apartment blocks – not sky-scrapers, not 2-storey houses, but mainly 6 - 10-storey complexes, none of them really flashy and modern, but not ancient and dilapidated either. And unbelievably continuous.
We knew finding a camping spot along this road would be a challenge, and sure enough it was. We took a punt at a road that led towards the mountains, hoping we might be able to get away from the sprawling metropolis of small coastal towns. The road led us through some suburbs, then an industrial zone and into a valley filled with villages and orchards. It took a couple of hours, but eventually we found a spot at the edge of an olive grove and set up there for the night. We expected that this would be the case for most of Turkey, probably easing up a little in the centre of the country, but still a camper’s nightmare. After this first night though we easily found some really fantastic camping spots – so it really is only along the Black Sea coast that is particularly challenging.
Aware that Turkey is a Muslim country, but fairly liberal within that, we were quite surprised at the density of mosques, the regular and prolific calls to prayer and the proportion of women in head scarves. In Iran women must cover up by law and most hate it, but here many choose to. Mosques were certainly present in Iran, but it just isn’t to the same extent. On the Black Sea coast we would be able to see at least half a dozen mosques at any one time, sometimes more than a dozen. Central Turkey is more sparsely populated and the West coast is more liberal so it’s not the same story throughout the whole country, but even in these other areas Islam in many ways feels more present in the people than it did in Iran. Maybe it’s because of the density of mosques, but the call to prayer is just so much more noticeable in Turkey. We barely heard it in Iran, whereas now we hear it five times a day no matter where we are or what we’re upto.