Turkey, chickens and a boomerang

Trip Start Nov 28, 2010
Trip End Sep 29, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  , Canakkale,
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The wind had died down somewhat this morning. It was still very cold outside but at least the van wasn't shaking anymore. We made sure to do all the emptying and filling of the van, especially since tonight we will probably not be in a campsite.  We had found a perfectly positioned campsite from which to explore Gallipoli, but rather annoyingly it only opens in six days.  Since no open campsites exist on the side of the peninsula we need, and the next closest one requires a ferry ride followed by an hour's drive, tonight we will park wherever we can find somewhere appropriate, close to the battlefields, beaches and cemeteries of Gallipoli.

When we set off, the border with Turkey was only 25 miles away.  Already from a distance we could see a huge Turkish flag fluttering.  The actual border is a bridge which has armed Greek soldiers in boxes at one end and Turkish ones in boxes at the other.  Once over the bridge, and technically already in Turkey, it was time to deal with the red tape.  We first had to stop to buy insurance, before dealing with police and customs.  Although we already have insurance, I did not want to cause problems with our photocopy.  I knew you could buy third party cover here at the border, so I went ahead and bought it anyway to keep things as simple as possible.  From here we drove to the first of several windows in this game of "Get into Turkey".  Here they looked at all our paperwork and passports and sent us onwards.  Next we had to buy visas to get into Turkey, which I received from a nice man who offered me a rather unpleasant-tasting sweet from a bag.  When he saw from our passports that we carried offspring, he offered me two more for the boys and a couple of balloons with the Turkish flag on them.  When I got back to the van I gave the balloons but advised against the sweeties.  Then it was onto another window, and this one had the potential to be our undoing.  I handed over my insurance and registration, at which point he noted that the name on the registration did not match the name on the passport.  I explained that it was a rented van and he explained that I needed something with my name on from the rental company.  Going through the paperwork in my hands I tried to look helpless and said that this was all I had.  After a few seconds of dramatic pause as he seemed to be deciding which way to handle me, he carried on writing and stamping things in my passport.  This was clearly a good sign, but having seen Midnight Express I knew not to count my chickens.  However, my chickens and I were fine and he handed me all the paperwork before sending me to the next window.  There were two more windows but no more problems.  Though I did make sure to drive through as quickly as possible, before someone changed their minds.  They did not, and into Turkey we went.  I am quite sure that on another day or with another official we would have been turned back.  But we weren’t, and onwards to Gallipoli we went.

The roads immediately brought to mind Albania, though they were not quite that bad.  But fairly bad nonetheless.  We did a lot of weaving to avoid holes but the drive was not a long one.  Less than two hours from the border we arrived in Eceabat, the town on the Gallipoli peninsula from which one explores the historical sites.  I have for a long time had an interest in Gallipoli, ever since I saw the film of the same name many years ago.  But until we began planning this trip I didn’t think I would ever visit.  And I don’t really know whether it will resonate in the way Bosnia and Croatia did, or if the almost hundred year separation will make it more like seeing Roman ruins.  I think it probably will feel that way, not only because Gallipoli lacks the freshness of Bosnia, but also because my knowledge of it comes exclusively from books, as opposed to watching it unfold on CNN.  Regardless, it will be an interesting day for me tomorrow, and tonight I began giving the boys a little history lesson so they would understand what we are doing here.  For fans of my little tutorials and those who know nothing of Gallipoli, there will no doubt be some history in the next post.

We drove around for quite a while trying to find a good place to park for the night.  We considered the port where we could watch ships heading for the Black Sea.  Then we thought we would stay in the car park of the information centre, outside the town and maybe a little too secluded.  But then, after asking in a hotel for advice, we got directed to a bar we had passed on the edge of town, the Boomerang Bar.  We were told we would be allowed to park outside and would not be charged. And being in town we would be safe.  So there we went, and when I asked the owner if we could indeed park outside his place, he told us that we could park anywhere we like and that this was our place now.  We went inside for a coffee and found a bar with every inch of wall space covered in Australian and Kiwi paraphernalia.  For those who don’t know why such a place would be here, see tomorrow’s post.  We were offered seats beside a roaring fireplace and given nuts with our coffee.  The owner has run the place for 16 years and pretty much lives there, always sleeping on the sofa next to the fireplace even though his house is 50 yards away.  Even now I see him outside the van window, alone in his bar with his computer, TV and fireplace.  Apparently last night an American and an English backpacker came in, but that would be a busy night for him at the moment.  A month and a half from now will be his busiest day of the year, with thousands of people in this small town.  But more on that tomorrow.
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