Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Midnight Express

November 29
By Claire and Chuck
We left with some apprehension about getting across the border and into Turkey. With 45 km to think about it and discuss how we were going to explain why our names were not on any of our vehicle documents, we found ourselves at the border before we knew it. First stop: passport control. Chuck got out and handed them over. They happily stamped them and sent us to the next station. We pulled up, rolling down the window and the woman just smiled and waved us on. We looked at each other incredulously. We couldn’t believe it was this easy. But what about the visas? Could we really just drive on and that was it? There were even some teenage soldiers waving to us on either side of the road. Then we noticed the Greek flags; and up ahead, the Turkish flags.

We took Larry’s advice and got into the auto line rather than the truck line and quickly moved to the first station where Chuck got out and handed over our passports. They were stamped and he was told to go to the next station and then come back. We drove 100 feet to station #2 where once again, he got out of the car and this time handed over what we hoped was our vehicle registration and our green card (insurance) along with our passports. Much discussion ensued among those in the booth. They wanted more paperwork. Claire handed them a letter from BW Campers stating our arrangement. They told us to go and make a photo copy, pointing off into the distance towards some buildings.

We walked over to the police station but they waved us to the other side of the building which housed the WC. We took advantage but found no photocopiers. Chuck walked back to the police and they told him once again to go to the other side of the building. By then Claire had found the tiny market with a sign saying Fotocopi. The lights were on, the TV was blaring, but no one was there. We knocked on the glass, went around to the door and knocked and finally walked back to station #2. This time they said never mind about the copy and sent us back to station #1. Station #1 told us we had to have a visa and sent us to station #2. Station #2 was getting just a bit tired of us and sent us to another building with no signage. We entered and found a sign for the visa office with a guy watching a soap opera. In no time at all and €30 later, we were back to station #1 where they stamped our passports one more time and sent us back to station #2. They looked everything over and sent us to station #3, 10 steps to our right. Immediately upon looking at our passports, the guy in station #3 tried to get the attention of the guy in station #2. This did not bode well. We tried to look calm and smile as we’d been instructed by Larry. A lengthy conversation in Turkish took place; finally the senior official in station #2 entered into the fray and satisfied the official in station #3. He released us to station #4, 100 yards down the road, saying “Have a nice trip.” We drove through, handed over the passports one more time and were waved on, having officially arrived in Turkey with Turkish flags waving in the breeze. The entire process took a mere 55 minutes; and this was on a Sunday—part of our plan.

Flow chart

Our goal today was the Gallipoli Penninsula, (Gelibolu) site of the 9 month battle of 1915 over control of Istanbul and The Black Sea. From Lonely Planet: “A relatively minor officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, had managed to guess the Allied battle plan correctly when his commanders did not, and he stalled the invasion in spite of bitter fighting that wiped out his regiment. Although suffering from malaria, Kemal commanded in full view of his troops throughout the campaign, miraculously escaping death several times. At one point a piece of shrapnel hit him in the chest, but was stopped by his pocket watch. His brilliant performance made him a folk hero and paved the way for his promotion to paşa (general).” Kemal became Atatürk, father of modern Turkey.

We did need to stop and ask directions.

Driving through Turkey

Along the way we searched for a campsite but the 3 we checked were closed. However, our search led us to Cape Helles, which had both a British memorial and a Turkish cemetery as well as fortifications, trenches and a model of the battle.

Turkish gravestone. So young.

Trenches and view of British cemetery

It was 2 pm by now and knowing how long it can take to find something and how quickly it gets dark, we drove back the way we had come, stopping again for directions.

Asking directions again

We rolled into Kabatepe, a tiny village claiming to have a campsite, and it did! It is located in a forest overlooking the beach and we have electricity and Turkish toilets and running water but I believe the showers are cold. We’ll pass. The price is 17.50 Turkish Lira or €7.53 @ 1 TL to €.43 or, in U.S. dollars, $11.37.

Camping Kabatepe beach

Hoşҫakal! (good bye!)

Listen a hundred times; ponder a thousand times; speak once. ~ Turkish proverb

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