As some of you already know, we are back in Switzerland. It’s hard to explain on a blog, but we unfortunately had to return early and abandon our original plan to drive further into Georgia and Armenia.
It’s been a very long time since we last updated our blog. Sorry about that, but it’s hard to find a balance between daily chores, travelling, updating our personal diary and still finding time to enjoy ourselves a little. So updating our blog didn’t always have priority.
Nearly 3 months have passed since our last blog entry. Needless to say, it‘s impossible to tell you everything that happened since then. Instead, we will try to give you a quick overview and upload enough pictures, so you can see what we discovered in Turkey.
After our last blog post, we continued our journey south along the coast. It was absolutely stunning. It ticks all the boxes:
- turquoise crystal clear waters
- dramatic coastlines
- and sometimes mountains as backdrops.
However, it wasn‘t always easy to find wild camping spots and most paid campsites were still closed. Nevertheless, we got to experience the Turkish Riviera, albeit without the swimming, as the water was still freezing and the weather wasn‘t always very sunny.
Once we hit Antalya, we headed inland to visit the famous “Cappadocia”.
I‘m not sure where to begin as it‘s impossible to describe Cappadocia in words. The valleys are stunning and the sea of balloons rising before sunrise is truly unique in this world. What impressed us the most though was the beautiful wild camping spots we often had to ourselves. On top of that, there are endless hiking trails with almost nobody around.
No one really tells you that you can hike through all the different valleys and enjoy nature to the fullest – mostly on your own. It’s such a unique experience and we would recommend it to anyone! Sure, there are very few signs and the paths can be a bit tricky, but it was so worth it!
Then there are all the balloons: they flew right over our van and were so close we could actually have conversations with the people in the baskets. It was insane. And no, we didn‘t go on a balloon flight. It’s quite expensive at 250-350€/person and unlike in most European countries, the baskets are huge and usually hold up to 28-30 people. Not the serene and quiet experience we were after. Parking our van in the same places they were flying was enough for us actually!
After Cappadocia, we headed further east, through canyons, hills, mountains, forests, vast plains and green valleys. Yes, Turkey is extremely diverse and mountainous – most of us have no idea as we just know the beaches. Around every corner, there is something new to discover.
We also got to see the damage done by that huge earthquake, even though we actually avoided the worst of it (as recommended). We were 250kms away from the epicenter and yet still: buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of containers were used for houses as well as tent villages everywhere. So many people are living temporary lives, it was very sad to see! It‘s one thing to see on TV, and quite another to see it in real life.
We also spent quite a bit of time in the tea plantations at the Black Sea, in the Western Kaçkar mountains and the remote villages close to the Georgian border. We loved these more remote areas. Very unspoiled and authentic. Each one of them is stunning and with so few people. We didn’t see any tourists, got to drive along crazy, narrow dirt roads and did some beautiful hikes. The weather continued to be very unpredictable with rain, clouds, sun and hail! I guess this is the new climate normal.
The more east you go, the more traditional Turkey gets. But not once did we feel unwelcome or threatened.
Warm & Giving
On the contrary, people were always welcoming, friendly, and giving. Even though they rarely spoke English, people were always giving us food, offering tea, or even trying to pay for our lunch. It was very difficult to understand as a Westerner as it is so foreign to us.
We couldn’t actually get over such experiences and felt very humbled every time it happened. Most of the time, people had almost nothing and still gave us something. We have yet to come across a country in Western Europe where someone stops, jumps out of their car, and gives us their lunch! For no other reason than “you are guests”. And then there was the lady who checked Ann’s painful tooth for free. “You are my guest”
It just blew us away, every single time and we miss that warmth already.
Driving In Turkey
Driving in Turkey was also quite an adventure. Partly because we went to quite remote areas and spent a lot of time offroad, but also because the Turkish people have a very relaxed style to driving. After a week or two we got used to it and actually enjoyed it. It’s quite fun and easy: anything’s possible, no one really cares and it works too.
- There are signs and speed limits, but no one really follows them.
- Do you want to double park? No problem.
- There are two lanes, but you turn them into four lanes? No problem.
- Want to do a U-Turn and block the entire road? No problem.
It all works and no one gets upset. We loved it!
They actually have a lot of roundabouts, which are actually not roundabouts, as they put traffic lights on every turn of the roundabout. So if you want to go left on the roundabout, you will at least cross two traffic lights. If there are no traffic lights on the roundabout, which is rarely the case, it‘s real chaos, no one really knows what to do. It’s hilarious.
The Picnic Nation
We also named Turkey the picnic nation. They are crazy picnickers!
You will not believe what efforts they go through to get to a picnic spot. There are actually a lot of developed picnic spots with little pavilions, water sources, benches etc.
But usually, up to 6 people make their way up on a narrow dirt road in a totally battered car to then
- all get out of the car at once
- spread the picnic blankets and cushions
- set up their woodfired stove for their tea
- eat, talk, and maybe even dance for hours.
Every single green spot in or around a city or village, the beach or in the mountains, is heaving with people, especially on the weekends. We rarely saw someone sitting on their mobile phones. They just talked, laughed, danced, sang and had a good time. Maybe we can all learn something from that.
Unfortunately, there is also a lot of rubbish around in Turkey. And I mean a lot of rubbish.
Even though there are big metal container bins everywhere (a lot more than over here), people just throw their rubbish on the ground, out of their cars, etc.
The beaches are full of rubbish, the fields, the roadsides, everywhere there is rubbish. It‘s sad to see and will require some serious education and a change of habits. Apparently, according to some locals, they are working on it, but they have a very long way to go.
Farming We Did Not Know About
Turkey also surprised us with its cultivation of all kinds of products. We saw endless vineyards (raisins mostly used for dried raisins and not wine), rice paddies and whole valleys with pomegranate and orange trees which were all blooming (the scent was amazing). The orange juice was very good by the way.
Then there is the delicious and different honey, produced all over Turkey and sold everywhere.
The tea plantations on the Black Sea. As far as the eye could see. It was fascinating to talk to the tea pickers and give them a hand at work. A lot of manual work goes into that little teabag!
As you can see, Turkey surprised us and blew us away with its stunning nature and culture. But most of all, we will not forget the kindness of the people (and until we get to Iran or the Stans, it will be very hard to beat that in our opinion). We spent 2.5 months in Turkey (yes, we do travel slowly, intentionally) and it wasn‘t enough.
So, put Turkey on your bucket list, take a bit more time if you can, head off the beaten track, go inland and discover the untouched Turkey, you won‘t regret it.