Stops: Istanbul -> Izmit -> no idea where -> Ankara-ish
Playlist: the wind in my hair and also a bunch of Eminem
What a day!
We woke up from the first peaceful night in a while. We had slept in a paid parking lot with the gates closed in a wonderful little shady corner (and I don't mean shady like sketchy, shady like out of the sun for once). We got up, "bathed", and wandered off exploring Old Istanbul. We figured we'd at least walk around the Grand Bazaar and get the feel for it when it's closed - didn't realize it's gated off behind giant walls! FYI, the grand Bazaar is the largest in the world with 60 streets and about 5000 shops. Would've been nice to check out, but to be honest, I was silently rejoicing inside that we don't have to go through it. Even wandering around the little streets with some shops open outside the Bazaar was overwhelming enough for both of us.
We continued walking until we reached the Suleymaniye Mosque. It's not as old as the Blue Mosque, but according to the internets, it's more extravagant and is considered a hidden gem. It was definitely more impressive visually for us, but we obviously don't get the significance that standing in the Blue Mosque would have for others.
We decided to get lost and walk around aimlessly. We succeeded. We did find our way to the car and as we're packing up, the owner showed up. He seemed very confused as to what we were doing in a locked parking lot and didn't look too happy. We were getting a bit nervous because he seemed to be pacing, pretty sure we just got the other guy who let us in last night in trouble. So this guy came over and asked how we got in, what we were doing, and when were we leaving. We gave him all the answers and explained the Mongol Rally and he instantly softened up and got super super friendly. As we discussed our front getting disfigured by the Czech hailstorm, he told us how we missed hail the size of fists 2 days ago - apparently the clouds were at -60degrees, collided, and it was absolutely insane. He also started telling us all about eastern turkey (where he's from, and where we are going) and told us they're SO friendly there. That it's nothing like Istanbul, and that we could knock on anyone's door, tell them we're hungry or thirsty, and they would take us in, feed us, and give us a bed to sleep in. He insisted we take his number and give him a call if we have any problems or questions, and gave us a rundown of what to do and where to go in Cappadocia (the place we're REALLY looking forward to).
We bid our farewells and we made our way out of Istanbul. Today wasn't a bad ride since most things were closed on Sunday and the roads weren't even a fraction as busy. It was a beautiful day, and a clear sky as we crossed the bridge and officially found ourselves out of Europe and in Asia.
One thing to note is most major highways in Turkey are toll roads and we've been getting pretty nervous about these tolls considering we set an alarm off and we heard the fines are pretty brutal. We tried avoiding them but eventually found ourselves on it and just stayed for the duration of the ride until our first stop.
After about a 2 hour drive, we were ready for a bath. It's been getting pretty stinky up in here, and seeing as we're driving inland, stopping by a lake seemed like a good idea for an actual non-baby
-wipe-bath. We also saw a Media Market and figured we needed to buy a tiny piece of crap laptop, just enough to be able to move footage from camera to harddrive because we've been unable to dashcam since the Transfargarasan highway so as to avoid losing that footage too. We had a hard time figuring out laptop for a number of reasons: adaptor to charge it outside of turkey, and the keyboard is all in Turkish. They gave us a "deal" and said to come back in an hour so they can reset the whole computer and change it to English. We figured we haven't eaten and we're on the coast so we'll go bathe, eat, and come back.
LOL. That went real well.
First of all, we couldn't find a beach on the googles. All the well rated ones seemed to be inland NOWHERE NEAR WATER. Second, we got completely lost because google maps and Turkey apparently do not have an understanding of any sort. Third, we DID find a beach but it was a nudist beach, took the wrong turn and as we were practically touching water, we got kicked out because they were setting up for a wedding. At this point, one of us was starting to turn into a Mayzilla, won't point fingers at who, and taking the wrong turn at EVERY SINGLE google instruction, led us to an emergency food stop. After two bites, Mayzilla evolved into a Pussycat and it was all sunshine and rainbows from there on out.
Four Square, once again, sent us to an AMAZING cheap little gem. The service was outstanding, although it was a little diner, it felt like we were at this guy's house. He didn't ask our order but kept suggesting things off the menu so we went with it, brought us drinks and Turkish coffee/tea and was just all around fantastic. And the food was drool-worthy! Justin had some of the best meatballs and I had some interesting chicken in (I think?) soy sauce but with middle eastern spices?!? He brought us a salad full of spices and a fresh bread basket and just everything was awesome, we needed this. I needed this?
We got back to the media place to find out that we didn't need to buy the car adaptor to charge it because you could charge the laptop with a USB afterall, and in the 1.5 hours we were gone, they managed to do shit all and not even put English on it. The day was getting lost on us and we barely had enough daylight left to get to Ankara. So we said screw it, returned the adaptor and got back on the road with our Turkish laptop.
We drove, and after about a half hour, we saw water from the side of the road. It was an invisible driveway and we almost missed it, but we got on, almost hit 4 cars on the narrow road coming out (a lot of traffic considering the town looked like it had no more than 10 houses and a mosque). We did make our way down to the beach on a road no better than what we are expecting to find in Kazakhstan, and found a bunch of families picnicking. Not a single woman is revealing any skin head to toe, no woman is swimming, meanwhile there were a good 50 guys shirtless and sitting around enjoying the beautiful day.
Then we roll up.
Well, let me tell you... Boy, did I stand out like a Western white chick in a bikini in a Muslim town, haha. I laugh... but it took a while for me to get the courage to change in the car, say screw it, and just go bathe. It was so desperately needed, we figured we'll be in and out. I put a t-shirt on to go swimming, do what I can to at least cover up a little bit... but we had a number of discussions of whether I'll be getting stoned to death.
All eyes, and I mean ALL, were on me. I also caught a few guys, not very stealthily, taking pictures of me and not caring when we made the contact. I grabbed my razor, shampoo, soap, and laundry, and got in the water. Yup, they watched me shampoo my hair and cut my ankle and scream like a little girl when I saw 2 swimming snakes. Justin started washing the laundry then we switched.
We got out, and while I was brushing my hair in my bathing suit waiting to dry off, justin decided to fly his drone. Well, guess who was now the Western white chick in a bikini - all eyes were now on him. Without any English, guys came swooping in and were all pointing and excitedly looking over Justin's shoulder at his phone/remote. I almost felt kind of lonely and cast aside now.
Then, on this tiny beach, in this tiny town, in the middle of Turkey, the one thing we never expected to happen, happened: French. A guy approached us and asked if we spoke French. Luckily, Justin went to French immersion, and although he was utterly useless in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, all of a sudden, he was miraculously a Francophone and would make his momma proud.
Turns out, this little beach we stumbled upon, is, shockingly, a local hang out spot that never sees tourists. Somehow, a 10 min pit stop to get rid of our stink turned into an hour long detour with coffees, hospitality, and good conversation.
He told us all about the toll roads and to not bother since apparently foreign license plates are basically ignored and aren't even in the system. We could get dinged, set all the alarms, but nobody will even look our way. He insisted on also giving us his number and that if we have any issues for the rest of Turkey - whether it's cops, embassies, or anything, to give him a shout.
We drove on, and my mother was tracking us in live time telling us where the rest stops were. Yet we somehow missed it and accidentally ended up in the city (it's always harder to find sleeping spots). We ended up at a parking lot at a park but found it too bright and right on the 4 lane road. While we were trying to figure out where to go, a guy came up asking if we have a lighter (which we did, because although justin insists I stole it, I saved it from a worser fate of being abandoned and lonely). We started chatting and he pointed us in the right direction for a better park spot not far.
as we were setting up our car there, he ended up walking by with his pooch, daughter, and wife. We started chatting again as I was giving their 7 month old puppy all the love. I asked the girl what her name was and she just started at me; he apologized saying she only speaks Russian. So I asked her her name in Russian and her eyes lit up. While she proceeded to tell me everything about her dog, cat, shoes, glitter, and that she's 2 years old while holding up 3 fingers, he offered us his place for the night. The wife seemed a little uncomfortable so Justin and I politely declined and parted our ways.
The hotel across the street let us use the bathroom and the shop across ok'ed us sleeping here. Now the funniest part: I got in the car and was sitting in bed while the trunk was open - Justin was standing outside. It's a one way street and I watch a police van drive down the street and past our car. Justin looks at me and says "uh oh, they're slowing down. They stopped. They're backing up".
they backed all the way up to us and started talking to us in Turkish. Of course, we don't understand and keep saying so, only English. They kept repeating something along the lines of "no sleeping", we think. Then they asked us if we were American, we said "no, Canadian". They laughed, made the hand gesture of sleeping and pointed at the car, we said yes. They laughed again and waved a "whatever, it's ok" and drove off!
Great experience! We read all about it in previous Mongol Rally blogs, but to experience it first hand is a whole other story.
We had to bid our adieus because the sun was already setting and we still had 3 hours to go. Great experience! We read all about it in previous Mongol Rally blogs, but to experience it first hand is a whole other story.