A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

Border Run

Istanbul to Derekoy

There comes a time after 11 weeks in Turkey when the “visa renewal” of a tourist visa, pops up its ugly head.
Before I worked for a “good” school, which went through the resident visa process for its Teachers’, I had to leave the country for a few hours every 11 weeks.

Twice, whilst in Istanbul, I drove to the Bulgarian Border.

Having investigated all possible border posts, I learnt the biggest and easiest to get to was the busy post at Kapitan–Andreevo/Kapıkule, 18km west of Edirne.
Other friends, who had taken this route, spoke of long delays behind huge lorries, as this is the main crossing point. Not to keen on the idea of sitting for hours behind lorries and coaches, I researched further and found a small crossing called Derekoy, up in the mountains.

I hired a car for the weekend, printed off the directions from Google, filled the tank, and with a lot of trepidation set off.

I was living on the Asian side of Istanbul, and Google told me it was approx 4.5 hours there.

I hadn’t even left Istanbul when I encountered first problem. The bridge over the Bospherous is a toll bridge. I had lots of change ready in the glove compartment. Unfortunately, unknown to me, the toll only works with a card, which has to be purchased at the office on the bridge. I dutifully followed the lines of traffic to the toll booths, and it was only when I reached the booth that I learnt about the card system. Now I had a problem. Traffic was queuing behind me and people were getting out of their cars to see what the delay was. Very embarrassed I had to try and turn the car around and get back to the bridge office to buy this damn card.

I found the Bridge Office, which was a small, smelly place full of seemingly angry men. After being shown the correct window, I asked for the card, and he said 30 lira. My Turkish at this point was very limited. I tried to explain I was only going over once and back again, and I would never need the card again, but to no avail. It seems you have to buy a month, I think, or not at all.

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So card in hand, purse lighter, and angry at the red tape again here, I set off again.

Driving in Turkey is not as bad as people will have you believe. I have driven extensively around the South Coast, but had always been wary about driving in big cities, as so many people had advised against it.
My philosophy after driving here for a while is to join them. Switch your brain off and go with the flow. No, they are not predictable, yes, they will do everything you don’t expect them too. I have only twice been put into a difficult situation on the roads here. Once, on the Fethiye to Mugla road, I was turning right and nearly wiped out a motorcycle, trying to overtake me on the inside. Lesson learnt; they will overtake you on both sides if there is room.

The second occasion which caused my heart to skip, was when I was going in fast traffic on the main highway in Istanbul. The traffic was flowing well, and I was keeping up at around 80 km hour, following a white minibus. Suddenly the bus stopped in front of me. I had to slam the brakes really hard, and swerve into the next lane, causing another driver to have a skipped beat of his heart. Missing his back end by literally inches, I swore like crazy at the minibus, only to discover as I looked back, it was in fact a Dolmus ( Type of public transport), and usually they are yellow in Istanbul. Another lesson learnt. I now never follow any kind of minibuses.

I actually enjoy driving here, as you have to be so alert. It retunes your brain into becoming a better driver, I think. You are constantly forwarding planning the moves of all the drivers around you. Forward planning is one thing Turkish drivers are incapable off.

There is now actually a scheme for learner drivers here, and more and more I see driving school cars on the roads. Hopefully this will bode well for future drivers.

So making my way from the bridge to the outskirts of Istanbul, I had to go through some great areas.

I drove along the front through Besiktas, then across the Golden horn bridge and followed the road along the Golden horn for a while before picking up the main E80 out of Istanbul towards Bulgaria. The main problem with driving here is you have no chance to admire anything. Never risk taking your eyes from the road for even one second here.

As I left Istanbul behind, the traffic gets lighter and lighter, until for miles and miles I was alone on the road.
I stopped once at a petrol station, had the obligatory free tea, stretched my legs, and then continued.
The country side is fairly flat and monotonous for hours. Music or the radio helps here, as this is a very boring bit of the drive.
The plan was to turn right off this main Edirne highway at Luleburgaz, go through Kirklareli, then out the other side on the road to Derekoy.

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I managed to take the wrong turning off the Highway as this is one of those occasions when the sign for Edirne, points in both directions. Anyway, after half an hour of driving on this turn off, a local garage owner explained I was going the wrong way. I sighed, and turned around again, and returned to the point I had left originally.

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I don’t really have a lot to say about the cities/towns I briefly passed through. I was on a mission, and not interested in sight seeing. The countryside is beautiful. Going towards Luleburgaz, the coast is on the left, and there appeared to be some pretty villages going that way. Luleburgaz is a small, nondescript place. It seems to be a passing through place.

The road opens out in front of you as you head towards Kirklareli, and you get a hint of the mountains ahead. I remember passing a huge Military establishment, but again, that is not unusual here. There are rivers and small lakes galore. It seemed to be mostly an agricultural area, with livestock scattered about.

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Kirklareli is a fairly large city, typically Turkish, and the road passes through quickly. Having manoeuvred through Kirklareli I found myself on a small road, which got smaller the further I went.

I started to climb, and climb. This was a real mountain region. The views were breathtaking, and I did stop briefly to take some photos, but ever mindful, I needed to return to Istanbul before dark. Driving in the dark here takes on a whole new meaning of “terror”.

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The road runs out of tar and becomes a kind of tar/dirt track. Single lane, climbing the mountain side.

Eventually it opens out again into a modern tarmac road as you approach the border crossing.

There is a small carpark outside. I parked, collected my papers together and approached the sentry box.

Small is the definitive word for this border crossing.

One small sentry box, one barrier, and that was it.

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===BORDER===

Much to the amusement of the sentry guy, we chatted for a few minutes, and he said it was not “normal” for people to walk through on foot. Seeing my face drop, he smiled and lifted the barrier.

After a 2 minute walk uphill there appear a couple of wooden offices.

One is the smallest duty free I have seen, more like a cigarette booth.

I made my way into the other larger wooden hut, and saw the signs for exit visas.

There were 2 small windows. One showing exit, the other entry.

I went to the exit window. He scrutinised my papers and stamped exit.

Then I went to the next window, clutching my money for an entry visa. The same guy, changed his hat, and opened the window. I did smile at that point.

He once again took my papers, but this time was all over them with a fine tooth comb.
He smiled, and asked very casually, “where are you working” I had been prepared for this question, but his quiet manner nearly caught me off guard. “No, not working, just visiting” I replied, smiling.

He chatted with me a bit, asking about where I had been in Turkey, why was I here ( A friends wedding I had said) and in the middle of the casual chat, dropped “where did you say you were working” into the conversation. Wits about me, I smiled and reiterated “ not working, just I love your country so much; one 3 month visit was not enough”

Huge smile crossing his face, he took my money, gave me an entry visa and stamped it.

I walked out slowly, nonchalantly, I hoped.

I had a quick look at the Duty free, but they only accepted cash, and I hadn’t prepared for that, just having cards on me.
Smiling at the sentry guy, he raised the barrier, and I was once again legally allowed in Turkey. This whole thing took 15 minutes.
The downside was I now had another 4 hour drive back to home.

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The next time my 3 months was up, I had decided to visit a Greek island. I felt I was pushing my luck to try Derekoy again.

Posted by TravelnTurkey 05:26 Archived in Turkey Tagged istanbul visa border derekoy Comments (2)

Adana to Karataş

Unspoilt

sunny

I always try and hire a car at some point, during the summer months to try and explore the area I am in. It is not always easy to travel around whilst working here, so when I can I grab the opportunity and set off with dog in tow.

Being a newcomer to Adana, I have been asking around where are good places to go.

Karataş was one town that was mentioned, as it is on the sea.

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So today, I chucked a bag in the car with swimwear etc and the dog, along with her bag, which consists of water, a bowl, wet wipes (In case) and an old towel.

I had checked out maps the night before, and had a rough idea of where I was heading. The problem driving in cities in Turkey isn’t so much that you could get lost, it is a definite forgone conclusion that you will get lost. Every city I have driven around in Turkey has been the same. The problem is ROAD SIGNS ! Or lack of.

Now I understand that of course the locals know where every road goes. But it seems that the Turkish City councils really do not expect out of towners to drive around their city. So the main problem lies with a road sign that sends you one way, and you sigh with relief and recognition of the name, and dutifully follow the sign. Except that at the next main junction suddenly the place you were going to has either disappeared or is strangely pointing back the way you have just come from.

The problem then is you have no time to try and rationalise it out. Turkish drivers are impatient and aggressive at the best of times, but try sitting at the lights a second longer than amber to try and find another sign, and suddenly you have Armageddon going off in your ear, as every car, bus and bike behind you lets you know the lights are changing.

Anyway karatas is actually signposted, just as you are leaving Adana..of course!

Fortunately having travelled on the bus nearly every day since being here, I had an idea where I was going. Find the Mosque, there will be the bridge, and I will be on the right side to leave Adana. Sure enough, the signpost is after these milestones.

So now I can begin to relax, and assure the dog, all is OK.

The road from Adana passes through the agricultural areas. There are miles of flat fields, growing either Maize or Cotton. As far as the eye can see the fields stretch ahead. The road, as is always the case here, once out of the city is quiet and not too many road works.

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I passed many disused Manufacturing Factories, rusting and rotting away. The main Industry of this area was clothes manufacturing, hence the cotton fields, but these days so many have shut down as the industries have moved to China or other cheaper countries.

It is quite a sad sight and I pass stalls selling melons or sweet corn every 100 yards, and wonder if these guys are just trying to survive now the factories have gone.

There are a few women in the cotton fields and I feel for them in 40 plus degree heat.

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Cotton Plant

Then suddenly the road starts to enter a built up area. Some small shops, a couple of Banks, men sitting under trees drinking tea and playing backgammon, and then I see the ocean. We made it!

I drive along the front, turn back and park behind the beach.

I marvel at the fact it is actually all soft sand, a rarity in Turkey. Oh the brochures will show you wonderful pictures of beaches, but most are shingle, something you can’t quite see in the pictures.

I let the dog out and we both gasp at the temperature. The cars air conditioner was working very well.

There is a small café on the beach, and as I always do, I ask if the dog is allowed on. He smiles with his 2 teeth and says of course. I sit at a table, give the dog a drink, and order a snack.

Some Turkish people have ordered fish, and I watch as the helper runs across the sand to a fisherman, and returns with 2 very large fish. He cleans them expertly and a few minutes later they appear on the plates, along with the usual ton of salad and mezes. It’s to hot for my appetite to accept that much food, so I settle for a cheese toasty.

I watch the few people on the beach and in the sea. I notice that people are walking a way out before they start to swim. The water is very, very shallow for quite a long way out.
We find a sun bed and the man appears to put up the umbrella. I often wonder where they hide, as they seem to just appear from nowhere when you choose a bed.

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We spent some time playing in the very clean, shallow, warm water, with some local children. They are always fascinated at a dog in the water. Parents tut loudly, and I ignore them, as always.

When I could feel my skin saying enough, we packed up, thanked our host in the café, and piled back into the car. I drove around the town for a bit.

It is small, quaint, and a working town. Not so much tourism to be seen. There are a few hotels, but small.
I would go back and stay there if I had the time and opportunity, as it was really my kind of Turkish resort. No tourists, no loud music, and uncluttered beaches.

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I got lost coming back into Adana as the bridge sign was the wrong one, but after a ten minute drive the wrong way, I found the right turn, and we arrived home without any incidents.

I am a little surprised there is no tourism there, as Adana Airport is only 45 minutes away; and after all, people travel 3 hours from Dalaman to Kas, to sit on rocky beaches, but inside of me I hope it stays hidden and secluded for a while longer.

Posted by TravelnTurkey 10:39 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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