Istanbul to Derekoy
10.02.2008 - 10.02.2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.