Turkey has been one hell of a roller coaster ride. Each day brings great, as well as misfortunate experiences. I have tried to write my thoughts on the country over and over again, but the ups & downs it brings, make it hard to do so.
I have written awful things in moments of anger, but find myself erasing them after another Turk does something nice for us. I have considered only sharing the good things that have came my way, but that also isn’t fair… Nor the reason I write.
Turkey has a very interesting culture, as it straddles both Asia and Europe. The people here can not be generalized, because you can find one extreme to the next. I find that people all over the world use the location between Europe and Asia as an excuse for the Turkish behavior. I don’t think that is fair, as many countries can be considered a melting pot. Look the United States ir example, we have both Christians and Muslims as well. We also have Jews, Athiests, Mormons, and probably nearly every religion you can imagine. We have people o every skin color, representing most countries around the world… But that does not mean we lower our standards, nor our morals and values.
I hope this post will not offend anyone, but I hope it acts as a warning to any of my friends and family members considering stepping foot in Turkey. I will also warn both our moms and grandmas, that they should probably skip reading the rest of this post.
I have been traveling abroad since the age of seventeen, and can probably count the number of bad incidences I have had on one hand… Until Turkey that is.
It all started with a group of young guys in Antalya, the Turkish city we flew into. Kyle and I were climbing down some rock cliffs to find a beach away from the crowds of tourists. Four boys joined us and led the way. This was our first day in Turkey, so we were happy to get to know some locals… Or so we thought.
I don’t want to bore you with all the details from this afternoon, and if I shared details from every bad experience in Turkey, this post would never end. So, I will do my best to sum things up.
By spending only two or three hours with these boys we learned they very distinct hierarchy between themselves. One guy seemed to run the show. If it weren’t for this particular shit head, things may or may not have been okay.
This douche followed my every move. If I was in the water, he would come swimming out to me. He gave me no personal space and had no respect. He grabbed my butt when Kyle wasn’t looking and I very firmly told him ‘no!’. We then explained we are married and that I have two babies at home.
We ended up sending two of the boys (of course the younger ones, who appeared to have no say in anything), to get beer, snacks and water. We gave them 20 Lira and between themselves they provided less than 10.
When the boys returned they did not have 30 lira worth of beer, and only allowed Kyle to drink one. I could sense the tension so I returned to the water.
The doucher came back and kept getting in my personal bubble. We finally had enough and decided it was time to move on.
The next morning we learned we would consistently be over charged for food. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much we could do about it.
We each had an omelet and shared a small water that I brought with us. They asked for 20 Lira, which was ridiculous at this hole in the wall. I noticed the omelets were listed as 4 lira in the menu and asked the ladies to write down the prices for us. They wrote down 7.5 for each and wanted 5 lira for the small water I brought with us. That is 2.50 USD! It doesn’t seem that bad as I write it, but you must understand the large waters are less than one lira to purchase.
This was a good lesson for us to learn… And we would experience similar difficulties on a daily basis here in Turkey.
We started our tour of Turkey with a rental car, and thought that might be part of our issue. We were happy to be back to the bicycles, and were hoping we would be treated with more respect. We already wanted to leave the country by this point, but decided to give Turkey yet another chance.
The first night back on bicycles we were searching out tea and hookah. I attempted to ask the ladies at the ‘Peace Pension’ if they could help us out. They spoke no English and didn’t understand that I wasn’t interested in seeing a room. I decided it was just best to try somewhere else, and thanked them before walking out.
One of the older ladies must have thought I didn’t want to stay there because of their lack of English skills… When the reality was that we prefer to camp to save money.
She came at me yelling in Turkish. Kyle heard the commotion and came to see what was going on. I yelled back at her, ‘why are you yelling at me??’
So much for being a ‘peace’ pension… She spit at me and we decided to get out of there as quickly as possible.
This actually brought me to tears. What did I do wrong? I was ready to sleep in my room in Arizona that night…
But we were then welcomed by a sincerely nice Turkish guy. He invited us out for tea and soup, and let us vent about the previous weeks misfortunes. He understood where we were coming from, and went out of his way to provide us with a place to sleep.
We were so thankful to meet him and decided to start fresh again the next morning. Turkey couldn’t all be bad…
We had another interesting experience just 10 kilometers or so later. We stopped at a store in a small village for a cold drink and a break from the heat.
All was well until one man found out we were from America. He continuously told us (with body language and minimal English), that ‘America bad! Obama bad! Turkey good!’ He hand gestured for us to leave and to go back to America. ‘America, Israel, BAD!!’.
I had never experienced hostility quite like this, and was happy to get back to the heat.
We decided to hitch up to the Black Sea, because the heat and tourists were just too much in the South. We thought the people exposed to less tourism might treat us more kindly.
We had yet another crappy experience on our first hitch. We were out of water, so we had the nice man stop at the nearest gas station. We now realize it should have been a warning sign that no one was at the station but the two employees.
Kyle grabbed a big water and handed the man five lira. The guy took the money, put it in his drawer, and thanked Kyle. Kyle gestured that he wanted his change and the man tried to hand him more stuff. At that point Kyle set the water down and asked for his five lira back.
The other employee and I heard the commotion and made our way over to see what was going on. The man shut the doors of the station, and his friend told us to leave. Kyle explained he had our money and the guy went to retrieve it for us. They threw the money out the door and Kyle flipped them the bird.
That is the second time the man lost it. Kyle grabbed the money and we got back in the truck to leave. The worker was still yelling at us, and then yelled to our driver to tell him Kyle flipped him off. He failed to mention why Kyle would do such a thing, so Kyle turned to the driver to explain the situation.
That is when the ass hole came up to the truck and punched Kyle in the back of the head while he was looking away. I flung the back door open as fast as possible, with hopes of hitting the man with the door. I didn’t react fast enough, but screamed ‘you fucker!!’. It wasn’t very lady like, but it was my immediate response.
I tried to jump out, but was luckily stopped by my seatbelt. The driver told us to calm down and stay in the truck as he drove away. We wanted to call the police, but the driver insisted we just brush it off.
We made it just South of Ankara (the capital city), that night. A nice man gave us a ride and treated us very well. He dropped us off near a hotel and restaurants around 10 o’clock pm.
The guys at the restaurant were also very kind, and did their best to communicate with us. There was no smartass comments about us speaking the wrong language. We had encountered many Turks who told us we were in Turkey and must speak Turkish in Turkey! They must not be educated enough to realize Turkey is spoken only in Turkey… And if no one came to Turkey that didn’t speak Turkish, their tourism economy would be non-existent.
So, we were pleased with the respectful servers. Kyle noticed a guy sitting near, who he had a feeling would speak English. He asked him where we could find a cheap room and we learned he was fluent in English!
Pardon me for the spelling, but this guy, Faured, ended up inviting us into his home. He showed us in and let us know he was off to a party. He didn’t mind if we stayed in, so we took advantage of the opportunity to get clean and to rest.
That was a big level of trust, huh? It turns out he did a work and travel program in Connecticut. I think Kyle was right when he said he must have had a good experience in the states.
Faured provided us with an awesome Turkish breakfast the next morning. We enjoyed tahini, jam, cheese, bread, juice, milk & cereal. What a treat! We ended up staying with him another night while making plans to get the hell out of Turkey. A punch to the head really crossed our boundary, and we were ready to be anywhere but Turkey.
We headed straight to the train station the following morning. We were not specific on where we wanted to go, just as close to Georgia as possible. We couldn’t have been more disappointed to find out every train heading East was full for the next three days. We considered the bus, but we usually make it the same distance as the buses while hitching… Without spending the money.
We didn’t leave the capital until around two that afternoon, but even so, we bad a record slow day. We cycled for a few hours in the heat to make it all the way out of the city.
We tried looking for a ride from one gas station, but were quickly ran out by the worker. We cycled on to the next station, where I had to purchase a cold drink. It was hot as hell and I was losing an incredible amount of fluids.
All of the employees were incredibly friendly at this station.
My bubble has been invaded on multiple occasions throughout our short time here, but the last guy really pushed me over the edge.
During the drive he continuously invited us to his home. We didn’t get the greatest vibe, so we decided to turn down the offers. Kyle and I jumped out and retrieved our bicycles when the man turned off the interstate. Just as in Europe, it is part of the ‘culture’ to kiss on the cheeks before leaving friends… So, I decided I would be respectful and let the man kiss my cheeks. Usually people practically kiss the air, but this guy practically kissed my lips.
That is when he grabbed me, squeezed my ass, and licked my neck. I pushed him away and yelled, ‘DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!!’ I proceeded to throw my water bottle at him as he jumped back in the truck. ‘Fuck’ might not be a pretty word, but it is also more or less understood world wide.
We didn’t have much of an option but to hitch on toward Georgia at that point. We were thankful to arrive in a
city where I could have a shower, and where we could catch a bus as far East as possible.
As we were searching for a guesthouse, a young guy and his mother invited us into their home. I was so grateful for the invitation to stay with the family, but I was also extremely burned out. I felt so dirty from the perverted man who touched me that I wanted to really scrub myself clean. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about Turkey anymore… And I didn’t even want sympathy from Kyle. I wanted nothing but my own space.
Kyle was anxious to save the twenty bucks on a room, and wasn’t quite in the same mindset us I was… So we were off to the family’s home. The young guy was so sweet. He held his
mother’s hand the whole walk home and bought Kyle an ice cream on the way.
I showered as soon as we arrived and grabbed my sleeping bag to gesture I was ready for bed. I didn’t want to be rude, but my stomach was cramping and my mind was uneasy.
Kyle made up for my lack of socializing though. The home was nice, but very small. The room we slept in was connected to the living room, so I did not find the quiet space I was longing for. I tossed and turned for hours while trying not to listen to Kyle’s loud voice and laughter.
Around 1 am I heard Kyle mention my name. He said he was happy there were two rooms, so that I could not complain about the tv being on so late. He then explained that we are together 24/7 when traveling and that we were struggling this week.
He said it is hard not having his own space or anyone else to talk to.
I agreed with everything Kyle said, but it still hurt my feelings to overhear him. I also was not in a very good mindset, and his words hit me hard. If we were in any other country, I would just go my own way for a few days.
It was an awful feeling to be in a country I don’t feel comfortable in as a female. I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep and wake up in my family’s home….
As you can probably guess, I spent most of the night tossing and turning… Thinking about how much I despise Turkey, and about Kyle’s words. It was a night I may have needed condolences rather than to hear what he had to say.
I woke up at 6.30 am the next morning ready to get the first bus headed East… I knew Kyle needed his rest, so I tried to wait patiently for him to wake up. I finally fell back to sleep hours later and got the best hour of sleep all night.
We ate another wonderful Turkish breakfast with the family when they woke us up at 10. The mother prepared Turkish pancakes (like crepes with cheese in the middle), french fries with peppers, cheese, bread, tomato, cucumber, olives, tea, etc.
We packed up and were off to the bus station soon after we ate. We made it just in time to catch a 12 hour bus ride East.
Here I am on that bus… I have used the last seven and a half hours as time to reflect on the last 11 days in Turkey. I have came to peace with both the good and bad that have happened here. I just know it is time to move forward, onto bigger and
God obviously wanted me to experience Turkey for a reason, I’m just not too sure what that reason is. I have gained so much appreciation for my own country, as well as the 19 other countries I have visited. I hope and pray that better things lie ahead for us in Georgia and Armenia.
I am ready to get back on my bicycle and to explore yet another new culture. I am also confident that Kyle and I will return to our happy and peaceful relationship once we get out of this hell hole called Turkey. We have had an amazing four months abroad together… Probably our best time shared so far. I thank God that I had him here in Turkey with me. I know I wouldn’t have lasted here this long without him and his support.
We have had many good experiences in this country, but they simply don’t outweigh the bad. When I first wrote this blog, I titled it, ‘Is it Possible to Dislike an Entire Country and Culture?’
I have finally found my answer to that question, and the answer is ‘no’. I am thankful for the kind people we have met here who have helped us along the way. These people even let us vent to them about our negative experiences in their country. I just hope these good people can have a positive impact on the rest of Turkey.
— Three weeks later: I have met many travelers who have had very different experiences in Turkey. People from all over Europe have shared their positive experiences with us.
I am not sure why Kyle and I experienced such negativity on a daily basis… All I can say is that the universe was warning us to get the hell out of there. We were meant to be in Georgia, and out of Turkey… I am thankful we made it out when we did, and have no plans to return in the future.