Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Turkish border

Took what the map indicated was a scenic route towards the border with Turkey. Not sure about that claim; it was farmland interspersed with industrial and not very interesting. About 10 m from the border we were forced to join the dual-carriage highway which had just one truck on it going the other way for the full 10 km and no other vehicles going our way.

The Greek border control people didn’t even look at our passports but just waved us through. At the first Turkish guard post our passports were examined cursorily and the registration papers for the bike scrutinised and details copied into his computer.  We mistakenly thought that Turkish border control was over and done with so we pulled into a service area where we changed some money at the currency exchange desk, bought 3rd party insurance for the bike (30 euros for a minimum of 3 months) as our existing insurance covered only EU countries, and bought an autobahn toll pass.
Then we came to another guard post where we were asked for our passports again and sent to another building to buy visas; only there was nobody there, so back to the other guy who shrugged his shoulders and indicated that we must wait. After about 20 minutes a scruffy guy wandered out of another building, unlocked his office and sold us 2 visa stamps for 15 euros each. Like the woman in the insurance office he would not accept Turkish lirah but insisted on euros, so it was lucky we had some left.

Back to the previous guy who scanned the visa stamps and then to another office where a guy stamped the visa stamps with an inked stamp. Surely we must be finished now; but no! On to another guard post where the bikes papers were examined in detail again by three people and a truck driver who seemed to be telling them how to cope with a foreign motorbike.
Out onto the open road at last. But a few k’s down the road we were flagged down at a police roadblock that seemed to be targeting bikes for another check of the bikes papers and also my drivers licence, with the details from the paperwork being copied down onto some formwork. There was a marked difference between the police and the border control people. The cops were friendly and smiling and chatting jovially with everyone and it all turned into quite a sociable occasion with the senior officer asking about where we were from and where we were going and wishing us a good journey. The people we had dealt with previously, including border control, the insurance woman and the cafe staff, had never cracked a smile and gave the impression that they hated their jobs and that foreigners and customers should be banned. It had not been a very welcoming start to Turkey so it was a bit strange to have the mood changed at a police road block.

On and on along a fairly appalling road in terms of road surfaces with litter lining the verges.  It was such a contrast to Greece.
About 30 km from the border we turned off the road to Istanbul and headed south to the Gallipoli Peninsula or Gelibolu as it is called in Turkish.  Stopped in the centre of the small town of Eceabat and found we were just outside a hotel, the Hotel Boss, so we checked out the rooms and got a double for 80 lirah which is about $45.

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