Southern Turkey

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…from southwest to east and back again!
The entry of the small Turkish ferry boat in Rhodes was like a small redemption for us; finally we continued our journey and nothing stood in the way of the crossing to Turkey. Or was there?
The captain himself wanted to see the valid insurance papers before loading our jeep, as he had to take us back to the European area immediately in case of invalid papers. A small foretaste that we will now leave Europe for the Asian area.

The tension increased on our part when we reached the bay of Marmaris and the upcoming Turkish customs control. Maybe we read too much about the import regulations before, or were a little bit unsettled by travel stories and narratives. Thanks to a Hungarian couple with good knowledge of Turkish and English, the entry procedure finally went by in a very short time and even during the vehicle inspection the questions from the customs officer came faster than we could have answered them. Even the wine on Rhodes, which we bought generously in the last days, did not fall victim to the customs control. Already the heavy gate was opened and we headed towards the centre of Marmaris.

On the ferry, a young man advised us to drive west from Marmaris to the peninsula beyond Datça to Myndos and slowly approach the countless treasures of the past. In addition we received countless travel tips and routes from René and Zehra, who emigrated from Switzerland to Ҫeşme a few years ago. They were suggestions for a comprehensive tour of Turkey lasting several weeks. Great!

First of all: The west as well as the south coast is home to an almost uncountable amount of cultural treasures from the early Greek times up to the present. To see or visit everything would be impossible, many things are still hidden in many corners of the landscape and are waiting to be discovered by archaeologists. Also scenically we could look forward to a wonderful area – wide plains at the coastal sections with adventurous mountain roads, which surprised us with a completely different landscape after only a few kilometers after leaving the coastal road. But not only the landscape changed, but also the way of life of the people: Away from the developed areas we felt catapulted back several decades – the tea rooms and public life in the centres was male-dominated. Almost without exception, women wore headscarves, were busy doing all kinds of work everywhere, while the men chatted comfortably with each other or drank tea.

Our way led us in an easterly direction from known to less known tourist areas, but also over countless roads and paths into the offshore coastal mountains. Sometimes we were also forced to take larger detours around restricted areas, or rain and cold forced us to lower altitudes. Yes, the rain and cold were soon our daily companions. After the first wonderful days we had to prepare ourselves for a “weather mix”; in the evening we could still enjoy the sun and in the morning we sought shelter under the small plane behind the camper.

After a short time we reached Antalya, which attracts not only Turkish travellers with its charisma. With us it was not love at first sight, because the access road to the city center was a nervous strain and we definitely arrived in Turkish traffic; the traffic rules are simply interpreted differently here. Despite the low season and the many closed shops in the core of the old town we found a lively life in the countless alleys and squares. The individual sellers of the countless bazaars lured the passers-by into their shops in Arabic manner and we were also repeatedely pushed to visit some shops. Many times, it was amusing and in a very short time, a short conversation was originated; other sellers were too pushy, a thing that we noticeably replied with dismissive gestures and quickly continued our way.

According to René’s tour suggestion we followed the southern coastline further along the Mediterranean to the east. Already before Antalya, holiday residences and hotels shaped many coastal sections, but from here on, everything was different and the gigantism can hardly be surpassed on this coastal section. Where nothing is yet standing, a new complex is already under construction. One holiday resort tries to outdo the other and the competition among the providers must be huge. When we passed through, almost all residences were still closed, but countless construction workers were working on the buildings and facilities for the coming holiday season. There must be a lot going on here during the high season and our idea of holiday idyll must be drowned in the crowd. We are definitely not “all-included” tourists!

Again and again we were looking for the “other” in the nearby mountains and found it in a few kilometres inland. We also puzzled again and again whether all the many tourists, who are here on the coast to relax, ever drive on these lonely mountain roads and ever get to see the wonderful mountain valleys. Actually, Turkey would be here, away from the wide highways in the small rural restaurants with very lovely and friendly people.

After Adana we turned in northeast direction to reach Central Anatolia. René’s tour suggestion was a little bit too far and the travel recommendation of the foreign office suggested us to avoid the border area to Syria for the moment. In addition, a cold front with a biting north wind, a lot of rain and low temperatures made themselves noticeable, which made crossing higher pass roads even more difficult. From the province of Van we heard about many avalanches and countless deaths; north of us snow was announced and our camper is definitely not equipped for any winter camping.

In Kozan, we sought overnight in a historic hotel, studied the weather forecast for the next few days and compared the regions with each other; no good views and even from the distant Ҫeşme sobering weather reports came in. The situation immediately reminded us of the situation on Crete, where snow and cold forced us to replan our travel route. So we turned around in Kozan and headed back to the southwestern corner of the country; there – according to the many informations – it should be the most stable and warmest.

Despite the same or similar route back to the west, our route choice again brought many facets of the coastal sections and the areas behind. We drove to nice places to stay for the night a second time and enjoyed the more and more stable weather. We also crossed the Taurus Mountains in the western part, crossed snow-covered high valleys and visited the white swimming pools of Pamukkale near Denizli. We definitely didn’t go swimming, but we camped in the immediate vicinity high above the valley and enjoyed the warming fire under a starry sky far into the night.

The sunrays of the day before only showed us how it could be! Cold wind and an overcast sky accompanied us back through the mountains to the coast. Although the temperatures rose slightly, the rain put a lot of pressure on our travel mood. Again and again we had to place ourselves protectively under our small pre-tents or torture ourselves into the interior of the jeep. No, it was definitely not very pleasant and sometimes there was not even enough time to light the evening fire; it was too wet and stormy!

Before Bodrum the sun came out again and let us be tempted to new adventures on “hiking trails”. But as soon as we were used to the sun and warmth again, we had to go to a hotel again. It was more than questionable if the chosen accommodation offered a better protection than our jeep; there were buckets of water everywhere to catch the dripping water and the badly installed room window made no difference if it was open or closed – the cold air was blowing everywhere!

Interestingly enough, these sunny rainy days were always very special and we experienced wonderful moments again and again. Together with the locals, we searched for warmth around the tiled stove in the tearoom or stood together with the teacup under a not quite tight roof. Unfortunately in such moments our local language skills were rather modest and the conversations rather short; unfortunately!

Until we reached Ҫeşme it was soon only a short drive along the varied coast and the sun finally laughed at us again for a little longer than just a few hours. One last visit to the Milli National Park and we were already heading for the nearby Ҫeşme. Even before our first departure we were invited by René and Zehra. According to the first planning we would not have gone through Turkey until the end of the trip. But our car breakdown in North America changed everything and so we could already accept their invitation.
Tensely we knocked on the door………………….

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