Turkey... a real paradise for those who look for alternative tourism, especially hitchhikers. A country of internal contradictions, incredible culture, amazing nature and people whose hospitality spawns so many stories we could fill up books with. A country which soon will stop to be as it is now. A place of continuous change, which geographical position determines constant anxiety. However, in no other country we were welcomed as warmly as in Turkey. Not by chance we spent there 7 weeks (spring 2017), one of the longest stops on our way.
Contrary to what it is said about Turkey, we felt very safe there, maybe except for the main square in Istanbul, which is avoided also by local people due to recent terrorist attacks. Outside of big cities we never felt any kind of danger.
Part 1: Istanbul-Pamukova-Kerpe-Bursa-Izmir-Urla-Ephesus-Fethiye-Antalya-Konya-Capadoccia-Sivas-Trabzon
Part 2: Ardahan-Erzurum-Ankara-Istanbul
For those who look for untypical places
We recommend small towns and farms. Although it has to be said that in Turkey there are so many must-see destinations that for off-the-beaten gems there may not be enough time… Turkey is huge and extremely diverse. A few dozen miles and you find yourself in a completely different landscape. From the industrial region around Istanbul to the green hills of the north, from the Mediterranean scrub on the south-west to the 3000m-high mountains of the Taurus range, from the cultivated Anatolian plateau to the moon-like structures of Cappadocia. And Cappadocia is absolutely mesmerizing, very touristic and yet big enough to offer quite a few uncrowded trails.
Turkey is a bliss for hitchhikers. Really. In no other country hitchhiking was that easy. We crossed it twice, practically never waiting longer than 10 minutes. What’s more, every driver treated us as guests, so during lunchtime invited us for soup/kebab/pita or - if it was not time for eating - at least a tea. Both truck drivers (sometimes wild in driving and on the road for long hours, but very nice) and private cars stop to pick you up. The only challenge is the language, no more than 10-20% of the drivers we met spoke in any other language than Turkish. But it doesn’t stop them from discussing and sharing experiences. ;)
Couchsurfing, similarly to hitchhiking, works perfectly. Not only most of our requests were accepted immediately, but we also met really amazing people, who opened their doors, fridges and hearts. We got to know many great stories and received lots of support and useful advice.
Even in such touristic places like Cappadocia or Antalya we found couchsurfers without much of a headache. The only place we didn’t manage was Sivas, central Anatolia, just for the lack of active CSs. We wanted to stop there on our hitchhiking route. Finally, we took a night bus, the cost was similar to a hostel.
At the time of our trip in Turkey workaway.info proposed more than 400 projects, and almost all of them are worth trying. Only going through them and making a first screening took us a few days. Finally, we managed to a have a top 5 list and we got accepted in three of them. Although we planned to visit maximum two, at the end we couldn’t help staying in all of them. And all three are strongly recommended.
The first project is located in Kadikoy, a small village with no more than 10 inhabitants, near Pamukova, in the middle of the highlands. A community of four people decided to live together, they built a house with straw bales and other natural materials and now they are working on a permaculture garden. Very calm place, few hours of voluntary work per day, with no strict schedule. A lot of time for discussions, walks, reading books and just being in the present.
The second project was completely different. Narkoy is a huge organic farm, which hires 16 people and produces any possible type of fruits, vegetables and other plants. They also have a hotel and a restaurant. Voluntary work has a schedule with break for a delicious lunch from local products, enjoyed with the rest of the crew. The openness and warmness of the people who are part of Narkoy community overcome any language barrier.
The third was an organic olive farm, which produces olive oil. Led by Sibel (and since a while by her husband), it is a different example of community, where horses, donkeys, sheep, chickens, dogs, geese and cats are active members. Animals are free to roam around the huge estate, they go wherever they want. They come sometimes, eat something or observe human working. A delight for those who are looking for peace and harmony with nature.
For vegetarian and vegan
It’s the first (and unfortunately not the last) country in our travel in which Anna “suspended” her vegetarianism. Turkish people are so open that they often invited us for lunch or dinner, practically never asking before ordering about our diet. With couchsurfers it was easier, even if they invited us for dinner, almost always it was vegetarian. But drivers in the first moment ordered kebab. And as they didn’t really speak English, when we could react was already too late. Of course these are just peculiar cases, but they show what kind of difficulties vegetarians and vegans can meet, hosts sometimes can be overwhelming.
There are quite a few alternatives to meat: mostly hummus, but beans and lentils soups are quite common everywhere; cheese and dairy products a go-go.
For those interested in the social and political situation
We were in Turkey during the whole campaign before the referendum that turned the country into a presidential democracy. The day after we arrived to Istanbul the first posters started to appear and we left one day after the referendum. We could observe this… let’s say a not quite fair race, during which the only visible option was “evet” (yes). We were then not surprised (even if a little we had hope), that evet won, giving Erdogan even more power and the possibility to prolong further its 14-year long reign. But it has to be said, that the difference was really small (49%/51%), which finally speaks for an aware and active society. Most of those who speak English and are open for foreigners - which makes up the vast majority of the people we met - mostly voted against. Only during hitchhiking sometimes we met somebody who supported yes (once we even got a ride from the “evet” campaign car). With curiosity and some dose of fear we are looking forward to see what will happen in Turkey in the next future.
For those who respect rules
Poles need visa, it can be done in 5 minutes online. Visa allows being in Turkey for three months during half a year. You can enter with it more than once, as we did, coming back to Turkey after visiting Caucasus countries. We didn’t have problems on the land borders, beside a downtime in the computer system which blocked us for more than an hour on the Georgian-Turkish border. Andrea, being Italian doesn’t need visa.
Changemakers’ stories from Turkey: Box of art
Other posts about Turkey: Shit happens