The title of this article is an allusion to the song of the German satire show "extra 3" by the TV station NDR. They made up a song about some horrific facts about Erdogan, Turkey’s president. You can find english subtitles in YouTube. On the other hand, the title describes quite well the back and forth, the inaccessibility and insecurity I had in search of the next visa. I spent a whole time in the Turkish capital again. 24 good and instructive days to be exact. Ankara is not particularly attractive to travelers, however, I have found a lot of friends here and almost even developed something like a domestic feeling. I knew where to go, where to eat well and cheaply, and had friends all over the city. Feels good. During my time in Ankara I stayed with two different Couchsurfer hosts and in a cheap hotel. Sure, of course, I would have liked to travel further and would have liked to see more of Turkey, but the formalities of the visa procurement had bound me to the city.
Source: YouTube.com | extra 3 | NDR
Together with Deniz I traveled from Cappadocia, back to my hostess Nadire. Nothing special…well yes, one of the tires exploded. But we were fine. The two of them understood each other splendidly and we enjoyed the time in three. Through Deniz I got to know Barbaros (TR). Barbaros has already shoot a documentary about the history of Ankara and offered himself as a very expert and fun city guide. We visited, for example, the Post Museum of Ankara and I learned more about Ankara, the Republic and the whole of Turkey. Nadire was once again an excellent hostess and Deniz has sewn me a new cell phone pocket made of felt. I'm really well here. Even if the weather is even colder than in Germany and the winter is coming slowly.
At the end of our time together, we went to Ankara Palas for the Coffee & Blues Festival. The building itself is fantastic. It is one of the first hotels and club houses of the Turkish Republic and was completed in 1928. Since then it has served as a cultural center. Hundreds of different coffees, blends and roasts were available for us to try and in the evening played a Turkish blues band. To be honest, I expected more from a Bluesfestival, but as always I made the most of it and had my fun. A blackout of the sound equipment brought the end of the evening then faster than expected. Since Nadire was expecting a visit from the family and, of course it’s not allowed in some Turkish families to share an apartment with the other sex, I went to a cheap hotel for a few nights.
In the hotel I enjoyed the time for myself and worked on the last articles of this blog. Also, I organized a new couch in Ankara. And I was lucky again. This time I moved to the "100-year-quarter" somewhat away from the city center, near the campus of the ODTÜ, the Middle East Technical University. Three Turkish „microbiology and genetics“ students offered me shelter for the next two weeks. I spent time with Bilge, Damla, Elif and Tolga (Damla's boyfriend who stepped by regularly) in their student flat on the 10th floor of an apartment house.
We became really good friends. They have taught me a lot about Atatürk, Turkish traditions, Islam and the current situation of Turkey. I’ve been able to listen to countless stories of their experiences I have been able to follow closely and it helped me to get my picture of life in this culture and this system. But we also enjoyed the time together in the kitchen for philosophies about everyday worries, senseless laughter or spent the nights with wine, social games, coffee set reading and tarot cards. And as if not enough, Bilge's birthday party was already planned in the second night, and I got to know other friends and we celebrated till morning. Overall, my biorhythm was more of a night. Even though I had to get out of bed early in the morning to look after the visa formalities.
It was a pure odyssey to prepare visas for India and Iran. 16 times I visited the different embassies and had to make many errands. The worst of it: The opening times of the embassies are terrible of course, so I was driving through the city in the morning during rush hour. It felt almost like a day routine, which I actually could enjoy. You know me, I always try to be very well prepared. But there was always something missing, sometimes the contact person was incompetent, sometimes it was a national holiday, once the consulate was not to enter because of terror warnings, sometimes an agency had to be interposed, sometimes they had spontaneously changed the opening hours and last but not least, the embassy was not familiar with its own new electronic visa system.
But I had fun and stayed accustomed to it. With the Indian visa I unfortunately had to give up unsuccessfully. After several talks and forms, they rejected my application. I should try it out of the country I’m entering from (in my case probably the United Arab Emirates). My unpredictable nature of the trip gives some employees in the embassies headaches. Well, nevermind. Then I just try it out in Dubai. However, when the colleague at the Iranian embassy failed to accept my documents and authorization codes, which I had requested and sent from the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran, I remained firm. I requested an appointment with a superior and in the same day I got an appointment with the consul. I gave him my case and made him aware of a few things, so I also expressed my criticism. He promised me to take care of it and so I finally received my entry permit just yesterday. What a back and forth. I’ve learned something again. I hope the future visa procedures will be easier and, above all, faster. But now I finally have the chance to visit the land of the Persians. I am excited and I strongly assume that the stress will paid off.
But I could still enjoy a few more days in Ankara. Although Ankara is, of course, in exceptional circumstances too. Terrorist warnings are regularly issued for certain places. The fear of bombs, which seem to happen randomly in Turkey, is omnipresent and paralyts many people. Thus, the message of the attack in Besiktas in Istanbul was, of course, a big issue in the apartment. And one of the victims was also known here. A serious tragedy and the bombing warnings for Ankara, which hit us in the following hours and days, even gave me a queasy feeling. I would not say that I am afraid I am only visiting here and fortunately I do not have to live with these dangers every day. But now I have friends who are at home in Besiktas or Kaiseri. And it is also the case that many of the attacks are being used by the current regime as a means to further reduce the rules of law, to bypass
democracy, and to strengthen its arch-conservative targets. In part, these assassinations are also
attributed to the democratic, liberal protesters without any proof to represent the mostly peaceful protesters as violent offenders and to incite the people against them. Horrible. Thus, Ankara is also lined with heavily armed policemen who patrol through the streets in hundreds. But that could not prevent the fact that the Russian ambassador was killed by a Turkish policeman in. Wherever this may lead to ...I don’t know…I hope not too far.
But we were not to be controlled by fear. We tried to life a normal life. And although Bilge had a bad feeling to get too close to the town center, she took me to her German course. A great experience for me to attend a course in which young Turks learn German. The course leader was outstanding and speaks better German than me. At least she knows the systematics much better than I do. I am so glad that I already have this behind me and my feeling tells me what real German is and what is wrong German. And even this does not work all the time. In any case, I had a lot of fun and I am impressed of the efforts the students are taking to learn my language. Of course we spent a bit more time after the course with beer, wine and scotch.
After the first snow arrived in Ankara, I unfortunately got a strong cold. Crappy, but it was once again perfect timing. I was very lucky that the ladies, especially Bilge, were taking care of me very well. Like a mother, she has nursed me well, she prepared some bizarre homemade medicine brews and helped me getting better again. We spent wonderful hours together in the kitchen, which functioned as the central place of residence in the shared flat. The three girls got addicted to knitting and Bilge knitted me a cap. It is unbelievable how hospitable this flat has cared for me. I even got a place of honor on Elsa, the freezing fridge. Next to the ladies, one of my biometric photos has found its place. With a few small gifts I got on my embassy tours on the way, I tried to symbolically contribute a small part to the community.
Turkey - My personal conclusion
And again, I‘ve spent more time in a country than expected. For almost three months, I was able to get to know Turkey from different perspectives. And I just managed to meet half of it. The east of the country will hopefully still be there for me to discover another time. And it is not the
proximity to Syria, the Kurdish conflict or the curfew that keeps me from visiting. No, it is simply my slow speed of traveling. I have to leave the country because my residence permit is extinguished. I have thus fully utilized my privilege of German nationality. But it is also me. I feel like a new country, with a new language, new cultures and for me illegible Arabic writing.
Turkey is a country with many serious, unacceptable and human rights-related problems. For example, it is actually being debated whether a rapist should marry his victim. And when he marries his victim he’s protected by the law. Seriously?!?! I had the opportunity to discuss the current problems with different people: students, country people, businessmen, women, men, believers, democrats, freedom fighters, teachers, conservatives, minorities (Kurds, Turks of Greek descent, Christians) opponents of the current regime. I am very happy to have had these experiences and to have met the country personally in its current situation. Away from media and other institutions. It’s sad that almost all those who are dissatisfied, have given up hope for change / improvement. Each person tries to maintain his own little happiness in the whole trouble. And I can understand this well. There has to happen something, but even freed activist groups are currently forced to observe events without comment. I personally do not know the solution unfortunately ... Despite all foreign criticism, especially before my entry, I have, contrary to the Central European media, always felt safe and comfortable in Turkey.
Apart from the political problems, I associate Turkey with consistently
positive emotions. The indescribable natural treasures this country has to offer is probably only surpassed by the people who live here. Whether the Turks chose a traditional or modern way of life, the majority of the people I could meet here live in mutual respect, love and tolerance. At least this was shown to me and I have found great friends here. Great ideas and clever minds who honor their traditions without closing themselves to the new. This is the feeling that I take
with me from Turkey. I have no other choice than to wish my friends and all the great Turks, whom I could not meet, all the best for the future. For their great country to return as soon as possible, to freedom, equality and love. They deserve it!
With two videos I would like to say "Görüşürüz (See you)" to Turkey. I can fully sign the statements of both ladies. The video of Alice Mustang, shows a few behaviours of the Turks, which I myself could experience daily. I was rolling on the floor, laughing, as I’ve seen the – of course exaggerated – describtions of those stereotypes.
I love the Turks for it.
Source: YouTube.com | Alice Mustang
The video of Katherine Branning looks at Turkey through its national drink, the Turkish tea. And without wit, I have drunk > 50 liters of it. And this always in the hospitality and mentality described by her. Chapeau!
Source: YouTube | Katherine Branning | Ycooky
I myself will be on my way to the Islamic Republic of Iran in a few hours. A country still far from secularity. A country in which alcohol is forbidden under whips, the wearing of headscarfs for women is obligatory and the sexes are strictly separated in the buses. I'm curious about what to expect. As a traveler, of course, I always try to be tolerant. And that is tolerance. To accept something you do not like. For me, there is no tolerance to accept something you don’t have problems with anyway. On the 30-hours bus trip to Teheran I can prepare myself morally for it. I will probably experience a lot of things that I do not like. However, I am an observer, not an activist ...
I will, of course, tell you how I experience Iran and what stories await me there. I would be glad if you are back with me!
Until then I wish you a magical Christmas season (this year there’s no Christmas for me in Iran) and a happy new year!
Cheers, my dear ones! Yours, Schilli
- One morning, highly motivated and totally self-confident, I walked into a hairdresser shop and asked: "I'm sorry, do you speak Turkish?". Embarrassing, but the ice was broken. They did not speak a word of English, but I still got into in the adventure. It worked out well.
- Bilge took care of me so well that she even fed me with Turkish delicacies while I was writing the blog.
- Damla and Bilge, both great fans of Ataturk, taught me a lot about their idol. We saw a biography about him and every 4-5 minutes they stopped to give me more info. It was exciting, emotional and I enjoyed it.
- I am so proud. In one of the dolmus (minibuses) I acted as the finance officer. They all gave me their money and I paid their tickets.
Fortunately, I got the Turkish figures already quite well under control.
- It’s an awkward feeling when ~ 50 heavily armed and fully equipped policemen are running just next to you. The sound of the boots, the
clashing of machine guns that hit the shields ... scary
- But there was also a wonderful feeling when I met Tara, whom I already met in Olympos, for dinner in Ankara again. It's great to meet
familiar people on the trip.
- Live like normal people. A visit to the cinema can also be an adventure. They have smoking breaks! I'm still not sure what to think of that