Tag Archives: Nice People of Turkey

Istanbul to Ankara to Erzurum, Türkiye

2/3 – Today we bid farewell to Istanbul. We plan to take the high speed train from Pendik (about 20 miles east of the city) to Ankara, then a sleeper train from Ankara to Erzurum. We will travel east across northern Turkey until we reach the border with Georgia. It’s been a grand three months, but our visas are due to expire, and it’s time to move on.


Unfortunately, Jim was not able to book our train tickets online, so we got up early, walked to the train station and hoped for the best. The news was not encouraging. Both of today’s trains to Ankara were sold out. When we expressed dismay, the man, with very little English, managed to convey to us that a few business class seats are held until thirty minutes before the train departs. We sat patiently waiting for an opening on the 10:30 train. No luck. He told us to come back at noon and try again for the 12:45.

We went and had a doner sandwich, and the lovely salty yogurt drink Ayran. At 11:45 we returned. Where was our guy? We saw him outside talking on his mobile. What if he’d forgotten us? What if he was on his lunch break? At exactly 12 noon, he opened a side door and motioned for us to follow. He led us upstairs to an office with a computer, where he printed out our tickets to Ankara without our having to stand in line. Nice person of Turkey! He asked our ages, then gave us the business class seats at half price with a senior discount. Then he looked at the second leg of the journey. All the private sleeper cabins on the overnight train were booked, and there was only one couchette (4 bunks per cabin) left, in the men’s section. Jim took the couchette, and I got a seat in coach, where I will spend the night trying to sleep sitting up. Well, at least the seats are more comfortable than I would have on a plane…

The high speed train got us halfway across the country in four hours.


The scenery did not disappoint, and we business class travelers were served soft drinks, coffee or tea, and were given a box lunch and a Snicker bar. Life is good!




Here’s the sunset as we approached Ankara.



We had a half hour layover before boarding the Dogu Expressi at 6pm.


Making stops in every town, we’ll get across the other half of the country by 2pm tomorrow. I settled into my crowded coach car, listening to a hundred phone conversations trying to outshout the crying babies. Sheesh! I bet Jim was having a fine, quiet time back in the sleeper car!

We met for supper in the dining car at 7, and had a pretty good and reasonably priced meal of chicken shish kabob and rice. We asked for tea, and were told that tea would not be available until 8pm. Now that is very strange – Turkish people live and breathe tea, and it is always offered at any time of day or night! Oh well, we waited until 8, asked again, and were given our tea.

Sleeping wasn’t too bad – just like the olden days of air travel, I found two empty seats side by side and stretched out across them, with my feet in the aisle. At the next stop, however, a person had a ticket for my claimed seat, so I had to move. Then I saw another passenger turn the seat across from him around so he could put his feet up. That looked like a great idea, so at the next stop when the car emptied a bit, I did that too. I was awoken every hour as the conductor called out the next stop, but it really wasn’t bad.

2/4 – I met Jim back in the dining car for breakfast.


It turned out that there was only one other man in Jim’s cabin, and he got off in the middle of the night, so Jim now had a cabin to himself. I wasted no time moving my stuff back and settling in.

We had passed through some regions of deep snow during the night, but this morning’s views looked wintry but nice.




As the morning progressed, the views looked colder.




At 2pm we got off the train and trudged a half mile through yesterday’s snow and today’s slush to find our hotel. Next stop, Georgia!


Antalya to….

1/7 – the weather has gotten very cold all of a sudden! It’s time to move on, but, unfortunately for us, our next adventure is north of here, in the mountains, where it is bound to be even colder. Glad I got my winter jacket! Today we planned to take a six hour bus ride north to Konya, leaving at 11am. We arrived at the travel agent to catch the shuttle to the bus terminal at 9:45, but were told that the usual 6 buses to Konya had been reduced to 2 because of snow in the mountains. The bus we were supposed to be on had been canceled. The only morning bus would leave at 10, and the terminal was 30 minutes away. I wondered why only 4 of the buses were canceled. The snow mustn’t be too bad if some buses were still moving through.

When we expressed dismay (the travel agent had no English, and our Turkish really sucks, so all communication takes place by facial expressions, waving our hands about, pointing at clocks, and Google Translate) she indicated that we could take a taxi to a place on the outskirts of town where we could flag down the bus as it drove by at 10:15. Deal!

She sprinted with us to the taxi stand and hurriedly explained the situation to the driver. He jumped behind the wheel and peeled out into traffic, beeping his horn at every intersection to make the other cars go faster. He got us to the designated place and showed us where to stand. Jim tried to tip him for his outstanding service, but he refused extra money.

We flagged down the next bus that came by, which was not our bus. This caused a young man to emerge from the cafe and ask what we were trying to do. He waited with us until the right bus came by, and flagged it down. Now, that’s THREE Nice People of Turkey in 30 minutes – a new record!

We were happy to be out of the cold on a nice warm bus, and congratulated ourselves on our success. We were happier still when the bus assistant brought us hot coffee and a selection of snacks. We were on our way!

It was hard to believe that buses had been canceled due to snow on such a bright sunny day. Here’s what we saw out our window:



After 3 hours, the bus pulled in at a gas station / restaurant. This was an expected rest stop, where we could grab a snack and use the rest room. Usually, the driver announces how long the bus will be stopped – 10 or 15 minutes. This driver did not. As we got off the bus, we asked ‘how long?’ He just shrugged and replied, “Traffic problem”. Uh oh.

The temp had been dropping, and now registered at 0 / 32 degrees. As we trotted back to the WC, I slipped and recovered on the marble walkway covered with invisible ice. “Be careful…” I started to say, but too late. Down Jim went, smashing his knee. He limped back to the bus. Most of the passengers remained in their seats, so we sat back down too.

When the driver hadn’t returned in 20 minutes, we went into the restaurant and found him drinking tea and checking his cellphone. How long? we asked again. Another shrug. We sat inside for a while (the restaurant food did not look appetizing), bought some peanuts and a chocolate bar, and got back on the bus. I read for a while, then took a nap. After 2 and a half hours, the driver climbed back into the bus and started it up. The assistant gave everyone a cup of tea. Back in business!


After an hour’s ride, I began to get a sinking feeling. The thermometer display in the bus indicated that it was getting warmer, and things were starting to look familiar. Before too long, my suspicions were confirmed. There just could not be two identical roadside buildings called HOUSE OF LAMP. We were no longer heading north. The bus was returning to Antalya!

It was 6:30pm and pitch dark when we pulled into the otogar. Jim and I had discussed our options for the last hour, and decided to try returning to the same hotel we had checked out of this morning, even though that would entail another expensive taxi ride. We asked the bus assistant about getting a voucher or a refund on our tickets, and he said we could just use the ticket over again on another day. This didn’t sound right, but what could we do?

So, here we are back in our little room, exhausted after a long day of doing very little and getting nowhere. Our hotel proprietor said he thought we’d be returning, as he followed the weather report on the news. He was happy to see us. Although we had a non-refundable reservation in Konya, he called the Konya hotel and had them change the date on our reservation so there won’t be a penalty. Ah, the tribulations of travel! We’ll have to try again tomorrow.

1/8 – It turns out that the ongoing blizzard up north has stopped all traffic and canceled school in practically all of northern Turkey. All buses have been canceled, and even the trains got stuck on the tracks. It’s down in the 30s here in Antalya – extremely unusual. Most of the restaurants have only outdoor seating, and can’t be doing much business in this weather. The ice cream store was closed today.

We walked back to the travel agent to confirm that our tickets would still be usable. The buses are scheduled (right now) to run tomorrow, so we will try again.

On our way home we saw a display of winter hats outside a shop:image I hope well-meaning Turkish parents don’t buy these hats for their children! (We’ve seen many tee shirts sporting English words that make no sense – evidently the cachet of a foreign word is enough to sell the items, no matter the meaning!)

We understand that it’s cold back home too – bundle up and stay warm!

Antalya – the Museum and the Beach

1/5 – more errands to run today. We went back to the hikers shop to check out the boots that were special ordered for Jim. No luck – they were not wide enough, and hurt his feet. Plan B – Jim will try ordering boots online in the U.S. and ask son Peter to ship them to our next address here in Turkey.

We walked another mile downtown to a street that showed several audiologist offices, according to Google Maps. Jim’s hearing aids haven’t worked in a while, and this is a good opportunity to get them fixed. This task was a resounding success, and in twenty minutes, Jim’s ears were back in business.

Now we were close to the Antalya Muze, and walked over to check it out. Unfortunately, it is closed on Monday, but the security guard let us walk through to the outdoor displays in the garden. Another Nice Person of Turkey!

Lots of cool old stuff stored here.

Where did the heads of these statues go?

The museum was across the street from Antalya’s famous long, sandy beach, which is packed during the summer months, and almost deserted today. We’ve actually seen several swimmers in the water here in January – cold is a relative concept!image



image I love to see the mountains and the ocean at the same time.

We went back to the tailor shop to get a rip in my backpack repaired, which gave us a second opportunity to eat lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall family eatery with excellent eggplant casserole. The owner was so happy to see us again, he embraced Jim with the head-bump of respect and kissed him on both cheeks! Because it was cold today, he encouraged us to also try some of his wife’s delicious yogurt and rice soup with lemon. Hit the spot – we wish we could get recipes for all these dishes!

I’ll take this opportunity to share how much I admire the work ethic of the people of Turkey. The shops and businesses stay open from early until 10 or 11 at night. Next door to our hotel is a barbershop with one barber and one chair. He is working first thing in the morning, and still on his feet when we return from supper at 9pm. I know the country is poor, which drives the long hours, but the people are so NICE! They remember you and call you by name. They go out of their way to be pleasant, and always try to give you more than you asked for. We haven’t encountered any of the surliness here that we found in parts of Europe (I’m taking about you, Spain and especially you, Rome). Here’s to you, Türkiye! We love you!

Ölüdeniz – Kayakoy/Karmylassos

12/16 – today we went back to the Lycian Way and walked the other direction to visit Kayakoy, a hillside village that was abandoned after World War I, when the Turks drove the Greek Christians out of the country. The Greeks called it Karmylassos. Kayakoy is now being restored as a heritage site.

As we were walking, a car pulled up and asked if we needed a ride. We weren’t sure how much farther we had to walk to get to the village, and it was all uphill, so we jumped in. The Dutch couple had retired to Turkey, and thought we looked like foreigners. Nice People of Turkey!


It was strange to see what ruins look like after less than 100 years. We have been learning about the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the nationalization of Turkey in the early 1900s. For an excellent historical novel that tells the story of this village, I highly recommend Birds Without Wings, 2004, by Louis de Bernieres.

The village was eerily quiet. Here is the St. Nicholas Church.image

The remains of a mosaic on a chapel floor: image

The houses had been painted pink and blue.image


The houses were cut into the mountainside, so the downstairs room was cool. No hint of electricity or plumbing. Here are the remains of a kitchen hearth.image

We climbed to the top of the hill.


Some of the buildings at street level have been repurposed as restaurants, as tourists are starting to travel here.

The grass still grows, and the flowers still bloom.image

Such beautiful surroundings for such a sad story!