Thursday, June 26, 2008

Turkey Photographs & Hitchhiking

Blue Mosque Dome
Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

Topkapi Palace Blue Mosque Wing
Sophia Mosque Galata Bridge Night

Interior of Topkapi Palace; Interior of Blue Mosque; Sophia Mosque; New Mosque by night

Our 5 day stop in Istanbul was incredible. Cafes with Turkish tea and backgammon fill the alleys while mosques with missile launcher towers define the skyline. The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar are worthy visits as well.

Turkish Breakfast
Breakfast with Erdem and his family

Knitting with Grandmother Turkish Mechanics
Knitting with Grandmother; Turkish Mechanics

From Istanbul we ferried up the Bosporus Strait to the mouth of the Black Sea then starting hitchhiking our way along the coast and eventually to the Bulgarian border. Picking up a ride has never been easier; but traveler beware, your ride may have plans of its own! We never encountered any danger or hostility, rather our drivers were more inclined to stop the car/truck at their favorite picnic spot to enjoy a meal or a beer with the welcome foreigners rather than make a direct route.

The first day, after a few short rides, five men in a working van took us for lunch and then out to a gypsy camping spot for drinks. "Tarzan" the camp proprietor carried an ax at his waist and a stick over his shoulder with a fur satchel with all the charm of Andre the Giant. Later, they went 10km out of their way to drop us off at the beginning of a beach trek which led us to a deserted stretch of the amazing Black Sea coast. We slept that night under the stars next to the softly crashing waves.

The following day the level of generosity was doubled if not tripled. Once again, after a few short rides in the right direction, a friendly Turk decides what we are going to do next. Erdem drives a new Volkswagen Golf with an Efes beer between his legs and a six pack at the ready. With business doing well at his bar ("Beer House") and wheat distribution center and a baby boy on the way, he felt on top of the world. The whole afternoon he wined and dined us, driving from picnic to restaurant to bar to cafe to his warehouse and finally to his home. The list of friendly introductions and full vessels of food and drink would not fit in the blog format. Suffice to say, Eline and I were both deeply moved by our time in his town and with his family.

And on to the next day! Breakfast and coffee with Erdem, then again to the road. This time, it was the project manager for a new highway to Bulgaria that swept us off our vector and into his private life. We spent many hours at Tempo Company headquarters enjoying tea and conversation before being helpfully dropped off at the Turkish-Bulgarian border.

For the first time since Istanbul the wallet has left my pocket for a room in this Bulgarian beach town. Upon crossing the border, vehicles and buildings are in much more disrepair demarcating a comparatively struggling economy. Bulgaria is a Christian country so women here are free to dress ridiculously in see-through pants and miniskirts, and do so at every occasion presented, even if their figure is not appealing.