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Travel reports

Off to Europe!

Passing Ankara we followed our route towards the Black Sea.
On the way the roads led us through dense forests that covered the mountainous landscape and which was partly white due to snow.

We turned off the main road onto a dirt road and a followed this for a short distance to camp a night in the woods away from the noisy streets and towns.
We didn't see any signs or fences and since we never leave any garbage when camping our stay was supposed to be no problem for anyone. That's what we thought.

We enjoyed the peace and fresh air, as in the late afternoon a car came along the little dirt road, on whose side we had parked in a small clearing. The car stopped and two older men got out. Our Turkish vocabulary of only 10 words was indeed better as their English which is why the communication was obviously quite difficult. What we would do here was probably the question. With words, as well as using gestures, we tried to make clear that we were tourists in transit who only wanted to spend one night here.
The two men nodded off and disappeared. So everything is OK. That's what we thought.

Camping in the woods
Camping in the woods
Camping at the Black Sea
Bakery in Istanbul
Roasted chestnuts
Sultan Ahmet square

It was after around 9pm, when we were almost asleep, but then noticed a light cone and shortly after a car pulling up next to us. There was barely time to raise the bed when we already noticed wild knocking against our windows and harsh voice.
Hmm. That usually could have been everyone at the moment. Through the windows we could not see who was there due to flash light. And so I did stuck my head carefully out of the rear side window, just to see a machine gun first. Luckily, I quickly realized that the wearer also wore an uniform. Otherwise we certainly would have been in trouble. It was the Jandarma, the Turkish gendarmerie. A kind of police or regulatory agency, with no less than five men - all of them armed - which have surrounded us.
They frantically waved their torches and ran around our car. I should get out, I understood. With the perfect Turkish and loud voice the alleged group leader spoke to me. With slow and clear English I answered. No one understood the other. So once again I made use of gestures. 'We are T O U R I S T S. We like to stay here overnight. Tomorrow we move on!' I was trying to convey. After our passports were checked like wild, the fun began. While Nadine was still in the car and enjoyed stereo flashlights by two officials on both our side windows, I should open the doors of the car.
One of the five gentlemen seemed younger than we are, but apparently did not knew any word in English, because he only responded with head shaking when I tried to talk to him.
Our fully loaded trunk seemed to be suspicious immediately to the men. He signaled me to unload everything. Of course ... there is probably nothing more dangerous in the world than a foreign car with a couple therein, that was obviously just going to sleep.
Just wearing a T-shirt while standing in those nice frosty outside temperatures I started to unload the car. And I immediately thought of our (empty) jerry fuel cans and the gas bottle, which would probably be going to be interpreted as arson equipment.
But first of all, the 'Jandarma' had to learn about 'typical equipment of overland travelling tourists'. Camping equipment, vehicle spare parts, spare fluids, clothes, etc. Two of the five officers ransacked our boxes and bags as if they were bargain bins at a flea market. It seemed as if they were looking for anything suspicious, so they were able to arrest us. But we had nothing. Only goosebumps and now even more worn passports.
Incidentally, I saw a second vehicle. The same, which was there in the afternoon. Presumably, the old men had called the police. I did not get the chance to ask him, why he did call the police. Whether we had entered into any restricted area or the like, we do not know to this day. There haven't been any signs or fences as I said. But that obviously seems to mean nothing at all. And disturbance caused by us is something I actually want to exclude. Whatever.

Finally, the asked me to put the stuff back in the car again. But staying here was no option. We should go back on the road and look for a hotel after about 4 kilometres, they gave us to understand. So we rearranged the stuff in the car and drove. In fact, the police followed us a few kilometers since we did not stop at the by the gendarmerie presumably intended motel.
Like at previous nights we stopped at a gas station. Due to the noisy trucks on site and the elaborately colored lighting which reminded us of the cities in China, compared to the quiet and dark forest one could speak of a 'big dance club' here. We parked next to a couple of trucks, rearranged the stuff in the car once more and went to sleep. 15 minutes had passed. Then there was a knocking on the window, again. Annoyed and in the knowledge of being allowed to park here and definitely doing nothing wrong, I immediately opened the door to see who was there. I hung my head out the door and looked over the roof of the car. No one to see. Strange. I lay down again. We tried to sleep. Five minutes later another knocking and two male voices. Now that was enough. Door opened, shoes on, around the car. 'WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? WHAT DO YOU WANT?' I shouted. I saw two men standing with hands in pockets. They quickly waved off and I heard the words 'OK' and 'Sorry', then they went off. I loudly called after them to leave us alone. After we heard from Anje and Izaak that someone broke into their car a few days ago, we did not consider it unlikely that these guys might wanted to check if the car was unattended.

The next morning we 'enjoyed' ice cold tap water at the gas station's toilet during our 'morning routine' before we drove to the coast of the Black Sea.

We reached the sea near Akcakoca, follow the road along the wide-spread now bald hazelnut plantations and in an undeveloped area drove at the beach and pitched our 'camp'. After we had left the highlands, we enjoyed more pleasant temperatures around 14°C, again. Fortunately, this night there was no knocking against our windows any more.

On the heavily rainy morning of November 30 we approached Istanbul and crossed the Bosphorus over the southern bridge. In heavy traffic, heavy rain and dense fog unfortunately there was not much to see from the otherwise surprisingly narrow strait. We said 'Goodbye' to Asia and 'Hello' to Europe. At least geographically. Because culturally, the two halves of the city should not differ at all. The next day we took the car to the mechanic. In addition to the oil and air filter change, the car was checked thus the exhaust found as the cause of the noise. In both the catalyst and the muffler loud rattling / roar was hearable at high RPM. Only by replacing the exhaust system this could be fixed what again would be very expensive and time-consuming. 'Let's fix it later' we thought.

In Istanbul, we quickly found favor in the historic old town with its beautiful alleys where one everywhere can see Turks sitting and having a Çay (tea) together with others. Surprisingly knowledge of the German language was very popular / wide-spread. Not only restaurant staff or sellers in stores but also many locals on the streets spoke goog German. That was almost scary. Germans visiting Istanbul could think about being in Berlin's district of 'Wedding'...

We visited the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), built as a Byzantine church in the 6th century as a building with multiple naves this was converted into a mosque during the fall of Constantinople in the middle of the 15th century and since 1935 serves as a museum. The building, with its high arches shows both Christian and Muslim elements and is considered a landmark of the city.
Additionally to a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) with its untypical six minarets we enjoyed Turkish tea at the former Hippodrome (today Sultan Ahmet Square), which is also the location of the German fountain and the Egyptian Obelisk of Thutmosis III. Later we strolled through the Grand Bazaar, probably the largest of its kind in the world.

Hagia Sophia
Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Turkish tea
Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
Pita and Kebab

After a few difficulties in finding a suitable car insurance for our foreign vehicle that covers the European Union, we will now head to Bulgaria.

We are looking forward to the border crossing west of the town of Edirne, which is supposed to be one of the busiest worldwide.