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Our Dip into Asia!

October 1st, 2022

Turkiye now known as “Turkiye”, is a country located in the Thrace region: the southeastern extension of the Balkan Peninsula, with a large part of its territory in Anatolia – the western most region of Asia on a peninsula. It has a population of over 84 million.  It is considered “the bridge between the continents”.

It is bordered by Bulgaria in the northwest, Greece in the west, Georgia in the northeast, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan in the east, and Iraq and Syria in the southeast with the island of Cyprus and the Mediterranean to the south.  In the west it is surrounded by the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea to the north. The Sea of ​​Marmara, along with the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, separates Anatolia from Thrace, in other words: Asia from Europe. Turkiye has an important geostrategic power as it is located at the crossroads of the European and Asian continents. The capital of Turkiye is Ankara. It is roughly the size of Germany or the size of Texas and Louisiana put together. The capital of Turkiye is Ankara. 

In January 2020, the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly — the umbrella organization of Turkish exports — announced that it would use “Made in Turkiye” on all its labels in a bid to standardize branding and the identity of Turkish businesses on the international stage, using the term ‘Turkiye’ across all languages around the world.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs sent letters to the UN and other international organizations on 31 May 2022 requesting that they use Turkiye. The UN agreed and implemented the request immediately.

The first settlements on the territory of Turkiye begin in the Paleolithic Age.  After various ancient Anatolian civilizations such as the Thracians, Hittites , Phrygias, Lydians and the Ionian civilization founded by the Achaeans fleeing from Greece as a result of the Doric Invasion, Alexander the Great , the king of Macedonia became dominant and the conquests of the Hellenistic Period began. Afterward, respectively, there was Byzantine period when the Roman Empire and Anatolia became Christian. With the Battle of Manzikert , which the Seljuk Turks won against Byzantium in 1071, the Byzantine supremacy in Anatolia was broken to a large extent and Anatolia was captured by the Turkish chiefs of the Seljuks in a short time, and Islamization and Turkization activities began on the Anatolian lands.  In 1243, the Anatolian Seljuk State, which fell into a weak state after the Mongol invasions, left its place to the new Turkish principalities in Anatolia.

The Ottomans, who came to the forefront and gained independence as one of the Turkish principalities in Western Anatolia since the end of the 13th century, became a great power with the conquests in the Balkan lands in the 14th century and established dominance over other Turkish principalities in Anatolia.  It became a great empire when Mehmed conquered Istanbul and put an end to the Byzantine Empire. The empire reached its peak in the 16th century. 

By the 19th century, the empire entered a serious modernization process called the Tanzimat. The First Constitutional Era, which started with the declaration of the constitution and the opening of the parliament in 1876, lasted until 1878, but in 1908, the Constitution was declared and came into effect again. However, the reforms could not prevent the disintegration of the empire.  The empire, which entered the First World War on the side of the Germans, was defeated as a result of the war and accepted the surrender of all armies on October 30, 1918, and was subsequently occupied by the Allies.

As a result of the Allied Powers’ occupation of Istanbul, the arresting and exile of some deputies, the Grand National Assembly of Turkiye was established in Ankara on April 23, 1920, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, with the closure of the Parliament. Under his leadership, the War of Independence (1919-1922) against the occupying forces was successful, and with the abolition of the sultanate by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 1 November 1922, the Ottoman monarchy and the Ottoman Empire became history. The proclamation of the republic was made on October 29.  

Turkiye is a democratic, secular and unitary constitutional republic governed by a presidential system. Its official language is Turkish, which is the mother tongue of 85% of its population. Turks make up 70-80% of the country, the rest are nations legally recognized under the Treaty of Lausanne (Armenians, Greeks and Jews), legally unrecognized Kurds and others. The majority of its population is Sunni Muslim. Being a member of the Council of Europe, NATO and G-20 communities, Turkiye is integrated with the Western world. It became an associate member of the European Economic Community in 1963, joined the EU Customs Union in 1995 and started negotiations for full membership to the European Union in 2005 which negotiations are ongoing.  Today, Turkiye is considered a regional power thanks to its military capacity and diplomatic initiatives.

The national flag of Turkiye, officially the Turkish flag is a red flag featuring a white star and crescent. The flag is often called “the red flag” (al bayrak), and is referred to as “the red banner” (al sancak) in the Turkish national anthem. The current Turkish flag is directly derived from the late Ottoman flag, which had been adopted in the late 18th century and acquired its final form in 1844. The flag represents the reflection of the moon and a star in a pool of pool of Turkish warriors.  The crescent moon and star represent Turkic peoples; the crescent in honour of the religious affiliations and the star represents the diversity of Turkish cultures.  

Currency:  The Lira – worth $0.185 USD and $0.1338 CDN. This is the monetary symbol used for Turkish lira:  ₺

Diesel:  23.24  ₺per litre which is $4.76 US per gallon (cheapest by far to date)

Beer:  Efes

EU License Plate Letter:  TR

We have been to Turkiye before but only to Istanbul.  This was back in 2014 when we took a vacation trip for 9 weeks around the world when Fran retired and Doug began part time work.  We spent a long weekend layover in Istanbul before returning to the US and we enjoyed the city. Now it’s time to explore the country!

Our EE SIM cards will not work here so we’ll need new ones (but naturally we won’t dispose of these so we can use when we return to the EU) and we’ll need Turkish Lira and a Turkish vignette – hopefully all things we can get once we cross the border.

So the saga of the border crossing from Bulgaria continues.

We were out of Bulgaria at 1:38pm (if you recall from our last post, we’d arrived at the line up at 11:43am).  So in no man’s land, we were stuck in the slowest part of the line.

While waiting in line a Brit approached us, asking if we spoke English (our French plates fool everyone!).  Upon replying yes, we began chatting about the situation and more.  When the line began to move, he returned to his RV.  Later his wife, Jenny, came over and chatted with us a bit more.  They had just purchased their motorhome and it was their first vacation in it.  They hope to retire soon and travel more.

After actually crossing the border itself,

we had to pay a 60TL fee to get our vehicle “disinfected” – also reminiscent of some Latin American countries.  (as we had no lira, they accept Bulgarian Levs and/or Euros.) Not sure what they thought we were bringing in, but okay.  You just drive through a spray apparatus.

We finally got close to the Turkish immigration at 2:45 pm and we could see people getting out of their cars and going up to a window.  Fran got out in order check this out and it seems you need to get out of your vehicle to go through immigration as they look at your E-visa and take your photo.  So she returned to the vehicle, got Doug and both our phones which had our visas on them, and got into the thankfully, short line up to enter Turkiye.  We then saw Jenny and Larry and told them what was up.  When Fran got up to the front of the line (didn’t take too long) she got sorted and then the agent closed the window!  So Doug had to wait.  She then went to see about getting a toll vignette at the PTT booth only to be told by the woman that the machine wasn’t working and we could get an HGS in about 70 km down the road.  Okay……

Fran then looked into where we do the vehicle importation and found the Customs Window.  The registered owner of the vehicle needs to do this once they have their passport stamped so she could not do this herself.  Minou is in our “company” name with Doug as the registered driver.  The agent needs to be able to actually see the vehicle as well.

She returned to the passport window and waited until Doug got his stamp (the fellow returned to the window shortly after she got back – we later saw, while sitting in Minou, that he seemed to take a lot of smoke breaks) and then we returned to the vehicle to wait until we reached the window. We were about 5th in the left hand line up.

At one point the right lane sped ahead and Doug changed lanes to get up to the front of that line.  We could see that the 3 Danish motorhomes in front of us seemed to be having issues as they were taking so long and that’s when our troubles began.  We saw them all pull ahead and pull over while sorting their issues out.

It was 3:15 when Doug got to the Customs window and handed over all the necessary documents: stamped passport, vehicle title, his driver’s license and proof of insurance.

Well, it turns out the copy of the insurance we showed him, was cut off at the bottom and didn’t show we were covered in Turkiye but Doug managed to sort that out we thought; then he asked for his French ID card since the vehicle is registered in France – well the fellow could not get past the fact that we were entering as Americans with a French vehicle we owned through a French company.  He cancelled Doug’s entry stamp in the computer at that point.  Doug was able to show that we did in fact have insurance but the fellow kept saying we could not enter the country.  Doug began asking to speak to his boss to no avail.  Fran came over and the agent then kept asking for her passport to cancel her entry stamp too.  She refused and Doug kept asking to speak to someone else.

Another agent finally came over who seemed to speak better English and asked us to get out of the line and park in front so that others could pass after he heard our problem.  Then another traveler who spoke Turkish and English came over to help.  She explained to him what was happening.  He asked us for something that showed we were in fact the company; it took a while as Doug had no cell service but Fran did, for us to find the document (stupid us, never printed this form – what a rookie mistake – we should have known better!) and that agent took us to yet another window with a new agent who brought it all together.  In the meantime, Fran had checked our glove box and found the original insurance document that proved we did indeed have insurance for Turkiye.

While we were at this window, Larry came up to us and he told us that he too had an issue;  he had UK insurance that does not cover Turkiye so he was required to purchase some BUT they won’t take credit and he has no euros and very few British pounds.  We offered to lend him the €100 in order for him to buy his insurance, gave him our contact details and we’ll sort out how they can pay us back later.  Also while waiting, Fran heard someone at the HGS booth who seemed to be getting their toll sticker so she went over and was told, it was now possible to the one so we’ll do that next.

Finally, after four and a half hours we were legally in Turkiye.  Phew!  That was the slowest border line up we’ve ever been in on either side of the Atlantic – the one that comes second was our entry from Tijuana to US back in 2020 – that took four hours but had no bureaucratic bull$hit just a mass of vehicles trying to cross.

By now we’re mentally exhausted and so relieved we got through we forgot to get the HGS sticker!  We knew we wouldn’t be on a toll road until just before the first city where we want to get fuel so we hope we’ll be able to get one at a gas station (they are supposed to be sold at gas stations, post offices and banks).  So off we go.

We arrive in the city of Kirklareli where there are lots of gas stations but the one on our side of the road had no ATM, did not sell SIM cards nor HGS stickers.  The cashier told Fran they are available right before the toll road which seemed odd as we’d read you have to purchase ahead of time.  Oh well, worse comes to worse, we buy it in Istanbul and hope the so called “grace period” is legit.

It’s now getting late and we just want a cold beer!  Fran had a rest area on the toll road in mind and we make it the 40 km / 30 mi to it hoping there’s a cash machine, maybe a toll tag and SIM cards.  We approached the toll highway:

We saw a bus pulled over on the right and then a man walking on the other side of the four lane highway; there was an opening in the median fence and Doug drove through and pulled over.  We’re not sure the fellow spoke much English but he understand that Doug was asking about an HGS sticker and told us there was an office behind the trees ahead of us about 50 m on THIS side of the highway.  We would have not have seen it, and of course, there’s no signage.

We parked in the pull out and Doug walked over with the required documents.  The vendor spoke NO English and we think we got ripped off in the transaction but it got done.  We had read you had to pay 10₺ for the tag and put a minimum of 30₺ on it.  The fellow insisted Doug had to pay 100₺ gave him a crappy exchange rate for euros.  But at least we have it.  We affixed it to the window, turned back around through that same opening in the median and off we went to the truck/rest area.  We have to say the highways are very nice and are full four lane freeways (that expanded as we got closer to Istanbul the next day).

Well, one out of three things we wanted panned out at the rest stop.  They sold tourist SIM cards for Turk Telecom; Doug had wanted TurkCell but we wanted to buy one so we had data right away but we had no Turkish Lira yet.  Turns out they have a Euro price and we did not have the exact amount but he gave us change in Lira so at least we had a few of them now and a working cell phone (Fran’s) that Doug could hotspot off of.   She got a 25GB SIM card with 5GB of free social media for about $30 with minutes and SMS capability.  The part that we always find difficulty doing in foreign countries is getting someone to tell us how we figure out what our data balance is; this time it was no different.  The fellow with his limited English tried to explain that we could text the word KALAN but that never worked; then he said call 9333 but even though there was an English option, it never worked either.  Oh well, we can always monitor it on our phones.

We walked out of the shop/restaurant and lo and behold, we see some of the Danes who’d been in the border line up with us eating a meal.  They were not going to be staying here as they had a campground in mind in Istanbul.  We chatted a bit, offered them good luck on their drive into the big city in the dark on a Saturday night and then returned to Minou, had a beer and then dinner.  What a long exhausting day.

While having our first beer, we got a knock on the door – it was Larry!  They’d stopped in here to see if there was a cash machine as well but were not going to stay the night here.  He had chatted with the Danes as well and found out we were parked out back.  We assume we’ll hear from them soon.

Knowing that we had to cross the city of Istanbul tomorrow, we wanted to get up early and hit the road as it was Sunday and maybe a better day to do just that.  We were on the road by about 7am and we had 188 km / 116 mi to drive to get to our overnight spot on the Asian side of the city in a part on the Sea of Marmara.  Less than 30 km / 20 mi from the city we began to see lots of mosques, housing developments especially high-rises.  This is a big city!

Traffic is good and we’re doing a good speed, a little faster than we usually drive in order to get done as soon as possible but it’s all going well.  We reach the European side and then cross the bridge over the Bosporus:

And see this sign:

We still need money and naturally on a toll highway, there were no ATM’s but Fran found some very close to the parking area (once we got off the highway in Maltepe) and we were headed there and Doug pulled over while she ran out to get cash (again we are so grateful we have Schwab accounts as the ATM fee here was over $6!). Later that day when walking around, we saw a lot of these ATM kiosks, often with 4 or 6 different cash machines:

Fran was able to get cash and we continued the final 2 km to our overnight spot.  It’s in a huge green park on the sea and there are several lots.  They are tolerant and allow motorhomes and the area we ended up in had a lot of trailers that seemed to be just parked there – maybe they pay a monthly fee to park them there as many had Turkish plates.  Who knows, but that meant there were not many people around us to make noise.  The lot was by no means full and we did see a German plated van there too.  We had also seen other campervans in some of the other lots we passed to get here. We got parked and decided to head out to see what we could accomplish as sightseeing here was not on our agenda here.

As we were locking up Minou, a young man pushing a baby stroller said hello and we chatted for a bit.  He is a computer software engineer with Siemens and confirmed that our vehicle would be safe here.  We picked his brain for a bit asking about where we should go to find a few things before saying so long.

We found our way across the busy boulevard and Doug called an Uber to take us where Mustafa recommended.  Luckily, Fran had seen the forecast and grabbed out umbrellas as just before arriving in Kadakoy, it began to sprinkle.  It got worse after about five minutes.

So first we were looking for a TurkCell SIM for Doug.  We found this almost right away and then asked about getting replacement batteries in our phones.  With Google Translate and broken English, we were told come back tomorrow as their technician was not in today.  Doug asked about what kind of battery it would be and was told a Chinese knock off; not sure we wanted to do that and we understand that the operation of replacing the battery in a OnePlus 8T is very delicate so we were a little apprehensive as well.  We will think about this further.

Then we looked for and found a place to have breakfast and after some confusion over the menu, got served a pretty good hot breakfast for under $8. By the time we were done, the rain had about stopped; that was good timing.

We did keep looking with no luck for the battery; Doug even found a place that was technical service for OnePlus phones but they don’t do it either.  (We later heard from Josh that replacing the battery was not a good idea as it is in fact a delicate operation that can destroy the integrity of the phone.)

The other two items on our “list” for today were running shoes for Doug (no luck) and new glasses for Fran and she wanted an eye exam.  We finally found an optical place that was open on a Sunday but she was told they don’t do exams and we had to go to the state hospital for that.  The next optical place gave us a name of a doctor not in a hospital but it was quite far away so we gave up for now; when we get to a place that’s cheaper than the big city to get work done on Minou and our teeth, she’ll do it then as the glasses will take some time to be made too assuming of course, it’s cheaper than getting them done back in the US.  She’d like to keep her frames if possible so that might help the price however; she wears transition progressives and they are never cheap for her script.

One thing we did get done that was not on our list, was buying a new firmer memory foam pillow for Fran which has been hard to find just shopping in hypermarket grocery stores and never seeing much bedding options.  So there was that.

canal we crossed
street in Kadakoy

We ended up walking all the way back to Minou stopping at McDonald’s for cold drinks less than 2km away for a break.

Before we left Bulgaria, we looked for an ocularist in Istanbul and Fran chatted with a couple via WhatsApp and got Doug an appointment for his prosthetic eye for a polishing as it’s been irritating him.  We had chosen this overnight spot due to its proximity to this clinic because as usual, pickings in a city are slim.

So Monday morning we got up late, it was sunny but the hot weather seems to be over.  More seasonable and comfortable temperatures seemed to be in order now, at least for around here.

Before ten Doug left to head to his appointment.  It was going to be at least an hour’s walk but he was great with that.  He also had a couple of things to do enroute (like finding a place to print and look for salad dressing) so he left early.  He arrived just after eleven to be sure he was at the right place etc. only to be told they had no record of his appointment!  After we chatted back and forth with each other on WhatsApp and Fran forwarded him the copies of the messages she had, they figured it out and the doctor will be there by noon, which was his appointment time.

He also managed to get an appointment at the nearby hospital to have his “butt pain” looked at for after his ocularist appointment.

Fran worked on the blog and did a bit of shopping for a few things before Doug returned.  His polishing took 45 minutes – way longer than any other time he’s had it done and his appointment with the sports doctor went well and managed to get a diagnosis that confirmed that he has piriformis syndrome which means his sit bone gets enflamed.  He got four prescriptions to help relieve it and now he waits to see if it improves.

We had a second night at this parking lot and left the next morning.  We heard from Larry and Jenny and they asked for our PayPal info so they will be repaying the money that we lent them at the border via that method.

It is much cooler today and somewhat overcast with sunny breaks.  Looks like temps over the next few days will be around 20 C / 70 F and with some chances of rain, so summer is definitely over.

We drove to Sakarya to a place we found on park4night that is actually an RV sales/service place called KamperKaravan Market (2K).  They offer two RV spots outside their building with power, water and black dumping free.  Of course, we had to ask if they could help us repair a few things on the rig and they looked into whether they could repair/replace the shelf in the shower where the faucet comes out; a few months ago Fran was turning on the shower and it broke around the faucet.  The fibre glass is quite brittle (after all it’s 18 years old) and we managed to get some waterproof tape to patch it up but have always planned to repair it at some point so this could be our chance.  They couldn’t help with any of the other things we needed done but at the very least we get a free night’s camping with services.

After checking out the shower situation, they gave us a quote for removing the thing, getting it redone and reinstalling it of €120 which we thought was high so we passed.  We took a stroll through their parts department/store and didn’t see anything we needed.  So we’ll stay the night and move on tomorrow. It rained a lot all afternoon so we were happy to be inside and since we had power, we used our little electric heater to take the chill out of the air as here it didn’t even it 15C / 60F.

We awoke Wednesday morning to fog and it lasted about 20 minutes into our drive to Ankara.  We took toll roads the entire way and arrived by late morning.  This is not really a tourist destination city, but we do try to see all capital cities (only one we passed on was in Croatia – we did not visit Zabgreb as it was so far off the route we were taking and it didn’t sound all that interesting).  Ankara is quite a modern looking city with very little of the history of Istanbul but it does have an excellent Museum of Anatolian Civilizations with exhibits dating back to the Paleolithic age.

upon entering the city we are seeing this beautiful white marble mosque


Before visiting it we went to the Ankara castle walls to get views over the city and from there we saw the other attraction in this city (more for Turks) which is the mausoleum of the founder of modern Turkey.  It’s out of the way and we opted not to try and drive up to it so here’s a pic from the castle walls with our zoom camera:

We spent about an hour at the museum. Normally we don’t do museums much but this was an exceptional one and it showed us more info on sights we want to visit while here in Turkey as we roam the country.

We returned to Minou before 3 and got out of dodge before the afternoon traffic would hit; the drive in was very easy and the parking lot we found on both iOverlander and park4night, was perfect: large and not full.  We could have stayed the night there but didn’t want to deal with traffic tomorrow morning so leaving town was a good plan.

On the roads out of the capital, we saw these speed limit signs:

Not a great picture but why 82kmph we don’t understand!  Also we noted that the gas price has jumped to over 24₺ litre.

We found the parking lot in a park in the suburb of Golbasi which is free, flat, paved and in a park.

Today we passed through 4 tunnels.

Fran began looking into what the cost of a hot air balloon ride would be in Cappadocia – our next destination.  Get this:  minimum €175 PP in a basket of at least 18-20 people!  Ridiculous!  We have flown in a hot air balloon before so that part is not a biggie but we had hoped to do it here.

On their webpage, she did see ATV tours at sunset to see the famous Cappadocia rocks.  It was only €30 pp and sounded fun as we didn’t know if Minou was going to be capable of taking us off road to see these sights.  She WhatsApp’d the tour agency and there was availability so we have reserved but not paid.

Sidebar:  we are now in a pretty Muslim country so the “call to prayer” happens at least three times a day, the first being just before 6am….the only one that is bothersome for us non-Muslims.  In order to not lose sleep every morning, we having decided to try and go to bed a bit earlier (9:30 instead of 10) to make up that half hour or so that we’ve been missing.  We generally are both awake by 6:30 so we’ll see if that helps. 

What does the call to prayer say?

This is what is said in the adhan; the first phrase is said four times and the rest twice:

Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah (meaning:  I bear witness that there is no god except the One God)

 Assalatu khairum-minan-naum (meanng: Prayer is better than sleep). 

(This part is only recited for morning prayers.)

We left early from Golbasi and drove to a highly recommended mechanic Doug had found on iOverlander in the hopes of getting some of the work done we want.   He is located Ortahisar which is just outside the Goreme National Park (aka Cappadocia).  We found Hakan and he advised he was far too busy but called someone in nearby Nevsehir who said “maybe he could take us tomorrow”.

We did a lot of toll road driving today and after reaching the end of a long eight lane highway, there was actually a fellow at the toll booth and he said that there wasn’t enough money on our HGS to pay this toll which was 107₺ so much for a grace period – so we had to pay with a credit card.  Afterwards, Fran added some more money to our account.  BTW the speed limit on that 8 lane road was 140 kmph and the minimum was 40kmph.

It was quite foggy this morning and as we drove further east, we encountered mountains and begin to reach higher elevations.  At the summit of one pass we were are 819m / 2700’ then a while later were reached 1150 m/ 3800’.  Then we were driving in brown rolling hills on a six lane highway with hardly any traffic.  The sun came out and we saw a lot of dormant farmer’s fields with very few trees for miles.

field of pumpkins