This particular adventure started with a regulation hitch-hike from Mardin, in the south-east of Turkey, 338km west to the city of Gaziantep. After several rides that took us along the rugged landscape of southern Turkey with its jagged rocks and brownish hue, we were picked up by a truck-driver about 100km east of Gaziantep.
Hitch-hiking in Turkey is a generally pleasant experience. Cars stop frequently and the concept is well understood (so no needless arguments about money). The only potential downside is the lack of common language, seeing as English is not prevalent in this part of the world which was a problem that would hold significance later on. However with the internationally recognised language of pointing and smiling, and a soundtrack of Turkish pop, we found our way into the city. Having previously arranged a place to stay through the Couch-surfing website, we already knew the address and had the telephone number of the man that we would be staying with. The truck-driver, being a helpful man, called ahead and found us a bus that would take us into the centre of town.
The accommodation that we had organised was a bit unusual. The reason being that the man (Mızgin, a student) would not actually be there, as he was away visiting his family for Ramadan. Still, we had known about this before and Mızgin had organised for a key to be left for us (he was living in a university owned building) so it was not too much of a problem. In reality this was a blessing in disguise as Ania, was suffering from ‘travellers flu’ and needed to be firmly attached to a toilet seat.
Due to her condition I was left to explore the town of Gaziantep alone. Gaziantep is a large city famous for its sweets, especially baklavas. The city is dotted with cafés and it is generally a pleasant city in which to while away the days.
The third night and Ania was still showing little sign of improvement. After returning from my trip into the city we were preparing to go to bed when there was a knock at the door. Seeing as we knew nobody in the city, to hear a knock at the door was a bit of a surprise. Imagine our even greater surprise at opening the door to find the truck-driver who found us the bus three days ago. He came in, sat on the floor and we started preparing tea. After the initial shock a few questions started to arise. Firstly, what was he doing here? He doesn’t speak English and we speak no Turkish. Secondly, how did he find us? He must have written down the address very surreptitiously.
With the aid of google translate we managed to form the questions. How are you? Do you live near here? His google translated answers were incomprehensible. Regardless, he seemed anxious to take Ania and I somewhere. He seemed desperate for us to come, particularly Ania, almost begging her to come but seeing as she wasn’t feeling very well and was in no mood to be pushed, I braved the trip alone.
After driving for about two minutes we pulled up outside of a house with ten women and children seated around the front door.
‘This must be his family’ I assumed
‘Oh god, he wants me to meet his family!’ screamed my following thought.
So I got out the car and into the seat that was positioned facing them all. A prisoner led to his trial. And we sat and looked at each other. My beard raised a few laughs. Random words seemed to be falling from my mouth. ‘Football…Arsenal… Fabregas’ followed by a comprehensive list of all the football teams I knew in Turkey and all the players that are, or had played there, my passport was being passed around and laughed at.
Coffee was being served which, I got the impression, was only for visitors as I had only seen Turkish people drinking tea in the past. ‘I hope they don’t want me to marry one of their daughters.’ I thought darkly. The family too seemed particularly disappointed that Ania wasn’t there. I supposed that they were interested in a Western woman as I am sure that they would never have met one before. They were so interested that when the truck-driver drove me home after what I guess was only an hour but felt like much longer, he brought his male children to introduce them to her.
written by: Jon