It is 10 PM. The wind is howling and I find myself searching for shelter behind one of the big trucks. I am standing at a patrol station. My backpack, my red bag, everything is gone. Even rolling cigarettes becomes a challenge as a result of both, the stormy weather and the cold temperature. I’ve met some people who got mugged while traveling, did this just happen to me? No way… I don’t wanna believe that. I can’t imagine this Bulgarian couple had any bad intentions.
I cast my eyes to the dark sky, inhale the smoke of my cigarette and wish that I am not wrong. Salam alaikum.
1 week earlier I arrived in Kayseri. ‘What are your plans for this city?‘ did Mesut ask me prior to my arrival. ‘Well, I wanna see the air balloons and all that shit, you know?‘ – what kind of question is that, seriously – Turns out Kayseri has nothing to do with Cappadocia – it’s just big city in the same area. Same area means 100 km far from it. In case you are not aware of it, Turkey is freaking huge. Was it a mistake to request Mesut? Well, to be honest, this turned into one of the best couchsurfing experiences I’ve ever had.
What makes a Couchsurfing experience special? Usually it’s either overwhelming generosity, some special achievements or unique, local events you get into. This surf had it all. Even Jordy Smith would be jealous.
Unique, local event
A wedding. I’ve heard heaps stories of travelers getting invited to weddings and this time it was me! I got invited to a traditional Muslim wedding of Mesut’s cousin. No people shooting guns in the air, no people dancing in a weird way but it was special for sure. Both genders were strictly separated during both days, even for dinner and people were substituting alcohol with the most common Turkish drug. Tea! When the bridal couple walked in, the whole procedure was shown on a movie screen, accompanied by some epic orchestral music. Unique indeed. Unfortunately they asked me not to upload a picture with the bride. But lemme tell you, she looked beautiful even though I had to get used to a head scarf wedding dress.
‘It’s a dangerous mountain’. Yeah yeah, fuck off. I am optimistic, some people might call it careless. Anyway, I convince Mesut and his cousin Ahmet to join me. A 4000 meter summit, an old volcano. And I must admit, I underestimated this mountain. But once again, I got lucky. We run into an organized traveling group on our first night and got invited to join them. Their leader attended the same wedding as we did. They help us out with water and guide the way up. A challenging one, especially since we start hiking at 2 AM. 13 hours later we’re back at our car. Dirty, exhausted and a bit smelly. But we did it, we fucked this puppy, we reached the summit of mount Erciyes!
And by the way, I made it into the Turkish version of CNN News. By the time we came back from our hike we got welcomed by some news reporters. A German guy who tells about his wonderful time in Turkey? That was all they were waiting for. This is me trying to be serious with my personal translator, Mesut.
I stayed with Mesut and his family in their summer house and I did not feel like a guest. I felt like a family member. That’s the biggest compliment I can make. His young brothers were a shit load of fun, doing weird fancy handshakes with me about 20 times a day, his mother and sister cooked tasty local food and his father kept on supplying me with cigarettes. Also his friends were great company even though they barely spoke any English. One of them said something that touched me quite a lot. Mesut translated it in the following way:
‘He said that he usually does not like it when I bring Couchsurfing guests because they don’t speak Turkish, but Daniel is fucking cool, please bring more of these Surfers‘ – Alright, he did not say ‘fucking’ – That’s just me giving it a personal touch.
I came to Kayseri by mistake and I almost dropped a tear when I left this great family. This is what traveling is about. I’ll get a fast lift to Cappadocia. They have a water boiler in their car to make some more Turkish drugs. Some more Tea. Unfortunately our little tea gathering is about to get crashed. A short moment of inadvertence and our car leaves the highway, hits some traffic poles and drifts back onto the road. We stop on the hard shoulder. We escaped with no more than a fright.
Cappadocia. There is actually not much to say about this place. It’s simply beautiful. I hitch hiked around the area for 2 days, had a great Couchsurfing host, got my first lift on a motorbike and enjoyed a sunrise with more than 100 hot air balloons. There is one thing I wanna talk about though. I wanna talk about Beysim and Trayana, a Bulgarian couple I met on my first day, while walking through a valley. Beysim worked in Germany for 2 years and has Turkish parents. Our conversations are a mix of Bulgarian, Turkish, German and English language. I’m sure we left some confused people behind us. They offered me a lift to Istanbul on Wednesday night, a lift in their VW Touareg, a lift I obviously did not refuse.
At 10 PM their car starts making weird noises. We stop at a patrol station. Beysim talks to some Turkish people and one of them wants to join them for a ride. Everything happens fast, ‘Wait here Daniel – we drive 5 km and come back’. And they are gone. I wait for an hour without anything and a weird feeling arises. Did something happen to them? I don’t wanna think about that. They did not just drive away with all my stuff, right? I am 100 percent sure they did not but at the same time, I met people who told me some fucked up stories. But still, this couple was so friendly and generous, I can’t believe they had any bad intentions.
Fortunately I have some phone data left and I feel relieved when they give me a call on Facebook. ‘Big Shit Daniel, someone will come and pick you up’ – That’s it. It’s windy and it’s cold. I join the guys inside the petrol station to stay warm. They have no idea what I am doing and I can’t explain it to them. They offer me tea. Another hour passes by until someone shows up at the patrol station and gives me a lift to the city where the Bulgarian couple awaits me. I can’t describe how happy I was to see them again.
It turns out that this guy, who joined the car to hear the weird noises, brought them to a car workshop and called a friend who also called some friends. At 11 PM 7 Turkish people gathered together and fixed the car within an hour. I could not believe it. A workshop team composed of friends and cousins just fixed it. They helped us outside their working hours, they decided to fix our car instead of spending the evening with their families and friends. One of these Turkish guys lives in Vienna, Austria. To be honest, finding a Couchsurfing host for Austria was nothing I would have expected from a Car workshop somewhere in the mittle of Turkey at 11 PM but well, it happened.
We arrived in Istanbul at 10 AM. I am still still exploring the city and enjoy the company with my host and his other Couchsurfing guests. Our conversations are most likely about porn movies ideas that involve yoghurt, racist statements and dick-measurement contests with our passports. Exactly my cup of tea. We also celebrated Bairam yesterday, one of the most important days for Muslim people.
Salam Alaikum is how you greet Muslim people. I’ve learned that in Jordan and could make good use of it in Turkey. Be careful, Turkey is dangerous right now is something I’ve heard a few times before I actually went to Turkey and I think it’s true. Dangerous in a different way though. You might fall in love with it and never ever leave again. I met some travelers who ended up staying in Turkey and I totally understand them. This country has it’s own magic and the Turkish people I’ve met, the ones that helped me out, the ones I stayed with or even just the ones who invited me for some Turkish delights simply blew my mind. I am sad to leave this country, and I am afraid that this might be the last time I will use Salam Alaikum.
It’s also my last blog post before I’ll be back in Germany. I am gonna start hitch hiking on Monday. It’s Sofia, Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna and Bergweiler. I have exactly 10 days to get back right on time for my sisters birthday. It’s the first time that I’m in a rush, the first time I have a fixed date, the first time I’ll see some familiar faces. I’ll be back with Post #25 as soon as I get back to Germany and don’t be sad – I’ll just stay home for about 10 days and hitch hike to Scandinavia afterwards.
And just in case someone will ever greet you with Salam Alaikum, I wanna teach you how to respond.