Chilled times in Çanakkale. Or frozen times should I say?

First article without Rémi’s proofread!

Usually the two of us write the articles, 500 words each. Arthur corrects Rémi’s spelling mistakes while Rémi deletes the numerous brackets Arthur loves to use and explains him why his paragraph was not really understandable. This time, total freedom ha ha!

We leave Istanbul after a three-hours night because of small party and to enjoy a last time the flatshare of Kadıköy. Rémi goes East to Antalya and I head West to see Gizem’s uncle and aunt, a friend met in Istanbul. It is the first time we split since the beginning of our trip and of course we cry, we are afraid, but we decide to overcome our anxieties and keep hope that the other will survive.

I reach down the Marmaray, the metro under the Bosphorus. I doze all the way but a dozen of stops before mine, the Marmaray halts and everybody gets out. Aaah, so the dotted lines on the map means that the rails are still under construction, and not that it is an open-air metro. I should have listened to daddy when he told me to read the legend on the maps.

I turn back, new metro, followed by the “metrobüs”, express bus with special lane on the East-West highway that crosses Istanbul. Everytime I have to go out and pay again,  I pay thus four times more than expected but after two hours I am on  the hitchhiking spot seen on hitchwiki.org.

Istanbul spreads out over so many kilometers that it is unrealistic to get out with one car. I have the impression that the best technique is simply to stand on the side of the highway where the cars can more or less stop, and to hop from car to car, each time a few dozens of kilometers. Turkish are not really bothered stopping in the middle of the unstoppable, relatively speaking, so highway is not really a problem!

Begin of the afternoon I am in Tekirdağ which feels really far away from the overcrowded metrobüs of Istanbul. It is cold but the shining sun makes it very endurable. While waiting in front of the the rakı factory, a grape spirit aromatized with anise, awful waves of alcool enter my nose. And God knows I have no problem with alcool. I realize after a long while that I am not on the road I was planning to follow and reach it by foot to be taken five minutes later. Like most of Turkish, my driver does not speak a word of English. He tries to explain me something, and believing in a pipi break, I end up praying at the village’s mosque. After he offers my the Balıkçı, fish restaurant. And naturally after the meal, another shot of prayer.

Although agnostic, however spiritual, the fact of praying does not really bother me, I take it as an experience. Yet coming out of the mosque it is night and that is not cool. I try to explain to the religious men still here that “otobüs yok, OTOSTOP“. I don’t want to take the bus, I want to hitchhike. No, I won’t get attacked by the dogs. And no, I don’t want you to give me your shoes, I have everything I need. It is a lost cause and the driver brings me back to Tekirdağ, insists to pay the bus. Impossible to negotiate whatever so I get into the bus and falls asleep. I wake up on the ferry crossing Europe to Asia and I take some fresh air on the deck. Perfect coordination at the ferry terminal while Sedat, Nürsel and a friend come to pick me up and bring me to their home. Limited English on their side, “turkçe çatpat”, “little Turkish” on mine, but thanks to a great deal of drawing we can drift on all topics.

Next day visit of Çanakkale and its marvelous replica of the Trojan Horse, used in the 2004 American movie. Çanakkale is proud of having been the battle place where French, English and Australians troops and ships were stopped during the First World War, and you can see it. I wander out of the beaten paths and end up in a sort of ghetto full of colors and of trash, dresses drying thanks to the barbwire of the neighbor military camp. During the night I take part in a Turkish folklore music rehearsal with my hosts! Sedat shows me the weather forecast for the next days on the road I want to take. There are only negative temperatures until Antalya and minimums down to -10°C, or even -14°C. It is a global cold spell on all of Turkey. For only equipment, I have a jumper and a slightly wind-breaking raincoat, no problem for the xtrem warriors.

When I leave the next day they give me fruits but more important they present me to my new friends: gloves, hat and scarf of a beautiful grey very trendy in times of USSR. I try to decline but I will realize later that I would have been wrong to manage convincing them. I arrive in Trojan thanks to my thumb but the entree fees are way too expensive and even my admirable persuasion skills will not change the counter clerk’s mind.

So I continue and reach the countryside road of Alexandria Troas and Assos, “antik antik” cities like all Turkish strive to make me understand. Most likely very frequented in summer, these roads are now empty. Every half-an-hour, one car. But every time it stops and one time out of two the driver offers a “çai” – a tea! I must be around 0°C but the sun shines in the perfect blue sky, Renaud and Massilia Sound System, two French bands, walk along with my thanks to some lyrics printed beforehand. I walk, I sing, I visit the ruins on the side of the road until a car comes and drops me further, and from there I start walking and singing again. The landscape is a huge slice of awesomeness. Imagine a green golf court studded with bushes on which giants would have been playing “pétanque” with all-sized rocks and would have forgotten to clean their mess afterwards. From time to time an unrestricted view on the sea with the late afternoon sun reflecting into it. “Çok güzel, doğa dağ denize güzel” – Very beautiful, nature mountain sea beautiful.

Short after nightfall I am dropped next to the main road. Once the sun gone it is over with the cozy breeze. The wind becomes agressive but I manage to reach an even bigger road leading to Izmir, the big city of the West Coast (reprezent the West Coast). I am still 200km away from the city, I have no idea where to sleep and it starts snowing. I guess it is time to find a warm place where to spend the night when out of nowhere a grandpa stops for me and drops me 200km, a döner and a çorba further on the middle of the highway. It is too late to knock on the doors and I decide to continue inch’Allah. At the crossroad I find in 5 minutes another car and then a truck to Aydın. No snow over here and I take refugee on a first floor balcony that is on sale. Cool night, but very endurable, -4°C apparently.

Impossible to wake up before 11h30, I was way to comfy in my sleeping bag; but it is now time to leave. Car by car the snow covered mountains emerge and I find myself very soon waiting in the snow. I wasn’t expecting to see snow before a long time and this white blanket is a visual delight! Little struggle to leave Denizli and I realize I would not like to spend another night outside, and it is still possible to reach Antalya tonight. So I take my Turkish in both hands at the red light and jumping from car to car I find a car in ten minutes.

We start the ascension in the mountain while on our right side all trucks are stopped and have to put their snow chains. While being on a main road, the way is far of being cleared off snow, it is barely packed. I am dropped on a intersection at the mountain pass, far from any village and it is night. Once the last sunset’s shadows on the snow admired, I tell myself that it would be nice to find a car now. I have spotted a petrol station a bit before just in case, but I start taking out my head lamp, red blinking lights on (you see mama, I am careful). Seen the road state the cars drive really slowly and it is only a matter of a quarter of an hour before finding a driver. And eventually, 170km away from Antalya I found my champion who lets me five minutes walking from the apartment.

Actually, adventure is not quite finished because the door is closed and I have no phone number to contact them! I see that there is light on the third floor so I ask a young “telefon internet var ?” to send an email while showing him the closed door. He answers me in English, you can easily imagine my surprise after four days without meeting any English-speaking Turkish!! He invites me in his flatshare for a Turkish coffee while waiting for my unworthy friends’ answer. But let us be honest, they are geeks so before long I have got an answer. I come back home, after having promised to my new friends that we would do a French meal-Turkish dessert and then the revenge, Turkish meal-French dessert. Two new temporary inhabitants are now in the flat but leaving the next day!

So, how was this article without Rémi??

Görüşürüz, I’ll eat one baklava for each of you that reads this article.

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