Motorbike Diaries: The Trip to Ankara

Taking a highway to the post-coup Turkey

This is update number one from the motorbike trip from the Balkans to Georgia and back. The trip is the result of the successful crowdfunding campaign and again I want to thank all the backers for their suppot ❤

Accidentally I stumbled upon one of the most interesting places in Thessaloniki. Located in an old brewery, an art collective organizes theatre plays and opera shows. To make ends meet they also host people very cheaply. The main guy’s name is Dionisis and his name tells you about his cheerfulness and open-heartedness.

The guy called Dionisis cannot be sad.

Thessaloniki itself reminds me of Croatia. Loads of tourists, families with kids, running around eating great food in overcrowded restaurants. So I had to hit the road fast.

Not a chimney, but White tower, the symbol of Thessaloniki. Actually, once before it was called Red-tower due to the amount of blood flowing from it as it served as a prison and torture chambers during the Ottoman rule. Says Wikipedia.

Thessaloniki — Istanbul: Highway
If life was indeed like an open highway, like Bon Jovi sings, then it would be terribly boring and bland. Highways are boring even in a car, but for a motorbike they are the ninth circle of hell. Noisy, monotonous ride without the ability to stretch is to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, highway is pretty much the only option if you want to get from Thessaloniki to Istanbul. The bigger problem is that in Greece, gas stations for some reason are never located on the highway: you need to leave the way to resupply with fuel, which takes away a good part of the convenience.

And you can see some Greek tanks being transported to the border. Business as usual I guess.

Turkish border

There were some problems on the Turkish border, but as I was waiting for the motorbike ownership papers to arrive to my mail, extremely friendly border police guards offered me a mandatory turkish çay (tea) and chatted with me on a broken english. Turkish police is generally extremely polite and friendly, even when giving you a ticket.

As if a few weeks ago the bridges were not blocked, the tanks were not roaming the streets, the attempt of the military wasn’t under way. In Istanbul, everything seems normal. The only noticable difference is the amount of Turkish flags everywhere you look: on windows, in shops, on balconies, on cars. My host Nilay explains me the absurdity of the flags: they have a completely different meaning to very diverse groups: islamists and secularists, Erdogan supporters, opposition supporters, Gülen supporters. If anything, nowadays they mean that people are not supporting the coup, although the people behind the coup were probably also waving them. Istanbul is the largest European city and the seventh largest in the world. I’ve been to Istanbul many times before, but this was the first time I drove there. Only when driving you can understand it’s vastness: from the sign saying “Istanbul” to the other side of the city, it took me two hours on the highway. And I’m on the motorbike, meaning I tend to overcome cars and avoid traffic jams quite easily.

You have probably seen the pictures of Istanbul many times, so I’m skipping that, except for this one.

The bridge to Asia.

Istanbul — Ankara: Beauty emerges
Highway, again. But this time the highway is surrounded by the gorgeous scenery, announcing Anatolia. Take a look yourself. Unlike in Greece, Turkish highways not only have gas stations stationed every few kilometres, they also have shopping malls, restaurants and cafes.

It took me one hour to get to my friend Ece’s place because of pro-governement demonstrations that are organized daily to show how people are against the coup. On one of them Erdogan promised the return of the death penalty. Bye-bye Europe!

Me and Ece, a very good friend, in an American style blues bar drinking Long Island Ice Tea.