Trabzon ın NE Turkey a cıty where I was told I could get an Iranıan Vısa ın a Couple days. However a French guy told me and yeah French can get ıt quıckly but not Canadıans. But sınce I was there thought I d hang out for a couple days and check out the area!
Sumela Chrıstıan Monastery near Trabzon ın NE Turkey on a cool overcast day. The area remınded me of the countrysıde near Vancouver where I lıve but it's not as misty!!!
So met these 2 French guys in Damascus who told me that a couple of other French guys got theirIranian Visas in a couple days in Trabzon, a city in northeastern Turkey. So that was my goal, to cross into Turkey to get an Iranian visa as soon as possible!
So yeah I split with Brendan and Kakor in Dier Ez-Zur (the little desert town in eastern Syria close to Iraq) and caught a minibus to Raqqa. I got to Raqqa around 5 pm and realized that it was too late to get across the border to Turkey on Thur Apr 29. So got a room in what I thought would be a cheap hotel but it costs me 600 SL $13 which was more than I had paid before in Syria. But it was the last night in Syria and I just want to sleep. Hell little did I know that price was cheap compared to Turkey, ugh!!
So the next day Fri 30th left Raqqa around 8 pm on a mini bus to this Syrian border town the name Akcakale. Then I had to catch a short taxi ride for 25 SL or .50 cents to the border. It was a funny border crossing on Syrian side cus it was a large forted area. But there wasn’t anyone around so had to walk thru the area to the far end to get my Syrian exit stamp. Buggers charged me 550 SL / $12 for a departure tax! Then when I get over to the Turkish side they charged me $60 USD for a Multi entry visa. The multi entry will be good cus plan to go in and out of Turkey a couple times.
Shit I was really surprised that there weren’t any taxis or money changers waiting on the Turkish side. But guess this isn’t actually a major entry point. So I kind of walked and hitched to the nearest town so I could get some Turkish Lira (approx 1.40 Liras to a $CAD/USD hey they’re like mostly on par now) and a bus to Sanliurfa or Urfa as the locals call it. So for $2 could catch a mini bus / dolmus (can also be a shared taxi) which is a lot more spacious than in Syria. A nice thing is the mini bus took me to the bus station (otogar) in Urfa. Luckily there was a bus to Trabzon in 2 hrs leaving at 2 pm and get there at 8 am on Fri (so could make it to the Iranian Consulate before the weekend shit dislike weekends when I travel but then every day is a weekend when I’m on the road). But in reality we didn’t arrive in Trabzon till 10:30 AM Fri or 20 hrs.
The buses in Turkey are really nice and modern and there seem to be a few bus companies. What I found different was they had this guy on the bus was like an attendant. He brought drinks around very so often and brought hand sanitizer too! Another thing that was different was that there were small tv screens like planes which people could watch tv shows. This got to be a nuisance during the night as some people would lilt the seat and watch tv so the flickering light was a real pain! There weren’t many passengers on the bus but it also picked up and dropped along the way like most countries. Turkey bus stations are quite nice but like many countries it’s a pain to have to pay to use the washroom/WC/toilet.
One thing thought was funny was they had this poor shmuck sitting there collecting the ½ TL / .25 cents all night. Shit at 3 am here’s this guy sitting there making sure No one got in without paying. Don’t know what they were paying this dude but if it was in Canada he’d be making more than what he was collecting in a hour. Shit they’d probably automate the system so they wouldn’t have some guy doing this shitty job. Hell if there were a guy doing this job he’d probably want to be part of some union to get a good salary for this shit ass job! But guess shouldn’t knock it cus at least it’s a job (more than I have) & the person is being productive! Shit people from Western countries think they’re too good to do menial work! But guess that’s why we go to Post secondary institutions for 4 or more years! Heck I happened to be in Trabzon for May 1st which in most eastern or Socialistic countries is orker’s Day. Heck this is like a day for union types but I’m like so anti Union cus they do nothing for members and charge so much in dues each month. But every so often the parasites living off these dues think “shit people are going to wonder what we do to earn our inflated salaries” so they figure they should get the riled up for a salary increase or some grievance like job security! So surprise this leads to a work slow down or strike! Then their importance kicks in so they’re earning their salary. Hell union members become complacent in their jobs once they feel they have senority. Shit they get promotions and raises for their length of time they spend in their job & not their ability! Hell I even know someone working in a government mortuary (guess most are but hell in Canada a lot of government jobs are being privatized to get better work done for less cost) who bragged about how little work he did! But guess you can only work when bodies come in! Yeah I worked in IT until my big mouth got me in trouble but my ability or work was never an issue (not bragging) but my mouth and attitude was! I did a lot of contract work & managed to talk my way into jobs in countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, New Zealand, US and of course Canada. In IT we used to always joke that “It’s not who you know but who you blow” ha ha! So guess Unions, people working on contracts, self employed or people collecting pennies at a bus station with a degree, etc.well what's the difference as it's probably all the same I guess. Shit my big mouth got me into trouble in IT (a long story unless someone wants to know well ask me), volunteering in Kenya (was told to leave when I questioned where the money we raised went), asked to leave a good paying job working for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, etc. So you can say my attitude and big mouth was my worst enemy! I guess I’ve always been really anti-establishment, unconventional, non conformist, disliked most rules, etc. Yeah kind of a jerk but I prefer to say I’m a Free Spirit! Cus what did Clark Gable say in that old movie (which I never saw but can remember the line ) “Frankly Scarlet I don’t give a Fuck!”. The only things I really care about in life are my family and friends! Jobs, status, fancy cars, homes, clothes, pretentious / phoney people and shit like that is all materialist shit or crap! So that’s probably why I travel cus I don't fit into normal society anymore and sometimes wonder if I am a good ambassador for travelers in some countries. The other day I was in an Internet Café in Trabzon researching info on Georgia (the county not the state), Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc. There must have been 6 or 7 guys yelling out loud and they had head phones on as I found out later they were playing a game online but in an internet cafe and yelling but hey that's what they do in other countries I guess. Well after ½ hr I got kind of fed up with this shit so said “why don’t u guys shut the fuck up”! I didn’t think I said it too loud but hell I’ve maybe met 1 or 2 people who speak English here. But with my luck this dude sitting next to me understood and could speak perfect English as he went to school in the US! Well we got into a bit of discussion about how people have different customs and cultures. I told him one custom I disliked was how in Trabzon people all stare and comment about my appearance! Now I knew they were very conservative in this part of Turkey but let’s face it the staring can get annoying! He told me until a couple years ago it was strange to see people with long hair in Trabzon! Heck the difference between western Turkey and Eastern Turkey is kind of like night and day! Hard to believe that these people want to get in the European Union together with people from Paris, London, Berlin, etc.! Don’t get me wrong as think the people in eastern Turkey are nice, friendly and helpful but they are so conservative! Anyway I apologized to the guy and went on my way feeling a bit odd for my big mouth! But believe it or not that’s the first time I’ve lost it and commented about something on my travels. Hell I’ve felt like it so many times in places like India (love the country and experience) but shit felt like slapping one of the Indians quite a few times (some other people who are nicer than me have told me the same thing) as they can get on your nerve! So sometimes wonder if some of these countries are ready for a village Idiot like me. Shit I dress and act the same as I do in liberal free thinking Vancouver, the weed smoking home to the world famous BC Bud! So maybe it’s a good think I didn’t get a visa for ultra conservative Iran!! But going to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kurdistan Iraq may make future Canadian travelers to these places a bit more difficult after I go. But hey I g\figure I’m just a regular harmless guy who is usually polite while a guest in other countries. But as I’ve always said “Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter doen’t mind”! I’ve got a real liberal and loving family and relatives who put up with me (or pretend they don’t know or are related to me) and I only only have a few friends! So I’m a Free Spirited older guy with a few piercings, tattoos, bald, wear shorts, t shirt/sleeveless and hat who is Japanese Canadian so does that make me different??
Ok so how did I get off topic? Oh well this blog is more of a journal to myself so if you’re reading this by mistake well ignore what I just wrote! So anyway what I wanted to say in this posting was that thought the trip from the Syrian border in the south to Trabzon on the Black Sea in north east Turkey is quite picturesque. We went through hills (a few still with snow), green valleys, lakes, rivers and a dam for hydroelectric power.
Heck when we finally got to Trabzon I was the only passenger left on this 50 or so seater bus! So got the excorted ride to the bus station. Trabzon is a nice city of probably ½ a million people. It’s located between the Black Sea and some hills so it is quite nice!
Well I took the budget hotel in the guide book and didn’t bother checking around. Cus left my bags to get to the Iranian Consulate before it closed in the afternoon for the big Fri prayer! I ve been surprised that the staff in both the Damascus and this consulate both could speak excellent English. Cus I’m afraid my Farsi is kind of rusty or should I say non existent like my Spanish, German, French, Arabic, Japanese, etc need I say more? Sorry but I’m just an arrogant dumb English speaking jerk!! But hell I’ve been spoken or asked if I’m from about probably 20 different countries. Anyway I found out that French can get an Iranian Visa in about 3 days but Canadians have to wait 20 days here too! So shit hurried to come here for nothing. So thought shit I’d go online and maybe I’d apply there as thought of doing it before. But need to send a scanned copy of my passport plus a bank draft (got this part handled if needed)! Well asked in a few Internet places if I could scan my passport but none do it! So I thought shit someone doesn’t want me to go to Iran! Would have really liked to visit Iran but will have to do it when I visit the Central Asian counties ending in ‘Stan as sorry can’t spell them!
So now I’m focused on going to countries where I can obtain visas at the border. It maybe more expensive and a little longer border crossing but I’ve become someone who can sit and do nothing for a long time now Also if I get across to the country than fine well if not then what did I lose but a little time. But this idea of sending money online to some maybe fly by night outfit who says they can get you a visa quicker than the Embassy seems a bit sketchy!
So I’ve chilled here in Trabzon over the weekend researching about Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan which are all formerly part of the Soviet Union so it should be different and probably conservative! (so are they and I ready for this, well stay tuned). A couple of travelers have given me Lonely Planet guides more about 50 countries so have been reading them. Hell I’m in no hurry plus its nice to chill in Trabzon. The hotel is nice tho a bit expensive but the food is cheap and I’m not spending anything on transportation plus there is OK internet connection so catching up on my blogging and uploading pics!
I also took a couple day trips and did a bunch of walking around to check out things. It’s a bit cooler than the 40 C in Mali it’s like about 15 to 20 C I’d say and overcast but I can handle it. One day went to see the Sumela Monastery (Monastery of the Virgin Mary) is Greek Orthodox. It was founded in the Byzantine Times and abandoned in 1923 after the creation of the Turkish Republic squashed the local Greek aspiration for a new state. The Sumela Monastery clings improbable to a sheer rock wall high above evergreen forests and a rushing mountain stream. The area kind of reminded me of the area around Vancouver except for all the fog and mist! It’s a mysterious place, especially when the mist swirl in the tree lined valley below (think this is quite common) and the call of a hidden mosque drifts ethereally the forest.
It was quite different than the Mar Musa Monastery I stayed in Syria as they were both in picturesque settings but unfortunately I couldn’t see it all at Sumela cus of the mist. Also this monastery seemed cool and unwelcoming in a way where as Mar Musa was friendly and warm (and I don’t mean just temperature wise). The onlyb us going there was thru an agency so they told us where to go to be picked up, etc. But not knowing Turkish I didn’t understand except it was at 2 pm. Well since I’m a poor tourist well I was up the 200 meter stairs and was through the place in 20 mins cus most of the Monastery is closed to the public. What sucked too was my camera battery packed it in as soon as I got there plus I forgot my spare battery in my pack. But luckily I asked an Aussie couple I talked to on the bus if I bought them a beer if I could copy their pics of the monastery (better than cash to most Aussies but they said no problem). So I was finished checking out the place and was walking back when thought I’d check out this other set of stairs going down. So after about a few hundred meters and a huge elevation drop I was down by the river. By this time it had started to rain a bit more. So I was thinking shit have to walk all the way up again. But this area was like a big parking lot with a couple restaurants and souvenir shops, etc. Shit got there at 12:00 about 2 hrs before the bus left which is why I dislike bus trips cus I do my sight seeing in ¼ the time most do it. I make a great traveler but a shitty tourist! So asked if the buses came down this way but got no good answers. So I was going to walk back up up the road or up the hill again when I noticed this elderly English couple come down. The way I noticed them from the bus was cus the guy had matching red sweater and socks! So remember that but not his or his wife’s appearance! So they told me that yeah someone told them that the bus came down the hill and picked us up! That was a relief from a long steep walk up in the rain!
When we got back to Trabzon I went to the Aussie couple’s hotel with my computer and copied their pics and some of their movies. Travelling in Africa and Middle East is a lot different than in Central and South America and Asia cus you don’t meet as many travelers plus there’s little to no partying (well did meet a few along the way mostly in Syria and Lebanon cus of cheaper dorm rooms and did have a couple beers and joints there too). But generally I’ve spent a few quiet nights chilling, reading and on my computer. So glad have a computer for these occasions plus also once a computer geek always one!
Also did a lot of walking around Trabzon to check out the sites and eat the delicious food. Love Turkish food as a lot more variety than in Syria. Was going to check out these caves a hr from Trabzon but missed the local mini bus that heads to this village where I have to walk or hitch a ride from. Then didn’t get my shit together to try again cus was Mon and wanted to go to the Georgian Consulate and check bus times. It’s amazing how I can find things to do for 4 days just hanging and doing nothing. But mostly going on the internet to research for info, blog, email, upload pics and generally just read news, etc.
So tomorrow May 5 I plan to catch a dolmus to Batumi just inside the border of Georgia by the Black Sea. Then I hope to travel Georgia and make my way to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Then if I can go into Nagotno-Karabakh an area of Armenian culture within Azebiajan. It’s like Israel is to Arab countries in that if I go to Nagotno-Karabakh first and I have a stamp or visa than I can’t go to Azebiajan!
I don’t know if I can enter all these countries but hell it doesn’t hurt to try. It’ll be my first experience visiting to former Soviet block countries but won’t be my last! There is so much national pride in a lot of these areas that they all want their own country and identity but are trapped in another country or culture. I can understand how the Kurds feel as they live in Turkey, Iran and Iraq. So they have basically have their own country within in Iraq with their own visa and flag which they hide from the Iraqis. I can understand how the Palestinians must feel too! So one day I hope to visit the ‘Stan countries of Central Asia and also Iran. I’m hoping one day Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan will be open for safe travel without guides or armed protection!