Around Tbilisi

While we drove from Gori to the beautiful ancient city of Uplistsikhe, we lost all of our coolant again. We saw the pink fluid dripping out of the radiator, but we decided to visit the site first. Together with hitchhiker Asher, we walked the many steps of the stairs in the tunnel, that led from the river to the old cave town. There were rooms cut out in the rocks, some of them without roofs from the everlasting erosion. The once so important Queen Tamar had her own hall here and there’s a church overlooking the valley. The video in the museum told us that this city was one of the main trading sites on the route from Asia to Europe. Very interesting and beautiful to see!

Once we got back to the car, we had to fix the coolant problem. Nienke had just emptied our bottles with coolant in the tank that morning, so we didn’t have any left. Fortunately, some friendly men helped us and assured us we could fill it up with normal water. One of them even looked under the car and tightened a screw, so that we could drive to Tbilisi without losing all of the water again. We definitely had to find a decent mechanic now!

When we arrived in Tbilisi, we had some troubles to find the right entrance to the Peugeot store. The traffic in this city is very stressful! We finally found out that this shop wasn’t able to help us (even though they are Peugeot!), so we went to Tegeta Motors again. We found this shop very reliable in Batumi, so we had some hope for this one in Tbilisi too. Unfortunately, they didn’t have time to help us, so they told us to come back on Saturday. That meant we had to wait for two days! We therefore drove to a nice park-up on the Tbilisi Lake and settled down for the night.

On Friday, we had to go to the vet to get Sparta’s last vaccination. We found a great clinic that belongs to the Agrarian University and they were definitely very trustworthy. Next to the rabies shot, Sparta also got his microchip so that we can prove that he is rightfully ours! Because we couldn’t drive very far and we had nothing else to do, we drove to Tbilisi mall and walked around the stores for a while. The weather had turned really bad, thus we decided to have lunch in the mall and go to the cinema after. Sparta was exhausted from going to the vet, so he slept the whole afternoon while we enjoyed our first movie on big screen in 6 months.

The next morning, we immediately went back to Tegeta Motors. We had made an appointment with Wild Goose for 11 o’clock, so we wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible! Fortunately, the mechanics told us that they could fix the radiator easily and that they found another problem too, which they would also fix. We took a taxi to the city center and told them we would be back later to pick up the van. Then, we finally met with Tanja and Michael again! They truly had made us an amazing breakfast, which we enjoyed with some sparkling wine and a lot of coffee. The rest of the day we played with Sparta, talked to our new friends and relaxed a little. Hopefully, our car troubles will be gone for a while now!

On Sunday, we went out to check out Tbilisi center. Wild Goose took us up with the cable cars and pointed out all the great spots that could be seen from the hill. They showed us around the old center, took us to a lovely coffee place and told us where the best markets are. We loved the city tour very much and we will definitely be back there to see some more of Tbilisi! The rest of the day, we had another delicious diner together, drank some more wine and talked a lot about all our travels. Thanks for having us T+M!

Monday, we went to Lisi Lake to have one last day of relaxation with each other. We would start a new Workaway on Tuesday, so we really needed to have some alone time. On Tuesday morning, two guys came to pick us up with the van of the company to guide us to the place where we would spend the next two weeks. Luckily, it hasn’t rained for a while and the road was dry, because there was no asphalt for about 15 km! After some bumpy last kilometers, we arrived at a big blue house in the middle of nowhere. 40 dogs immediately started barking at us! That was a very loud way to be welcomed into their territory.

Thus, we will be working with the dogs and about 20 cats here for approximately two weeks. Until now, Sparta is both excited and scared, but he is doing better with some of the other dogs already. We really love the walks we take with a group of dogs twice a day. The house is very dirty and so we have also been cleaning a lot of sh*t, which we – of course – don’t really enjoy. Cuddling with all of the dogs really makes up for that though!

In the next two weeks we will spend a lot of time with very cute dogs and cats. If one of our readers is interested in adopting one of them, please let us know! There are flights to Tbilisi every day and it’s a beautiful city, so you could definitely make a nice trip out of it ;).

Winter in Turkey

We’ve seen our first snow in Isparta! Last Saturday our host Emre took us to Davras, a ski resort close to the city. We had moved our winter gear from the roof to the inside of the van the day before, so we could leave early. While driving up the mountain, the surroundings slowly turned white. A little before we arrived at the resort, we stopped to rent ski’s for Nienke and a snowboard for Emre’s friend. Then, we finally reached the first Turkish mountain we were going to glide down from!

After buying our one-day pass for only 12 euro, we took the first lift up. The view looked amazing! We took another lift to go all the way up the mountain and cautiously went down the first slope. It felt great to be on ski’s/snowboard again! Although our Turkish friends were sore after a couple of slopes, we kept speeding down and going back up. At some point, we heard someone yell ‘Tamara, Tamara’! It turned out that our German friends Lisa and Martin had also gone up to Davras! We skied down together a couple of times and then said goodbye to them. Even though we would have loved to stay longer, we went back to Isparta around 4 o’clock to start up the café.

That night, David and Michelle spent their last night at the café. We played many games and a lot of regular guests came in to say goodbye to them. Afterwards, we went outside to drink ‘salep’, an amazing hot drink that is made out of wild orchids. As they were leaving the next morning and we offered to drive them to Antalya, we had to make the van ready for a drive. So, in the morning we put the winter gear back on the roof, made the bed and found a spot under the table for Sparta’s cage. When we finally wanted to leave, Tiny didn’t feel like it: he didn’t start! Fortunately, our Turkish friend Esma was with us and rapidly found a mechanic to find the problem. The battery turned out to be dead and the man brought a new one to replace it. Meanwhile, Esma brought out some tea and we played with Sparta until the mechanic was done. After only one hour we could hop in the car and leave! Thank you Esma!

The drive down to Antalya was beautiful. As we were leaving the mountains behind, it started to get warmer the closer we got to the sea. Since it was already late and we were hungry, we decided to skip the waterfalls we wanted to visit and go directly to the shore. Sparta loved to run and smell all the new things on the boulevard. He even played with another puppy on the beach, although he was actually quite afraid of the bigger German shepherd! We had a great lunch (dinner?) at Food in Box and after we dropped Michelle and David off at their hotel, we finally said our goodbyes. We really enjoyed spending time with this amazing couple and we will definitely miss them!

That night, when we had parked on Lara Beach, it started raining. Sparta spent his first night in the van and we slept in our own bed after two weeks on a couch. Even though we woke up many times from the heavy rain and the strong wind, it felt great to be ‘home’ again. Sparta did a good job in sleeping 11 hours straight; he hopefully likes to live in Tiny as much as we do! Because it was still pouring and we couldn’t find a parking spot in the city, we drove back to the boulevard to get a coffee at Starbucks. Then, we went back to the house where we had spent one week while being in Antalya. Deniz and Ada were very happy to see us again and of course we were happy to see them too! We had a delicious lunch, talked a lot and then went back to the van. It was time to return to Isparta!

Once we arrived in our ‘hometown’, everything had turned white. The rain in Antalya had been snow in Isparta! Unfortunately, our parking spot in front of Esma’s house was taken, so we had to park the van somewhere else. We only had two hours left before the café would be open, and we hurried to the apartment and made ourselves dinner. Despite the weather, many people showed up at the café that night. As usual, we played a lot of games (mainly Ligretto/Dutch Blitz) and talked about the pronunciation of the English ‘th’.

Our plan was to leave Isparta on Friday the 10th of January. Until then, we still had many things to do! We had to go to the hairdresser, do laundry, go to the vet, and go to a mechanic to fix our heater. As it is Thursday today, we are almost ready to leave. However, our car is not… The mechanic we took the car to, said that the radiator – or at least a part of it – needs to be replaced, because it was full of rubbish. He tried to empty it, but somehow, he has made it worse. Thanks to our friend Ömür we can actually understand what is going on, although it is still difficult to get the full picture. So, now we will stay a little bit longer. We are hoping to leave Isparta on Saturday though!

 

Next: Konya, Cappadocia and the Black Sea!

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A great start of the new year!

We have been in Isparta for almost three weeks now: we love it! We have met many great people and celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Eve with some of them. Our puppy Sparta is doing great. Winter has finally come and we enjoy the fresh air and the sight of snow on the surrounding mountains. As we don’t have much to tell, we figured that you might like to watch a video about our last week!

Happy new year to you all! We hope to share many more adventures with all of you in the year 2020.

Sparta from Isparta

Wow. A lot has been going on here. Since the day we arrived in Isparta, we have been spending a lot of time with our friends from the US, from New Zealand and of course from Turkey. The nights at the language café are pretty awesome: we play many games, drink tea and talk a lot. Some of the locals even bring cookies or homemade dishes sometimes. We really like it!

Last Saturday we went hiking. First, we drove from Isparta to the little village Akpinar, which is situated on a hill overlooking Egirdir Lake. This lake is the fourth biggest lake in Turkey and therefore, it attracts many Turkish and international tourists. The views from Akpinar are amazing, but the views from the top of the mountain are even more astonishing. When we had arrived in the village, our friends Michelle and David started screaming while stepping out of the van. Puppies! Four little, energetic pups were running towards us, followed by their friendly mother. They were all really skinny, but other than that they seemed to be pretty healthy. The mother didn’t seem to have any milk left and we filled up their empty water bowl. Two bigger male dogs were also walking around the place, and we figured that the black one must have been the father of the puppies. After we had been cuddling them for a while, we left them in the village and started our hike up the mountain.

The first part of the walk we were accompanied by the other dog, who seemed to know the way. We climbed up the mountain in a slow but steady pace. Although we didn’t really know where the path was leading, we enjoyed every part of it. We passed many cows and we saw the barns they were probably staying in during the night. After about one hour we arrived at some ruins of an ancient town called Prostanne. There was a sign saying that it dates back to the 5th century, but there was not much left to see. Another option is that some of the old acropolis is still hidden underground. However, the view was getting better and better, so after a little break we continued climbing up the mountain. At this point, the dog had left us, and we had to find the way by ourselves. Luckily, the path leading to the top was easy to find. We took many photos: the view over the mountains behind us was incredible! When we finally arrived at the top, we became silent and stared at the view over the lake for a while. The hike was tough, but this view was definitely worth it!

Fortunately, walking down was a lot easier and we quickly got back to Akpinar. We barely arrived in the village or the puppies were already running towards us. They were all so incredibly cute! The mother was also in love with us, so she followed us while we were walking to the van. Somehow, we had known from the first moment we had laid eyes on one of the puppies, that he was going to come home with us. Because we wanted to be really sure about it (and because we craved coffee), we went to the restaurant in the village to talk about it some more. We had gözleme (Turkish pancakes) and watched over the beautiful lake one more time. And yes… we were ready to make a really big decision.

Once we had arrived back at the van, the dogs were all still waiting for us. A farmer was just about to feed them some bread and Tamara walked up to him to ask to whom the dogs belonged. He made some gestures to tell us to just take them all. Of course, this was never going to happen! We got a blanket from the van, rubbed it over the mom’s fur and picked up the little guy we had fallen in love with. His mom wanted to come with us too, but unfortunately, we could only take one dog. Michelle took the blanket and the puppy to the backseat and we drove back to Isparta. The dog had peacefully fallen asleep when we arrived back at our parking spot. Since the shops were still open, we directly walked to the pet store and bought a cage, food, the smallest available collar, a chewy toy, lice shampoo and a leash. We had to find a name for our little friend!

That night, people arrived at the café and they all wanted to meet the puppy. Even though he was overwhelmed, he really liked all the attention and didn’t go to sleep until everybody had gone home. The next day, we went to the veterinarian and found out that our puppy is approximately 8-10 weeks old. He is healthy and the vet gave him an anti-parasite treatment. By now, he has gotten quite used to the crowd at the café. On Christmas night he even slept for almost two hours, while all the visitors were making a lot of noise. During the nights he sleeps in his cage, next to our beds. He wakes up once in a while, but always goes back to sleep quickly. We try to potty-train him, but it’s pretty difficult while being indoors a lot. Other than that, it’s a lot of fun to have this little man around! We decided to name him Sparta, to always remember where he came from.

As Christmas is not such a big thing here in Turkey, we didn’t really feel the Christmas vibe. However, we got together with all the volunteers and with some of the locals and had a very nice evening. We wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and an adventurous and joyful 2020!

Meeting tons of people

Our days in Antalya were really lovely. The weather wasn’t great, but we managed to go running some days and we biked to the city center once. Antalya has a beautiful old city center, where many little shops are located next to the harbour. We also went for a couple of walks in between the showers and found out that this city is really modern and lively. Other than going out, we talked to Deniz and Ada a lot. We played games, had some nice dinners together and went to see Deniz’ parents. We definitely felt at home with them and really hope to see them again someday.

On the day we were supposed to leave for Isparta, the weather was suddenly really good and we decided to stay and go to the beach one more time. We even went swimming! The waves were very high and we loved being able to swim in the sea on December 16th. After lunch, we finally left Antalya and drove to the city of Isparta. The views over the mountains were amazing and we saw a lot of snow on the mountaintops. Once we arrived in the city, we tried to find the café where we were meeting one of the other volunteers. However, the streets were very busy and some of them were really narrow, so we parked the van in one of the bigger streets and walked to the café. It’s actually more like an apartment, where people come in every night to speak and learn English. We will be staying here for Christmas and New Year’s, so it was nice to meet the people that are also here during those days.

At the moment we were writing this blog, we had already spent three nights at the language café. We’ve met many people: students from all over Turkey, international students, English teachers and many other people that live in or around Isparta. Many of them visit the café every night, so it’s nice to see those familiar faces coming through the door. We usually just spend the night talking to all these people and playing many games. Once, we went out for drinks with some of them, which was a lot of fun. All in all, we like being here a lot and we think we could certainly stay here for a while.

Because there are so many volunteers and not enough bedrooms, we are sleeping in the van. We actually don’t really mind, as we really love to sleep in our own bed. During the days, we just walk around the streets and take it easy. On Wednesday, we went hiking to the nearest lake, together with two of the American volunteers. It was a lovely walk and we enjoyed being outside and in the sun. The next couple of days are going to be sunny as well, but from Sunday on, it’s going to be a lot colder. We really hope that we will be able to go skiing/snowboarding on Davras mountain anytime soon!

Last sunny days in Kemer

The last days of our little vacation were very relaxing. We spent time sunbathing and catching up on the beach, in the cafes, in the restaurant and in the Patisserie. There was a lot of talking and food involved! I think we tried most of the good-looking and delicious cakes and definitely all of the cocktails the hotel had to offer.

To let you know some details, we’ll tell you about last Thursday. In the morning the wind was quite strong and it actually felt a little cold, so we couldn’t start our day at the beach as we usually did. We decided to go back to Berke Ranch to show our family the place we had worked. Sharon even decided to go for a little horseback ride! I don’t think Nienke and I looked this good on a horse… Sharon was lucky, because she even got a riding lesson from the new German Workawayer Lisa, who is an experienced rider. It was nice to be back at the beautiful ranch again and say hi to all the sweet animals.

On Saturday it was already time to say goodbye to the family. The week had gone by way too fast, but that meant we had had an amazing time together. I, Tamara, am never good at saying goodbye and now we weren’t even the ones leaving! Thanks so much for visiting us, we loved it! After they left, we decided to sneak back into the hotel to get one more lunch and one last trip to the Patisserie. We had already checked out, but they hadn’t taken our bracelets and we thought that after the hard time they had given us, we earned one last yummie meal J.

Meeting new people
Luckily, we didn’t have much time to think about the goodbyes, as the rest of that day was filled with activities and meeting ‘new people’. On the day we went to the clothes market with our family, we had met a really nice Turkish family who had lived in the Netherlands for many years. They invited us to their house and so we went there that afternoon. Their house was beautiful, and they were very welcoming. We felt right at home and enjoyed a lovely afternoon with them and some of their friends. We even stayed for dinner! Then we had to leave, because we had another get-together planned that evening. We were meeting the German Workawayers Lisa and her boyfriend Martin, who were now staying at the ranch. It was a little tricky finding them, since we had planned to meet at the “Sok”, a supermarket here in Turkey: apparently there were quite a few Soks in the area! After finally meeting each other, it was also a little difficult to find a café that was open. Since it’s off-season, most of the cute bars and restaurants are closed. By the time we found something, it was almost 9 pm. We had a great evening chatting with these new friends who are living their lives like we are. It’s always fun and interesting to exchange plans and experiences.

Workaway in Antalya
On Sunday we left Kemer for good, although we might be back someday to visit our new friends. Right now, we are doing a Workaway in Antalya. We are staying with a lovely little family of 2; a 9-year-old girl and her father. The mom passed away recently, so we are helping them out with some little household chores. Besides that, we are practicing English with the girl and we are playing a lot of games. We really like Antalya with its old city and a beautiful boulevard on the beach only 10 minutes away from our house. Unfortunately, the fall weather has finally found us! It has been raining the past couple of days, so we’ve mostly spent our time indoors. We don’t mind chilling on the couch for a while though, since we can’t really do that in our own house. And even though we are not liking this fall weather that much, it might be good to have a little fall weather: next week we are headed up north, where it will feel like winter. We can thus slowly (in 1 week) get used to wearing long pants and long sleeves!

Horses and other good company

We have noticed that autumn is really here now. The two free days that we had last week were spoilt by a lot of rain, so we couldn’t really explore the surroundings. However, we biked to the supermarket and had a coffee on the beach with our host.

In the weekend, we had to work two full days. Because we had seen very dirty boxes on the other ranch – 2 km from ours – we went there to clean them. The people who live there are really sweet, but unable to understand anything in English. When we finally knew where to find all the tools and where to put the horse shit, it turned out to be a really nice job! After a hot lunch they had made for us, we went back to Berke Ranch to help out with customers. Unfortunately, the season is over and there aren’t many people in the hotel. Subsequently, there also aren’t many people coming to the ranch for horseback riding. On Sunday we had to help out in the afternoon, but there was virtually nothing we could do! Because we were very bored, in the evening we went to sit by the fireplace in the hotel. The guys that work in the hotel joined us and we ‘talked’, played a simple card game and had some tea. Thanks for a little distraction!

On Monday, we had a free day. Our host would be at the ranch at 10 o’clock to take us horseback riding, so we were really excited! Unfortunately, right at that moment there were customers with children wanting to ride, so we had to help saddle the horses first and walk around with the kids. Eventually, we left for our ride a little before noon, together with two other Dutch women (tourists) that came to Berke. The five of us rode through the forest to a waterfall that had dried out, but it was beautiful anyway. We talked a lot with the Dutchies and enjoyed the ride through nature.

Later that day, after a nice and warm shower, some visitors arrived! A big yellow bus came down the driveway: ExpeditionFamilyHappiness came to the ranch to meet up with us! We were really happy to hear about all their travels and we spent the whole night talking. The next morning Inge helped us in the stables and with clearing some land for the horses. Alex and the kids played on the ranch and after we finished work, we joined them. It feels so great to meet with like-minded people! We enjoyed our meals together, played hide and seek, read books and cuddled with the cute dogs that live on and around the ranch.

At the same time, we encountered many problems with our host and the guy we had to work with. Our host was never around and when he was there, he didn’t talk to us. The worker didn’t speak English, so working together was difficult. He just didn’t understand that we are Workawayers and not regular employees; he told us to keep working, even though we had made too many hours already. Thus, we made the decision to leave the ranch.

Today (Thursday), we said goodbye to the family, who had spent three days with us. After many long hugs they drove away, to their next destination. We took a shower, gathered our stuff, put the bikes back on the van and went to the hotel to say goodbye to the friendly workers there. Even though we would have loved to spend more time with the horses and at the ranch, we left with great relief. We drove to Kemer, treated ourselves with a terrific meal and talked about what had happened. Apparently, not all Workaways are as great as the ones we had had before!

The coming week, we will spend some time together. We will visit places and try to relax a little. Next week we will drive back to Kemer, to welcome Tamara’s family to Turkey! We are really looking forward to seeing them. But first; adventure!

 

By the way, because of the hassle on the ranch, we didn’t make a vlog. Also, Wi-Fi is too bad to upload pictures, so please check our Instagram if you want to see some!

Danger in Atca

A lot has happened since we left Istanbul last week! We visited Efes, Pamukkale, Kusadasi and started working on the ranch last Tuesday. We will start by telling you about the ‘danger’ we had in Atca though.

Danger
As you probably know by now, we often use Park4night to find a place for wildcamping. We try to only go to places that have some feedback so that we know it’s a nice, safe place. So, this particular night we went to a parking on a hill in a small town called Atca. The drive up was a bit scary again, with some narrow roads and bumpy spots, but the view was really nice. We had just finished dinner, when a police car drove up to us. We decided to just wait and see and stay in the car, but then they turned the red and blue lights on. We opened the door and the first thing they said was ‘danger, danger place’. They didn’t speak any other English, so we tried really hard to ask what the danger was, but they weren’t able to tell us anything else. They mentioned the word alcohol, so we thought maybe it was a place where youngsters were hanging out. We have had this happen often at wildcamping places, but don’t really consider this as ‘danger’.

After a while, one of the officers tried calling another person who could speak English. They gave their phone to Nienke to talk, but all this person said was ‘danger, follow police’. It didn’t look like we would be able to spend the night at this spot and we were getting a bit nervous too, so we got in the van again and followed the police. They escorted us down the hill, and they kept their police lights on the whole way back into the village! They took us to the police station where we parked on the side of the street. All the officers were really friendly and they even invited us in for some tea. We got out the package of stroopwafels we got from Nienke’s parents and had a nice hour, using Google translate to communicate a little. We got to work on our Turkish a little too. Thus, what had started out as kind of a scary experience, ended up being a really nice evening! After the visit, the officers escorted us (again with lights) to a minibus parking. A safe place, although we didn’t get much sleep: it was right next to the highway and train tracks…

Efes and Kusadasi
On our way down from Istanbul, our first stop was Efes (you might know it as Ephesus). It’s an ancient city, not far from Kusadasi, with a lot of monuments from the Roman times like the Library of Celsus and a huge amphitheater. We thought it opened at 8 in the morning, so that’s when we drove onto the parking lot. There was no one there yet, so we didn’t have to pay the parking fee. When we wanted to enter the sight itself, it wasn’t open yet. Apparently, they change to winter opening hours in November. Luckily for us that was only 30 minutes later, and then we were the first ones to enter! We were only expecting some old Roman buildings, but it turned out to be a very large old city. We loved exploring the huge theater all alone (even though they were doing some major renovations), exploring the site and wandering the ‘main street’. The only downside was that the main street was packed with tourists when we got there. It turned out that we had entered through a second entrance, instead of the main entrance. However, we really didn’t mind, because could visit the first part of Efes without a ton of tourists. After 2 and a half hours we decided we had seen enough and went to the city of Kusadasi. We didn’t really have any expectations, but it turned out to be a nice (touristy) city with a cool vibe and a really nice castle/park. We had a coffee and later a beer on the seaside and watched a lot of people get off and on a cruise ship.

Pamukkale
A nice English couple that we met on the beach a few days earlier, recommended us a place called Tepe Camping, close to Pamukkale. To reach the campground, we had to climb up a hill again (this really seems to be our thing). When we reached the place, we were so glad we had decided to go there! The campground was very pretty, clean and had a lovely view. The only downside was that the swimming pool was already closed for winter!

We met some really friendly swiss Overlanders who are almost driving the same route as we are and we shared some stories and experiences. It turned out that they had been to our ‘danger’ place just one night earlier… and that there had been a shooting that night… Guess it was a good thing the police came to escort us to a safer place! @wild_goose (the swiss Overlanders) advised us to go to Pamukkale at sunset and we are really glad they did! So, around 3 o’clock we started our walk down the mountain to Pamukkale, which took about 1 hour. It was pretty hot and even though we were walking down, it was pretty tiring. However, we totally forgot this after entering Pamukkale and getting to the ‘baths’. What a beautiful place and so different from all the places we visited before! The most famous part of Pamukkale is the part where you can walk barefeet on white (chalk) stone. It looks like a salt area or a white desert. At some places there are little terraces filled with water. It looks like a beautiful blue pool. The water that flows down is really warm, so lots of people are just sitting there with their feet in the water. We enjoyed the walk a lot and watching the sunset at this amazing place was fantastic!

Berke ranch
After visiting these beautiful places, it was time for us to start Workaway again. This time we are working at a ranch next to a really nice hotel. The internet isn’t great, so we will add pictures or maybe even a vlog in a later post! These past days we have been brushing and saddling horses and we took about 100 kindergartners for horseback rides. We are also supposed to help cleaning, feeding etc., but we just don’t know how yet and there is only one guy who speaks English. Our co-worker from Kirgistan is supposed to teach us someday, but it’s difficult without a mutual language to communicate! Maybe, by next week, we have cleaned a lot of shit!

Hospitable Turkey

Crossing the border into Turkey was quite an experience! Our first thought was that it was super easy, and we were already cheering that it was so easy, only to find out a couple minutes later that we had only passed the exit border for Bulgaria. Entering Turkey took a lot longer. There was a long line of cars and every car seemed to be checked thoroughly. Some people even had to open and empty all the bags and suitcases!

We were a little worried: if they wanted to check Tiny like that, we would be at the border for a whole day! When we finally got to the ‘checkingpoint’, we opened our sidedoor and the officer opened his eyes really wide. We could see him think ‘how on earth am I going to check all of this’. He opened some cupboards (and didn’t close them again), took a look in our overly filled bathroom, crushed our – just bought – enormous leek and then looked at his colleague. The other guy kept saying the word tourist and I guess that was helpful, because he was finished in just 5 minutes. They were just telling us that it was ok and that we could move on, when a loud alarm rang. All the systems shut down, so even though we were good to go, they couldn’t add us into their system. Luckily the rebooting didn’t take very long! All in all, it took about 1.5 hours to cross the border. Borders have been pretty easy so far, but from now on they will be a challenge!

First days in Turkey
Our first stop was in a city called Edirne, just across the border. To drive on the highway in Turkey we needed a so called HSG sticker. Some other overlanders adviced us to get them at the PTT (just like the one we used to have in the Netherlands!). After we got some Turkish Liras from an ATM we walked into a gas station and ask for the HSG sticker. To our surprise, no one spoke English, so after trying to point it out we had to use our phone to show them what we were looking for. They finally understood what we were talking about, but unfortunately the PTT was closed for lunch. We decided to keep driving and avoid the highways. After another two hours on the road we ended up in Silivri, a nice city on the seaside. We found a really good place to park the van, close to the sea and a park. We weren’t alone; our neighbour was a Turkish van. Since it was already pretty late, we decided to look for the PTT the next day. The van was parked next to a really cute boulevard, so we enjoyed a lovely evening strolling the boulevard and dinking some coffee. Again, no one spoke English, but we could just point out what we wanted. When we got back to the van, our neighbour came to our door. He went out to get us a delicious Turkish bread!! It was really hard to communicate, but we tried to show him how thankful we were!

The next day we walked to the nearest PTT and tried to explain that we needed the HSG. It felt impossible, because again no one spoke English and we needed to tell them a lot of details about the car (weight, license plate, distance between the tires etc.) to get the right form. All of the people we had met so far are super friendly and everyone is trying to help, but without language a thing like HSG is really hard to obtain! Luckily there was a customer who spoke German, so she helped us by being an interpreter. Our van is a category 2 and this PTT office only had category 1 stickers, so we had to go to another one. The friendly lady who spoke German even offered to take us there! It took almost the whole morning, but now we are in possession of an HSG sticker! We have no idea how to charge it yet, but hopefully we will figure that out soon.

Getting to Tuzla, Istanbul
We knew driving in Istanbul was supposed to be pretty crazy, and it was! Especially since maps.me took us to a tunnel that was only 2.80 meters high. Tiny wouldn’t fit and we had to take a different road and then we ended up driving in downtown Istanbul! It’s really busy and cars come from every direction, so we were really glad to get out without any damage! We already got to see a lot of huge mosques and the bridge over the Bosphorus, which made the scary driving a bit more enjoyable. It was really cool to see the sign ‘welcome to Asia’ when crossing the bridge! The family that we are staying with this week lives in Tuzla. It’s an area in Istanbul, about 40 km away from the big downtown. It’s also quite busy, but a lot better than it was in the city centre.

Our first week of Workaway
The family that we are staying with now, are really welcoming. Our first night, we enjoyed a lovely dinner with them and some friends. Tiny is parked in front of the apartment on a parking lot. Our main job is to help them improve their English and we also help with some little household chores. Besides, we will look after their 4-year-old daughter a couple of times. It’s a little hard because she doesn’t know a lot of English, but so far it has worked out. On our 3rd day the family took us to the city center. It takes about one hour by train, but it’s a direct line and it costs only 1 euro! They took us to the famous Sultan Ahmed square and we walked by all the main sites. When we are by ourselves and when Nienke’s dad comes (this weekend!) we will tour Istanbul some more. On Tuesday, it was a National holiday (like Indepence day) so the family took us to one of the Princes’ Islands: Buyukada. It’s a really nice island. The houses are very pretty and huge and there are no cars on the roads. Most people walk up to a famous church on the hill, where the view is spectacular, but some people take one of the hundreds of horse carriages. Of course, we walked. The last part of the climb was really steep, but the view was totally worth it! We enjoyed some drinks and Burek on the top and watched Istanbul from a distance. The city really is humongous, and we can’t wait to explore it some more!

For those who were wondering and saw our Insta story: Tiny is fixed again! Tiny really didn’t like all the crappy roads and speed bumps anymore and was making a lot of noise. That’s why we decided to get a check. Both the suspensions were broken and Tiny stayed overnight at an ‘otopark’ somewhere in Istanbul. It was a bit scary to leave him behind, but the next day he was still there with new suspensions!

 

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90 days and counting

Only 90 days ago, we were preparing for our big trip. Only 90 days ago, we were ready to change our lives forever. Now, 90 days later, we are looking back at the first part of our journey, even though we’re actually – still – just beginning.

The things we’ve seen and done
So far, we have travelled through 9 countries: Germany, Austria, Italy (even though it was short), Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. If you count our home country, it would be 10. Our first great experience was in Slovenia, where we’ve met amazing people who we’ll never forget. Afterwards, we were surprised by the pretty sights and great people in Bosnia. We were really pleased by this country. Then, we spent some days in the beautiful mountains of Montenegro and at some interesting sites in Albania. We loved travelling through both of them and we enjoyed our time together. Finally, we arrived in Greece to cherish the last moments of summer and to help out on a small permaculture farm in the hills. Right now, we’re leaving the lovely family that we’ve met here to continue our way to Asia. However, we will pay a visit to Athens and Thessaloniki first!

 What we love about our way of living
If we think about it now, after almost three months, the greatest change that we’ve noticed in ourselves is to live in the moment. We don’t worry about what happened yesterday or last week, because it happened then and not today. We also don’t worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week, as our plans change from day to day. We never know what the next day will bring, so why would we think about it now? We’re living in the moment and because of that, we don’t feel any stress. Besides, when we lived in The Netherlands, we always had to check our schedule if we felt like doing something. Now, we can do whatever we want and whenever we want, without checking if we have to work tomorrow or if we have to go to the gym tonight. It just feels amazing to wake up and think about what you want to do that day.

Other than experiencing no stress, we also really enjoy being outside all the time. The last year in The Netherlands, living on the campground, we noticed it too; breathing in fresh air every day makes us feel more energetic and cheerful. Of course, the weather has been terrific up to now, which makes living outside even more wonderful. We really hope to have a mild winter, so we can stay out as long as possible!

Only a few things…
All in all, we still don’t regret quitting our jobs and leaving our home country. We learn new things every day, we meet a lot of nice people and it still feels like vacation. However, we have to admit that we miss a few things… although sometimes it’s hard to understand what these things are. Most of all, we really miss our family and our friends. It’s not that we miss one person in particular, but we mainly miss talking to someone familiar, someone that we trust. Especially when we experience big cultural differences with our hosts or when we had an argument. We can of course always call someone to talk about it, but that’s really not the same as having a coffee together. And other than talking to someone, we miss being part of a group and doing fun things with them. For example, when we see pictures of our friends or family having a great time together, it can feel pretty lonely to be on the other side of Europe.

Another thing we miss, is our Dutch way of having a meal. We’ve noticed that when we’re staying with hosts, we have a hard time adjusting to their schedule. At all our Workaway’s so far, lunch has been the main meal of the day. Sometimes pasta, sometimes potatoes, sometimes soup… but it’s always been a hot lunch around two or three o’clock. Because we are used to having breakfast between seven and eight o’clock, we always get really hungry at noon! But then we have to wait two more hours before we have lunch…
Another downside for us, is that we have dinner when the sun goes down. Sometimes we aren’t even really hungry anymore, because we had a very late lunch. Other times, we want to go to bed early (we get pretty tired from working!) and having dinner right before going to bed doesn’t feel good. That means we sometimes just have a snack instead of dinner! Fortunately, the food has been outstanding in all the places we’ve been, so we cannot complain about that at all. Besides, the first box from Holland has just arrived, so we can finally have some ‘borrelnootjes’ and ‘pindasaus’ again!

Right now, we are ready for new adventures. Although we love the farm where we’ve lived for the last three weeks, we’re looking forward to seeing new places. Let’s move on!