European Turkey 2014

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Instambul in Turkey 2014

Sun has heated the northern hemisphere and we set out on trip to see first country outside Europe. Turkish spring is beautiful. We made over 8.000 km on highways, roads and dirt roads. Wonderful 59 days.

Valka Family in Turkey 2014

You’d better make bigger coffee and play Kool & the Gang, which was with us for the whole journey. Girls call the song “trumpeteer” and it is a real mood enhancer.

Before we set on the trip, we had expected Turkey to be the real orient, wild and different than what we are used to. But globalization helped, that Turkey is a safe and cultivated country, the same as other destinations in Europe. Only instead to the sound of church bells you listen to the sound of mosques.

Planning before the trip

In winter I found on a website enough campsites for trip along Turkey coast, but specific schedule I left to be seen. We traveled mostly on land. Through Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece to Turkey. Serbia and Turkey are not in EU = 20times more expensive phone calls.

Outside EU I needed international driving license according to treaty from 19th Sep 1949 and two CZ labels for car and caravan. Local 3G modem for Internet, because the Turkish in a week or so block instruments bought outside Turkey, in case they contain Turkish SIM card. I did not put the labels on and no one cared. Police controls deliberately ignore tourists and don’t stop them.

And for calling to Czech is good to have recharged Skype credit. And at home have someone with a card for post office, which enables them to collect even recommend letters.

About half a year in advance I was collecting information from the Internet in document with preparation of the trip (RTF).

Renata’s point of view

Vita once asked where shall we go for next trip? My answer? “How about Turkey?”

Several people told me, that with blond girls they would not go into such country. For me, a mother, it was scary. The only thing that made me relax, was the fact, that none of them has ever been in Turkey. It was more about the fear from our family. In fact, even about countries, that you have to go through before you reach Turkey, I was not really sure. My friend, who traveled there several times by plane to a hotel resort, told me  „You would not like it there, but you will see.” Full of doubts I still decided to go for an adventure. I admire Vita for perfect planning of the trips and also many B plans 🙂

In the end, Turkey was great. Landscape, people, see and last but not least – food. People in every part of the country were nice and helpful. The same as in every country, they like kids. And so many times in shops the shop assistants were keen on to cuddle with our girls. Needless to say, that many time the story ended in tears.

On our way home I summed up my feelings into one sentence: “Vita, next time we go for a year.”

Main cost items

  • International driving license €2.
  • Highway HGS vignette €36 and 100 YTL, I don’t know how much balance I got at the end.
  • Highway vignette in Hungary 2x €10, Bulgaria 2x €5, Slovakia 1x €20 – always a week or 10day label, more on highways, tolls and fees
  • In Serbia there is toll and it was roughly 2x€20 for north to south and back, highways in Greece are for free
  • Gas in Turkey €1,5 to €1,6 and €1,45 to €1,55 outside Turkey
  • For Gas €1200 in total (10.1l/100km, €1,5/liter on average)
  • Turkish modem and 10GB of data for 3 months for €90.
  • Camps along the way for €12-20 per night, only in Hungary the camp was for €25/night
  • Food: I estimate €24 per day for the whole family
  • Entrance to sightseeings €48 (15-30 YTL per person, kids are free)
  • Ferry over Dardanelles (Gelibolu-Lapseki) 2x 50 YTL
  • Flat tire in Bulgaria on our caravan – assistance €120, new tires in Greece €150
  • 2 months in Turkey in total: €4.313 (€2.896 excluding food)

Notes for drivers

  • Quality of roads in Austria, Slovakia and Turkey is comparable with Czech
  • Highways are better than good old D1.
  • 600 km in Serbia can be done in one day despite driving 80km/h
  • There almost no highways in Bulgaria and roads are wild.
  • I bought vignettes for cash at the borders. On tank stations only using cards, or you will get ripped off.

Most interesting moments of our trip

Arrival to a closed camp

Second day of our trip we planned to sleep in Oasis Tanya camp in southern Hungary. According to the website, the camp was open, but I never new if the owner was living at the campsite or was closing the gate for the night. The plan was to be at the spot before 5 PM and then we would see. Trip through bumpy Hungary was getting longer and longer and in the end we were riding as fast as hell. Where there was supposed to be a campsite, I saw only a dusty dirt road and I thought “that can’t be it” – of course it was it.

So we were smoking through empty landscape on a dusty road all the way to GPS coordinates where we found abandoned ruin. Fatigue was against us, but in the fair field we saw a camp site – far away behind trees. The access road was simply marked from a different direction 🙂 Last hundreds of meters to the campsite and around 17:05 Jeep Cherokee is driving against us. And Dutch camp owners inside. The camp opes in a week and now they are going home. We are lucky – they unlock the gate and we can stay in the camp. “Now you’re the manager of our camp.”

Campsite Oasis Tanya in Hungary
Campsite Oasis Tanya in Hungary

Flat Tire in Bulgaria

As Adela Banášová said jokingly: “Bulgaria is an ideal country to have a flat tire.” — We are close to Sofia, after having a lunch in IKEA, where we parked with our caravan in underground garages with height about 3,5 m. Highway is easy moving backwards at 80km/h and suddenly I can see in my rearview mirror a lot of new objects. I don’t even finish my sentence and in a moment I stop into emergency lane. Everything is clear. My wife is asking: “What the hell is this mess around?” And my answer is simple “That is our caravan.” — I have to admit that I was not sure about bulges on tire of our caravan when going into Bulgaria, but I paid no attention to them.

The highway was full of life, so I put the girls aside and started to solve the situation. There was a police control in opposite direction, which meant that they shortened the whole process to an hour, including two arrivals of local “Big professional serviceman. Really the best.” — according to the words of the policemen. Well, I was confident in this guy, despite coming on the highway in opposite direction in a car that looked that would do with some maintenance as well. I will not go into details.

Policemen were nice, the only thing I was not sure, was their assurance “if we are here, everybody is safe.” Because were driving half a meter around us and reflective vest probably does not mean anything. After the situation was solved policemen gave us advice: “You should leave Bulgaria before night, there are bandits on the highway.” And so, instead of going in Bulgarian camp, where you never know what is the situation, we went straight to Greece. We arrived at 1 AM to a camp at the seaside – Alexandroupolis.

Flat Tire in Bulgary
Flat Tire in Bulgary

Late Czech SIM cards

To make the trip more fun, our Czech mobile carrier informed us right before our departure, that he was closing his business. So we quickly ordered SIM cards at GoMobile, but these did not make it to our address in time – complications at the back ordering. So I asked for delivery into Greece where we waited for the SIM cards. First couple of days it looked promising, but as the nervousness was rising, I asked for tracking ID of the delivery parcel and I realized, that for couple of days it had already been waiting in the Athens.

So I used Skype and spoke with half of the post system in Greece to get two phone numbers directly to the warehouse, where the parcel should have been located. But no one was answering. This was confirmed by assistance service (for free for Citi and Raiffeisen cards), which we involved as well, to save some time. Probably thanks to numerous questions on given tracking ID in the system, the post really delivered the parcel and so we could move on. It is true to say, that suffering in Xarama sti thalassa was manageable.

Alexandroupolis Highlights

Waiting on borders with Turkey

Finally, Turkey was within our sights, we went through Greek part of the customs, but it was full at Turkish side. First day of real summer. So we stopped for 4 hours in no man’s land. Luckily we had our tzatziki takeaway. During the control everything went smooth.

We just showed our passports on the entrance, then the green card on passing the second gate, showing passports once more at the third window, than recorded the car and caravan according to the green card by ladies dressed in blankets and then finally they checked our green cards when leaving the customs and that’s it – “We have made it into Turkey!” No one cared about either Czech or international driving license. No one checked the caravan or car, so technically we were clean even if we were smuggling a dozen of immigrants. The  same applies for the opposite direction.

Turkish Border
Turkish Border

Visiting our colleague in Istanbul

In the city which is both in Europe and Asia, we have met with a guy from an American company, which is my business partner. The colleague is an Iranian living in Istanbul simply because he hardly gets visas into EU, nor USA. With one of his brothers, he is living with, he has shown us the most interesting places in Istanbul and also a magnificent Büyükada island, not far away by boat from Istanbul. He let us taste Iranian sweets. We touched foreign politics and cultural differences. These are exactly the experiences you don’t get in an all inclusive resort.

Istambul

Intertwined trips

Since first Turkish camp on our trip along the coast we were meeting other travelers. Frenchman with a caravan told us, that the French are scared to drive with a trailer, so I can see them more often with an RV. And that the French highways are expensive even for the French. And Dutch in Transporter we were meeting in almost every other camp. And then Germans, Turks and another couple of retired people full of life. No families. Route on the coast is more or less the only one and so it is common.

Meetups

Mountain offroad camp

Flat tire in Bulgaria was nothing compared to a camp in Antalya. We were late, it was getting dark and we were zeroing on a camp, whose GPS coordinates were about 300m from the closest road in topographical maps. Not far from the camp we were caught by a rusty van which was catching us and overtaking us now and then. So we got to the right stress-level. We were closing to the closest tarmac place and searching for a campsite. No signposts, Sun has gone down, only local gravel roads. In order to stay on the right track, I went to search a local to ask for help. I found a couple from the van mentioned above and another Turkish couple at the water spring. It was dark, hard to drive in a forest in the dark. No Internet in the mountains. I asked in English if someone knew about any campsite, they were answering in Turkish German that one was some 7 km away. I thank them and called the camp owner for 1.5EUR/minute. He was nice and pointed me to a correct junction.

It was looking a bit suspicions so I first went on a recce on foot. And the story goes like this: It’s dark so I am using my cellphone as a headlamp. First part is narrow, dirt and level. If nothing goes in the opposite direction, everything should be fine. I run back, turning the caravan around and riding down the trail. Off course, the part I did not reccied is a true offroad. Stones on the side of the track, sharp turns, uneven surface and bush scratching on the car paint. I don’t want to know what is happening in the back – the caravan is another 30cm wider. What can I do? No chance to backtrack, so we are just hoping and using a reduction and we believe we would make it in one piece. In a couple of minutes we are in the camp. The owner is inviting us for a family barbecue, but I am fixing the vehicle on the slope, so that we would not wake up on the meadow below. We are going to sleep with a uncertainty if we ever make it back.

In the morning I go to check the track on foot. I would love to say that the track looked better, but I could not. The owner was assuring that my caravan was light and small and my car was powerful, so I was OK. He told me, that he made it with his caravan. Well, but the track had not been flooded by rain at that time and his caravan never made it up the slope – it became a hut in the camp. It was a funny guy, so we sent my wife and kids ahead and decided to tackle the troubles just two of us. Toyota on reduction, 150 meters of steep climbing and the ascend was done in 30 minutes. The only casualty was one of the caravan legs – I repaired it using a big hammer. You can see the footage below.

Rido Camp

Hippie town of Çirali

According to Dušan Janovský and his turecko.org website, which helped us a lot with planning, Cirali is the best place in Turkey. There is a swarm of RVs on the beaches. Wild camping and virtually risk-free. Camps have no gates, no fences and price for camping and food are damned low. It was one of the most quiet locations we have visited and I can imagine spending here some longer time on holiday.

Cirali Coast
Cirali Coast

Eye doctor in Greece

In Greek city of Alexandroupolis one of our girls had eyes full of sand or an eye infection. So we popped into a pharmacy, if they had something for her eyes. Very hospitable pharmacist took us to her brother, who had an ambulance just around the corner and specialized in eye medicine. In the waiting we could see a nurse, aquarium, kids toys and view of a inner yard. It looked professional. And really, the doctor was calm, he spoke perfect English and before he inspected the eye, he showed our girls young kittens in the yard. He recommended treatment of the eye and gave us a receipt. After these experience and our experience from Spain I expected a fair receipt. The only thing I got was a wish – to have a nice rest of our holiday. The whole registration and eye inspection was for free. Wow.

Moments caught on a film reel

Detailed information about trio to Turkey

Panorama of visited camps

Information sources before the trip

Tools, I took with me for the trip

Within Europe I was using well tested 3G modem and WiFi repeater XYFi. In Hungary one seasoned Dutchman advised me a great Signal amplifier PowerWifi. For full-scale work I was using external 22” monitor and Wacom and Adonit magical pencils. Key software were Skype, Google Hangout and Toggl. And of course classical gadget such as GoPro camera, mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Apart from electronics I had multitool Leatherman Charge TTI as well.

Map of visited camps

Map of Campsites visited till 2014
Map of our Campsites visited till Turkey trip in 2014

Why are we doing all this?

Life can be a routine (similarity with ruin is just a coincidence). We want to inspire you to a new point of view on traveling with family. Our goal is to reshape routine into experience, that you will like to remember. We are traveling with Toyota Hilux car and tow our English caravan Coachman from 1995. Stays abroad are balanced combination of work and rest. We prefer going outside high season for trips taking a month and longer. We know that our blog is not going to change your life overnight. But it can help to show the way.

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