At this point, I separated from the road trip to make my way by myself from Tbilisi, Georgia to meet up with Lisa in Ankara – 1,300 km away. This was actually my first taste of independent travelling and getting to grips with foreign transportation systems. I ended up taking a kind of zig-zag pattern across the country, from east to west across the entire country.


For those interested in travelling from Georgia to Turkey overland, the best way is to take a train to Batumi, make your way to the border town of Sarpi and cross by foot. Catch a bus to Erzurum and trains run from here across the rest of the country to Ankara. No trains to Istanbul for the next couple of years (Its currently late 2013).


This was thankfully an easy border crossing. Interestingly, following on from the point I made about Georgia about the country yearning for more integration with the outside world, this can actually be physically seen in their fancy, curvy border crossing building you can probably just about make out in the photograph.


Many reports also confirm that they employ the most attractive females they can to make this a welcoming border crossing with Turkey! They are obviously trying their hardest to integrate with the west of the world!


Once across the border, I made my way to a town called Hopa, with a small bus station. I needed to make my way to a city called  Erzurum, where it would be possible to catch a train to Ankara. Nobody spoke English at this bus station, so I just drew a picture of a coach with ERZURUM in big letters and showed it to the first person I came to.


I came to love this about Turkey, if you need something like this sorted out, don’t worry too much about the language. They are very helpful people, and ALWAYS enthusiastically looking for business, they will figure out what you mean. And so, in a flurry of loud shouting and pointing, I was directed to the right people and found myself on the right bus with no real effort needed whatsoever. Cheap aswell, less than £10 for the 6 hour journey to Erzurum.


I found it interesting when moving overland to Turkey (and actually many other countries too) that the landscape can change so dramatically after the point of the border crossing. We can’t have been more than 15 miles away from the lush green countryside of Georgia and all of a sudden I was confronted with impressive arid mountain landscapes, punctuated with various mining and construction projects, evidence of a clearly healthy and driving Turkish economy.


I wish I’d taken a picture at the time, but while on this bus ride I saw a load of houses and other buildings half submerged in water. I thought, ‘ah shit, obviously a bit of flooding here’…realised just after I passed I’d previously read about this place. For construction development reasons a river had been artificially redirected and these houses were clearly the collateral damage of this particular business decision, damn!


I arrived in Erzurum after midnight, again this was no problem, I just said ‘hotel’ and before I knew it I was in this nice little hotel for a good price. I needed to leave the next morning. I had absolutely no luck trying to book tickets online (something that is basically a thing of the past for me now!). So I just made my way to Erzurum station at 6am just to be sure... well, this strategy worked but did leave me waiting around in town for 6 hours before the train actually left.


While I was waiting on the platform, I saw this group of 5 or so suited and booted Turkish guys strut their way confidently along the platform. They stopped and withdrew a big bass drum and this type of reed flute instrument with a very distinctively Turkish sound to it…like what a snake charmer would use. And they just started banging out a really loud Turkish rhythm and blaring out the flute thing and dancing all across the platform. It happened to be a breakbeat at about 170bpm so obviously I thought this was f’@king great.


And so began my 20 hour journey in the Turkish train. The trains are really decent. You have loads of leg room, you can recline your seat back far without effecting the person behind (there were no sleeper tickets available on this train). Also, if you are a single traveller, you automatically get a single seat by a window. The train zig-zagged leisurely across the countryside at about 40kmh, a very chilled place but I thought it was a great way to take in the Turkish mountainous countryside, rinsing tunes on my headphones.


I did appreciate that you can open the doors on the trains while it’s still moving. At one point I saw (smelt) a group of Turkish guys smoking some hash out of one of these doors but decided against approaching them in case of freaking them out! On reflection I probably should have tried chatting to only regret things you didn’t do…


The train arrived in Ankara 4 hours late and I got to meet Lisa after a long time away which was awesome. We went out for a few drinks etc., Ankara seemed like a lively place but we were eager to move on and so the next day we went off to a region of Turkey called Cappadoccia with these crazy moon-rock formation landscapes (also vaguely penis shaped). Sorting out bus tickets everywhere in Turkey is a breeze.


Cappadocia is a place with really interesting history and generally just a great place to be in and explore. We stayed in a room built into one of these rock hole things and went exploring round the area on bikes. There are hundreds of these abandoned cave dwellings in the area that you are perfectly free to roam around and explore inside, which I loved. The area also has several large underground cities to explore. We went to visit one a couple of hours bus ride away, Derinkuru.


The Derinkuru underground city extends to a depth of approximately 60m, it was large enough to shelter approximately 20,000 people together with their livestock and food stores. The city was used as a refugee shelter throughout several ages. These troglodyte cave cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, and expanded over the centuries as various marauding armies traversed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder.


If you know me, you know I like exploring underground places and this was a nice surprise to come across in Turkey. We paid a small fee for a security guard that was kind of working as an unofficial guide to explain what the rooms were used for and to bring the place to life a little bit. It was generally weird to think that this was a place that thousands of people were actually living in at some point.


We took loads of photos of the city and the Cappadocian landscape. Please open up the gallery viewer below at the end of this text to open up loads more selected pictures of stuff that we saw while exploring this area. Way too many to explain all of them!


After a few days, we made our way all the way to the south of Turkey, a place called Olympus, which is on the Black Sea. Olympus has a lot going for it, it’s really quite an isolated place basically at the foot of some mountains but with an awesome mediterranian beach and lots of ancient greek ruins as Olympus was a place of real significance in greek times.


As the area is protected, the government does not allow new construction of buildings, so almost all of the accommodation for tourists is in treehouses…I found this really cool! The hostels are really cheap, and they provided a proper cooked breakfast AND dinner…really high quality stuff and actually worth more than what we actually paid for staying in the treehouses themselves. Be on the lookout for giant hornet wasps, there are a lot of them, but they didn’t cause us any real problems.











































While in Olympus, we spent a lot of time chilling out in blazing sun on the gorgeous med sea beach, swimming in the sea, exploring through the ancient ruins all of which was very much appreciated and actually the first place where I was thinking very much, “yeah, I’m definitely on holiday now”…


We also went and did a few very obviously touristy things, such as going on a boat trip to see a sunken greek city, quad biking around the area and also white water rafting. This was all good stuff, although the rafting did verge towards being a bit too touristy with the constant encouragement to play up to the camera so that they could then sell you a video of your mindblowing water rafting experience for a rip off price!


To be honest I was impressed with how quickly they edited a fully produced video of our rafting, but didn’t really appreciate being hassled to buy it, particularly after they made us sit through it already! Yeah, “I’ve seen enough”, thank you very much!


We also had too many people on our mini-bus, but obviously this is no problem in Turkey…I drew the short straw here so was say in a plastic patio chair kind of wedged at a stange angle into the aisle way of this mini bus. I was a bit apprehensive about this but actually it seemed to work and I wasn’t the only person sat in the bus on one of these plastic chairs.


Another place I found really cool was called the ‘flames of chimera’ and involved a small hike up a mountain to find this area where there are just naturally occurring flames coming out of the ground. It’s a natural occurrence, something to do with methane seeping out of the mountain rocks, and is generally just quite surreal to see all these little fires around you that you can’t put out.


It did make me wonder what the hell the ancient greeks made of all this! They were clearly impressed enough to make these huge imposing steps all the way up to the mountain to this place.We chilled out here with some friendly Turk students who gave us sausages to roast in the fires, and some canned cappuchino drinks, It was cool! If you try to put out the fires, it is possible but they will just spontaneously start up again a few minutes later, weird!!


One critisim of Olympus is that it is very cut off from the main road with only a few dodgy buses up through the mountain every now and then…and because the beach is protected, you can’t go there after about 10pm. This restriction became a bit claustrophobic after a few days, but for a few days its really well worth visiting.


Okay, so moving on…we got a coach to Istanbul, around 12 hours night trip. This was the best coach I’ve ever been on, they have these little computers mounted in the back of the seat in front of you that you can use to access google and facebook etc. I don’t like to think of myself as too much of an internet whore, but this was kind of nice to see especially when you otherwise have not loads to do and is also a bit of a novelty while on the move in this way.




And so we arrived in Istanbul. What an awesome city! As they say, this place is really a melting pot of middle-eastern mixed with European culture. There is a huge amount of grand palaces, bazaars, cool little shopping streets, western style shopping malls, endless bars, sheesha smoking places, fresh food restaurants, random stalls, electronics shops, quirky little streets etc. but to me this is still not what makes Istanbul what it is, which is it’s totally electric and fun atmosphere, with good nightlife and generally hilarious turks coming up and talking to you, attempting to sell this and that but not in an overly pushy way – it’s not like Morocoo for example. Just for completeness, there were a few street kids after money in certain areas which is always very sad to see. And they seem to have their steet Christmas lights on all year round.


One of the best quotes I’ve heard whilst travelling so far…we were browsing in a Turkish bazaar and this loud voice boomed at us from a Turkish guy - “CAN I SELL YOU SOMETHING YOU DON’T NEED??”.


Yes mate, that’s the selling technique that will work best on me! He happened to be selling whisky flavoured sheesha tobacco, sounds crazy to me!


Istanbul also probably has the best selection food out of all the places I’ve visited in the world, perhaps barring China, where I’m currently writing this (yes, I have a massive backlog to catch up on). In Istanbul, probably the most memorable for me was the ‘Sheep head meat’ – picture located on the right hand side somewhere. There were a few of these little stalls normally located on dingy street corners. They would scrape the meat out of the head of a sheep and put it in a wrap for you with some onions and chilli. It basically just tastes like roast lamb to be honest, and its cheap so we kept going back for more. They also had these ornate gold plated floating ships on the sea front selling grilled fishes on the cheap, great stuff!!


Istanbul is also where I re-joined my Romanian friends Radu and Beatrice who I’d previously left in Georgia on the road trip. They certainly had an awesome sounding adventure that I missed out on, which involved travelling to Armenia (sounds really cool btw)...but also crashing the car in Georgia.


You don’t want to crash your car in Georgia as people there do not have car insurance (and international insurance obviously does not typically cover this country). To cut a long story short, they were basically held hostage by the country people they crashed into until translation and appropriate cash came onto the scene. I really wish I’d been there! ;)


As a good example of the general vibe in this place, one night I was pretty tipsy and searching round off licenses to replenish our supplies of this particular brand of rum in order to make a version of Caiprinihas (basically the best alcoholic drink in my opinion – sugar cane rum + sugar + ice).


I went into this dingy looking place and managed to slip down this concealed spiral staircase - I took out pretty much a whole shelf of spirits as I fell down, glass smashing all around me and alcoholic liquid dripping all over the place. I immediately realised I was surely gonna be beaten up or otherwise extorted by the large group of dodgy looking Turks that owned the shop…


But actually, they were totally cool about it. They were most concerned about whether I was OK. They sat me down, checked my injuries, gave me some water, a smoke etc. and refused to take any money for the large pile of drinks I’d just  wandered in and destroyed for them...I did get my rum in the end tho as well as a few cuts and bruises that stuck around another couple of weeks or so afterwards. After this I went clubbing with Radu with some Turkish girls doing it proper Turkish style with arabic dance music. It was an unexpectedly amazing night… but unfortunately my memory fails me after that point!


In conclusion of this rather long report, there’s not much more to say than Turkey is a great fun place with loads to see and fun locals so please go there.













"Can I sell you something you don't need?"
yummy sheep head meat is yummy
Modern border crossing from Georgia to Turkey