After five weeks at that wonderful beach near Datca in Turkey, I felt like it was time to move on. For the first time on my journey I had an plan: I had decided to travel to Cyprus, stay there for 95 days before returning to Turkey for another 90 days. This would give me a warm winter and the opportunity to explore the east and northeast of Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia in spring and summer.
I asked some new Turkish friends for a recommendation on where to go dancing on New Year’s Eve. They suggested a small town by the coast, so I headed there. Upon arrival, I discovered that the town was a hot spot for tourists, filled with holiday apartments, hotels, bars, restaurants, a harbor, and a promenade. It was a proper little “concept town”. Although that place felt pretty alien to me, I decided to stay there to have a chance to meet some nice people and have a dance after my time in nature.
In the evening, I met Isa and Arne. They were traveling and living in their all-wheel-drive VW van and on their leisurely way to India. I felt connected to them from the moment we met. We spent the evening and the night talking about a lot of things, including living in a community on a sustainable farming, being human, traveling, and all the other stuff. I enjoyed our conversations a lot. Later that night, we went to a bar and chatted for hours with a friendly Turkish woman. Just when I started to dance a little, the music stopped at 1 AM. I didn’t know about the rule, but the bars weren’t allowed to play music after 1 AM. So I continued hanging out with the others and having a good time. By the end of the night, I had drunk more beer than for years, I guess. I felt good but the next day I took it easy.
After a day of relaxation, I headed south towards Cyprus. Isa and Arne, who had left the day before, had told me about a great hot thermal bath at a stunning lake. When I arrived, I ran into them again. They continued their journey, while I headed to the thermal bath, which looked like an alien spaceship. I spent hours soaking in the hot water. After months without a hot bath that felt awesome.
The next day, I went on a hike, explored ancient ruins, and took a ferry across a river. The ferry was very small, and when it was Rosinante’s and my turn, we had to drive slightly on the loading ramp to make room for two more cars. I had never been on such a tiny ferry before and although our ferry was very far from it, it remembered me on these super adventurous videos about little motorboats that carry jeeps across rivers in Asia and South America.
From Istanbul, I went south to the region of Uludag mountain. I had loved Uludag lemonade for some time in my life, but that was not the reason for me to go there. Although, if there had been a waterfall of that stuff, I think I would have given it a try.
After visiting Istanbul, I felt like taking some time to unwind in nature and go hiking. When I reached the highest point that I was allowed to go with Rosinante, it felt pretty strange because that area was mainly characterized by large hotels. These hotels were closed for the winter season and when I was there, there were hardly any other people around. But I found a nice place to stay, and the next morning, I drove Rosinante to one of the hotels to ask if I could park her there while I went hiking. I met a nice guy and we talked about living in the hotel, the differences between the summer and winter seasons, and so on. During the conversation, I couldn’t help but be reminded several times of Stephen King’s novel “The Shining.” Not that the guy seemed to be a big fan of smashing doors and people’s heads with an axe. It was just the scenery and his description of the boredom and loneliness he felt, especially during the summer when there were hardly any people around, that made me think of “The Shining.” I guessed.
I hiked up the Uludag mountain and the feeling of just going up and up was amazing and liberating. The layer of clouds separating heaven from earth looked like a fluffy but dense bed. Seeing that dense layer of clouds below and the bright sun above me reminded me of the saying “no matter what, there is always light, but sometimes you just can’t see it.” I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be under that cloud layer at that moment.
I reflected on what had been going on with me in Istanbul, and it was very interesting. By the end of my time in Istanbul, I had been feeling disoriented, confused, and kind of frustrated. I talked to a very good friend and she said that for her, cities are always about connecting to other people. And that made me think. At some point in Istanbul, I had felt like I didn’t belong there. Not in the city and not to the people there. I had talked with a lot of people, but I hadn’t really connected with them in a deep way. I had felt like a foreign body in an organism, like I wasn’t a part of the rest. I had let that make me feel uncertain about a lot of things and that had led me to think a lot. Being on that mountain helped me understand that I was disappointed about not connecting in a deep way to others during my time in Istanbul. Somehow my expectations had not been met and that had made me feel bad. I seemed to be unable to let go of these expectations and accepting that I could not let go as well. As I’m writing this, I feel different about all of that, but at that time, understanding this through thinking made me feel calm and positive. I felt like I understood myself again and that everything was perfectly fine.
When I got back to Rosinante, I felt hungry and tired, and I just wanted to find a place to stay for the night, eat, and relax. When I found a really cool spot, a car of the mountain rangers approached. I went to the two rangers and we talked via Google Translate about the beauty of the mountains and the wild animals. Then they said that I was not allowed to stay overnight in the national park. For me, that felt like it couldn’t be right because there were official camp sites. I asked if I could stay at that specific spot where we were standing at that moment, which was located in one of the official camps. They said I needed permission to do that. I asked if they could give me the permission, they made a phone call and told me that only managers could give me the required permission. So I asked where I could find a manager, and they said that both of them were managers. I felt a little confused about how this interaction went along and I felt my tiredness, but it was funny as well, and I was curious about where this may lead. I asked if they would give me the permission, and they made another phone call. After that, they said I would have to pay for staying overnight, and I told them I would be happy doing that. They asked me to pay via bank transfer. In Germany, a bank transfer takes hours or days to complete, so I was a bit confused and told them that I only had German bank accounts, and that an international transfer would take time. I asked if I could pay in cash, and then they asked me to follow their car to the headquarters, so we drove about thirty minutes to their headquarters. After getting there, I waited and got some tea. I explained to some police officers hanging around the waiting area that I wanted to stay for one night in the park and they told me several times that I would not be allowed to leave the car after sunset because there would be dangerous wild animals. After some time, the friendly managers brought me to the director’s office. I explained that I would like to stay one night at the spot I had found earlier. The director was friendly and approved of that. One of the managers gave me a form that I filled out, and then he asked me to pay via bank transfer again. I felt more tired, but I was still curious, and the whole process started to feel hilarious. I started to enter their bank account details into my Revolut app because I thought that one may be able to send the money way faster than my German bank. But they had no BIC code. Without the BIC code, transferring the money was not possible. The manager started to get frustrated and left me on the waiting couch again. I got tea, talked to some rangers and police officers, and waited. Some other rangers and police officers told me that I would not be allowed to leave my car after sunset again. And they told me that I was not allowed to go hiking without asking for permission. I felt reminded about the German bureaucracy. But there was one big difference: these Turkish guys were very friendly and helpful. After a pretty long time, the manager came back and took me back into the director’s office again. There I explained what I would like to do again: sleeping one night in Rosinante at that spot I had found. He filled out another form. I paid 25tl (about 2€) in cash, got a receipt, and after two hours, I was good to go. Easy.