We arrived in the Turkish capital with three important main goals on our to-do-list:
- Apply for Iranian visa
- Apply for Pakistani visa
- Typhus vaccination (Ben)
So Ankara was a stop with more of a “business” notion to it – and while this pretty well organized city seemed better suited than Istanbul for that, after five days of hassle we could only scratch the vaccination from our list.
The Iranian embassy informed us politely but definitely, that a visa application would only work if we could provide an authorization code delivered by an Iranian travel agency. The whole process would have been stretched to around 14 days and the costs would have increased as well by roughly 2 x 35 € additional to the visa processing costs of about 2 x 70 €.
The Pakistani embassy was a lot more straightforward in explaining us to get back to our home countries for a visa application. Seems that the ambassador of Pakistan in Bucharest did not know the situation very well. Unfortunately our hope for the visa in Turkey based on his word.
Those facts resulted in the necessity to completely overhaul our plans – once more. That seemed to become a weekly sport, unfortunately. In the big picture the chance to reach India overland was basically gone, with the door to Pakistan firmly shut. But our plans for Turkey had to change as well.
We have to reach Trabzon at the Black Sea – the last and fortunately safest place in Turkey to obtain the Iranian visa. The city is just located far away from any of our ideal routes east, behind some majestic mountain ranges towards the coast. With the situation like that it was at least less painful to accept, that Turkey’s south-east had to be deleted from our itinerary anyway. We would have liked to go there for the still pleasant climate and to experience one of the least traveled areas of Turkey with an interesting mix of culture and nature. But it was due to the tensions resulting from the Islamic State expansions close to the Turkish border and the very real danger for foreigners, especially for easy to target cyclists, that we and many Turkish friends declared the south – east as a no go for now. In the major cities violence frequently breaks out these days between Turkish police forces and Kurdish protestors, calling for Turkish support for the heavily besieged Syrian town of Kobanê. Those clashes already resulted in too many casualties.
It shall not be forgotten that Ankara also offered us a bunch of great memories, mostly thanks to some great couchsurfers in the town and some random people we met in the streets. A specific highlight has been the great view from Ankara’s castle over the vast metropolis, hugging Anatolia’s hills with concrete towers. The climb up is highly recommended to anybody visiting Ankara, especially at sunset, with the prayer calls echoing 360 degrees around you. A big thanks to Saygin, our helpful soul in Ankara, for that evening!
Still, after five days in another huge and bustling mega city, we were glad to be back on the bike, cycling southwards towards Tuz Gölü, the big salt lake and Cappadocia’s wonders.