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Day 182-185: After 14 hours in the train I feel like new born. Sleeping on the two seats was more comfortable than expected. And more good news: Yesterday someone replied on my couchsurfing request. Ercan’s home is just a few minutes from the railway station, in the center of Erzurum, the eastern metropolis of turkey. Or let’s call it city, at least 400 thousand people live there, of which a big part are students. Students like Ercan and all of his 5 flatmates. He introduces me at first Erdo and Isaac. They seem to be excited about having a “special” guest. That will be a good place to fill up my empty batteries.
Sometimes there are funny coincidences. During this trip it happened so often that I met the right people to the right time that I no longer call it coincidence. Nico, another cyclist from Argentina called it “traveller karma“. And the karma was good to me again in the Iranian embassy. This is the first time that I apply for a visa, so I have zero experience in this term. And the Iranian visa is not known to be one without complications. As I ask the man in the office which documents are required he replies: “normal process”. His answer doesn’t really help me, so I hand him my documents. “The reference number please!”, he stares at me. I try to explain that I was not able to get the reference number on the Iranian evisa website. I tried it before but I failed a dozen times uploading the documents copies. The employee seems not wanting to waste time with my problem.
“Maybe we can help you” I hear a voice in my back. Obviously a traveller like me. Next to him another guy with beard. Later I get to know that Jan from Germany and Lucas from Switzerland are both cycle tourists and on their way to south east Asia. This is traveller karma! You have a problem? Wait for karma to offer you a solution! Their advice to use the service by key2persia.com to get the reference number is crucial. For 30€ they take on the application process and give back the reference number, that is needed to pick up the visa at the embassy. In total I will pay 75€ for the visa + 30€ for the service to get the reference number and it will take 6 days until the visa is in my passport. That is almost one week in Erzurum. Luckily it doesn’t bother Ercan if I stay that long in their flat “You can stay a month If you like”. Great hospitality as always in Turkey!
One week that will be filled with activities and great experiences.
With Ercan and his flatmates I go out to watch football. Schalke competes against Istanbul in the champions league. The fans are disappointed about the result of 0-0 and about poorly played football. Strange, there are only men in the tea house, watching the match. What about the women? On the campus I saw a lot of women, even a lot of them without their hair covered in a hijab. What are they doing while their men are in the cay house? Are they not allowed to join the event or are they not interested in football? I dont get a satisfying answer to those questions. It stood out often in turkey, that the men keep to themselves.
Going to the Ice hockey training with Isaac (in the tricot). Later we borrowed ice skaters to try our best as beginners.
Another local that I meet is Abdulsamet. He guides me around the city, showes me the famous double minaret, Erzurum’s landmark. But wait! How do I get in touch with people that easy? It needs to be said that the turkish hospitality is beyond everything I have seen in Europe. You can be sure that people are going to talk to you, give you cay for free, invite you to their homes. If you are guest in a turkish home, you will never be starving. It is a skill to develop to refuse offers without beiing rude. And you will get offered a lot!
With Abdusalmet and two friends we go to a traditional music and poetry performance called minstrely:
The minstrely tradition which is expression of the cultural richness and diversity of as well as cultural memory of Anatolia is versatile art being performed and including poem, music, story telling filtered formatted with experience of the centuries.
Later, we go to a place half restaurant, half museum. I like the flair of this building. It is cozy and warm, countless rugs and pillows are outspread on the floor. Oversized plates that serve as tables, giving enough space for 6-8 people to sit around. Eating this way has something very social to me.
But what happened with Jan and Lucas, the other two cyclists? During the week we meet several times. After all this turkish siege it feels liberating to have conversations with german speaking people again. They tell me about their experiences on their cycling trip. They didn’t start together, but met in Turkey and cycled together for a few weeks. Erzurum will be the city where their paths diverge. Jan, who is also writing a bog (www.veturanto.wordpress.com) will take another route to Iran than Lucas. My route is also different, that’s why I might see one of them again in the south of Iran, if karma will bring us together one more time.
The day before I leave Erzurum: I don’t know exactly where I am going to, but I know that I want to be in Tiflis as soon as possible. Cycling in snow is definitely not my favourite activity. What about the pass up to 2500 meters between Turkey and Georgia? Am I well enough equipped for nights with minus degrees?
November 4, 2018
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