Turklish travels: Seatbelts & other unsafe methods of travel

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I sometimes look at cyclists on London’s roads and think “really that’s the most dangerous way of travelling ever”

But I am wrong…

On Turkish roads you rarely see cyclists, I can see why, it would be beyond foolish.

Aside from the lax attitude towards seatbelts (the first Turkish taxi I got in laughed at me when I asked why the seatbelts were fastened back to the seats and therefore just “for show”) and car seats, the roads are really crazy.  I will forever have one car journey scored into my mind, luckily it was pre-baby but none the less there were 8 squeezed into a car (2 in the front passenger seat) and I suddenly realised we were in the middle lane.  That might not seem like a big deal but it was a 2 lane road, it’s just sometimes the Turkish approach is to try and squeeze in between the 2 cars actually in the lane…

It was one of many seemingly terrifying journeys in the 12 years I have been travelling with the Turk, winding roads, minimum speed limits, shoddy and poorly maintained elderly vehicles, I’ve seen them all.  It’s one of the things that really panics me about the Turk taking our son to Turkey by himself, usually when I’m there I am the one voice trying to instill some idea of self preservation back into the driver.

I’m no wuss, I’ve tuk tuk’d around Bangkok, I’ve seen cars with dents in their roofs in Cairo, I’ve countered giant rats in Kuala Lumpur, but there’s something about the danger in a country I am intrinsically connected with that makes it more worrying.

The car accident deaths are pretty high, I have always been paranoid about it as there were specific warnings about car travel in Turkey on the FCO website for years until recently.  There were 8,758 road fatalities last year, and that’s around 12 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, in comparison with the 3.5 in the UK it seems high, but it’s actually only slightly higher than that in the US, a place where I always feel road safe!

Turklish travels: The road to Nicea…

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I thought I’d share with you a tale from our last trip to Turkey, we were visiting family in Bursa, a city about 2 hours drive from my inlaw’s home ( 3 hours in reality…) and while wedged between my MIL and a car seat (too small for the 1 year old but far too big for the car…) on the hump of a small Honda, my inlaws decided it would be a good idea to divert us off route on the way home to visit Iznik, the modern site of Nicea an ancient town.

I’m not at all interested in history, but I had vaguely heard of it, I was concerned about being “off plan” given the need to get the baby fed at 7.30pm and in bed around 9.30pm.  I am not a routine obsessive…but I do like to stay vaguely on track and I was hoping to be home by half 7 so that Jem didn’t nap in the car too close to bed time…

Anyway a turn off the main road later and the Turk advises me we have come off at the wrong road, but look at the pretty buildings and the lovely lake.  I’m not one for lakes or other types of water, but I accept the old buildings were pretty amazing:

Turkey May 2014 556Iznik, Turkey, 2014Turkey May 2014 550Turkey May 2014 553

 

What I didn’t know at that time was the consequence of this offroading.  I hadn’t appreciated that my family didn’t actually want to see the historic place but literally just drive along the lake…

I hadn’t appreciated that the lake was so large it would take us around 2 hours to drive around…

I hadn’t appreciated that Jem would pick this inopportune moment (literally seconds after the above pictures) to do a gigantic poo…

Anyway shortly before 8pm I started to get tetchy, Jem needed food and waiting until we got home just wouldn’t cut it so we stopped at a roadside cafe…right next to a fairly decent looking restaurant.  The place looked horrendous, it was pretty basic, but the food was AMAZING.  Fresh lahmacun and pide (varieties of Turkish food often described as Turkish pizza…it’s not pizza, it’s different but very good) and the owner and his father chatted to us as we ate (notice how I say “us” obviously not to me but you know what I mean).

To my great excitement we were joined by a heard of sheep, Jem was completely non-plussed but I chased after them in my new shoes although they were a little quick for me…I was unprepared for this:

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I thought you might like to see my new shoes…although I accept it’s not really the point of the story

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As we were leaving the mother of the owner joined us, a rather full on lady who begged us to stay for tea and asked to hold the baby…

…I didn’t want her to hold the baby…

…apparently I was being ridiculous so she had a squeeze, and didn’t seem to want to let go.  I had visions of child abduction and scare stories from my childhood, I was convinced that such a display of pleasure at playing with the baby must be contrived and with an ulterior motive.

To my utter amazement Jem hugged her, he really took to her.  He never hugs me so I was utterly fuming shocked!  It was the first time he asked to go back to someone when I took him away, I really couldn’t believe it!  I had completely misjudged the situation, as we walked away she chased us and gave Jem TL5 which we tried to pass back to her in horror, but she wouldn’t hear anything of it.  Ok so it’s not much money in the UK (under £2), but they looked like they had very little, to put it in perspective we had paid TL20 (including tip) to feed 5 people a light supper.  The generosity was overwhelming, I have saved it for Jem to spend on treats when he is a bit older.

The remainder of the journey was tortuous, it was up and down a mountain, in the dark, through tiny winding roads chasing the light of the city ahead of us,  Naturally as soon as we got back in the car this happened:

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On the up side one major argument and 2 stops later we arrived home to this wonderful surprise from my lovely sister in law:

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