black sea coast turkey

Turkey makes my soul feel alive. The vibrant colours, array of foods, howling mosques, and bazaar lined streets, make Turkey feel like the wild and chaotic adventure backpackers dream of. It’s the perfect blend of exotic and intrigue to push the boundaries of ordinary, whilst staying in your comfort zone.

On our way to the border, I made an offhanded comment about hoping we don’t need visas for Turkey. I stopped myself, remembering the visa required to enter the country back in 2012.

Here we were, two seasoned travellers, and we didn’t even think to research whether we needed a visa before trying to enter Turkey. I won’t deny, our travel skills were a bit rusty. We had forgotten the small necessities for travel such as downloading the Google Translate language, offline versions of Google Maps, having small change, and of course the whole visa thing.

My comment threw us into a tail spin as we immediately started googling “Turkish visa for Australians” and hyperventilating simultaneously. Yes, we did need an e-visa, and no, we had no idea how long it would take for said e-visa to get approved. We completed and submitted the online visa applications with haste and held our breath. Ding, approved e-visas arrived almost instantly in my inbox. Phew, crisis averted. We won’t make that mistake again!

We crossed the border from Batoumi, Georgia into Turkey and I instantly felt excited. Vendors pedalled Turkish bread and snacks on the corners and mosques lined the leafy green streets. We were headed to Trabzon, a town on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

Sumela Monastery trabzon
Image from Flickr

Trabzon is known for the Sumela Monastery; jaw-dropping spectacle carved into a rockface  situated several hundred kilometres from the city. Unfortunately, the monastery was closed for repairs during our visit, so we spent our time basking in the glory of the Turkish Black Sea.

I wish I had crazy stories to tell about adventures with locals or amazing sites we visited, but alas I am lost for words. We did absolutely nothing in Trabzon, and it was glorious. It rained for three days straight, and wandered the laneways of the city, lazily drinking cay (tea) from miniature glasses, shopping in the bazaar, and eating our way through the Turkish delight shops.

Trabzon was devoid of tourists, which gave us a good feel for the authentic Turkish culture and lifestyle. We even made a game of saying “potato” every time we saw another tourist or foreigner. There weren’t many potatoes in Trabzon.

trabzon turkey
Men observing the call to prayer in the streets

 A Turkish man we met in Georgia recommended that we visit Cappadocia, an ancient city with pointy rock formations hollowed out into cave homes. If you’re ever seen a postcard of Turkey with the crazy rocks and the hot air balloons, you know what I’m talking about.

Cappadocia is in the centre of the country, and it would require the greater portion of a day to reach our destination. Looking up bus routes online, we noticed some busses took seven hours, whilst others took 14. Unfortunately, the fast seven-hour bus was sold out, so we decided to break the trip into two segments. We would take a five hour bus to Sivas, a city halfway to Cappadocia, stay the night, then take a three hour bus to Cappadocia in the morning. A total transit time of eight hours, plus the opportunity to see another city in Turkey didn’t sound half bad.

We boarded the five hour bus at 10 AM in anticipation of reaching Sivas in the early afternoon, exploring the town and spending time in the nice four-star hotel we had booked (for $40 AUD). The bus started out traveling along the coast road rather than the highway, stopping at what seemed to be every available city and town along the way. After three hours we had only travelled 50 kilometres. Confused, we asked the bus driver through heavy miming and broken English at what time we would arrive in Sivas. Maybe midnight, maybe 1 AM, he replied by pointing to his watch. 

WHATTTTT!?! You can probably imagine the reaction at this point, so I will spare you with the details. The worst part was there was absolutely nothing we could do. We couldn’t get mad at the driver (it wasn’t his fault), we couldn’t demand a refund (we didn’t speak the language), we couldn’t file an official complaint (it’s Turkey afterall). All we could do was suck it up and hope the bus arrived sooner rather than later.

We made it to Sivas at 12:30 AM, checked in to our hotel at 1 AM (so long for seeing the city AND enjoying our fancy hotel), and fell asleep in anticipation for our 6 AM wakeup call to catch the final bus to Cappadocia.

This destination bloody hell better be worth it…