Two weeks later….
After hitchhiking around the country, I am back to Ankara. I came back for a number of reasons. The first reason is the Embassy of Pakistan which is located in Ankara. If I want to go to Pakistan, I have to go to the Embassy and apply for a visa. The Pakistanis are quite radical towards foreigners applying for visas in foreign countries. People say that it is almost impossible to get a visa for Pakistan in another country if you are a foreigner. I should have done it 2 months ago at the Croatian Embassy when I was in Sarajevo. It would have been done without any hassle.
At the moment, I have a couple of options. One of them is to apply for a visa for Pakistan here in Ankara even though there is a slim chance I would get it. Another option is that, if they refuse my visa application, I can apply for this same visa in Tehran, in Iran. If they refuse my visa application there as well, I can apply for a visa for Afghanistan in Tehran. If I succeed and if I get the visa for Afghanistan, I will have to fly to India from the capital Kabul. And with this flight I would break my promise stated in my project’s title “hitchhiking to New Zealand”. If they refuse my visa application for Afghanistan, then I will have to buy a plane ticket from Tehran to India. But, how can I buy it, if I still don’t have the visa for Iran. Everything is so connected. It’s just one big labyrinth. I think I’ll have to wait for a while for the agency to notify me about when I could come to the Embassy. I wrote about this in my previous blog post. Problems and complications.
Morning arrived. It was a perfect day for me to go to the Embassy of Pakistan. I was putting on my jacket and I was already at the door to get out… and suddenly I remembered something. Yesterday I was talking to a friend who told me he’d met some Germans planning to go from Iran to Dubai by boat and then from Dubai to India. Also, by boat.
I closed the door and opened my laptop. After a couple of minutes of surfing on forums and Google maps, I made up my mind: I am not going to the Embassy of Pakistan today. Or to the Embassy of Afghanistan for that matter. I am changing my plan. First, I will go to Iran. After Iran to Dubai by boat… and after Dubai to India by boat. Yes, that’s my new plan. The latest one. The best one. At the moment, it sounds like the most logical and interesting one. The Croatians don’t need a visa for the United Arab Emirates which is a big advantage. Time and financial advantage. Yes, people, I had to go back to Ankara to get this super great idea 🙂
The girl I’m staying at at the moment is called Merve. She is a teacher. In this area it is very popular to be a teacher. Teacher Merve is a very classy and attractive lady doing everything with style. Her huge flat is decorated in modern-avant-garde style. From rooms, furniture, walls to paintings… everything comes together nicely. She prepared dinner and out of the blue she took 6 beers from underneath the table. The further I travel, the better my CS hosts are getting.
One day she took me to her work. To the school where she works, to the English class where she teaches. At one moment, I had to take over her class and sit behind her desk. She insisted on me doing that. At least for 15 minutes. I think I can proudly say that at this school in Ankara I held one short lecture on English and Croatian language. I am definitively putting this experience into my future CV.
Merve is not a woman of religion like the two CS hosts from Ankara at whose place I stayed a couple of weeks ago, the girls I mentioned in my previous blog post. So, we didn’t spend Saturday evening at home in our rooms. We went out to experience Saturday evening atmosphere. And, she did it in style. Security people at club entrance led us inside the club. She booked the table. Ordered special music. Wine. All in all, it was one long night.
Interesting. If I hadn’t have gone back to Ankara, I would have remembered Ankara only as a quiet religious town. Having come back here, I experienced Ankara in a completely different way than a couple of weeks ago. A totally different experience. The variety of experiences changes the overall picture or perception of our old way of thinking. We only need to look at things from a different perspective and with another set of eyes. That’s good, I’m slowly learning. Everything might come out all right in the end.
During my couchsurfing at Merve’s place I made another decision. Since I will have to wait for my visa for Iran for some time, I could continue my journey. If nothing else, I could at least visit one of the neighboring countries after which I could hop back to Turkey to get my visa. I decided to visit Georgia. My next choice. It borders Turkey and it is only 1.000km away. In a couple of days one of my longtime friends and his girlfriend will come there from Croatia. They have been travelling around Europe for 4 months already in a camper van and Georgia is their next destination. If all falls into place and we meet each other, this will really make my day.
I am taking out my black marker and writing “Batumi” on a piece of cardboard. That’s a little town on the coast of the Black Sea exactly 940km away from Ankara. Piece of cake for one hitchhiker. Guess where I was two days after. In Batumi!!!
I arrived to the border around midnight, spent around ten minutes at three checkpoints and it was already 2am when I entered Georgia. I think this is the only country in the world with 2-hour time difference compared to the neighboring country. In 100 meters on foot with 2-hour time difference. This time difference is due to 1-hour time difference in relation to Turkey and 1 more hour ahead because the Georgians don’t switch to winter time. They just have their own fixed time which never changes in comparison to other countries.
Soon I met up with my friends. And, after two days of being on the road with my big backpack, the camper van doors opened and I was grinning from ear to ear. Well, it was worth hitchhiking for two days.
My friends arrived to Batumi a couple of days before me. They met a girl who in the end invited them to her flat. Lusija from Kazakhstan. She is a 20 year old girl travelling the world for 2 years already and speaking 5 languages. She came to this town to rest a bit from everything. She rented a flat for 2-3 months and started looking for a temporary job. She wants to earn some money for her next trip. What else!
One day after, three Germans arrived to her flat. One by bike, two hitchhiking. Robert came by bike from Istanbul, whereas Gustav and Rudolph hitchhiked for a month around Turkey and they ended up here in Batumi. Robert is flying back to Berlin where he will spend Christmas holidays with his family. After New Year’s he is flying to Nepal where he will continue his journey on bike. And Gustav and Rudolph…. Well, every day they have a new plan. Their last plan was to hitchhike back to Istanbul where they would get a visa for India and then fly to India at the beginning of the New Year. But, that’s not all. Two days after, 2 more couchsurfers arrived, this time from Ukraine. All in all, at one moment Lusija was hosting 8 travelers. Nine people in the same room and each one of us was on his/her own special journey. Every one of us has a unique story and is heading towards their own goal. Every day, one could only hear travelling stories and experiences. Places which one visited, who is going where, who met who on their journey, what they learnt on their journey. During night everything stayed the same. Except for one thing – Chacha, the Georgian grappa.
On my second day in Georgia I heard stories circling around the streets of Batumi that one could get a visa for Iran without any problem. What’s more, I could get it in one day. I fell for the story and started doing my research. A day after we all together visited the Embassy and the Iranian behind the counter confirmed that this was true. For the first time in my life Embassy people told me something positive. There you didn’t need an authorization code (which I was waiting to get for 3 weeks) to get the visa. There was no special procedure. No additional things. Just passport, picture and cash. BUT, again this but… in my case there was only one little condition to get the visa. The ambassador asked me to shave my beard because I looked like a terrorist. Uffff… How can I explain this to my ego? I can already hear it screaming inside me. But, if this was the only solution, I had to shave whatever needs to be shaved. So, here are 6 steps how to get the visa for Iran in Georgian town Batumi 🙂
Batumi is actually a non-Georgian town. A couple of years ago a couple of rich American businessmen came with their briefcases and they started investing into this town. Everything changed from that moment. Everything gets built very fast; buildings rise, whereas glamour grows bigger. Casinos and expensive hotels are main attractions of this town. The town is located on the coast of the Black Sea and, therefore, attracts a large number of tourists. I think that in a couple of years Batumi will become a new little Dubai. So far everything is heading into that direction. At the moment it’s winter so there are not a lot of tourists around. But, I am told that in the summer this town is flooded with tourists and prices of apartments rise five times above the current price.
Let’s have a peak at the interior of Georgia. Let’s glimpse at the core of Georgia and see what Georgia is really like. One day we visited Kutaisi. This town is located around 150km towards the interior. This is a town in which time not only stopped but it was heading backwards. I don’t understand what happened to this town. Is this a true glimpse of Georgia or is this town so weird to me because it is the total opposite of Batumi?
On a muddy half-flooded gravel path there was a street. Every morning a temporary market appears in this street. On the faces of sellers who earn their money by selling goods on this street one can see the weight of their everyday life. Underneath a forced smile one can feel the fatigue of life. Cigarettes and Chacha (Georgian grappa) are the only two substances which make their hard day a little bit easier. Their confused looks stopped at us, “tourists”, and we looked back, confused as well. Confusion was all around us. Restless drivers entered the crowd. Their horn was the only communication solving temporary problems. An old man pushed the trolley full of garbage with last atoms of his strength. A scared dog with broken leg hopped across the puddle of water and looked at us pleading for food. This is my view on a rough morning in the center of Kutaisi. I hope I didn’t step into the darkest part of Georgia. Because if I hadn’t, Georgians, be careful…