No Man’s Land
So, where were we? Oh yes, I remember, we were just about to cross over the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
We’d had our passports stamped and were now beginning the walk into the abyss. We could see the Turkish border in the far distance but getting to it wasn’t as straight forward as we’d hoped. For a start it appears that no one wants to pay the electricity bill for a piece of land that isn’t theirs. Once we’d left the Bulgarian border behind we were pitched into complete darkness. The only sounds being the rumbling of suitcase wheels as they dragged along half the contents of the unmade road, along with hushed swearing whenever a suitcase came to a complete halt. And who knew what was waiting out there in the darkness? Bears? Hell hounds? More little itty bitty kitties?
Please Let Us In
Finally we got to the Turkish border gate where we were greeted by six people, at least four of whom had just come along for the entertainment. We stood outside a small portacabin in semi darkness while our passports were taken away for checking. Now, without passports, shrouded in darkness, and with six strapping Turks starring at us we couldn’t help but wonder if being Dimitris’ dinner might have been the less painful option.
But again, imaginations were more active than reality and after they’d put our information into their database (height, weight, would we taste better with red or white wine?), made us sign a form agreeing to self isolate for fourteen days and double checked our Residency Permits were still valid we were free to go. Well almost…suddenly there was a shout behind us. We turned. A border guard was running towards us with a gun. What! Wait! Tell my mum I love her. Oh no, hang on, it’s just the temperature checker thingy. Phew. We passed the test so now we really could go.
Finally, we’d made it, back to the country we chose to call home, the smell of fresh bread and the sound of çay glasses clinking now just a heartbeat away. If we’d had the energy it would have been heel kick jumps all round.
An optimistic taxi driver approached us hoping for an easy fare. However he showed amazing agility at moving backwards when we mentioned Fethiye. Luckily for us though, we already had a pre booked transfer waiting. Our new driver, Metin, had already been there for over seven hours, catching up on his sleep before his mammoth drive. You could tell we had arrived in Turkey as he insisted we wore masks and virtually bathed us in lemon cologne before we were allowed in the car which was probably a good thing as we had all started to smell a bit ripe by this time.
Ahead of us loomed nearly sixteen hours in a people carrier. Frequent stops were made for çay, a smoke and loo breaks. We all managed to get a bit of shut eye, apart from Metin (I hope) after we’d played an imaginative game of human Jenga – limbs were over here, under there, against this box, on that suitcase, anywhere where there was a gap and if one moved we all moved.
We had a pleasant reprieve and a chance of a bit of fresh air while we waited for the ferry to take us over to Çannakale. Perfectly timed to witness a gorgeous sunrise.
Then it was on the ferry, stay in the car, off the ferry all in the space of fifteen minutes. One traveller also took the chance to do a Covid test seeing as one of the other’s had kindly brought some along. I can’t remember now if it showed one or two lines – either way his test result was clear or he might have been pregnant, still not sure which.
Food Glorious Food
Many hours later, outside Izmir, we stopped for a bite to eat at a roadside cafe – you know the type; trucks thundering past, amazing views of the coastline, tables teetering on the edge of a huge drop, toilets that looked like they might give you another virus you’d have a hard time explaining to your partner. But it was wonderful, our first real taste of being back – Turkish breakfasts and gözleme all round. We marvelled at how far we’d come, how, despite being strangers, we’d not had any falling outs, how close we were to being back home, all while Metin had another snooze to give him the energy for the remainder of the drive.
We soon found ourselves arriving in Izmir, the destination of our first drop off and then the countdown to Fethiye began. Within hours we had completed the second drop off in Muğla then it was the home straight. Maps were being checked every few minutes, time of arrival announced even more frequently.
Then the sights started to become familiar – the turn off for Dalaman Airport, the Göcek Tunnel, the view of the sea on our right, and the one that made my eyes leak – cresting over the hill and seeing Fethiye laid out in front of me.
Home Sweet Home
Twenty minutes later the car pulled up in front of my apartment. I said my final farewells. I opened my front door and there was my dog ready to dish out excitable sloppy kisses. I was home. At last. It was over.
A Final Thank You
I’d just like to finish off by saying a huge thank you to Janet and Julio who worked so very hard to try and organise the flight to get over a hundred of us back to our homes. Even when that failed they didn’t give up and went ahead and tried this virtually untested route, not knowing if it would be a success or not – and of course, they brought me along. Even now, whilst they are safely back in the bosom of their families, they are still helping people get here – total legends.
I am in awe.
This article was written for Fethiye Times by Sian Midgley
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