Turkey 1991, 1992

At the end of its tether

(Extract from the diary)

Two East German guys, Jens and Carsten, have decided to give us a ride to Ankara in their Wartburg. Tanja and I are delighted at the prospect of not having to load our 80 kg-backpacks onto busses or trains all the way from Greece to Turkey, and so look forward to a comfortable ride.

Stuffed to the roof, we head for Turkey in the crackling and panting poor old Wartburg. Unfortunately, the heating cannot be turned off, and in spite of the open windows it feels as if we were sitting in a completely overcrowded sauna. The loudspeakers are roaring deafening hard rock music, thus already turning this trip into a nightmare after only a few kilometres.

A great many hours later, the four of us, all knocked-out and exhausted, gaze at the dark road ahead of us. The endeavour of trying to avoid hitting the many potholes and huge ground waves along the way seems utterly in vain. We’re shaken about like ping-pong balls in the cramped passenger area. Trucks overtaking each other force us to pull off to the right. It’s like facing a death command. Attempting to overtake one of these stinking, almost standing and poorly or even only one-sidedly lit giants when going uphill means risking to be crunched by two oncoming trucks driving next to each other. When looking out of the smudgy windows, I keep seeing totally wrecked trucks lying at the roadside. For them, this maniac race had come to a bad and abrupt end.

“Shit!”, Jens curses loudly: Once again yellow-browny tinctured cooling water splashes onto the windscreen. One horrified look at the temperature indicator, and we know it’s at its highest possible point. The decrepit and agonised old engine is about to blow up any minute. Jens immediately pulls the car over. The cooling water is completely evaporated, and the fan drive shaft shows an alarmingly large crack and is about to conk out. Luckily enough there is a roadhouse for tired and exhausted truck drivers only 30 yards down the road.

The owner of the roadhouse, a friendly man, reaches for a mutton hanging on a hook, divides it into two parts, and cuts off a huge bit for each of us. It looks rather unappetizing, but tastes great. After our meal, we decide to see after our patient. The friendly Turks help us, and provide us with tools and some wire to fix the fan drive shaft.

The clock already strikes midnight when our Wartburg pants its way up a pass, at the end of its tether. Tense and nervous, we observe the temperature display. Thank God our patched fan won’t give up.

We reach a camping site on the outskirts of Ankara early the next morning, and are really glad to have got over with this pretty unpleasant adventure…


Turkey 1991/1992

Where the orient meets the occident – the interface between Europe and Asia at the Bosporus. Manifestations of the Ancient World, unique spectacles of nature, and the almost unbelievable hospitality have made this country to one of Tanja and Denis Katzer’s favourites.