Observations of Turkey #1

Driving in Turkey is fun.  Two years ago, I probably would have chosen a different adjective (like “crazy” or “frightening” or “a free-for-all”), but after all this traveling it isn’t really fazing me.  Much.  Sure, all signs and signals are just suggestions, and lane markings have no meaning, but it all seems to work out OK.  In Turkey, it appears it is legal to turn right on red.  And turn left on red.  And go straight on red.  On somewhat rare occasions, people even stop on red, but it seems to mess up the whole driving system.  Red is just a suggestion.  One new feature of driving in Turkey is the combination of traffic geometric patterns (I would like to say “traffic circles” but we’ve also seen traffic triangles and traffic rectangles) and stoplights.  So, let’s imagine you pull up to a traffic rectangle and the light is red.  You don’t really need to stop, but you certainly should slow down and take a look at who is coming in which direction and proceed when clear.  Now, the problem is, as soon as you turn 90 degrees, you’ll encounter another light, which will likely be red.  Then, if you turn 90 more degrees (meaning you are using this traffic rectangle to U-turn), you’ll find another red light.  I had previously thought the whole point of traffic circles was to avoid having stoplights that back up traffic, but that doesn’t seem to be the scheme in Turkey.

When we arrive at these different ROCs (regional operation centers), some other Space Imaging people (the installation team) is usually just getting ready to leave, so they can tell us all about their experiences.  In this case, one of the install team members was warning us about making left hand turns on a two lane road near the site, because people will pass you on the left while you’re trying to make your turn.  So, armed with this information, I was driving along one day when someone in front of me wanted to make a left hand turn; I slowed down and waited for him to go, but he didn’t.  In fact, he was  pulling over to the right hand shoulder despite having his left turn signal on.  Eventually he was stopped; I was stopped behind him, until I tentatively pulled around.  As I sped off down the road, I looking in my rear-view mirror and saw him execute his left hand turn!  Apparently, pulling over to the right hand shoulder and waiting for the people behind you to pass before making a left hand turn is common courtesy in Turkey, but it sure is a dangerous habit when Americans are trying to drive on the same roads.

We went to a movie the other day.  We couldn’t read the signs out front, so didn’t know exactly what was playing or when it was playing.  So, we asked for The Princess Diaries, and the guy sold us two tickets for the 2:10 show.  We went in and think we sat down in the correct theatre, but a different movie started playing (The Man who Cried).  It looked good, so we just stayed and watched – kind of a fortunate accident.  The other fun thing is that they have intermission for the films (like most places we’ve gone) AND they bring in a refreshment cart into the theatre during intermission, so you don’t even have to walk very far to get your candy, sodas or popcorn.

A strange combination we’ve seen:  fish market with fruit stand.  We’ve seen at least two different stores that sell both fresh fish and fresh fruit.  Maybe that’s the unifying theme:  they are Fresh Markets.

We haven’t done too much touring around, but have made a couple of small trips.  We went to Konya and saw a museum dedicated to the founder of the whirling dervishes, a religious order known mostly for the fact that they like to spin around in circles to feel closer to God.  Then on New Years Day we drove to Gordion, a site famous for two reasons:  it has the burial mound of what people think is King Midas, he of the golden touch; and Alexander the Great stopped there on his way to conquer the known world because of the legend of the Gordian Knot.  It was said that whomever could untie this complicated knot would conquer the world, so Alexander couldn't pass up a chance like that.  He stopped by, quickly became frustrated in attempting to untie the know, and so sliced it in two with his sword instead.  This is thought to be the reason that, despite conquering the known world, he died so quickly thereafter.  We also visited Kapadokya a few weeks ago, a place famous for it’s soft rock formations that have been carved out for homes and churches hundreds or thousands of years ago.  We stayed in a hotel carved out of a cliff, so it was a little cold but very, very quiet.