Experience: Driving in Turkey

Driving in Turkey is challenging. Although the roads are mostly very nice, the driving habits of the local drivers are outrageously bad. According to Lonely Planet: Turkey, Turkey is statistically the world’s number one when it comes to the annual number of motor vehicle accidents.

Now, by saying bad driving I do not by any means imply reckless driving. Or fast driving. Or outlaw driving. I mean just that — bad driving! There is driving outlaw, when you break the laws but still know exactly what you’re doing. And then there is just simple bad driving — when you have no idea, do not check your mirrors, drive in the middle of the lane without being aware of the surrounding vehicles, break unexpectedly, and, perhaps most annoying of all, honk your horn twenty milliseconds after the traffic light turns green. Give it a second!!!!

Yielding? Forget about it! Turn signals? I think the total amount of times I’ve seen anyone use their turn signals on an intersection for a week in Istanbul did not exceed 10. No, I am not missing a zero there!

I always thought that the Armenian drivers are really bad. We definitely break the rules when we feel like we realize what we are doing, and we like driving fast. But driving in Turkey is like a race of survival — there is absolutely no way anyone anywhere can convince me that a bus driver who pulls his wagon straight on a motorcycle at his right possibly knows what he is doing. He just does not appear to give a damn even to check his mirrors. And the worst part is, the police does not seem to be doing anything about it. They just accept it as a fact of life.

If I were to be the head of traffic police in Turkey, I would declare all driving licenses void and start a new process of harsh driving exams. You know you are doing something wrong, when in a neighboring country where the vast majority just buys their driving licenses without any exam at all, people drive better by degrees.

However, speeding on a freeway is punished harshly. When a policeman gives you a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by 3 km/h, you just wanna scream your lungs out — “Dude, have you been to Istanbul?!” But he writes the ticket anyway, and I have noticed that a lot of Turks get the speeding tickets. Also, it goes without saying, there does not even remotely appear to be any corruption when it comes to driver–officer interactions.

The pedestrians are a different story. You think in Yerevan people cross the street wherever and whenever they feel like? Meet Istanbul. It is like an arcade game called “Dodge the Kamikaze”, and it gets pretty old and stressful after several minutes. If I had to live in Istanbul (which I would absolutely love to) and commute on a vehicle to work every day, after about a month I would probably become some sort of a disturbed psychotic maniac.

Now the good news: the roads, on the other hand, are mostly extremely nice. Their quality may vary inside towns, but the freeways are very good, and the signage/markings is great. Closer to Istanbul area they are nearly perfect. After driving for about 3,500kms, I did not encounter a single pothole. It just impresses you when you see the process of laying down the roads in Turkey. I know some Turks complain about the quality of their roads, but they should know that their roads are not worse, if not better, than those in California..

One thing to watch out for on the roads is the reason of my accident. This is, in fact, a good tip, that I would appreciate to have before starting my journey.

In cities where it does not rain very often, the exhaust gases from the cars’ pipes come out and accumulate on the tarmac. I do not understand why we don’t have that problem in Armenia, but in cities like Erzurum or Malatya at some point you feel like riding on ice, not asphalt. For cars it is perhaps not a big issue, but for a two-wheel vehicle it is very easy to skid or lock the wheels. Always watch out for that and drive slowly on slippery surfaces!

Also I am assuming that if rain started with the road being in that condition, it would just be wise to pull over and wait for about 15 minutes till the nasty layer of chemicals is washed off the surface.

And the final tip is, when driving in Turkey, stretch your imagination and expect everything from every member of the traffic. I mean it.

Driving in Turkey has definitely made me sweat. But it was also a good exercise of defensive driving and good reaction. If you are into that kind of stuff, you may actually come to enjoy it!

Day 6: Honda

“Normally, we are the best Honda service in all of Turkey.”
—Alaattin Balta

The bus was some huge fancy Mercedes and the comfort level was no less than in the Airbus A380 that flew me from San Francisco to Paris.

The personnel of the bus were extremely helpful in trying to make sure the motorcycle is fitted securely and arranging my actions after I arrive in Istanbul.

Some of the crowd, however, were not exactly the positive kind. A couple of guys on the back seats who were waiting for the same bus at the station were very obviously talking about me and making some jokes between each other.

One of them finally found the courage to speak.



(giggling) “Ermenistan?”


“City? Erivan?”


“Yeh-reh-van! …What is?” he points at the Leatherman tool on my belt

“My Leatherman”


I handle him the Leatherman with a smile on my face. They play with it a little then give it back to me. How very typical.

“Photo!” they noticed the camera on my neck. They pose. I take a photograph. They make me show it to them. They don’t like the result. “Again!” — I take one again. “No, delete!” — I delete it.

“What is?” this time they point at my watch

“My watch” I shrug

“How much dollars?”

“Quite a few!”


“No way” I smile

“Gift to me?”

“Dude I am not giving you my Timex Expedition as a gift, sorry!” I know he doesn’t understand what I’m saying

“Change!” he points at his crappy $10 watch

“Sorry, I am not interested”

“Gift, gift!”

“No, sorry!” I smile wide again

I change my seat. They keep laughing about some things then get bored with me. Good.

After 18 hours of driving, 3 thirty-minute breaks and an annoyingly snoring man next to me, we arrive at Istanbul. The bus driver calls Honda, tells them where he “unloaded” me, tells me “wait here” and drives away. After about 40 minutes a white minivan with the Honda logo arrives. Two energetic young people ask me — “Motosiklet problem? Erzurum?” and as I nod they load my motorcycle into the van. I feel safe. It is a great feeling to know you can count on your brand!

As we drive in the van, the guys ask me questions. The one in red looks more shy than the driver who is in white. So the driver asks.




After a while of driving we arrive at an official Honda “servis”. It looks very impressive. A mid-aged man approaches me with a welcoming smile and pretty decent English.

“Where are you my friend! I was calling you, but your phone was off!”

Meet Alaattin, the owner of the most awesome Honda motorcycle dealer and repair service you can imagine. After 5 minutes my motorcycle is already on the stand, and an “usta” is working on it.





The guy with glasses on the last picture is Usta’s apprentice. His job involves looking closely to what Usta does, handling him some tools if he asks for something, pumping air into the tires if needed and unscrewing the bolts Usta asks him to. Screwing them back is handled by Usta.

The folks have every single tool for the job. How do you find out the RPMs of an engine if the tachometer is broken? This is how!

Alaattin has about 10 motorcycle stands and all of them are busy. Judging by the amount of the motorcycles being serviced and the amount of those parked outside waiting to be serviced, the business is good.

The guys are doing a spectacular job at extraordinary pace. Alaattin talks to each customer personally.

“Have you eaten anything?” he asks

“Not lately I have not!”

He calls some guy who runs his affairs. After 15 minutes two kebabs and a can of coke are waiting for me at the personnel’s room.

Alaattin is aware of every little detail about his business. Oh and he loves to use the words “fuck” and “normally”. People say he is a “dinosaur” in motorcycle business in Istanbul. He’s been around since the 80ies of the past century. After repairing my bike Alaattin personally gives it a test ride to ensure everything is fine.

“It runs very good now!”

“Thanks, you guys got really awesome service here!”

“Thank you! Normally, we are the best Honda service in Turkey!”

“You look like you would be!”

“You need to change the tires as well, they won’t be good after less than a thousand kilometers!”

He is right. My tires are worn out. The worst part is, there are no motorcycle tires in Armenia.

“OK, how much would that cost me?”

“About 300 dollars for both!”

“What about the service cost?”

“It depends on whether or not you are taking the tires!”

“I will take the tires”

“Then the service will cost you $250!”

“Do you think you could drop that a little for me?” (long live Uğur!)

“What is your suggested price?”

“I don’t know… $200?”

“Deal!” — he dials Michelin and places an order for my tires. “The tires will be here tomorrow! You can leave your motorcycle in the store, and take it tomorrow after we change them — it is safe here! Do you have a hotel you will stay in?”

“Not yet!”

“Normally, I would offer you to stay in my home. But I have a 1 year old baby girl and she cries in the nights, so unfortunately I cannot do it now.”

He calls one of his employees.

“I will tell him to ride you on his bike to Deniz Hotel. We have a deal with them and they give our customers lower prices!”


The guy who rides me looks like a very typical Armenian kebab type of a person wearing an earring — an exceptional combination! I try to take some pictures as he rides me through Istanbul’s chaotic traffic.

Boy oh boy, my motorcycle is fixed, I got new tires, I only spent $550, and Istanbul looks amazing!!!!

Day 4, part 2: Mahmet

“Yarın, yarın!!”

As I was talking on the phone with Honda Road Assist, some man in his 50ies was attentively listening me speak. After I hung up, he inquired what the problem was. I explained that I could not afford to pay 1600 dollars to repair my motorcycle in Istanbul, and that I had no idea what I was gonna do after getting there. “I have friends who operate a Honda-authorized repair store,” he said. “In the same quarter as my house in Istanbul. They will do it for cheap. Very cheap. Economic!”

He called his friends and asked them to call me to arrange our meeting once I arrive in Istanbul. I received a call after a minute. Luckily the guy spoke English.

“Hello, is this Areg bey?”

“Yes, I am the guy with the motorcycle problem”

“When will you be in Istanbul?”

“Tomorrow in the morning”

“Tamam! Please record my number. Call me when you arrive in the bus station. We are in Harem. In Istanbul there is an Asian part and a European part. We are in the Asian part. Do not cross the bridge to the European part, or it will be very expensive to bring you back.”

“Great, thanks a lot sir!”

“Not at all!”

That sounded hopeful. “Saying “not at all” to a “thank you” is so old-school”, crossed my mind, but overall I was certainly very happy. I had a number I could call in Istanbul! I thanked the man who arranged the contact for me and asked who he was.

“My name is Hakan.” He passed me his business card

“Pleasure to meet you, sir. Are you the manager here?”

“I am the owner.”

I looked at his business card. “KRAL Otel. Hakan Kral Yilmaz. Kral Turizm.”

“Call me if you have problems in Istanbul!”

I left the otel and figured I wanna do some sightseeing before leaving to Istanbul. This later turned to be the most stupid decision, and helped me adopt a new general rule when traveling on a motorcycle — if you have any problems with the motorcycle, do not do anything else before making sure everything is OK.

So I went to take pictures of the mosque in the center. In the outside it looked pretty Armenian. I am not an architecture whiz, so I took some photos to check later with more competent folks.

After the mosque I bought some cherry ice-cream from a store and started eating it right there in the street. I guess my behavior was very wrong for Ramazan, because I felt very much like a lady in Yerevan who smokes while walking in the street. My Armenian readers will know exactly what that means.

Then I took some more pictures to give a general idea of what life in Erzurum is like.

When I went back to the “otopark” to take my motorcycle to the bus-station, a surprise awaited me. Outside Cengiz’s booth there was a police motorcycle, a Honda CBF600!

Turned out Cengiz had seeked out some policeman who was riding a CBF and was eager to help a fellow motorcyclist in trouble. His name was Mehmet. An extraordinarily positive person who looked and acted much like a superhero from a cartoon, Mehmet was excited for the chance to help me. He checked the motorcycle’s damage and threw his hand. “You only need to repair the throttle grip, then you can continue your journey.”

He called someone in Istanbul. “Will cost you 90 liras. About 60 dollars. When you go to Istanbul, call this guy,” he passed me a business card. “Mototal. Aslan bey. He always repairs my Hondas. Good usta! Very economic!” Then he checked the damages again. “Maybe you can even repair your grip here in Erzurum! Come!”

We took Cenghiz’s Peugeot and they drove me to some places. The “usta”s said they could repair the motorcycle, but only if they had the part.

“No original Honda parts in Erzurum,” Mahmet said.

“How does the Police repair their CBFs then?”

“Ankara! We put them on a truck and send them to Ankara or Istanbul! It is best for you to go to Istanbul!”

“I have to be at the bus station at 4:00 then, I only have 10 minutes left!”


Mahmet sat me in a car, started my motorcycle and rode it fast with the broken grip to the bus station. I came in the car. By the time I arrived, Mahmet was already there, looking disappointed. “Yarın, Yarın!” he yelled before I even managed to get out of the car. “Yarın! The bus left! And we can’t take the bike back to otopark because we had to empty the tank. You will leave tomorrow!”

He approached a police station near the bus terminal and exchanged some words with the policemen there. “Lets leave your bike here in this station,” he suggested. “You can do that. Then tomorrow you just come here, take your motorcycle and go to Istanbul.”

They drove me back to KRAL Otel and I checked in again. “Like yesterday?” I asked about the price. “Yes, 70 liras” nodded the receptionist. I wanted to say “OK”, but remembered Uğur.

“Mmhm!”, I said.

Day 4 part 1: Little Italy

“Che cazzo!”

I woke up early again, to go to the police station as requested yesterday. Walked down to the hotel reception to let them know I wanted to check out. The receptionist told me I should be checking out before noon. I had some time before my 9:00 appointment with the police, so I went to the “otopark” again. The booth was locked. I called Cenghiz. He said some things in Turkish and hung up. After 5 minutes he arrived on his Peugeot and shown me that he was sleeping using gestures. I used Google Translate to tell him that I had managed to get a bus to Istanbul at 4 o’clock. He said he also found some friends who could help me. I then told him I needed to get to the police station by 9:00, and left.

Now, yesterday, when I was arranging my bus trip for 4:00, I was a little worried. I was not sure I would make it, because of the police appointment. My experience with the Armenian police had taught me a bitter lesson of how much time one can spend at police stations over really small things. Uğur told me it wouldn’t take more than an hour, but I was still worried. I arrived at the station a little early — at 8:45, walked in and approached the first policeman.

“Hello sir. English?”


“I had an accident yesterday on a motorcycle, and the police asked me to be here today at 9:00?”

“Yes. Please wait for about 5 minutes”

“I was on a black Honda, if that helps you?”

“Yes, I know your accident. Sorry it happened in Erzurum.”

After a few minutes someone brought a copied A4 paper and gave it to me. It had the scheme of my accident and some notes in Turkish.

“It says here that you were going slightly above the speed limit and that you have lost control of the vehicle. This is what our experts believe. When you go to a repair shop anywhere in Turkey, show this to them. Don’t worry about anything else”

“Is that all? Am I done?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yes sir, you can go now. Thank you for coming”

I thanked him, walked out and checked my watch. It was 8:55. I had finished 5 minutes earlier than my actual appointment time.

So I walked back to the hotel, and on my way back came across another parked BMW R1200GS Adventure (so many R1200GS’s out there, eh?), with two riders trying to exchange money in the bank nearby. I walked in. The riders were a man and a woman, both mid-aged with attractively gray hair, dressed in really classy full motorcycle apparel, looking like a couple. They were busy having a loud argument with the bank representative in lousy English. “Che cazzo!” the man yelled. “Wat you meen I cennot exchange Euro coins in ATM?! Cazzo! Ma perche no? Why not! Big problem!”


They obviously came to no solution, because there was no way the machine could exchange the coins for them. They came out of their booth, pissed, and I approached them.


“Ooo ciao amico! Sei Italiano?”

“No sir I am actually an Armenian traveling here on a motorcycle like you, except I am alone and my bike is not as great as yours”

“Thank you!” his anger disappeared and he gave a really wide smile. “It is a wonderful motorcycle, isn’t it? The best for traveling!”

“I wish I could have it someday. But currently I have a bigger problem — I had an accident yesterday, and my motorcycle is broken now. I am taking it to Istanbul in a few hours. Do you know any people there who could help me?”

The lady jumped in at that point with an “aww!”, being all lady-sweet. They asked about the details of my crash and of course whether or not I was OK.

“Oh yeah, the fucking roads here! Slippery! Two french motorcyclists lost control and jumped off the bridge yesterday, one of them died, the other went back to fucking France! Roads very slippery! Because there is so many bad cars, and it is the gas…”


“E giusto! Correct word! Exhaust on strada! It is as if when the rain just starts!! On dry asphalt! Che Cazzo, and we also meet noone that speaks English here!”

“So then, do you know anyone who could help?”

“Hmm yes, we know someone in Ankara who helps all motorcyclists, he might have friends in Istanbul. Call Ersin! Tell him you are a friend of David and Marcella. He met us in Ankara, he will help you!”

I called Ersin right away.

“Hi, I am a traveling motorcyclist who had an accident. David and Marcella gave me your number and said that you speak English and could help me out”

“Aaaa, the italians, David, Marcella, say hi to them, let me call you back, you need your phone credits.” He hung up and called me. After listening to my story in details, he said.

“I will try to find someone in Istanbul. Please wait for 10 minutes. Someone will call you from there.”


The italians wished me a safe trip and left. After 10 minutes I got a phone call.

“Hello, this is Honda Road Assist in Istanbul. How may I help you?” the guy sounded extremely American

“Hi, thanks for calling me. I had an accident and I need to repair my bike.”

“What is your model?”

“2006 Honda CBF500”

“Are you on the road now? Do you require immediate assistance?”

“No, I crashed yesterday”

“Where are you now?”

“Will be in Istanbul tomorrow”

“Which parts need to be repaired?”

“Throttle grip and its cables, turn signal, tachometer gauge, clutch lever. I would also like to check my front brake.”

“Please hold on a second… Yes sir, we have all those parts except for the tachometer gauge. It could take some time to ship it to Istanbul. Everything else is fine.”

“How long would a repair take?”

“A repair without the gauge would take less than a day”

“And how much would it cost me, approximately?”

“Your estimate would be about 1000 euros, or 1600 dollars.”


“We understand it is very expensive. Parts in Turkey are expensive because of very high import taxes. If you have full insurance, your insurance will cover everything”

“I only have the minimal one!”

“That is a problem. Perhaps you could contact Honda headquarters and explain your situation and they could give you a discount! Do you want their contacts?”

“Yes please!”

I called the number they gave. Nobody answered. Tried again. Then again. Then again, after 20 minutes. No answer.

I felt bitter. There was absolutely no way I could afford paying 1600 dollars for repairing my bike and be able to continue the trip.

Day 3 part 2: Cengiz and Uğur

“You don’t go to a turk, ask for the price and say “OK.”
You go to a turk, ask for the price, and then you say — “But why??””
—Uğur Salman

The watcher of the “autopark” was a man in his 60ies named Cengiz. With barely 3 visible teeth in his mouth, he could not speak a single word in English and could not even comprehend simple words like “OK”. So I was sitting there, a lone “Ermeni” who had just crashed his motorbike, in this booth somewhere in Erzurum with this Turkish man who I could not speak a word with, my Mastercard being declined and my right knee hurting because of the impact. A pretty fucked up situation, or so I felt. I went to check my motorcycle for the damage. The throttle grip was broken, the left mirror smashed, the clutch lever and the headlight metal twisted, the front left turn signal broken. There was, however, good news — the engine started fine, and there was no leakage. I just could not ride it because of the broken throttle grip. We walked back to the booth. “Su?” asked Cengiz. Not knowing what that meant, I suddenly realized I was extremely thirsty. “Water”, I said. “I’m thirsty!”. “Su, su!” Cengiz opened the fridge and handed me two bottles of cold water. “Su” meant “water”. I will never forget.

He then turned on his old PC, fired up Internet Explorer with a bunch of stupid toolbars and yelled — “Internet!”

That sounded so right!

Google Translate took over from that point. Cengiz asked my name, asked me about my job in Armenia, gave me a thumbs up about being a programmer, then started calling to places and looking for Honda Repair shops in Ankara and Istanbul. After 2 hours of searching and calling, we could not find anything. I started getting hopeless again. “Yemek?”. Yemek means to eat. Cengiz suggested that I check into a hotel, eat something and call him tomorrow morning: “yarın!” He then walked me into a hotel called “Kral Hotel”, bargained a price for me at the counter from 100 dollars a night down to 50, carried my luggage all the way to the room, refilled my phone credits for 25TL, gave me his number and disappeared.

I took a shower, changed my clothes, and walked out to try and find something on my own. Now here is a useful traveling tip: nobody, I mean NOBODY speaks English in Erzurum. Although a pretty vibrant town, the society itself is very “traditional”. People do not speak anything but Turkish, and because of Ramazan all restaurants and eating places are either closed, or completely empty before 7:30. Nobody eats anything. So I tried my luck with “I’m sorry”ies and “Excuse me”ies and even “Hi”s, but nobody would even respond. And then, through trial and error, I met Uğur, fitting a carpet with a friend into a small red Opel. He had a backpack, and it somehow looked as though he could speak English.

“Excuse me?”


“Do you speak English?”

“A little!”

Yay! 5 minutes later Uğur and his friend Ibrahim were driving me in Ibrahim’s car to the motorcycle repair places in Erzurum. Ibrahim couldn’t speak English but he could understand the word “OK” and nod. After seeing some shops I started worrying about troubling the fellows too much.

“Aren’t you busy? I don’t want to take your time!”

“No problem my friend, we help you and then we go!”

Uğur and Ibrahim were in the Turkish Air Force. Ibrahim was a pilot, Uğur was an air traffic controller.

“Are you Ermeni?”

“Yes, how did you guess?”

“You look like a turk, but you are not a turk!” he laughed. “That means you are Ermeni! Similar face like brothers! Kurds more different face!”


“If you no have problem with me, I no have problem with you. Like brothers.”

After talking to many different mechanics about my motorcycle’s broken parts, Uğur and Ibrahim decided that it was best for me to go to Istanbul.

“Take a bus, bus cheap!”

“But I need to take my motorcycle with me! How will I fit it into a bus?”

“Motorcycle yes, bus yes, OK!”

“Dude, my motorcycle weighs 200 kilos and is pretty wide, it is no bicycle!”

“Kawasaki 1200cc in bus OK? Your motorcycle bigger than Kawasaki??”

I shut up.

“We take you bus station now.”

The bus station was somewhere in the outskirts. The two friends walked to one of the company representatives, and started explaining my situation in Turkish. The driver didn’t even want to hear about taking a motorcycle on a bus. Uğur and Ibrahim were, however, persistent. Along the conversation I heard the word “Kawasaki”. The bullet argument. The bus driver gave up, opened the luggage compartment and asked me if the bike would fit.

“Evet!” I nodded.


“How much?” I made a money gesture to the driver

He took a paper out of his shirt pocket and wrote on it — “350 dolar”

“OK,” I told the driver and gave him a thumbs up. “Do we leave now?” I asked Uğur. He looked annoyed.

“You don’t go to a turk, ask for the price and say “OK.”! You go to a turk, ask for the price, and then you say — “But why??””

I shut up.

“We now bargain the price. Give us time my friend.”

After about 10 minutes of talking really loud, Uğur turned to me.

“200 liras, or 130 dollar. Is OK?”

I was stunned. “OK!”

“You never say OK to price!” he smiled. “No forget! We take you to otel now? What you wanna do?”

“I have taken so much of your time! I insist that I take you guys out on dinner! What do you say? You can’t say no!”

“Yes, OK”

“Only one condition — I pay!”

“OK! Can we take Ibrahim’s carpet to his home first?”

“Sure, where does he live?”

“It is near, military base!”

I shut the fuck up.

Something has to be said about the Turkish military. There is a huge lot of military bases all over the place — inside cities, towns, and along the highways. They are easy to recognize because the walls are painted a specific orange red. There is always an armed soldier guarding the entrance. Sometimes the soldier runs out and raises a flag, if the base is on a busy street. That stops all traffic and you can see tanks or Land Rover vehicles with NATO marking driving in and out. The military have a lot of respect in the public, and they look kinda different: always in good shape, hair done, the “charismatic alpha” kind. Uğur told me the military have more respect than the police. “First soldiers, then jandarms, then police.” I figured that with so many bases and so much respect in the society, whoever controlled the military would have an immense control over Turkey’s internal politics. I insist that it must be so, even if it is not.

Nobody stopped our car. Ibrahim and Uğur took the carpet up, and came back with Ibrahim’s mom.

“OK, we go, wait one hour, then 7:30 we eat. Ramazan!”

We went to a restaurant somewhere downtown, and talked about almost everything for an hour, from sex to PKK. Uğur was asking a lot of questions.

“You have a girlfriend?” he asked

“What do you mean by a girlfriend?” I wondered

“Someone you want to marry all your life but you have to wait because you can’t marry now!”

“No, I guess I never had a girlfriend on those terms!” I laughed

“Oh, Why no girlfriend? I have a girlfriend! We marry next week!”


“Do you know dolma?”

“Yeah I know Dolma!”

“Ibrahim’s mother makes great Dolma! You know what Dolma means in Turkish?”

“No idea?”

“Something inside!”

“Like, stuffed?”

“Yes, stuff! Something inside, stuff!”

At exactly 7:30 the food started coming. We had excellent meals: roast lamb meat, borek with cheese, cutlets and kebabs followed by dessert. I asked for the bill. The waiter got ridiculed.

“It is free!” laughed Uğur. “Ramazan!”

“But I insisted that I pay!”

“It is free. Food is free. It is Ramazan! Everything you eat free!”

We then walked around the town, they helped me exchange my dollars for liras and that is when I realized I had not spent a single dollar whole day except for the accommodation.

Day 3 part 1: Accident

“Like a good muslim!”
—Turkish traffic police officer

I took off from Ardahan early in the morning, hoping to arrive early in Erzurum. The weather was amazing, and the road was perfect. There was a road section on the way that was being renovated, and the workers were doing such a thorough job that I thought I should get off the bike and take a picture of the thickness of an asphalt layer that real roads are supposed to have.

After about 3 hours, I entered Erzurum. A pretty large city with visually decent economy. Once you enter the city, on a span of 300 meters you come across a car dealership office for every single brand that you can recall, from Dodge all the way to Mercedes. No motorcycles though. How come? Another thing you notice is that the tarmac is extremely slippery, just the way it usually is when rain just starts pouring and the car exhaust chemicals are not washed off the ground yet. What’s wrong? How can tarmac be so slippery when it’s dry?

I rode into some petrol station, refueled, and asked to pay with a Mastercard at the counter. My card was rejected. That gave me a sick feeling — I knew for a fact that my HSBC Mastercard was OK, and I didn’t have a lot of cash with me!

Riding out of the station, I dropped my speed to about 50 km/h, entered some tunnel that was curved inside, realized I was going too fast, pushed my brakes, locked the wheels, skid, hit the tunnel wall on the curve, fell down, the end.

Not really. I then hit the engine killer switch, got up, checked to make sure that I was alright and put my helmet in front of the tunnel so that the cars could know something was wrong inside. Some car stopped. The driver helped me lift the motorcycle, asked if I needed ambulance, called the police, told them a “motosiklet turist” has an accident, and left wondering how could I survive that crash — I hadn’t even scratched a finger. I was actually surprised myself. Surprised and grateful for every single dollar I had not saved when purchasing my protection gear. Kudos to AGV, Dainese and Spidi!

Two police cars arrived in less than two minutes. One of them blocked the tunnel entrance, the other one drove in and 3 policemen started asking me questions and registering my accident. Their behavior was, again, extremely professional. All of them were very polite, helpful and sorry for my problem. Only one of them spoke English.


“No, I’m OK”

“Move your hands and touch your legs please?”

(I move my arms and touch my legs)

“Move hands in other direction?”


“No pain?”


“Can you stand straight?”


“Tamam. License plate? What country?”




“Tamam. Insurance papers?”


“Tamam. I will ask the central station where the closest authorized Honda Repair shop is, and we can take your motorcycle there.”


“What was your speed?”


“The law requires that you do 30km/h inside tunnels. You were riding too fast.”

“50 is too fast? I didn’t see a speed sign before entering the tunnel! Was there one?”

“No sign, the speed limit in tunnels is a general law.”

“OK, well I didn’t know that”

“We need to do an alcohol test. Did you drink before driving?”


“Can you please blow into the tube?”

I blew into the tube. He looked at the readings, dazzled. The sensor said “0.00”. He resetted it.

“Can you blow again?”

I blew again. “0.00”

“Like a good muslim eh? If you died here, you’d go to paradise my friend!” He laughed. Then pointed his finger up. “Ramazan!”

At that point the “central station” contacted him on the radio and told him that there is no Honda in Erzurum.

“The closest official Honda repair store is in Ankara. We will have to tow your motorcycle to the autopark, and you can decide what you wanna do later on. Towing service will cost you 30 dollars. Parking lot will cost you 3 dollars per night.”


“You sure you don’t need ambulance?”

“I’m sure”

“OK, please call 112 if you feel wrong later on”

The towing vehicle arrived in about 5 minutes, and took my motorcycle and myself to some open-air car parking area with a bunch of smashed cars and motorcycles. The police drove away, asking me to go see them at the central station tomorrow at 9am, to get a copy of my accident report. “You need that copy, because your insurance will have to pay for the damage you did to the tunnel wall.”