Thursday 5 June 2008

You say dolmades and I say dolma

As a British tourist arriving in Turkey, you should know that you're expected to obtain a visa before clearing passport control. It's pretty easy stuff. You go to a window marked 'vize' and hand over £10 (they want English money) and the smiling face behind the glass puts a little rectangular sticker in your passport.

This is your multiple entry visa, valid for 3 months. For this reason, every 3 months, Brits living in Turkey without a resident's permit, have to make a visa-run to one of the nearby Greek islands. There's no specification as to how long you have to leave the country. You can be in and out in an hour, as long as you leave.

The picture above shows my visa and if you pay close attention to the date stamp, it expires today. This is why, the day before yesterday, I made my trip to Kusadasi's nearest Greek island, Samos.

Luckily a close friend of the family runs the ferries to Samos so it's never usually a problem for me to get out of the country on short notice. I called my uncle, who made the necessary arrangements and told me to "be at the port at 8am and ask for Abdullah" (Mr Tarantino, you can have that line for free).

Upon hearing I'm doing a visa run, most people I meet begin to place duty free orders. Armed with my booze requests, a camera, some Euros and my passport, I headed off to get my ticket out of here.

The new port of Kusadasi is very posh. I remember the days when there was not much more than a fish market and a policeman to welcome arriving cruise liners but these days it's a fully operational port complete with Starbucks.

Clearing passport control is always a little worrying. They tend to take their time looking at my passport as the amount of multiple entry visas barely leaves room for my photograph.

We boarded the majestically named 'Kusadasi Express' and began our short journey past Ladies Beach and out to Samos.

The spanking new Kusadasi port building.

The Kusadasi Express.

Turkish flag flying, we leave the port.

...past the island that gives Kusadasi its name.

...into Greek waters.

I found myself a seat and plugged in my headphones. Before long, the entertainment began...

As you know, boats are wet, they rock about and they have little steps all over the place. Well it appears people quickly forget. As I sat and watched the guy across from me turning green and sweating profusely there was an almighty thud.

I turned to see a girl lying on the floor at the bottom of some steps clutching her head. Behind her, descending four steps at a time, was her father and mother. Behind them was her sister who also slipped on the steps, only managing to avoid falling by slamming her hand against the wall and screaming "FIX THIS BOAT!!!!!!!!".

Now, forgive me, but the stairs are wet and the boat is rocking. What exactly could a team of engineers do to 'fix this boat'? Perhaps they could install straps to insure that fuckwits don't start wandering around.

Anyway, no sooner had the girl's head hit the deck than family members began taking pictures of the scene. How about seeing if she's alright before you call Claims Direct?

I may be a little extreme in my views on this point but one of the joys of living in Turkey is that I've left that compensation culture far behind. No doubt the wave will one day hit this country but, in the meantime, people are responsible for their own actions.

I used to love the National Accident Helpline's adverts in the same way I love You've Been Framed (my sense of humour can be best described as Schadenfreude). The sound of that fat lass hitting the deck whilst walking through reception always made me chuckle. And as for Dave Morris (you know, the electrician who was given the 'wrong type of ladder'?), I'd love to see him try and claim compensation from his Turkish employer. Of course, he'd then have to claim for the savage beating he got from his boss and colleagues.

But this particular family were clearly going to be great fun. The father's knees were bandaged up so he'd obviously been auditioning for You've Been Framed previously too. They then wanted the captain to write an accident report of the whole thing (which was also to include the sister's bruised arm). The fact was, the girl was absolutely fine. Her only obvious problem was that she was a nightmare (this claim is not only based on this incident but also that I later overheard her in a restaurant asking for 'vegan garlic butter'. I whole heartedly salute the waiter who promptly brought her a handful of garlic cloves. You're a credit to your nation).

Anyway, back to Samos...

After about an hour and a half, we moored in Samos Town Port. For years I've been coming to the island and it's only recently that I've actually attempted to explore the rest of the island. I'm glad I did.

Samos Town is fairly interesting. If you're visiting, I recommend a walk up into the old town both for its architecture and atmosphere but also for the views over the bay.

Samos Port. All the elegance and grandeur of a garden shed.

The tiny streets of Samos old town. If you can see this sign, then you can probably see the street. Therefore rendering the sign completely useless.

The view over the bay of Samos Town.

One of the first things that always strikes me about Samos, is the the subtle differences between the Samians (people from Samos) and the Adali (people from Kusadasi). You see middle aged women powering around on scooters here whereas you just don't in Kusadasi.

The girls are pretty but they're chunkier. Turks tend to pad out after marriage, whereas the Samians seem to be embracing the whole 'bootilicious' concept. Cleavage is far more on show here. These may seem like ridiculous things to be commenting on, but they're quite telling of the culture. You get accustomed to making judgments based on clothing in Turkey. If a Turkish girl is displaying cleavage, something ain't right.

I was once here for a festival and everyone was out in their finest. However they appeared to have almost no taste. Leopard skin leggings and leather was all over the place. It was like being flash mobbed by Los Angeles hookers. Their fashion sense is only topped by French hypermarket shoppers. Mind you, there was that time I saw a guy in a Berlin train station with a mullet, tash, lime green biker jacket (sleeves rolled up), leggings and winkle pickers. I thought someone had spiked my coffee.

If you're coming to Samos and you've got some time, I recommend renting a car and heading off to some of the other towns. One place is Pythagoreion (named after the famous Samian, Pythagoras. You know, the triangle bloke?) on the South coast of the island. It's a pretty little town with similarities to Bodrum and a far nicer place to stay than Samos Town.

Not sure how they wear these.

Boats, beards, backgammon and baby goats. Just what is there not to love about this island?

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to explore the island on this trip. I only had a few hours to kill so I drank Greek coffee, did some shopping, had some lunch and it was soon time to head back to port.

Proof. Me with my vegetarian moussaka.

When I arrived back at the port, the wind had picked up a little. It's usual for the return trip to be a little choppier, but this was just silly. Although this little chap was having a great time.

Our chariot awaits. The Kusadasi Express all ready to express us back to Kusadasi.

Goodbye Samos. See you in 3 months.

...and there it is. The reason for this whole day trip. My shiny new visa. Giving me the opportunity to clog up the internet with my drivel for another 3 months. You lucky people.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful drivel.

Anonymous said...

Last time I did my visa run the trip on the way back was horrendous. Now, I have been on some very rough seas before but I honestly thought I was going to die. Some young girl spewed all over the wall, another was spewing out the back of the boat, toilets were always full and people were falling over right left and centre. I wasn’t on the same boat as you and was on he smaller one run but the other company here in Kusadasi. I really hope it is better when I go on the next one or it might have to start being trains to Eastern Europe.