Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 65 (Turkey): Ankara (did I say sleep?)

today’s distance: 0km
total distance: same old, same old (5005km)
riding time: 0h

Off to a late start again. It’s sleeping time these days and a) I am catching up a lot it seems and b) it is deeply necessary it also seems. Take today. I slept for about 9 hours during the night and then in the afternoon for another 4 hours. I usually never sleep in the afternoon. But it seems like my body is telling me to do something so it gets what it asks for right now. And that is food and sleep.

Before my comatose afternoon, I wanted to get some information on my US visa from the embassy here in Ankara. I figured that information wouldn’t really hurt and that I might as well start the information gather process. My questions largely centered around time issues as I will need to apply for a longer visa if necessary in some part of Central Asia. So here we go - Haluk drives me to the embassy, I am sort of prepared with prior internet research and know that the Ankara embassy operates by appointment only. So much for rules. There have to be exceptions. I show up and ask whether it is possible to speak to a consular official. Turkish security tries to direct me to the internet and the phone. That didn’t work I explain. They say no. I ask for the supervisor. They send me to a different gate. I speak to the Turkish security supervisor, a nice guy as it turns out. His name is Murat. I explain the situation … bike tour, not much time due to visa restrictions, try to have things in one place, yada yada. His first reaction: “You’re crazy! I used to be a bike myself, but not a 15,000km one!” He also says that speaking to a consular official is impossible. They changed the rules a couple of years back - no exceptions. I try the “I’m a lawyer and know there are always exceptions to the rule” angle and he says he will see what he can do, speaking to his boss. If he says no, it would be a no. He seems sympathetic due to the biker bond. The little Turkish I have picked up so far makes me realize Murat is going to bat for me. He explains the situation in great detail. When he turns around, he says: “Go back, my people will let you in!” A big thanks to Murat.

I get my answers that I need from the consular staff, know that things are generally possible now and that it is possible to not leave the passport with the embassy for purposes of issuing the visa (kind of hard in former Soviet countries, where you need to have the passport at all times as I have found out in a subway station in Tashkent at one point; milita asks me for the passport, things are OK - but an old lady curses them out for pestering foreigners for no reason - great scene) and that I should be able to have a visa issued within no more than 3 weeks with all documents being in order. That should be possible in the end.

As Haluk needed some things from the mall we also entered one of the countless of such consumption temples here in Ankara (you know you’re there when you see a big mobile phone company store starting with an N, a mobile plan provider starting with a V, a Swiss formerly very hip watch company, a sweat-shop producing athletics store and the ubiquitous coffee company with a Seattle, WA HQ). You also know you’re there when hip young Turkish couples try to get fit by using a game console to get fit.

The trip here was also an exercise in being catapulted from the Turkish hinterland (where biking shorts are looked at suspiciously and with a derisive snort at times) to the fast-paced and extremely modern face of Turkey.


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