For our final couple days in Turkey, we find ourselves in Ağva. This is perhaps my favorite time in Turkey. There’s nothing historic here, there are no particular sights to see here, there are barely any tourists here, only a couple others in our hotel, and most of the other hotels look pretty empty. It’s just a nice, quiet town, with a couple rivers running through it, and the beautiful Black Sea. On our first afternoon in Ağva, we take out one of our hotel’s paddle boats, and it is a wonderful, warm afternoon (despite the fact my friend bundled up as if it was winter… maybe she’s afraid of the sun…). We paddle down to the shore of the Black Sea, walk around the beach, wade in the Sea, and meet a friendly dog that just likes to walk with us and hang out.
To get to Ağva, I rent a car at the Asian Istanbul airport. Driving in Turkey isn’t too bad. Drivers are crazy in Istanbul, but as soon as we’re outside of the city, it’s not bad, and the roads are pretty empty. It seems that the general speed of traffic matches well with what I think it should be, everyone is driving along at around the speed I feel comfortable with, and would be comfortable driving on unknown roads in California. That being said, we are often going 50% – 100% of what the posted speed limit is. My only worry while driving is when traffic comes upon a police car, with its lights on and flashing, and it is probably going the posted speed limit. But, traffic is going much faster than that, and everyone just passes the police car. I feel rather uncomfortable speeding past a flashing police car on the highway, but after a couple minutes of going the uncomfortably slow pace of the posted speed limit, I zoom on pass with the rest of traffic.
For dinner, I search Google for “best food in Agva”, and the top result is… the hotel we’re staying at, but we decide to go to the second best result, which looks like it has a fantastic view of the Black Sea. We get there right before sunset, food isn’t as good as the food we’ll have the next night at our hotel, but the view is stunning.
When returning from Ağva, I must return to the European Istanbul airport, as that’s where we’re both flying out of on our international flights – me to Milan, and my friend back to Beijing. This drive is much longer (maybe 3 hours compared to the 1.5 hours to get to Ağva), goes through more of Istanbul, and a lot of heavy traffic. Once in Istanbul, I give up on finding a gas station, willing to pay the car company’s exorbitant fees rather than try driving during heavy traffic down random streets to find one. Traffic is pretty bad, and Google Maps suggests an alternate route which should save 10 minutes, so, having no idea where we are anyway, we go with that. It exits us onto a random street, I see a gas station across the way, and I pull in. I get out of the car, stare blankly at the gas pump, having no idea what is what, and discover the gas station is not self service as an employee comes up to help. Unfortunately, he wants to ask me some questions, and we do not speak any common languages. For the first time in my travels, I use the Google Translate app on my phone, and we each type our questions/responses in our own language and hand the phone back and forth. Turns out he just wanted to know how much to fill it up. All the way, of course!
Getting out of the gas station is tricky, as this is Istanbul, and everyone just keeps on driving, and the way you merge is to pull out in front of a speeding car and expect it to stop. As I’m waiting for an opening that will never come, someone speeds around me, pulls out into traffic, and I use the break in traffic he causes to get myself in as well. We follow Google Maps’s directions until it brings us to… a road that does not exist. Apparently it thought it would be very fast to go that way, because there was definitely no traffic on that route. We’re in danger of being late to the airport at this point, so I glance at the map, take a guess as to which way might get us back on a freeway that will make it to the airport, and take off driving in that direction. After 15 utterations of “at the next intersection make a U-turn”, Google Maps finally gets the idea and directs us back on to the freeway and we make it to the airport with plenty of time. Returning the rental car is a bit of a challenge as well, as there’s no rental car return area, we just call the rental car office, and they send someone out to meet us at the departures area, however we initially have difficulty communicating with them on the phone, though it all works out well in the end.
Next… back to Italy to roam around Rome!