Turkey 33: Bergama to Safranbolu


Not just being on transit, but also planning, getting frustrated by and, ultimately, conquering transit.  All with a little Turkish hospitality thrown in. 

We’ll get to that later. 

So, yeah, transit day.  Like, literally all night and a good half of the day.

One of the good things about the night bus is you get to save a night’s accommodation cost.  One of the bad things about the night bus is you’re sleeping on a bus and, by the time you get to your destination, your breath smells like a combination of dragon and cabbage. 

Those are the first two things that come to mind, anyway.  Maybe slightly rotten salami.

Anyhow, after tackling Bergama yesterday, I was on a Metro bus to Istanbul at 8:45 last night.  Comfortable enough though, gotta say, not a big fan of the service stops.  I know that Turkey is big on hospitality, but I don’t think I need Fanta at one in the morning after I’ve been trying to sleep.  Also, the interior lights should just be off at 11.  Treat us like canaries in a cage and throw a blanket on us, let us get to sleep.

Anyway, we were supposed to arrive in Istanbul at 7:00, but ended up getting in about a half hour ahead of schedule, which allowed me to get right on the Metro bus for Safronbolu.  This definitely worked out in my favour, because Istanbul’s Otogar is freaking HUGE and running between companies to find the next available bus would have been too much of a workout on bus sleep.

So, I managed to see both the “Welcome to Europe” and “Welcome to Asia” sign within about an hour of each other and without any odd looking contortions.  In other words, I crossed the continents twice in less than an hour.  Now, considering that you could walk to the divide and jump over a bunch of times and easily beat the record, maybe it’s not a big deal, but it’s at least neat.

After an uneventful bus ride, I ended up getting to Safranbolu’s otogar, at which point I took a shuttle to what I thought was Carsi (I can’t figure out the squiggle under the “c”, so it’s pronounced “CharShe”), which is Safranbolu’s old town.  Turns out, no, the shuttle just takes you to the bus offices, which are Carsi adjacent.  No big thing, was able to find a set on a bus for onward travels to Trabzon in a couple of days, so one less thing.

The bus people were nice enough to give me directions to a “Petro Oil” gas station, telling me the dolmus for Carsi was there.  Well, apparently another dolmus station was also close by, because that’s where I ended up.  One of the people there was nice enough to walk me halfway to where the Carsi dolmus was.  Should have solved the problem there.

Then I looked up.

Now, I found the pension I’m staying at now on Hostelworld.  The interesting thing is that it is the only pension listed on Hostelworld in Safranbolu.  In fact, Hostelworld doesn’t even recognize Safranbolu as a place in Turkey, referring people instead through nearby Karbuk.  So, while the rating was good, not entirely sure where this place.

So, like I said, I looked up. 

I saw “Yildiz Pension”.  The pension I’m staying in is the Yildiz Konak, but on Hostelworld it’s listed as the Safranbolu Yildiz Pension. 

Yeah, never should have looked up.

So, fortunately, I had the actual address written down in my Lonely Planet and I started looking for somebody who may have an idea of where I was supposed to be going.  Well, fortunately, somebody found me!  I hear a “are you looking for something” and am quickly helped by a nice Turkish guy named Torun (I don’t know if that’s how it’s spelled, but he told me it’s pronounced “to run”, so that’s how I’m spelling it.

Torun had his smartphone out and did a map search and found out that, yes, the street address did not match the hostel we were staying under, so I was looking for a different place that was, in fact, in Carsi proper.  He showed me where the minibus was and, when we got to Carsi, took it upon himself to ask people where the hostel was and to make sure that I got there in one piece.  Along the way, he pointed to a shop next to the old caravansary, saying it was his brother’s café.  I made a note of that and said I’d have to come by for a tea later (least I could do). 

The Yildiz Konak is in a traditional Ottoman house, which is what Safranbolu is famous for.  The whole place has managed to avoid the development that has affected the suburbs.  Back in the day, the city was a source of natural saffron (get it?) and, as such, the owners of the houses here were able to use sturdier materials, such as mudbricks, wood and stucco.  A large number of them have survived and help create a little landscape unlike anything else you’d see in Turkey.  Very cute, cute enough that UNESCO designated is a World Heritage Site of Cute (that last word is a lie.)

Now, moving away from Safranbolu here, I just want to talk about travel planning.  I like it, but sometimes I hate it and understand why people go through travel agents.  To wit, when I got into town today, the route to Trabzon was sold out with one bus company, but I was lucky enough to get on with another.  I’ve been trying to figure out a direct route for the next leg of the journey (Trabzon – Kars), and managed to find two companies that run an overnight bus – not my first choice, but the day buses don’t seem to go.

So, I look at one of the companies online today when I get to the pension.  All sold out.  I look at the other one and see they have about six seats left for the date I need and…. computer won’t book it.  I go online to the Thorn Tree Forum on Lonely Planet, put out suggestions for alternatives, none of them are really to my liking and just as I’m starting to get a bit frustrated, I come to the realization that I haven’t had any real food since last night in Bergama.

Hangry and stupid.

So, I decide I’ll figure the mess out later after I get some food. 

Of course, me being me, I decide I’m going to climb up a hill to get a panoramic view of Safranbolu before I eat, because there is no better idea than walking up a steep road on a few hours bus sleep and an empty stomach.  The view was amazing, though, and I soon found myself next to the caravansaray.  I stumbled by the café, now visible as Muamma Café, that Torun pointed out earlier and, after a bit more strolling, I figured that’s where dinner would be.

Torun was there with a few female family members who, after Torun and me talked for a few minutes, began to giggle in that “I’m sure they’re talking about me, I don’t know what they’re saying” type way.  When I mentioned I was hungry, they got right to work.

As the dinner was being made, Torun asked me if I had any questions about Safronbolu or what to see, and he showed me a few things on his computer that looked interesting.  He then was nice enough to leave the computer out and say “If you need to check email, go ahead, or if you have any questions or things you want to know about, let me know.”

Well, there was that matter of the bus ticket…

So I explained what was happening with the website before and Torun went to work, trying to help me purchase one online from the company (didn’t work) and even attempting to buy one for me through an app he had (which, unfortunately, was for the sold out bus).  He then, on what I will admit was a slight suggestion, offered to call the company and reserve a seat for me!

So, as of right now, I’m good to go for the ride from Trabzon to Kars!

So Torun basically saved my day twice, keeping me from wandering aimlessly through Safranbolu, and then keeping me from having to redo all my plans once I got into Trabzon.  I’m still erring on the side of caution here, and might not book anything for Kars until I actual get to Trabzon and have an onward bus ticket in hand but, overall, excellent little day!

A lot is said about Turkish hospitality and I’ve found it to be all true.  Wonderful people in a wonderful country where I’m having a wonderful time.  Tomorrow, there’ll be a bit more Safranbolu, but before any of that, one very important thing.


Night night!

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