Sunday, April 15, 2012

Turkin' it

I am a visual learner. I'll pretend that everyone who reads my blog is too as I break down why Turkish driving is so unbelievably crazy.

The parking garage at the Optimum Mall in downtown Adana gave me a perfect example of the confusion you experience as a driver in Turkey. Notice we are supposed to turn left here as indicated by the yellow arrow on the ground and the "no right turn"" up above. Only, there is a cone randomly blocking the turn left. What does that mean? Why is it there? We have no idea. We ended up making a right turn since the left turn was blocked. Was that correct? We have no idea.
You have to get used to the fact that you will see things that would never be permitted in America. Trucks overloaded (usually unsafely), cars towing other vehicles in strange ways. More people shoved into a vehicle or put on a motorcycle than you may have thought humanly possible. Children sitting on driver's laps but almost always unbelted. You have to continually remind yourself that the rules in place in the USA to keep you safe, don't exist here. So when you see a truck like this, above, you have to tell yourself that the stuff really could fall out or the truck could fall over. And you have to think accordingly. If you forget where you are, that's when accidents can happen.
I think this picture may even better prove my point.
Motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians are everywhere. They are never wearing helmets and pop up without much warning. This picture is also indicative of the fact that lanes don't exist. This light is supposed to be two lanes. but you can tell that there are sort of three lanes. The lines separating lanes are not actual dividers as they are in the USA. They are more like suggestions. And if there is room on any shoulder, people will create a new lane. Especially motorcycles.
Many people do not have their own vehicles. You also very rarely see a Turkish woman driving a car -- although in the bigger cities, it happens more frequently. People get around via these buses -- a dolmus. They are very inexpensive and jammed with people, but it is the way many people get around. Taxis exist but are not frequented by the general population.
A Turkish Stop Sign.
There have been a number of times I turned off a city road and ended up on a road like this. The good thing is that men will stop whatever they are doing to help you navigate the holes or the other cars possibly in the way. They look at me as if to say, "C'mon. Why are you going so slow?"
I see things like this all the time! Cars fitting through spaces incredibly small. When I hesitate and don't want to make the tight squeeze, the Turks seem confused by my hesitation. For them, it's completely normal. I often slow down considerably when I see pedestrians crowding an area. But Turks speed by as if there in no cocnern at all of an accident.
This is the entrance to "The Alley." When you make this left turn, you are in much more American territory, with store owners who speak some English. About two miles down this road, you will reach the entrance to the Base on your left.
A Turkish gas station. These are usually very clean and a nice place to stop.

Contrast in Turkey is incredible, and I think the extreme differences are the biggest surprise to visitors. While Turkey is incredibly modern, you can turn a corner and see a scene like this very frequently. Old meets new so frequently here.

There is so much wrong with this picture. I mean there are three spots designated here. Although there really is barely room for three cars. You can tell that we parked our van in a spot. But you can tell that the person next to us and all the people behind JB, did not pay any attention to the lines. The thing is, if three cars would have been in place here, there is no way we could open our doors.

I hope these photos give you a good representation of life behind the wheel in Turkey. Most Americans will drive off-Base, but women especially, seldom alone. You have to have a very laid back attitude and allow people to honk at you, pass you, stop in front of you. You have to expect the unexpected.

Horns are used continually. Turn signals barely ever. Speeding is enforced but nothing else seems to be. Making a left hand turn from the outside lane is completely permitted. Stopping to change drivers in the middle of the interstate without pulling off onto the shoulder has been witnessed on more than one occasion. Motorcyclists never wear helmets. Five people can easily fit on a motorcycle. Twelve people can easily fit in a four door car. Seatbelts are very rarely worn. Cars are very rarely new. Merge lanes are dangerous places. Take a deep breath. You are in Turkey.

When we see someone doing something a bit odd -- like backing up a mile on the freeway to make the exit they just missed, we laugh to ourselves. But then, when we find ourselves doing the same thing, we use expressions like: "We're Turkin' it." Or, "When in Turkey ..." We often call things "Turk-tastic" or "Turk-alicious." You find yourself constantly straddling the law that you know should exist and does exist in your country, and the fact that if you don't do as the Turks do, you'll be left completely behind.

Driving in Turkey is definitely one big adventure. All the time.

Past entriees on Turkey and culture include:

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