Let me start by writing that I love Turkey and hope to return to it. The people were kind, the scenery was incredible. We had a terrifying moments when hitch-hiking there, but again, this could have occured anywhere.
Hitch-hiking is not recommended in any country for either women or men. Years ago, I was back-packing with a straight friend throughout Europe. We were met at the boat in Istanbul by a kind and decent Turkish young man. We had met while I was working in London. He found out that we were arriving in Istanbul at the same time he would be on holidays. He invited us to stay with his family and relations. He met us at the boat and took us to “a hotel.”
We soon found out that our Turkish friend did not like to waste his money hosting women. Our hotel room was a very large room with multiple dorm beds. H as I will refer to my friend, modestly turned his back to us, slipped off his outer pants, and got into one of the beds. While my friend and I were contemplating moving our beds closer, the door opened, in walked a man, who slipped off his pants and said something to us in Turkish. After about the fifth man, my friend and I lay on top of our ajoining beds fully clothed.
H and his family were very kind to us. One night H asked a male friend to take my friend and I out on a double date. We had to walk behind our male escorts. We attended an open air show with men and women performing dances and singing. After the show, I had left my sunglases behind and I walked back down the stairs. On the way back, some frisky Turkish lad decided to pinch my bum. I turned around and gave him heck. End of story, right? No! My friend H, who was over 6ft tall, was told by a passerby what had happened. H grabbed the perpetrator, a lad of not more than 18 years, and literary put him through a glass window. Whistles blew and the four of us, plus the bleeding youth were carted off in a police jeep.
At the police station, H was known to the police for good reasons. His father owned a couple of restaurants in this small town. I looked at the bleeding face and the terrified face of the young man and made my decision. I refused to identify him. I will never forget his eyes telling me of his gratitude. Not many years before, I had attended the film of “Midnight Express,” where male prisoners were often raped by their jailers. Nothing that this lad did would merit this type of revenge.
The last night of our Turkish visit, we had to camp. The next morning, we missed the bus that connected to a weekly boat to the Ukraine. We could not miss this boat! We decided to hitch and we flagged down this two door, large car. The two men did not speak English but they knew the words, Galata Bridge. This is a famous bridge that separates Europe from Asia and spans the Bosphorus River in the centre of Istanbul. They repeated the word “Galata” with smiles and nods.
The Galata Bridge came into sight, we pointed and repeated its name. To our horror, the men just laughed and we found ourselves headed towards the mountains. My friend and I looked at one another – both of us were thinking rape or rape and death. We drove along a street lined with small shops. Suddenly, I had an idea, an idea for survival. I reached forward and put my arms around the man sitting in the passenger seat. He touched my hair and I snuggled my face next to his. I pointed to many signs for “Coke Cola.” I whispered, “Coka Cola.” The object of my false affections spoke to the driver and the car slid to a stop. As the man went into the shop, I pushed forward his seat, opened the door, and gave my hand for my friend to follow. We ran across the road and got on a tram heading back to Istanbul.
When our ship pulled out of Istanbul towards the Ukraine, we looked at the incredible beauty of the skyline. Yes, we would definitely visit Istanbul again. We had two unsavory experiences, but the kindness of the Turkish people had captured our heart. We also held ourselves responsible for hitch-hiking and swore never to do that again.
If you are Turkish, I want to tell you that I am returning to your wonderful country. Paula. And, this time I am bringing my life, Trish.