A Rant About Turkey

Blue Eyed Cat Face

My hitchhiking journey had brought me over 20,000 km and into Istanbul, the largest city of my trip. There were three of us at this point; a Brit, an American, and a Slovakian.

Our Istanbul couch host asked us to meet him tangential to the metro station. Of course, on a square where the metro exit comes out of the ground in the middle, this had no meaning. We waited by a large flag and sent a message telling him where we were but after many minutes of waiting we were still alone. My two hitchhiking friends disappeared to Starbucks in the hope of using an American gift card and I was left alone to be greeted by the guy we were staying with. ‘Silly boys,’ he said shaking my hand firmly, ‘I said to meet by the metro station.’ It wasn’t so much the words as the way he said them that made me prickle.

Istanbul by Night
Istanbul by Night

A Rant

To rant is unattractive and achieves nothing. However, I had a sufficiently unpleasant experience to want to share it. The day was late, I had almost no money in the world, and we were tired and hungry so going back to the apartment and cooking something seemed like a perfect idea. Our host had other ideas. He took us to a restaurant and unfortunately forgot his wallet, meaning that we paid. He then took us to a bar where we actually had a pleasant time interacting with many couch surfers at one of their weekly meetings. After one drink, we were very ready to rest, but in our sweaty clothes and lumbering under the strain of our backpacks, we were dragged to a another bar. We stood at the door and waited.

Catching a bus back, we all gave money to the guy who said he’d sort out the buses for us, only to find out that we had paid considerably too much. The following morning, we were desperate to see Istanbul and our host offered to take us out. We waited for him to get up in the afternoon at which point he declared he would cook lunch. While he went to the shop, we were allocated cleaning jobs. I was given the job of cleaning the broken glass table that he had smashed three days before but not bothered to clean up. As I was clearing the broken glass, another couch surfer who was also staying in the apartment started touching my back and made me rather uncomfortable. I moved away and he didn’t do it again. My Slovakian friend seemed to generate much more interest and he received multiple spontaneous back rubs without offering an invitation. The girl in our our party of three had no such ‘pleasure.’

The Bridge That Connects the Asian and European Sides of Istanbul
The Bridge That Connects the Asian and European Sides of Istanbul

Give Me Money

We were then told that we would cover the very expensive lunch. I do not mind sharing costs, but I cannot pay restaurant prices without knowing it in advance. We left the house at 7 pm to go to a bar and that was how we saw Istanbul. That evening I made an excuse to leave. The following day we were made to clean and questioned to why we were leaving. He told us how very disappointed he was about us leaving in-between the stories about learning 5 languages simultaneously and having apartments in over 30 countries. Honesty is something I value. He seemed to have lost all concept of reality and fantasy. After a cold swim, we finally escaped in the afternoon and ran down the street as he pretended to throw water over us. Together, we celebrated in the street that we were free.

We did ‘learn’ a few things from this guy such as ‘owls eat bugs,’ that ‘potatoes are from America,’ and he read 18,000 by the time he was 18 because he only had to look at a page to fully understand it all. Since that time, he stopped reading because reading became boring as he could predict all the endings. I was also invited to work in his tyre recycling company, learnt about his South American motorbike trip that he couldn’t remember, bandaged his leg, and found out that he was a martial arts grand master. It started at the age of 12 when he beat up an adult for the first time. Their were a few more delusions of grandeur and I have already shared too much so I should stop. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Words of Frustration
Words of Frustration

Istanbul, My New Home

We found a new guy by a statue of a bull and Istanbul turned from a terrible place into a wonderful one. ‘I want to live here,’ I said and it was soon to become true. I just didn’t know it at this time.

Drinking wine, honey covered bagels, Turkish confectionary, and deep fried donut, Istanbul was transformed. Parts of the city are beautiful and full of mosques, ancient building, and a diverse range of people. That evening we sat together in a hookah bar that overlooked Istanbul and we could see for many kilometres (as an Englishman, I want to say miles). Suddenly everything was OK again.

I had found a home. As always, a temporary home, but a home nonetheless.

8 Comments

  • I think your title should be a “Rant about a weird couch surfing dude instead”. I never use the site partly because I am a very private person and also because I have a habit of attracting weird people. Did you leave reviews on his profile?

    • You’re right Natalie, that would be a much fairer title. Originally I was also going to talk about how my landlord, the police, and my friend’s boss screwed us over in Turkey (we seem to have had very bad luck) but then I decided to only mention the guy from CS. It’s one of the only negative experiences I have had through CS and I actually didn’t leave a review; it was hard to decide because I think he was genuinely trying to be a good host but we have very different opinions of what that entails.

  • Sounds like a proper dodgy person, luckily people like that are in the minority.

    Congratulations on the rant, it’s good for the soul.

  • This sounds much worse than the experience we had. All that happened to us was being dragged from one shop to another by a Turk who wanted to sell us everything from carpets to tours to Cappadocia. It took an entire day to extract ourselves from him, but we managed it. Strangely, we did end up buying tour services and a small carpet. Just not from him.

    • They get you in the end! Cappadocia is a part of the country I have not been to yet but I hope to visit it sometime in the future. From pictures, it looks rather beautiful.

  • Ha, the first host you’re describing makes me think of a host we had with a friend in Brussels a few months ago. He was 25 but had two masters degrees and a phd, was fluent in I don’t even remember how many languages etc etc… some people just need to build up their confidence a bit I guess? The weird thing was, he had so many great references, we couldn’t even suspect anything beforehand. Well, at least he didn’t make us pay for stuff. But we left his house earlier than expected anyway, I think it’s the only couchsurfing experience of that kind that I had up to date. Just a quick question Jamie, I’ve been planning to go to Turkey this summer, but read that girls shouldn’t hitchhike there alone (because of a risk of sexual harrasment, as apparently prostitues are more common than hitchers there?), what do you reckon, as you’ve been living there for a while and hitchhiked as well?

    • He sounds delightful! One thing that I have realised about references is that you must look for what’s missing. If it doesn’t say that they are a lovely person, they might not be. Even I would only leave a negative reference if I thought someone was dodgy or dangerous. As for Turkey, guys can sometimes be a little bit pushy here but I haven’t seen any prostitutes (they may be here though). My friend (a guy) got asked for sex while hitching in Turkey a couple of months ago but he politely declined and continued on his way! In short, I’m not really sure so I won’t guess at something I don’t know. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Post a message on the HitchWiki boards and see what people say. Most of them are lovely.

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