Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Death March to Van

The bus going from Erbil back to Turkey left on time, about 4PM.  We made it to the border in about four and a half hours.  The greedy bus company employees, and other passengers, tried to get me to carry cheap cigarettes over the border for them, since they were over their duty free allowances, which I refused to do.  For quite a long time we sat in an area with a bunch of other buses waiting to go through the border.  There were some grim shops and food places across a busy road, and so I eventually went over there and got a greasy tavuk dürüm (chicken wrap) for 2000 Iraqi Dinars - exactly the amount of Iraqi money I had left.  A Kalashnikov toting border guard was mingling with the bus passengers, chatting with us.

Eventually we were told to get back on the bus, and we drove a short distance to the place where we get stamped out of Iraqi Kurdistan.  Then we got back on the bus and drove a short distance again, to the place where they check vehicles and their contents.  We were to spend the next several hours there. They were walking on top of the bus, looking under the bus, pulling panels off of the bus.  Other buses (and some cars) also spent a long time there, but none as long as our bus.  At least we were able to get out of the bus while this was going on.  I could see cash being handed around among the people doing the inspections.  I saw our bus driver hand some money to one of them, but I don't think it did any good.  I do not know what they were looking for, or why they would care so much what is being taken out of their country.  I would have thought that all of the rigorous inspections would be on the Turkish side.

Around 3:00AM we could finally proceed over the bridge to the Turkish side.  We were on the road by 4AM.

I made it to Van in the afternoon.  We had a nice ride along Lake Van.  My plan for Van was to get all the cash I need for Iran and change it to Euros, which I did today.  The city itself is not very photogenic but it has mountains around it that are still covered with snow.  It's kind of chilly in Van because the elevation is quite high.  Van is famous for breakfasts so this morning I skipped the hotel breakfast and went out for breakfast.  The local honey and cheeses are the highlights of breakfast.  Van also has a lot of bars, which I will make use of tonight, because tomorrow I will be in Iran and I will be there for the next nearly two weeks.  I have a bus ticket that will take me over the border in the morning.  There I will need to get a minibus to Urmiyeh, and from there I can get another bus to Tabriz, where I should be by tomorrow night.
The mountains around Lake Van, at a fuel stop.

Fuel stop

A park in Van

Selling wool

One of the many places selling local honey (bal evi is honey house).

Some of the breakfast places (kahvaltı salonu is breakfast place).

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