31 August 2011

They sure know how to fly a flag in Turkey.

This was the first thing I noticed when I crossed the border. Huge flagpoles and flags that seem almost too big. Red with a white crescent moon and star in the centre. It really does stand out against a clear blue sky, flying confidently in the warm breeze.

I don’t think I’ve seen flags quite this size anywhere else.

They are everywhere. Not always of the huge variety on a massive flagpole, but the flag is a powerful symbol in this country.

I like the Turkish flag.

On volunteering details of my planned route through Turkey, some locals were concerned about safety in the south east or the so-called Kurdish region. I had been aware of troubles some years back and checked for any current travel warnings. I could not find any.

Hearing the locals and knowing I was sticking to major roads and only riding during the day, I decided to stick to my planned route.

Certainly there has been more visibility of the Jandarma, a rural branch of the Turkish military charged with the maintenance of public order, internal security and general border control. I have passed many small and some larger outposts and bases. They are easily recognisable and clearly signed. Each proudly flies the Turkish flag.

As I head west it seems the bases are diminishing. Perhaps I am heading out of the danger zone. I chatted about this with someone at the hotel in Mardin and he commented that there has been some recent troubles a little further east, causing a downturn in tourists in the area. Some Mardin residents have also chosen to leave the area as a result.

Tonight I turned on the TV and saw a report on protests today in Istanbul related to the same issues apparently causing the troubles in east Turkey.

A few weeks ago there were riots in London.

So where is it safe these days?

Could be everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. Trouble can always be found if you go looking for it.

Of course there are places that are definite no go zones. Sometimes you can just be unlucky. Even with the increased military presence in eastern Turkey I did not feel unsafe. Much of it is probably related to border security as it is close to the Syrian border.

I’m so glad I came to this part of Turkey and seen all it has to offer. It wasn’t on my original itinerary but merCan convinced me to go. And he was so right. I may still encounter some troubles but perhaps no more than if I were in London or Istanbul.

Either way I certainly won’t be looking for it as I head west on my way back to London on this epic Turkey motorcycle tour.

I have enough trouble navigating through the old cities to my nightly hotel. This kind of trouble will do me just fine.