There are those people who come over here and fall in love with the country and the people: “Oh they’re so warm and welcoming, so friendly”. OK I I get that, the culture here is to be hospitable, and for many that is exactly what they get. I do wonder sometimes if that tends to be the ones who don’t appear to be a threat and invade the family by marrying into it, but hey that’s just me being cynical yet again. To be honest I haven’t had such a bad ride, and I have met some great people in my time here. Plus by the standards of some of the people who post in terms of run in’s with the outlaws, I’m having a fine old time–well average at least.
But for those who come to this country and fall in love, they clearly have not been the one driving the vehicle. You may sit in the passenger seat, on the bus, dolmus or whatever and experience the feeling that death in imminent. If not that extreme I certainly challenge you to look back and tell me that there has never been a moment when your hair didn’t stand on end, or you didn’t find yourself clutching onto either the person seated next to you or any available bar on the vehicle, for grim death. If you don’t then you’re clearly from another country where driving is just a normal art of dicing with death every day.
Get behind the wheel though and you experience a whole other level of crazy. I have driven here several times in the last few years. Mostly on the motorways or main highways that tend to have much less traffic than similar roads back home. Up until this visit though I did not do city driving. Sadly my hand was forced and for the past two days that is exactly what I have done. And I can honestly say that it was far from a relaxing experience.
Being someone who only learnt to drive 5 years ago, it has taken a while for me to enjoy driving in the UK. It’s not something I ever planned to do here. I feel far worse than I ever did as a learner driver. I don’t have a problem with it being the wrong way round. It’s more a problem that the UK car is very different well that and the state of the driving here, so I find myself sitting bolt upright and clinging to the steering wheel.
When I first came here, there were hundreds of road signs reading “Don’t be a traffic monster”, that campaign clearly has never had any impact. The attitude here seems to be that you’re a fool to obey traffic rules as that will bring about certain death, so it’s a battle of wits to drive just as badly as those around you. Preferably at double the speed limit, and as with most Europeans the horn should be hooted repeatedly. Hoot at traffic lights for people not moving off on amber, hoot if someone dares to not be going as fast as you want to-tail gating seems to be a national daredevil sport, hoot hoot hoot for anything and everything. Oh and be angry and aggressive, don’t get in without being all Rah! Oh, and particularly if you are a man there appear to be two more key rules: if anyone overtakes then you must make an attempt to race and show that you too are capable of unnecessary speed; if you are behind a lorry or large vehicle you must pass it at all costs by getting very close and regularly swinging out to see if there is any oncoming traffic. A great game of chicken for all involved on single lane trunk roads. I do so love that particular game.
You can observe all this from the passenger seat, so what difference does it make to be in the drivers seat? Apparently a lot. It’s not until you are in the drivers seat that you get ‘advice’ on your driving. Today’s gem, as a lorry decided to try and move into my lane as I was about to over take was “Just drive faster”. Hmm, yeah, like I’m going to do that! I hate passing lorries at the best of times, even though I drive a relatively large car back home. I still find it hard to judge the space between my lane and the one with the lorry in it. I always feel like I am going to get crushed, so I’m hardly likely to drive faster when I can see quite clearly that this particular truck driver has exactly that plan in mind.
Changing lanes, now that is a fun exercise. It’s something you have to do quite frequently because the right hand lane tends to be full of dolmuses stopping every two seconds, tractors, and whole variety of vehicles that would probably be deemed unroadworthy back home; modified motorbike things with trailers driven by the poverty stricken rubbish sifters, weird trikes which seem to be powered by lawn mower engines and trailers carrying large loads of fruit or some such to sell by the roadside, two wheel hand push carts loaded with stuff to sell, the list is endless.
Then there are pedestrians. Oh boy they add some excitement, that little tingle of fear that you might actually kill someone on your journey. They’re just as bonkers as the drivers. Absolutely no regard for personal safety and seem to also enjoy a good game of chicken. If they’re not sauntering across the two lane major trunk road as if they own it, they’re busy daring you by stepping out right in front of you. Or there are the lads, who want to walk three abreast regardless of whether there is actually space to do so, and you can’t change lanes because of the nut jobs packed so tightly together and speeding like maniacs.
I do love a cyclist though. No helmet, and certainly nothing remotely protective. I particularly like the wobbly ones who don’t appear to think that riding in a straight line is acceptable, who knows where they could be going next–under the wheels of your car perhaps?
Motorcyclists come in a variety of forms here, and to be honest it’s really hard not to get distracted, thus causing an accident, when you drive past and see what is on them. Standard fair are the blokes who have been given a helmet but don’t really want to wear it, so it’s perched on their head. Recently I have seen guys lovingly giving their girlfriends a pillion ride, I say lovingly because who wouldn’t give their true love their helmet? Hmm clearly not these guys, their own helmet is firmly on while their true love is bare headed. The truly great though have a competition: How many people/things can you pile onto your motorcycle. Today’s distraction was an entire family of four, nothing unusual there, unless of course you consider a babe in arms in between dad driving and mum: a perfectly normal thing to see. Gobsmacked but didn’t crash.
I survived the aggressive drivers up my bum, I survived the lorries that couldn’t decide which lane to be in, I survived the total lack of indicators. I drove quite fast, but according to their standards like a 70 year old man. I even managed a horrible junction to cross to the other side with cars racing at me round a hair pin bend. I got us to the beach but Husband had to use the horn to move a group of people who saw no reason to get out of my way when I wanted to get into the car park.
Yet after all that, there was still more fun to be had. One more crazy to be seen. A woman. A woman on a mobility scooter, yes an 8mph mobility scooter, driving along the hard shoulder (which more often than not is simply a third lane). But it got better. She’s a Turk, she has no reason to be nervous of the frenzy going on around her. This lady, on her mobility scooter, was doing what oh so many Turks at the wheel do–she was on her mobile phone. Absolutely priceless!