We could only get tickets to Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The bus dropped us in front of a beautiful hotel, the name of which escapes me now, so we decided to go in for tea and get the scoop on Ankara, where we should stay, etc. We sat down and ordered tea in the elegant dining room and were soon joined by a young man who was finally able to get it across to us that he was a reporter and wanted to take our picture in the carriage just outside. We didn't know it then, but we had arrived during the Turkish Film Festival, which was being held in that very hotel. This little bit of information was painstakingly received through sign language and guessing, as there seemed to be no one around who spoke any English at all. So the carriage was there for something to do with the festival, and we agreed to a photo. Well, after an otherwise uneventful stay in Ankara overnight, and not being familiar with any Turkish film stars, we once more boarded the bus and began our trip through Turkey. We would have to go to Istanbul to make our connection with the East-bound bus. As we bounced along on the hard wooden seats of the bus, we suddenly noticed that we seemed to be the center of everyone's attention, but attributed it to the fact that we were foreigners. Soon, however, a man passed a newspaper to us and there was our picture in the carriage, and the article below was of course in Turkish, but we managed to figure out that we were "hippelers" (hippies) attending the film festival. Hippies were still a curiosity in Turkey, and indeed, in 1970 Turkey was no hippie haven!
Henceforth, due to our enhanced status on the bus, when we stopped for meals we were ushered into the men’s eating area. This was unusual since women and men always have segregated meals in that part of the world.
Our bus driver through the western half of Turkey was an unusual young man. During the stops he would come over and talk with us in his broken English, and with much signing and so on we came to understand that he was a journalist/bus driver who would have loved to leave Turkey and go to North America, but that was a distant dream for him. At the end of the first day’s travel he said he would take us to a cheap room where we could spend the night safely. Several twisty streets later we were ushered into a room with 4 cots, a dresser and little else, but it was clean and we began to settle in. We asked him where he would stay and he said no, he would be driving another bus all night and would then be our bus driver in the morning! We wondered how he stayed awake, and he then produced some of the finest Turkish hashish you could imagine, saying it kept him awake just fine. He then left, and we began to smoke the sample he had left us. Suddenly there was that feeling of being watched again, and looking up to the transom over the door, we were greeted by 3 large and somewhat guilty grins from the men enjoying their observations. We shooed them away in no uncertain terms, tightly shut the transom and put the dresser in front of the door, but they still sang (love songs?) outside our room all night.
Another memorable experience from the bus in Turkey was when a man across the aisle from us began a sexual act on himself while reading aloud from the Red Book (Communist Bible). We were shocked and quickly hid behind our head scarves!
The border crossing between Turkey and Iran served as a rest stop as well as the office for document checking. We began to leave the bus to get food but were mobbed by “hungry” men who began grabbing our breasts and our crotches, and we were driven back into the safety of the bus. Several hippie guys started beating the men off with sticks, only to be dealt blows that also sent them staggering back to the relative safety of the bus. It was scary and surreal. We were outraged! Somehow the bus driver managed to calm the mob and we were able to disembark, find some food and use the restroom facilities. And by facilities I mean 2 footprints and a hole. So there I am squatting there, when suddenly I feel like someone is watching me; I glance up to see maybe a dozen men ogling me through the opening running around the top of the walls, I guess for much needed ventilation. I began shouting and swearing at them and quickly got out of there and back on the bus! These men seemed totally ignorant and bereft of any social graces, and obviously had no respect for women.
We were once more realizing how blessed we are to live in a country that has been striving for equal opportunity for women all of my life, and before that.