Crossing the Channel is just the first step. To celebrate National Ferry Fortnight, we look at some of Europe’s 1,000 other ferry routes.
Consul General Leigh Turner generously allows DriveEurope to hitch a ride on a drive and sail from Izmir to Istanbul, partly on a British-owned ship.
We don’t know what the Consul-General drives. Security! This 1955 Cadillac Series 60 Special Fleetwood Sedan – Elvis’ original Pink Cadillac – is an exhibit at the Antique Car Museum at ESBAŞ, the Aegean Free Zone business park near Izmir. Leigh Turner is also Director-General for Trade & Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
In Ìzmìr for meetings about the city’s bid for the 2020 Expo World Fair, Leigh Turner also took in the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference and seminars with local students. Izmir is the most westerly city in Turkey, on the Aegean coast. The city’s Clock Tower, in the main Konak Square, was actually built by a French architect in 1901. The clock was a gift from German Emperor Wilhem II.
After two days it’s time to head back to Istanbul. The first leg is a 250 mile cross country drive heading north east to the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara at Yalova. A 6am start means that by daybreak it’s time for (a service station) breakfast: olives, white cheese, salad, honey and kaymak (clotted cream).
Wind turbines near Balikesir after around 110 miles. Founded by Hadrian, industry-oriented Balikesir (pop. 330k) is now the ‘Anatolian Tiger’. The region was also a holiday spot for Byzantine Emperors (what other recommendation do you need?) The excavated, ancient ruins of Troy are 100 miles south west, on the coast, via some very interesting-looking mountain roads.
10:30am, Yalova: where’s the ferry? It’s there all right. Sea of Marmara ferries are often flat decked roll-on roll-off. In total the drive took four and a half hours, an hour quicker than calculated by the mappy.com route planner. The road is mainly dual-carriageway but there’s a motorway planned. The speed limit is 68mph dual carriageway, 74mph motorway. The problem for UK drivers is insurance. Turkey is one of the few European countries for which insurers still issue a Green Card. It means you have the legal minimum cover in the UK and is the basis to negotiate insurance when you arrive. Look out for a TTOK office.
Steaming out of Yalova. ‘Yalova is my city,’ said Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, who retired there. It’s also well known for hot springs.
‘Ethereal beauty of Sea of Marmara’ The Sea of Marmara, 170 miles by 50 miles, sits between the Black Sea and the Aegean, separating Turkey into its European and Asian (Anatolian) parts.
Marmara comes from the Greek word for marble. The sea played a starring role in Jason and the Argonauts. It connects to the Aegean by the Dardanelles strait. Where the Dardanelles opens out into the Sea of Marmara sits Gallipoli.
The Captain and crew of IDO ferries Kanuni Sultan Süleyman.
You didn’t think the Consul-General would schlep it out in the public lounge did you? IDO is part-owned by Stagecoach boss Sir Brian Souter since being privatised in 2011. IDO is one of the world’s largest ferry operators. It’s website ido.com.tr is also in English. As ever with Sir Brian – a long time investor in Turkey – the deal was controversial. A price hike saw a rival start last year (www.IstanbulLines.com) on what were thought to be IDO-exclusive routes. Still, one-way two+car Yalova-Istanbul is under £15 for the one hour fifteen minute crossing.
Ships heading for Bosphorus Strait. At the other end of the Sea of Marmara is Istanbul. Splitting the city is the Bosphorus Strait, the water way into the Black Sea, and hence Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. Major Black Sea ports include Odessa, Sevastopol and – 2014 Winter Olympics/ Formula One host – Sochi.
If you don’t fancy the 1,500 mile overland drive to Istanbul – why not?! – there are options. The direct ferry from Ancona (Italy) to Çeşme, 60 miles west of Ìzmìr, stopped in 2010 but it’s still possible-ish to sail to Turkey. Ships leave from Ancona or Brindisi to Igoumenitsa (six hour drive to Istanbul) or sail/ drive via Patras-Piraeus(Athens)-Rhodes-Marmaris (click for map). An expensive hassle or trip of a lifetime? For the full run down see aferry.co.uk or directferries.co.uk. We sailed overnight from Brindisi to Corfu in, er, 1987 and slept out on deck.
Leigh Turner joined the Foreign Office in 1983. Postings include Vienna, Moscow, Bonn and Berlin. He was previously HM Amassador to Ukraine. He has a huge patch. The South Caucasus is Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Central Asia is the ‘five -stans’: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. We recommend you follow FCO staff on Twitter. With their impeccable connections they go to some very interesting places.
All photographs © @LeighTurnerFCO/ Twitter. Huge thanks to Leigh Turner for his help.