Hitchselfie: Gaziantep to Hatay/Antakya/Antioch (Turkey)

I hitchhiked from Gaziantep – also known as Antep – to Hatay in Turkey. But Hatay is also known as Antakya and Antioch. Which version should I even write down on my cardboard hitchhiking sign? Speaking of signs, somewhere at the on-ramp of the highway, I took this hitchselfie next to a road sign. I really like the composition in this photo. The sign says that this is a highway and that one shouldn’t walk, cycle, ride a horse cart, or a tractor from this sign onward. I’m super neat, so I’m not walking beyond the sign. When a car eventually stops, I can run pretty fast so they don’t idle on the road for too long.

But… I need to tell you, readers, something about this post: I don’t remember the context of this photo besides the faint memories that each city name had nicknames and old names and that this confused the shit out of me. So bear with me while I try to retrace what I did in Gaziantep that sunny day in late autumn 2014.

Retracing My Steps in Gaziantep

I published this post in 2014, but I’m re-editing it in 2020. On my old Tumblr (the original version of this blog), I posted this photo with the following  text:

#hitchselfie #hitchhiking #selfie #Turkey (Published on: 14 Nov 2014, @22:45)

Nothing else. Nada. Jesus, I really wasn’t doing myself or anyone else any favors with this. Now it wasn’t unusual for me to publish a photo several days (or months) after the facts. I couldn’t backdate with the Tumblr tool. So the date and time on this post didn’t mean shit, which is why I now backdated this entire post to make it more accurate.

Retracing my steps and the story behind this picture isn’t easy. I kept a hitchhiking notebook, but the last time I was at my mom’s place I couldn’t find it. Inside the notebook are descriptions of all my hitches through Turkey. I wish my camera had GPS because I couldn’t remember for sure the exact location of this photo or the context. I found one spot on Google Streetview that seems to match the photo. There’s the crash barrier I’m leaning against, the traffic sign, a toll booth in the background, and some white-and-blue buildings. I’m 98% sure this is the place. And I’m also fairly sure, judging by the shadows, that it’s the afternoon in this photo.

From the photos that I have from this trip, I’m assuming this happened on the 11th of November 2014. Because the original photo is dated to that day at 12:30. I know from my Iran photos that the time on my dumb camera was 1.5 to 2 hours off. This could mean that the time is only 1 to 1.5 hours off in Turkey because of the timeshift. I have photos from the same day but at earlier times that clearly show some of the history, culture, beauty, and cuisine of Gaziantep. Among other sights, there’s a picture of Gaziantep Castle. Fifty minutes later, there’s this picture of me hitchhiking near this toll booth.

But walking from Gaziantep Castle to this toll booth is 10.3 kilometers or 2 hours and 11 minutes of walking, according to Google. The simple explanation is that I took short rides and hitchwalked to the toll booth. I highly doubt that I took public transit to cut down on the time needed to arrive at this toll booth.

Then there’s the evidence from Facebook; on the 11th of November 2014 at 00:12, I posted the following:

[… embarrasing Turkish translation of the following…] Hello friends! I am in Gaziantep right now and looking for a place to sleep. If you can reccomend a cheap hostel or a nice mosque I am totally up for hearing it. Or if you’re here and have a couch for me to sleep on that would be super awesome! Cheers mate!

Now I can’t believe that I was searching for a host in Gaziantep after midnight. I also can’t believe that Facebook would fuck up the dates and times of old posts. Therefore, I must believe Facebook. Even when under that same post, I apparently wrote to my friends that thanks to them, I’d found a host in Gaziantep… at 2:23 in the morning…

[BIG NOTE: I’m editing this post from Malaysia, which is five hours ahead of Turkey. So perhaps when the Facebook post says 00:12, I might have actually written it five hours earlier. That makes a lot more sense. Then I would have searched for a host at 19:12. I can’t believe that a mall would have opening times beyond 23:00.]

BUT! There’s one note from my old note app that I managed to salvage from the wreckage that is my old tablet. I wrote it on November 11, 2014 (1:38) and it says this:

Gaziantep Üniversitesi

I don’t think my old note app would use timestamps that adjust to my current timezone. If this says 1:38, I must have written it at 1:38 in the morning.

But did I… did I really take a tram at night from elsewhere in Gaziantep to the university to couchsurf? Hmmm… So I went into my Facebook messages to find out who hosted me and voilà, I found the story. Perhaps this is where I should have started after all, because this began to tickle my memory. Ah yes, I was in a mall, using the internet to communicate with my Russian friend Maria who put me into contact with my host in Gaziantep. His name is Kerem.

The Story of Gaziantep

Apparently, I visited Göbekli Tepe nearby Şanlıurfa on the 10th of November in the morning/afternoon together with my host from Şanlıurfa. From there I hitchhiked from Göbekli Tepe to Gaziantep, perhaps with a little help from my host and driver beforehand. I don’t know how long this hitchhiking journey took and how many drivers there were, but it’s only 165 kilometers so it shouldn’t have taken long.

My final driver dropped me off at Sanko AVM. Back in Turkey, it was my habit to always ask to be dropped off at a mall (Turkish: AVM) so that I could use the internet and have a drink. Then I’d try to find a host by hanging out on Facebook for hours. I didn’t see anything from Gaziantep on the 10th.

Somewhere after midnight, my Russian friend Maria put me into contact with a guy named Kerem. He could host me as long as I would leave in the morning, which wasn’t a problem.

I told him where I was, which was at a café in the mall called Life Point. It allowed smoking indoors and probably had beer, that’s why. He actually came to pick me up, which took another 40 minutes. Then we took this photo together and sent it to Maria before I probably hopped on the tram with him to the University of Gaziantep. That tram only opened up in 2011, but it definitely existed during my visit.

Kerem Gaziantep couchsurfing hitchhiking retracing steps

The next morning, I left. I took the tram for the first time alone back into the old town and wandered around Gaziantep. Apparently, I’d forgotten my breakfast at his place. Maria and Kerem had told me that Gaziantep is famous for its sweets, so I searched and found Gaziantep baklava. Then I probably hitchwalked to this spot where I took this photo before hitchhiking to Hatay/Antakya/Antioch. When Kerem messaged me

What’s Are the Lessons?

As someone who cares about accuracy, I should have taken steps to record my trips better much earlier. I had a map where I pinned my location, but when the map updated, those flags were lost. Perhaps things would be clearer if I still had that map. But the main lessons are:

  • Take better notes
  • Make sure your camera is on the right date and time
  • Make backups
  • Backdate posts to the right date
  • Publish while the story is still fresh
  • Don’t rely on your digital notes, notebooks, coordinates, or photos still being there in a couple of months or years, even if you store them at a trusted place

Basically, I did almost everything right when I wrote about the Danube trip in 2019; after kayaking, I wrote it all down, uploaded the photos and videos, and made a post out of it. That’s how you end up writing 153.000 words about half a river. No regrets there.

Now, was this a useful exercise? Was this a useful post for my readers who surely dig into six-year-old posts on my blog? Maybe yes, maybe no, but at least I can finally sleep well after solving this post.

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