that ugly old fart

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People often ask me about walking and the difficulties that it entails. Physical challenges come up, loneliness, bad dudes, mean animals, illness, or just traffic accidents.

But there is one major obstacle that looks a lot less exciting than any of above: it’s that ugly old fart called bureaucracy. For some of the countries on my way, getting the necessary documents to walk through can be quite challenging. And I don’t mean to complain: I know that traveling with a German passport is relatively easy.

Nonetheless, I had to wait four months for a 15-day window to walk through Turkmenistan. I traveled in and out of Uzbekistan and Iran (and Kazakstan, and Azerbaijan, and China…) several times in order to get new visas.

There is no support team behind me. It’s just the Caboose and me, trying to walk home from China to Germany. I don’t have any strings that I can pull when it comes to bureaucratic obstacles on the way.

So today, when I had a question about my passport, I went to the immigration office of Samsun. Everyone was very nice. They were completely swamped by applicants (mostly from Iraq and Syria) but they still found a bit of time to look at my problem. They even gave me tea.

So what was the problem?

You see, here in Turkey, things seem quite easy at first. Being a German, I get 90 days within a 180-day period to spend visa-free in the country. Having entered on September 18th, this means I’ll have to leave the country by mid-December, then wait for another three months before I can come back.

The problem is I didn’t originally enter on September 18th. There was an earlier time on June 5th, when I was on a connecting flight via Istanbul, and I (for unknown reasons) ended up leaving the airport and going back in. This left me with an entry stamp from June 5th, which means that my 180-day period might have started back then.

In the beginning the people from the immigration office each said something different, but after reading up on the guidelines and making a few calls, it was concluded that I will have to leave by December 1st, because my 180-day period will be running out by then. And after that, I’ll have to wait until March 18th to come back to Turkey.

They were very sorry. It was all so complicated, and it couldn’t be helped. They smiled a lot as they offered me more tea.

downtown Samsun

mosque dome in Samsun

immigration office of Samsun

minibus in Samsun

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