Tuesday, 14 August 2012

THE DOLMUŞ - SO MUCH MORE THAN A BUS IN RURAL TURKEY


We currently don't have a car in Turkey, the jury is still out as to whether we really need to have one here or not. Cars are very expensive to buy here - several thousand lira for what in England we would consider a £500 old banger, also petrol is extremely expensive here. So at the moment we rely on public transport, which in Turkey is the Dolmuş (mini-buses) for local routes or the Otobüs (coaches) for the longer journeys. It is very easy to get pretty well anywhere you want to in Turkey on one or the other. But for the moment I am concentrating on the Dolmuş, which we have now used several times and we feel each time we use one we are setting off on an unknown adventure.

Most visitors to Turkey will have used a dolmuş at one time or another to get from a to b, and they are a great experience. Although each dolmuş has a start and finish point, in between these there are no bus stops (apart from on some city/town routes), you basically get on and off wherever you like.

OUR VILLAGE DOLMUS FETHIYE TO UZUMLU WITH IT'S GREEN FRONT
 If you want to get on it's easy, you just stick out your arm like hailing a London cab, the driver stops as soon as he can and you climb on board. If you're lucky you get a seat, or you may have to stand. It is usual to pay when you board the dolmuş, by giving your money to the driver, obviously as they are driving at the time it is best if you can give the correct fare, but if not they are very adept at counting money whilst driving! They also talk on their mobile phones, catch sight of any prospective fares walking along the road - in which case they will pip their horn to see if they want to get on, listen for people wanting to get off at random places, carry on conversations with people on the bus and cope with the Turkish traffic which is another subject all on it's own. Being a dolmuş driver is clearly not for the person who cannot multitask!! If when you get on the dolmuş you are swept down the other end of the bus from the driver, it is quite normal to pass the money to the person in front of you who will in turn pass it on down the dolmuş, any change appearing back with you shortly as other passengers pass it back to you from the driver.

To make it even easier each dolmuş is colour coded according to it's route. Our local Fethiye to Uzumlu one is green, others have yellow, blue, red, black fronts so that you can see as they approach if it is yours or not, long before you can read the sign on the front. Also in general they run regularly and to time. The British transport system could certainly learn a lot from them.

The Ölüdeniz dolmuş is white with blue writing

Getting off for us non Turkish speaking people, is of course more of a problem and I think some of us are telling little porkies here if we say we have not on occasion got off later than we would have liked, because of the utter fear of making a spectacle of ourselves trying to attract the drivers attention from the back of the bus. I understand that it is usual to say one of the following:
"Inecek Var" (someones getting off)
"Musait bir yerde inebilir miyim?" (Can I get off at a convenient place?)
"Musait bir yerde!" (Somewhere suitable!)
Musait bir yerde indirir misiniz?" (Will you let me get off somewhere convenient?)
or just "Dur lutfen" (stop please).

But so far we just stand and dither and hope the driver catches sight of us. What a pair of wimps we are - but early days, I'm sure we will get braver.

Whilst all of the above is fairly standard for any dolmuş ride, the rural routes such as our dolmuş to Uzumlu is often a little different. For a start the drivers know everyone in the villages and exactly where they live, so they will automatically draw up right outside their house if it is en route, or as close as possible if they live up a side road.

A lot of villagers use the dolmuş to do their main shopping and will get on laden with bag after bag, particularly on market days, which are spread all along the aisles. Unlike in the UK where most people look the other way, the other passengers enthusiastically help with the loading and unloading of these goods. We have heard of someone who brought a washing machine home on the dolmuş with most of the people on the bus contributing to the heaving to get it on board!

As we have already mentioned in a previous blog, our milk is delivered by the driver twice a week, as is other people's who live out of the village. We have often seen unaccompanied 'objects' being put on the dolmuş for instance last time it was a motor off something, which when the driver drew up outside the service engineers in Fethiye a guy appeared on the pavement and took it into his shop. No doubt it travelled back the same way when it had been mended! It is quite normal for large bags of 'whatever' to be dropped off at the shops in the village.

We have sat on the bus in Uzumlu square and waited whilst the driver uses his mobile phone to check whether someone who is normally on that dolmuş is not coming or is just late. We have waited at points along the route for people to appear whose friends have asked the driver to wait for them. But one of the most bizarre was when we drew up outside a bakers shop in Fethiye and a youngster on the dolmuş was given some money by an elderly Turkish couple, he disappeared into the shop only to reappear a few moments later with their shopping and change and we all proceeded on our way again!

In our opinion these drivers are to be applauded for their service to the rural communities, we think they are absolutely brilliant!

So as well as providing us with the transport we need, we love the trips on the dolmuş when we are never quite sure how it is going to turn out and of course whether this is the trip where we dare to say in Turkish we would like to get off!



2 comments:

  1. They are so luxurious now compared to 15 years ago. I could go on and on with dolmus tales of my own, but one of my highlights was going up the hill out of Fethiye towards Olu Deniz when the 12 or so of us that were standing had to duck down so that the Jandarma Police didnt see how overloaded we were.
    Another time the driver was sharing round his bottle of Fanta, another time we were walking and had no money but the driver stopped and insisted on taking us, another time...
    I do miss the dolmus since getting a car! As you say it's an adventure and you never know what will happen next....

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  2. We loved reading about your experiences on the dolmus Linda. We can just imagine 12 people all bent double avoiding the Jendarma - brilliant!! Anyone else got experiences to add? We'd all love to hear them!

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