Gregory Baranski

Trips :

Hitchhiking 3200km through the Middle East


I wrote a separate post about how I started hitchhiking. See How to hitchhike?.

Turkey - arrival

On July 12, I flew from Poland to Istanbul via Antalya, where I had to change to another terminal. It was my first time in this country and my first time in a muslim country - I’ve been shocked by people wearing burkas and head scarves. Living in Poland doesn’t give me such views and Muslims are almost non-existent here.

Düzce - Training Course

After a few hours in an old and crappy bus from Istanbul, we arrived in the city where the training was supposed to take place. What’s surprising - I met Karol, the guy who first inspired me to hitchhike. During the whole 5-day project we had one day off. Everyone wanted to go to the coast, 55 km from Düzce. They all agreed to take a bus, but me and Karol had a different idea - let’s hitchhike. Before they left, we asked them where exactly on the beach they’d be staying. It was my first hitchhiking experience abroad - at first it was quite difficult because we didn’t have a good starting point. After a few cars we finally arrived, the last part was walking about 2 kilometers on rocks because they went to a different beach than before. It was a really good lesson from such an experienced hitchhiker like Karol. He showed me how calm he is when he does that.

Hitchhiking with Karol Hitchhiking with Karol in a truck to Akçakoca.

On the 17th - the last day of the TC - I prepared the itinerary for the trip and what cities we’d like to see on the way.

Ankara - the first stop

July 18th, 9 am and from a small town near Istanbul we start the most exciting and budget friendly trip in my life (so far). We started by driving to the capital of Turkey - Ankara, where we found a host on After about 15 minutes of standing on the highway we found a car going straight to Ankara, we were treated with tea half way there, they didn’t speak English but we somehow managed to communicate with Google Translate.

Hitchhiking to our first stop - Ankara Hitchhiking to our first stop - Ankara.

The road to Ankara was full of cool views over desert-like terrain. We arrived and the first thing we did was buy hammocks from Decathlon, just as a backup plan in case we didn’t find anything. In the center I was quite amazed by how crowded, and these Turkish markets with fake everything are completely real.

We went straight to our host, not knowing that the apartment is right in the center of Ankara, with an amazing view of the whole city. We got some Turkish specialties from a friend of our host, they were amazing. In the evening we went to see his friends, I thought it would be hard for us to talk to them as we don’t speak Turkish. To our surprise, it was a very international group of friends. We spent an hour or two discussing social science and MBTI theory with a French guy who’s a lecturer in Turkey. Meeting with friends of our host

On the way home, we found the U.S. Embassy, and our host explained what was so wrong with it, while also explaining why there are X-ray scanners in every shopping mall. Turkey has had almost 50 terrorist attacks terrorism in the last 30 years. This was very surprising to us, coming from a country that has never had a single terrorist attack.

After we came back home we continued the conversation with the lecturer, he really fascinated me with the fact that he’s in a polyamorous and open relationship, at some point one of his girlfriends joined us and talked about her perspective. It’s really interesting, I’m not sure if I would like to have such a relationship, but it’s good to know that it can work.

Cappadocia - hot air balloons

The next day we started in the morning, and after a 30 minute bus ride from the center of Ankara, and a few minutes walk, we found a gas station - perfect place to find a ride straight to our first destination - Tuz Gölü, Turkey’s 2nd largest salty lake. We barely made a sign and a guy came up to us and said he could take us, but he had to go to the cemetery for something. That’s great, we waited next to the car and suddenly another guy came and told us that he would find something for us, we tried to explain to him that we already have a ride, but to no avail. He started asking random people at the gas station if they could give us a ride. No surprise that he found us another ride, we decided to go with the new guy, which turned out to be a really good decision :D.

Not only did he take us to the lake, he walked there with us and took us to our next destination - the city of Göreme, where we had a plan to sleep on hammocks until sunset and then watch hot air balloons.

We took an untypical route and saw all the rural areas and farms. Dogukan offered us to stay at his family home, it’s really amazing. The weather in this region turned out to be much colder during the nights, as the humidity is lower, so we’d definitely freeze in hammocks. I didn’t even take long pants, just shorts.

His place was really nice, he took us to the next town, Avanos, and we had a real kebab there.

We wanted to show them the Polish culture as well, so we made racuchy, which are similar to pancakes, but with apples inside. Racuchy - polish cuisine Racuchy - polish pancakes with apple filling and sugar powder on the top

Next day morning, we went to see the famous hot air balloons.

Famous hot air balloons in Cappadocia Famous hot air balloons in Cappadocia.

Coast area of the Black Sea

The plan was to drive about 6 hours from Cappadocia to the coastal city of Samsun. Ola screwed up the route and we ended up in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I took over the navigation and after an hour we’re back on the road. It took us a long time to get there, we arrived at midnight, and since we didn’t find anything on couchsurfing, we decided to sleep in hammocks, it took some time to find a suitable place, but finally we hung the hammocks on a random tree in a park, one on top of the other.

Sleeping on hammocks in Doğu Park, Samsun. Sleeping on hammocks in Doğu Park, Samsun.

Sleeping was good until around 4am when they turned on the watering system and we got sprayed.

We had nothing to do but lie on the concrete at the promenade and wait for the hammocks to dry.

Sleeping on the stone

Sleep wasn’t good, I had a bruise for a week or so after lying on some small pebble.

Throughout the trip we were pretty good about hygiene, we showered every day, this day was no exception - we went to some gym and asked if we could just take a shower, and they agreed! A simple shower at a random gym also ended up in a coffee at Starbucks with a guy from the gym staff and his friends who later told us what to see in the city. This is actually what I really like about hitchhiking, the fact that you can ask local people what to see, where as when you travel the typical - you only have the internet, which is exhausting and I don’t really want to go to those “famous tourist places”.

We spent only a few hours in this city and we went to Rize where my friend Bora had an aunt and she could host us.

The way there was really interesting. As we started waving our thumbs, some guys came up to us and asked where are we from, and then they really wanted to take pictures with us, I felt like an alien on earth being there, there were quite a few people around us, I think it’s very unusual for tourists to be there. Luckily one of them took us a few kilometers further, where there was a straight road to the destination.

If someone were to ask me “what was your most dangerous situation on the whole trip” it would be this - a story not about people wanting to do bad things to us, but about 3 guys in a car with us smoking crack, driving like crazy next to the police and barely hitting the truck in front of us when passing. I tried making some pictures, but they noticed and one guy warned me with crossed wrists, not sure what does it mean, maybe like jail? Luckily after a few minutes of ride, and them proposing us to smoke with them, we managed to get out at the gas station and find another ride.

We kind of underestimated the distance to the place we were supposed to sleep, and we got there around 3am. The host wasn’t mad, but I felt bad for her that she had to stay so late.

In the morning we had a really amazing breakfast with all the Turkish specialties. That’s another thing I really like about it, you get to sleep in real homes of real locals, and you get better food than you’d get in any restaurant.

Entering the mountains - Artvin

Unfortunately, we had to leave their home quickly to go to a local festival in Artvin. We were taken there by bus - but no, we didn’t break our rule of not spending anything on transport. Even though it doesn’t look far on the map, it took us quite some time to actually get there, it’s on top of one of the Turkish mountain ranges. The place where the festival took place was a beautiful valley in the forest about 1800m above sea level.

The whole festival looked similar to what we had during our childhood in Poland, this very rural kind of atmosphere. We played volleyball and danced traditional Turkish dances. I felt like everyone was looking at me, and I didn’t mind at all, I felt really unique - I was the only one with blonde hair and blue eyes. To my surprise, no one was drinking alcohol, in Poland we’d have a beer shop in the middle of everything, while they had tarpaulins and very small fireplaces.

Some Turkish guys invited us to their “camp”, we got connected because one of them had a friend who was studying in Poland, Kraków. They were really nice to us, it’s weird because we come from a country where people are generally mean and everywhere I go south it’s like “wow people are nice”.

That night we slept in the middle of the mountains at Bora’s dad’s place. We had a bit of a language barrier, but Bora translated into Turkish on the phone.

It was the first time I tasted mulberries or saw nuts on real trees. We even made it to the top of the local mosque.

Artvin Festival Artvin Festival in the mountains.

Escaping the mountains, on the way to Armenia

To get to Armenia we first had to get to Georgia, all borders between Turkey and Armenia are closed due to the conflict between these two countries, originating from the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

The plan was to at least get to Georgia that day, but we got out of Artvin a little late and after 2 cars we took, we got to a plateau in the mountains at ~2600m above sea level. It was a very small village with animal farms, and a local restaurant in the „centre”, I suppose that no more than 100 people lived there, and there was completely nothing around us, except of clouds running through us. The people who took us there invited us to have a tea with them, and they also started asking people if they were going downhill. We knew we had to get out of there, the cold would definitely make us sick, I guess it was around 10-15C, and I didn’t even have long pants with me.

Hitchhiking in the plateu Hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere.

There was almost no traffic on the road, and it was quickly getting colder and darker. After an hour, with the help of the guy who brought us here, we finally found a car. It was full in the European sense, but not in the Turkish sense. One of the guys from the front seat decided to move to the back seat so that my friend Ola could sit comfortably.

Sitting in 4 people on the back seat Sitting in 4 people on the back seat - safety rules are different in here.

We got to the nearby city. My liquids leaked in my backpack, so we stopped in a gas station. See Packing Liquids by

Gas station snack In the new city we’ve been greeted with sunflower seeds, watermelon and a coffee by strangers at a gas station.

Given the fact that it’s 10pm, we had two options: A) sleep somewhere in hammocks, continue hitchhiking in the morning or B) continue now. Traffic was super light, Ola put on a reflective t-shirt and we started walking and waving our thumbs at the same time, shortly after we were in a big truck on the way to Tbilisi, not our destination, but at least it’s in Georgia. We reached the border 2 hours later. And that was the start of our problems. First of all, they didn’t let us through the border because it was too late and it was already closed. We had checked before if the border was open, but the guy who took us took a different route and we ended up at another border crossing that happened to be open only for transit.

There was no hostel or anything nearby, so we started looking for a tree to hang the hammocks on. While we were trying to hang our hammocks, a stray dog started walking around our backpacks, I was afraid he was going to pee on our stuff, so I took a rock and started banging it against a metal sign making a lot of noise - it worked. We were on a side road that led to a fenced area. A few minutes after making the noise, we noticed a guy standing on the road, about 50 meters away from us. We didn’t really care, we hung the hammocks on the road signs because there was no other option.

Hammocks on the TR-GE border Sleeping in hammocks on Turkey-Georgia border.

I was just about to fall asleep, and then I noticed a car coming down the main road - if I looked closely, it was a military car. Anyway, they passed us.

A minute or two later, they’re back, this time taking a turn onto the side road where we’re sleeping.

They got out the car and asked for our passports, even though they were from military, they were really cool about it, but Ola was really scared and told me a couple of times to shut up and stop laughing.

It wasn’t like we have to get out of here right now, it was more like could you please reconsider sleeping here, there’s a bear nearby and it’s inappropriate to hang hammocks from street signs.

Since the fenced-in building turned out to be some kind of military base, they wanted us to delete all pictures of the border. Putting them in the hidden photos folder was easier than they thought.

I couldn’t let go and asked if I could take a picture with them, unfortunately they refused.

They left us after a while.

Good night 💤 …. 30 minutes later the rain woke us up 🌧️.

It was getting more and more intense. So after we got wet enough we made the decision to get out of here and find some shelter.

All we found was a mosque with a pavilion in front of it. But that was enough for us, we put four benches together and made something like a bed. They even had a toilet next to the mosque, not the cleanest I’ve seen, but still, I can’t imagine having a toilet next to a church in Poland.

Sleeping in front of a mosque on the Turkey-Georgia border. Sleeping in front of a mosque on the Turkey-Georgia border.

Georgia - intermediate country for Armenia

We crossed the border! On the other side we saw only trucks waiting for their break. Everyone spoke Russian, which is great because Polish is kind of similar - Я не говорю по русски я понимаю по русски чуть чуть.

It took us about 2 hours to get any ride, our first stop was Akhaltsikhe. I am not a religious person myself, but we saw something that really made us feel “at home” - it was a Catholic church.

First catholic church on our journey. First catholic church on our journey.

Everything looked so Soviet, it reminds me of photos of Poland from the 80s. And the European Union flags everywhere - even though they’re not part of it.

Georgian Police Station

Georgia had more EU Flags than any European country I’ve been to - even though Georgia is not even in EU.

A very nice couple here, who spoke very good English, took us all the way to the Armenian border.

Georgia-Armenia border crossing Modern Georgia-Armenia border.

Armenia, bumpy roads, warm rain and post-soviet cities

What we saw on the other side was just an empty road with just a few trucks parked in parallel. Waiting for hike We divided our roles - I watched the road and waited for a car to come, and Ola slept.

Girls from Czechia While waiting, we’ve found a group of fellow hitchhikers from Czech Republic.

The traffic was almost zero. As soon as we found a car we were greeted with a question ты знаешь русский язык? - Do you know Russian? These are the moments when I regret not learning the language. The next question was about the Armenian Genocide, do we even know what happened? And yes, we do, but for me it was hard to believe that they really care - it happened over 100 years ago and they still remember.

We arrived in the very first city - Gyumri. It was super rainy and we sat on the floor of a pharmacy vestibule trying to get internet and charge our phones. When it calmed down for a while, we moved on to Yerevan.

Yerevan - the capital city of Armenia

Ola had friends there, so we were ready to have a good experience and see a lot of Armenia, and so were we. The first night we decided to spend in a hostel because all our stuff is wet, we found one and went there, it was about 8000 AMD (~15$ for both of us). We took a shower, charged our phones and I was getting ready to sleep, but then I noticed that there were a lot of bed bugs on our bed. We thought - if all our stuff is already dry and we don’t have to find a shower, why don’t we just sleep in hammocks and get a refund? There was no one at the front desk, so we found a girl from Russia who wanted to check in. She was very helpful, she explained to the hostel owner in Russian that we didn’t want to sleep there and that we wanted a refund. He laughed, we don’t know what he said, but he finally gave us the money back.

The next day we visited one of the oldest churches and a temple.

Temple in Gyumri Temple in Gyumri, Armenia.

The next two days we spent at Ola’s friend’s house, it was a really nice time. We had a chance to try the real Armenian culture, food and everything.

At-home dinner in Yerevan Armenian at-home dinner in Yerevan

One thing we couldn’t miss was the Armenian Genocide Museum - a very important historical event that still lingers in the minds of Armenians.

Museum of Genocide Armenian Genocide Museum.

Tbilisi - the capital city of Georgia

Back to Georgia, took us a few hours to get there.

The way there was through rural areas, we saw a lot of post-Soviet buildings. This night we were supposed to spend on couchsurfing. The guy’s home was amazing, the water under the shower came from geysers, but it had this very intense sulfur smell.

Nothing interesting though, lots of tourists, but the botanical garden was nice.

Botanical Park in Armenia Bamboos in the Botanical Garden of Tbilisi

The city was very touristy, not the vibe I am a fan of.

Batumi - coastal town

The guy who took us half-way to Batumi was really amazing, he studied at Oxford University, he spoke really amazing English. And after just a few words he guessed that we were Polish - or maybe he saw the flag? At that time my Polish accent was quite audible. We even received a gift from him - Georgian sweet bread.

As we approached Batumi, I noticed that the area is super green - and as we further noticed, it’s not the same with the city itself.

We spent the night on deck chairs we found on the beach.

Sleeping on the beach Sleeping in Batumi, on random deck chairs we’ve found.

Monument to Lech Kaczyński Monument to Lech Kaczyński - former Polish president who died in a plane crash in Smoleńsk. His brother now leads the Polish conservative government.

Kutaisi - coming back home

Ola had her flight at 4am and I had mine at 10am. We arrived at midnight the night before and slept on the floor of the airport.

In the morning I met a guy from Russia who told me a lot about the country. It kind of inspired me to start learning Russian and maybe go to Russia next year.

EDIT: See Hitchhiking Asia.


All this is really developing my patriotic values. I’ve never been proud of being European, nor Polish, and sometimes I still hide that fact, especially in Western Europe where it’s full of Polish immigrants - I don’t want to be seen as cheap labor taking jobs from the locals. But on this trip I felt really proud to be European - most of the people we met didn’t even have a chance to enter Europe because of visa restrictions.


We went to 3 countries, 3 capitals, 22 cities and 3200 km in total. It took us about 13 days and we met a lot of amazing and friendly people. I knew it would be easy to hitchhike in this region, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT easy and enjoyable.

CountryDurationExpenseExpense in USD
Turkey5 days643.45 TRY23.86 $
Armenia3 days2470 AMD6.38 $
Georgia4 days136.34 GEL52.44 $
Total12 days———-82.68 $

I didn’t pay for the flight to Istanbul because it was covered by the Erasmus+ program. For the flight back to Poland from Kutaisi I paid 88$, but it could be cheaper if I’d bought the ticket in advance.Was it your cheapest trip so far? Yes, it was. Was it the most exciting trip so far? Also yes! And nobody will tell me that you need a lot of money to travel, you just need to open your mind and lower your standards - 4 nights were outdoors, but the rest? Couchsurfing and drivers met on the way! Could you do it even cheaper? Yes, just leave out Tbilisi and Batumi, which were expensive as hell - they’re very touristy places.

Decision on no internet

The whole trip we didn’t have internet. Only public WiFi’s and hotspots. I’ve downloaded Turkey in the Organic Maps app, and Turkish and Russian language in the iOS built-in Translate app. I am really happy because of this, we completely relied on each other and met people on the way. Still, I felt a lot of freedom, I didn’t have to check if someone wrote to me or wanted something.

On the way to Yerevan Hitchhiking to Yerevan - the capital city of Armenia.

Photo collage

Map of our journey

Places we have visited

  1. 🇹🇷 Düzce
  2. 🇹🇷 Ankara
  3. 🇹🇷 Lake Tuz
  4. 🇹🇷 Avanos
  5. 🇹🇷 Göreme
  6. 🇹🇷 Samsun
  7. 🇹🇷 Pazar-Rize
  8. 🇹🇷 Ardanuç
  9. 🇹🇷 Çurisbil Yaylası
  10. 🇹🇷 Sakarya
  11. 🇹🇷 Cehennem Deresi Kanyonu
  12. 🇹🇷 Ardahan
  13. 🇹🇷 Türkgözü
  14. 🇬🇪 Akhaltsikhe
  15. 🇦🇲 Gyumri
  16. 🇦🇲 Yerevan
  17. 🇦🇲 Sevan
  18. 🇬🇪 Tbilisi
  19. 🇬🇪 Batumi
  20. 🇬🇪 Kutaisi Airport