Enjoy Istanbul with Marc Guillet

Turkish prime minister bus driver again for TV show

11 Jan
Written by Marc Guillet
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Turkish prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, told the story of his life in a special way, behind the wheel of a Mercedes 302 model bus. Driving along the highways of mega city Istanbul. Interviewed by Dutch TV program maker Wilco van Herpen (54) in his new series ‘Gönül Dağı’ (Mountain of Love) on TRT state TV.

Wilco, a Dutch cook, photographer and popular TV personality in Turkey, who calls himself ‘the blond Turk’, has been living in Turkey since 1999.

During the show, the former minister of transportation, drove the same Mercedes 302 model bus as the one he was driving as a young university student in the transportation business of his father. The interview went on as the two had drove along from the recently built Osmangazi Bridge, spanning the Gulf of Izmit, to the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus strait, to the north of two existing suspension bridges in Istanbul. A total of 73 km.

Yıldırım proudly told Wilco how he was responsible for building all these roads and bridges as a minister of transportation.

He said this was a great opportunity for him to drive after 15 years and reminded him of his youth.

“When I came to Turkey for the first time in 1987 as a tourist, I travelled in a bus like this”, Wilco said. “It was hot, there was no air condition, no mobile phones nor internet. But it was beautiful because you talked with people. I didn’t speak Turkish than but it was great”.

Yıldırım: “I started working with my father in 1978. We bought a bus and operated this business until 1984. I travelled all over Turkey. Back then I didn’t think about becoming a minister or a prime minister. When I was a kid, back in our village, I used to go to school and help my father with his businesses. I worked in the fields during the summers. I would see planes flying high and wondered who were in the planes, and where they were going. I wished I was in those planes”. Wilco grew up in a village as well and replied that he felt the same way when he saw planes.

Reminiscing about the good old days in his village Van Herpen said: “People sometimes underestimate children from villages. But a child from the village can grow up to become a minister and a prime minister”.

Yıldırım: “It is possible for everyone to become anything they want in Turkey. I, from Kayı village in Erzincan, son of Topal Dursun, went to school, worked hard, and I have come to where I am now. I advise our youth to work hard for the future of this country”.

During the interview, Van Herpen mentioned his visits to Turkey before settling there permanently in 1999. “In 1994 I came to Turkey from the Netherlands with a minibus. We were 3 friends. One of us came later by a plane. We went to Atatürk Airport to pick him up. We parked in front of the entrance, it was a small airport. We picked him up and the adventure began. But now, the airport is huge”.

Yıldırım added that the new, third airport in Istanbul that is being built, will have the capacity of 200 million people, more than 10 times of the population of the Netherlands.

“I settled in Turkey in 1999. My friends used to ask ‘Wilco, don’t you miss the Netherlands?’. I would say ‘no, it only takes 3-3,5 hours to get back there’. But later my mother and father got sick. I realized that it actually took me 7 to 8 hours to get back to my village. During their sickness, I longed for seeing, embracing and kissing them. But it didn’t happen. Those were hard times for me”.

Yıldırım, who lost his mother at a young age, told how this helped him develop strong ties with his family as the oldest brother.

It wasn’t only Wilco who asked questions. Yıldırım asked him if he was happy living in Turkey. “I came to Turkey in 1999 with two suitcases and my camera bag on my shoulder. I had 1.000 Dutch guilders, which is approximately 500 Euros now. I started from zero, met my wife at Istanbul Film Festival, got married. In that way I got a new family. I lost my mother and father, but I had her mother and father. I am doing what I love. Şira, my daughter was born. So what else should I want? I travel all the time all around Turkey. I eat great food. Because the food in Turkey is utterly different. The food in the Netherlands is good but not a very wide range of regional different dishes”.

Both agreed on their favourite food: Kokorec, a famous street food made by grilling sheep intestines. Yıldırım added the president Erdoğan loves Kokoreç too.

As they drove along the northern forests Yıldırım said: “In Turkey we have four seasons at the same time. The highest height in the Netherlands is only 110 meters. The last time I took my daughter to the Netherlands, she asked ‘are there any mountains?’. I said ‘No, that’s it’”.

The two also talked about how they got married. Yıldırım asked how Wilco’s wife’s parents reacted to their relationship. “At the beginning, I didn’t have a job. It was strange for them, but things changed as I began to be seen on TV. They have found it cool”.

The show ended after prime minister Yıldırım drove his bus over the third bridge over the Bosporus. Wilco gave Yıldırım a mug as a gift with tulips painted on it. The prime minister thanked the host of the show saying: “This is typical of the Netherlands. But you know, tulips were brought from Turkey in the Ottoman times”.

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