Meis, Greece / Kaş, Turkey, March 2012
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What to do when the visa is going to expire and you want to stay a little longer in the country that you love? Either you beg the officials in the migration office for an extension or you leave the country to get a new stamp. Well, we tried our luck in the migration office at Fethiye and failed to get a new visa stamp. Instead the migration officers advised us to visit the Greek Island Meis for a new visa renewal . At first all this idea seemed quite complicated, but in the end it turned out to be hassle free and a lot of fun.
Meis is a small Greec Island about three kilometers away from the Turkish coast. The Greeks call it Megisti or Kastillorizo. Less than 400 people live in the small village in the hilly island. Once a week (Friday’s) Meis Express provides a ferry towards the Turkish Kaş. In summer there are tours to Rhodes offered also.
On February 1st a new immigration law came into being that restricts European tourists to a maximum 90 days stay within a period of 180 days. A great difference from before where you could renovate your visa every 90 days and stay for an indefinite amount of time. In our case the new law did not come into effect because we entered the country before February 1st. So we were still eligible to reenter the country once more and renovate for another 90 days without having to apply for residency if we wanted to stay more than those 90 days. The new law only applies to the first entry of the country after February 1st and the 180 days will start counting with that day also. But people kept telling us that there was no way to avoid it.
We did a lot of research on different places: the passport office in Fethiye, the Turkish friend and consulter of all foreigners who knows everything about the visa and the new laws, the Mexican consul and various foreign friends and acquaintances who were also passing through the same problem. The answers could not vary more. “That is no problem at all”, we have heard once only. It took the passport officer full 15 minutes of research and several phone calls to reach to this optimistic point of view. A Mexican for sure was an uncommon case. More frequently we heard: “A second entry is not possible (for Annika / for Roberto / for either of them)”. Weird was the following one: “Mexico has a visa type B, that is why a second entry is not possible, for Germans there is no problem.”. And one of our favorites: “Generally it is possible to extend the visa, but currently there is no official working in Meis. It is possible to visit the island but not to extend the visa there. Maybe there will be one again in summer.”
All those pessimistic remarks challenge us. We want to prove the opposite, so we call the only company that offers ferrys to Meis in winter: Meis Express.
The manager Fethi Kemal Öztürk calls us back from his private cell phone. Yes, there is still space for us in the Friday’s ferry. But the online offered price of 20 € has risen on 100 Turkish Lira, more than double. “Usually it is only 60 Lira”, Fethi defends himself, “but if there are less than 50 persons in the ferry we have to take 100 Lira to make profit.”
Though our hard working hands and legs are needed in Adrenalin Village we leave the bikes in their shelter and make our way to the central bus station on the evening before the ferry leaves. The bus takes more than two hours for the 107 kilometers along the hilly coast. We talk to the driver who recommends us his friend’s cheap pension.
While we are waiting for his friend to give us a ride, our driver looks up and waives towards a man who is having a cigarette on his balcony. The man waives back to him.
“By the way, that is the Meis Express Manager”, our new friend explains to us. We look at each other and then back to the robust man in the cozy pyjama. Roberto shouts up to him: “Hello, I am Roberto!” – “From Fethiye?” – “Yes!” – “Did you bring your passports? You can leave them here with me.” Why should we leave our travel passports in that stranger’s flat? Fethi shouts something else down to us. We do not understand him. So he disappears from his balcony to appear shortly after with us on the street. Still in his slippers he explains that we can either leave our passports with him now and meet him at 9.50 am the following day or that we could bring them at 8.30 am to his office. Neither of us likes to get up too early so we leave our passports with him.
By the following morning we walk towards the harbor. We have underrated the beauty of the small center of Kaş and are already looking forward to discover it in the afternoon with some more time. We are happy to meet Fethi again – this time shaved, in street clothes and shoes – and pay for the ferry. Now he has our money and our passports and we did not even get a ticket. I feel the nervousness coming up. After a while he calls out each passenger’s name and asks us to enter the ferry. We are 25 passengers today. Fethi waves us goodbye. We can only hope to see him and our passports again in the afternoon.
Meis is very beautiful. We hike up the hills and enjoy the view down into the bay. Then we walk back through the little village and allow ourselves a comparatively cheap beer (1 € compared to the 1.50€ in Turkey). The water is clear, the sun shines bright and Greek music permeates through the blue-white taverns on the shore. There are sunbathing cats everywhere and the smell of sea water and roasted fish enters our noses.
In the afternoon we return to the mainland. We are relieved to get our passports back after only half an hour. Roberto has a new sticker and I have a new stamp for leaving and another one for entering the country. But we have never seen any official. We spend the afternoon discovering Kaş, eat an İskender Döner and play dominoes and okey. We just got up to walk towards the bus station when a driver blows his horn. It is Fethi and he offers us a ride. He lives next door to the bus station anyway. In the car Fethi complains about
the new law. „Today we have only had four passengers who went to Meis ‚just for fun‘, all the others came for the visa. We will have some more visa-tourists by the end of April and then the law will be completely established.” Usually Meis Express operates daily in summertime, but Fethi is sure that from this year on there will be a lot less passengers.
We can say from our own experience: Meis is worth a visit – not only for the visa. It is a calm island perfect to relax, hike and feast. If you are close, stop by! Perhaps you will have the opportunity to stumble upon the spooky cat that Roberto called “Evil Cat” for its weird eyes. If you do – let us know!
Tel: +90 53 23 31 9759
Manager: Fethi Kemal Öztürk