Feb 11, 2015

A Day of Surprises

I'm in Turkey!

Last evening, between my five hour "afternoon nap" and the eight hours of sleep I got at night, I went over the possibilities for today's walk using my GPS app and searching for hotels, motels, hostels - anywhere I could spend the night within 40 kms of Lyubimets. 

After breakfast, I asked the motel owner if there was a hotel in Kapitan Andreevo, which is the last town in Bulgaria before the Turkish border. ‎ "Yes, there is, and my husband is driving there today. Would you like a ride?" (This in German.) I thanked her, but said I preferred to walk. It's only 28 kms, and after all the sleep I got yesterday, I was feeling good.

When I got to the outskirts of Svilengrad, the last major town before the border, I stopped for a coffee and asked the folks at the gas station the same question. My GPS app wasn't showing anything in Kapitan Andreevo, and my online search had turned up nothing. There was a brief consultation, and again I was told there was a hotel at my destination. (I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.)

I passed one hotel about 5 kms from Kapitan Andreevo, but it looked like it has been closed for a few years. At the first gas station in town, I bought a coffee and inquired about a hotel. Turkey or Svilengrad was the response.‎ The latter was 12 kms back the way I'd come, and the first hotel that I knew about in Turkey was about the same distance again. And the sun was rapidly approaching the horizon. I used the free WiFi to do another search, and then approached the men and asked about the hotel I'd passed earlier. As I suspected, that is closed, but after explaining where I'm from and what I'm doing, I got a more helpful answer. The nearest hotel in Turkey is 2 kms away, just across the border. (It was actually 4 kms, but never mind.)

I'd been planning to spend my last night in Bulgaria with my phone's translation app, building up my Turkish vocabulary, but that was clearly not going to happen before I crossed the border. I started to gather my things, and as if to prove me wrong in my somewhat unflattering description of Bulgarian hospitality in my last post, they gave me a bottle of water. This came a few hours after they wouldn't let me pay for my coffee in Svilengrad, and a day after a little old lady selling fruit gave me an orange. And how could I forget the wonderful people of Novi Han!‎ Clearly, not all Bulgarians are indifferent to strangers. (The exceptional staffers I met at the hostels and hotels are "professionals" in the hospitality industry, so they are not rrepresentative of the population as a whole.)

As I walked towards the border, it was with some apprehension. About an hour before I reached Kapitan Andreevo, a Border Police patrol had stopped me at the side of the road and asked to see my passport. They kept me standing there for at least half an hour as they flipped through the pages, recorded the details and made several phone calls. One of the officers had told me, "Tu‎rtsiya, ne" and I could see the line of trucks waiting at the border was at least 6 kms long. Had there been an incident? Was the border closed? When they read my passport details to the person on the receiving end of the phone call, had it been entered into a database that would cause problems when I tried to leave?

Well, since the very first sentence in this update was "I'm in Turkey!" it's obvious that I made it across. I was moving much faster than the line of trucks, but when I got to the border, the non-commercial traffic was nil. Four checkpoints later, I was safely across, and could even see the hotel from the last one.

So now it's time to get some Turkish vocab committed to memory, and get some sleep. (Kaan, the desk clerk at the hotel, told me he's probably the last English-speaking person I'll meet before I reach Istanbul. Thanks again for your help!) Tomorrow I'll be stopping for the day in Edirne, the first city I'll see in Turkey. My GPS app shows multiple hotels‎ in town, and it's only 20 kms away. 

After that, I don't know where I'll be staying. There are small towns about 25 or 30 kms apart along the direct route to Istanbul, but they're VERY small, with no indication of even a gas station in most. I may just hop a bus to Istanbul from Edirne, depending on what I am able to discover tomorrow when I arrive. Or perhaps I should just keep going and trust that things will work out. Walking to Istanbul should take about a week, and it's still too cold for camping out. If I'm unable to negotiate some sort of accommodation the first night after leaving Edirne, I'll be on the next bus to Istanbul.


  1. If you can get to Babeski, it looks like there are a few hotels there although a 53 km walk. Good luck. PS What GPS app are you using?

    1. Thanks, Kym, that's good to know! I'm using Navigator for BlackBerry 10, with the offline Open Street Maps for my data. They're not as comprehensive as Google Maps, but they're still pretty good. I was able to download the several GBs of data while still at home, and store it on my memory card instead of my phone's internal memory.


  2. 8th country, right ? well done !
    all the border controls are tougher now since bulgaria-turkey is the preferred route for the european jihadis.

    1. Yeah, I guess it is number eight. How 'bout that?

      I had no problem at all with the border crossing. It was just the patrol car that stopped me 6 kms out that kept me standing in the cold wind. Things might have been different if I was wearing my scarf, but I'll be keeping that packed safely away for quite some time. No need to attract unwanted attention, even if it is a wonderfully versatile piece of cloth.