3 June 2021
Leaving today, I notice that my very first trip has started at exactly the same date last year. My lucky day, I guess! 😉 And I still did not know that I am actually going to Istanbul…
You can also fallow the trip in Polarsteps and not to overload the post with pictures, most of the photos you can find at the end of it divided into galleries.
The first person who did stop for me was Selime – a nice and smiling lady, who in less than 10 km distance, managed to give me all her contact information with the assurance that whenever I needed help, I could seek her out. Thank you, Selime!! The world needs more people like you!
Do you remember Stoyan from my first trip this time last year? Here he is at the photo above. Together with his brother and his wife. I finally managed to meet Milena, who turned out to be exactly the great person I had heard so much about. Thank you my friends!! I had really great time in the company of the three of you and I didn’t notice how the time flew by! I hope to see you again soon! ❣️
Stoyan took me far enough to be sure that I would get out of the starting rain 🤗 and it took not to long to reach my final destination. Although between Haskovo and Kardzhali I witnessed a heavy motorbikee/car crash. The driver I was traveling with, went to help and waited for the ambulance. I stayed in the car and put on my headphones so as not to provide a second patient for the medics. There were enough people there, they didn’t need blood fainting at the sight. For a brief moment, the picture stuck in my head. Still, it benefited from all the video tutorials – for a split second I scanned the rider’s equipment. It was just a jacket and helmet, not much but I hope it was enough to protect him!
I don't care who was right and who wrong - the motorcyclists are always who pay the fine. Stay safe, guys!!
And so as not to end the day with a painful feeling, I will tell you about the “nail in the program” – the offer I received today. “I hope it’s not very cheeky, but would you give me a blowjob?” Whereupon I burst out laughing sincerely and asked him – now do you understand why I hitchhike, where on the bus one could find such emotions?! My laughter bothered him, he actually blushed! However, he obviously felt that I was genuinely having fun with no bad feelings and did not take offence. Just apologise and we changed the subject. 😜
And there is no need to say that all people who did stop for me was truck drivers, right? (Except Selime, but she was also a professional driver.) For a change though, they weren’t all Stoyan like the last time… 😆
5 June 2021 – Kardzhali
I have no idea what a magic this town has, but it definitely does. At least for me. Most of the turning points in my life are somehow connected to it and I keep coming back. It’s kind of special relationship that we have with Kardzhali. ❣️
And just like that, I have my first ever stickers printed out!
6 June 2021- Kardzhali
All night dances!! 💃🏻🥳💃🏻🥳💃🏻
For the first time though, I didn’t get the usual relief leaning on the steady foundations of my past. I felt lost with no destination – my past has gone and my future is completely blurry. That’s a freeing but strange and a bit scary feeling…
I have only that moment to rely on. Only NOW exists. I have no roots or anchor to hold on. That could be as excited, as scary as well!
Another turning point? Well, will find out soon… 😉
7 June 2021 – Svilengrad
After serious efforts, my friend Tanya and I managed to reduce the weight of the backpack by about 3 kg. I am no longer with my camera (-1 kg), I am no longer with my sleeping bag (-1 kg)… So, now it’s “just” about 24 kg. 🤔
Departure before 7 am – again in a race with the rain. Kardzhali… Just doesn’t want to let me go – I had covered about 10 kilometres before anyone stopped for me.
Instead, a perisher followed me, explaining how pretty ass I have (where did he see it under all this luggage?!) and how nice it would be to be together for a while. My attempts to look on the funny side and end the “incident” with a smile were unsuccessful and he continued to follow me, which necessitated a change of tactics.
I wish I had photographed his expression when I turned with a radically changed look and tone, and reaching for something hanging on my waist (he could not know what I’m carrying there), I asked him if he could find his own way or if he needed help!
I think he quickly orientated himself in the situation and found the right direction of movement… :)))
Anyway, I relatively shortly arrived to the highway to Svilengrad. (When passing the point of the heavy motorcycle crash, we talked with the driver about it, and I was glad to hear that the rider is alive, although with two broken legs.) Watching the accumulating clouds and the empty straight lane of the highway, I began to wonder if I would even be able to reach Svilengrad today.
I didn’t have to think for long, though. In less than ten minutes, Annie and Nina freed their back seat for me and my backpack. Thanks to them, at exactly 10:30 I was already in front of the building, where the kindness and hospitality in the face of a friend’s mother were waiting for me.
We walked around the town, to the famous bridge of Mustafa Pasha and she took me to a pastry shop to try the famous Svilengrad’s malebi (which definitely deserves its fame!). Thanks!!
Meanwhile, while walking to photograph the old stone bridge, I met a couple of cyclists also travelling to Turkey. I had to turn down the offer for sitting for a coffee, as my hostess was waiting for me at the end of the bridge, but we will try to organise that meeting on Turkish soil. Jacqueline and Adrien, have a light and rain free pedalling! See you soon!
At the end of the day, just like on arrival, I managed to slip between the drops to the last! It doesn’t rain on me anywhere, even though he wanted to get me a bit wet a few times. I hope it continues like this tomorrow in the direction of Edirne! Fingers crossed! 🤞
PS: It turned out there is no testing at the border, as it was said, and now I have to find another last minute solution... When you do something for the first time you always learning by the action itself, right! It's not always a pleasure but you learn the lesson faster! 🙊🙈🙉
8 June 2021 – Edirne, Turkey
At all the time in Svilengrad it did try to rain, but never quite decided – until the last moment I passing between the drops. I walked along the famous bridge, where I met Adrien (France) and Jacqueline (Mexico) from Barcelona. I sincerely regret that we were not able to spend more time together, but I hope to be able to see them in Turkey. They crossed the border that evening, I had to leave the next morning. That evening I received a message from them that there was no such thing and I had to go with a test ready. Thanks to them, my first job in the morning was to go to the clinic, where in 15 minutes (and BGN 30) they did a quick antigen test and at 8:30 I was already on my way with my backpack.
Sasho and Slavcho picked me up, but they didn’t dare to cross the border with me so as not to cause them any problems. I didn’t mind until it turned out I couldn’t cross the border on foot! I had never dreamed of such nonsense!
The customs officer said – find a car, you can’t walk! I will not ask for logic…
There the begging in the car queue started. I knew what it was like to ask to get me in the car just to cross the border. Sasho had promised to pick me up again if I waited for him after the checking. And I was already starting to fear that everything was in vain when Sasho and Ertan (not mistake – another Sasho!) after a slight hesitation pushed my backpack into the back seat of the two-door car. I went in by myself! :)))
I was in clear that they were worried, as were all those who had refused me before, so the feeling of gratitude was immeasurable! Thank you, Sasho and Ertan!!!
They left me well beyond the border, at the Edirne junction, and continued on to Istanbul. Waving to a stop, a taxi pulled up next to me. I showed him with signs that I didn’t want to get in, as I won’t pay. In the same language I received the answer that I did not need to pay, just to get on and I would be dropped off in Edirne. Not just in Edirne, Serjan (I hope I heard the name correctly) took me straight to the address of my host for the evening – Nurullah / Nuru. Thank you very much! It turned out that Nuru lived high above the city and Serjan saved me a lot of sweating and puffing up the hill.
It was strange. I don’t know a word of Turkish (except for “thank you”, which I learned from Ertan a few minutes earlier). Serjan knew no language other than Turkish. I felt he wanted to tell me a lot, I also wanted to strike up a conversation – the only way I could actually thank a person who had violated his own comfort for taking a stranger. I tried Google Translate. It didn’t work – I could’t read the words, let alone pronounce them. I think tonight, we will organise a quick Turkish course with Nuru! 😉
I asked a boy to help me – he knew enough English to understand that I wanted to call a Turkish number. So I was able to let Nuru know that I was almost at his door. Another opportunity to use the newly learned “Teshekur“!
After a short break and a conversation with Nuru, he went to work, and I went for a walk around the city, as well as to buy a Turkish SIM card. The latter turned out to be an expensive pleasure, which at some next stage I will probably try to miss out – BGN 32 for a month is a number. For now, however, as for my first trip, I need the reassuring security of a permanent internet connection, both for communication and for information and orientation.
Oh yes, I was not allowed to enter to the mall from which I bought the card without showing a negative test. 🤦🏻♀️
I had a friend traveller in Capadocia at the moment, so I was really tempted to go there. He was expecting me there, but I had to decide The time was not enough, I had to be back soon. So, with Nuru’s helpful advice, I decided to head to Istanbul.
10 June 2021 – Büyükçekmece, Turkey
After going to bed late the night before, I got up at 6, packed my bags, Nuru walked me away and I left. I had two options for a road to chose from. I made a reckless one, a bit like throwing an coin, for which my shoulders still blame me after 13 km with my backpack.
I had already left Edirne when I noticed that my left arm was severely swollen, something that had never happened before. My skin was stretched to bursting. I felt tension in the right one as well, but probably because I waved with it to the cars and moved it a lot more, the condition wasn’t at that level. It was clear to me that something was wrong, probably the backpack pressed something more than normal, but I didn’t have many options.
However, I decided to take some action before the “thing” forced me to do so and when I saw a hotel by the road, I decided to sacrifice 1 euro for a coffee (I hadn’t have yet anyway and definitely needed one) and a 20-30 minute break.
I got my coffee after showing out my corona-virus test (it’s kind of crazy, I can’t believe it yet!) And sat down to catch my breath. I talked to the lady at the front desk, Ebru, who, greatly impressed by the huge backpack and lack of common sense, sent me to the kitchen to get a free breakfast of my choice. Was so stunned and confused that if she hadn’t called in the kitchen stuff, I wouldn’t have been able to explain why I was there. I was extremely modest. Not only so as not to abuse her generosity, but also because I was not hungry and had more kilometres in the heat are waiting for me. Needed a lot of water, but less food.
Well, the kilometres turned out to be quite a lot at the end of the day. First I was taken by Kemal, who was born in Kardzhali, but has never set foot there and does not know a word of Bulgarian (or English), has three sons, both of whom are twins and were high school graduates this year.
I forgot the name of a Kurd from Diyarbakir, with whom we laughed heartily. It rained a lot (stopped before I went off) and it was a quite a talk – he in Turkish, I in Bulgarian and we burst out laughing who understood what – no one anything, of course!
Despite my protests, I ended up with 2 bottles of water, chocolate and a Coca Cola. I deliberately “forgot” the Cola when I got off, but he went back to give it to me! And I already have a Turkish song on my playlist (I need to translate what it’s about).
As I was waiting for my next ride, a police car pulled up next to me. Luckily, the cops (or at least the one I talked to) knew English. They were nice smiling people, we chatted and I gave them my car. Despite their protests, let them see if it’s nice! :)))
The last ones to pick me up were Idagül and Emin. They left me almost at the door of my host. Very positive and smiling people who literally enveloped me with their warmth (in addition to the heat outside). Idagül was chatting all the time, and of course I didn’t understand a word. The important thing is that with the map I managed to explain to Emin where I was going. It was only 2-3 blocks from their own target. In Istanbul – a 20 million city… There is nothing accidental, right?!
For the whole day I refused 2 cars, and 1 explained to me (in English) that it is not in my direction and it is better not to pick me up, as it will leave me in a worse place to continue the hitchhiking. I had begun to regret for the other two before Idagül and Emin appeared. How many cars, travelling exactly to the place where I was going to Istanbul today, would pass me and how many of them would take me?! The question is rhetorical...
Another proof that my intuition never deceives me! (well, maybe sometimes, if I it beg a lot...)
My host, Kaya, met me on the way with his bicycle. It turned out that he hardly spoke English, but he had specialised in using Google for voice translation, so the conversation didn’t suffer much.
11 June 2021 – Büyükçekmece, Turkey
I slept like a dead and didn’t want to get up in the morning. I almost forcibly got out of bed at 7, just so I wouldn’t lose the habit of getting up early.
Coffee. Gymnastics. Little work. Chatting with Kaya and an astrology lesson. He is an physics teacher who practice astrology too. I learned nothing, I just realised how complex and interesting the science of astrology is. Especially after I was thoroughly unravelled – he did not make a mistake in any aspect, even my most hidden sides were exposed. It sounds a bit scary…
Breakfast (lunch for me) and on the bikes. Mine was a little prefabricated bike, not in very good shape, but still good enough to take me to the beach and the market and bring me back. As might be expected, my bottom weren’t very happy with the surprise, but it was fun.
The water was quite dirty, but since it was my first beach experience this year, I swam a bit – I couldn’t miss it. The rest of the time was spent walking on the beach with my head empty of any thoughts. I just contemplated the blue and enjoyed the cool breeze.
Then the market. An interesting experience was my first Turkish market! A woman did even yell at me that I was hanging there with a bicycle – “bicycleta” and “pazar” are words that I even know! :)))
The rest of the day was spent casually talking and napping on the swing in contemplation of the sea in the distance. And Kaya prepared a dinner (the arrangement from the first day was – he cooks, I take care of the dishes). I’m glad I was honest that I don’t like to cook, so I have the opportunity to enjoy real Turkish cuisine, and Kaya is a great cook!
Tomorrow he has arranged a tour to Istanbul for me, and we have an appointment to meet for coffee (finally) with Adrien and Jacqueline.
12 June 2021 – Rüstempasa, Turkey
A normal early getting up, coffee, gymnastics, Polarsteps, photos and call for breakfast / lunch from downstairs. After that followed the absolute fun to get a travel pass for the public transport for me – passport data, Covid test, half an hour waiting for the phone (twice), running to the nearest point (“near” is a relative concept – to reach the city center we had to travel 60 km in one direction…) to buy the card, then a new 40-minute wait on the phone for an English-speaking operator to talk to in person (until now, Kaya was dealing with all the bureaucratic nonsense). After dictating my name letter by letter and confirming exactly which hospital room I was born in and which stars could be seen from the window, I heard the coveted “Enjoy your travel miss Elitsa!”
There is simply no such foolishness like that!!! The whole nonsense with this virus is just beginning…
We arrived two hours late for the appointment with Jacqueline and Adrien and the time pressed us again, because of the evening restrictions, that does not apply to tourists, but is valid for all locals. Still, we managed to drink the coffee we had planed for so many days. Two wonderful people that I am glad to have met on my way and I hope to meet again one day. Thank you for the wonderful experience, guys!!
This was followed by a walk through the centre of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, etc. OK, it wasn’t exactly a walk, it was a race against time. No matter how hard he tried to restrain himself, Kaya was too tense and in a hurry all the time. I fully understand him – he would take the fine, and it is quite salty. And I’m more than grateful for everything he did and the discomfort he caused to himself in order to make me happy!
Thank you for everything, Kaya!!
However, this tension and haste is not what I am looking for. The photos are all I have left from that day. I could not feel it, couldn’t seance the atmosphere and pulse of the place. This is the main reason why I don’t go on organised excursions though – watching the clock, rushing to the next tourist attraction, taking selfies with the village idiot (I didn’t meet that one yesterday…).
What’s more – I told a friend yesterday morning that I didn’t like Turkey. Later in the day, in all this hurry and running, I realised what I didn’t like. It is not Turkey. I don’t like the way I see it. Yet I like the people – hospitable, warm, responsive! Like also the nature – it is beautiful no matter where you are – both the jungle and the desert have their charm.
I don’t like noisy crowded cities and I’ve never liked them.
In fact, this is what I don't like! From the very beginning of my journey, I found that something was not quite right, something was preventing me from fully immersing myself in the experience.
I can’t see nature, the authenticity of the place, the real life in the countryside! I see exactly what I don’t like – city life with all its noise and bustle. This is not my thing.
I need to think about what and how I can change. The hitchhiking is great - cheap, fun and fast enough, but it deprives me of the freedom to stay in the wild. Prevents me to go to the small village over there, just to drink a coffee in the village pub and really feel the place and the people...
14 June 2021 – Silivri, Turkey
After yesterday’s leisurely day, used mainly for work and planning, today some 18+ kilometres came in handy.
Kaya surprised me late last night that he doesn’t want to leave me alone at his home because I don’t know Turkish and if someone comes I can’t do well. An interesting excuse. Although this is actually his home and he needs no excuse at all when he sets his own rules. The unpleasant thing was that he told me it quite late, when I had already made my plans to work all day and I was mentally adjusted. Well, I “unadjusted” it! :)))
Even in spite of the bad weather, which threatened to rain at any moment, I put my jacket on, put a raincoat in the bag, prepared my oatmeal for the afternoon and 2 eggs for breakfast, and set off smiling.
Eventually I managed to walk some 18-19 km (it did not rain) and find a bottle for my repellent. The last thing I’m trying to do since Edirne, because my sprayer broke. (If it sounds strange to you – the repellent is my production, without chemicals and additives. It also has a very pleasant aroma, so I stick to it.) However, it turned out to be a serious challenge, as the bottle must be small enough to fit in the bag at my waist without taking up too much space.
After walking around all the shops for eight kilometres in one direction, I was finally helpfully directed to a pharmacy where I really found the perfect bottle size. Well, it wasn’t empty, but who cares – I got perfume water and a spray bottle for 18 km and a modest BGN 1.80.
16 June 2021 – Okmeydanı, Turkey
Good. Today the day greeted me with wind and rain. After waiting until 9:30, I still had to wake Kaya so I could leave in the short interval without rain (as I assumed, it did rain start again in minutes).
I did top-up the transport card with 20 TL (about BGN 4), but I was definitely worried about the huge backpack, the narrow bus, the crowd and the three shifts that I have to do without even knowing where and with what I need to change. So I decided to try to hitchhike again. In less than 10 minutes, Yalchen picked me up and saved me a lot of effort and travel by leaving me at the bus stop, which (I intuitively have chosen the right one) left me 200 meters from the hostel.
Going to Istanbul… Yeah, it is definitely not my city – the day before I competed with the time, today with the weather – it rains all day with short breaks. Definitely unpleasant, but I’m here anyway, I plan to see what I can. I will endure the madness and the rain, as well as Brita, my rather unfriendly roommate. I’m stubborn enough to give up so easily! (some of you have experienced it on your own…)
So I did what I could for the day, now back to work a little and tomorrow again. I paid for two nights and we will see how things turn out.
Not to forget the delicious dinner for BGN 2.5.
17 June 2021 – Fatih, Turkey
Getting up at 5:30 without trying too hard not to wake my roommate after she did it to me a few times until she get to bed at 3 AM, after which I hardly could fall asleep again. In addition, I try (moderately!) to follow a friend’s advice to be a little more egocentric.
Coffee and gymnastics in the empty common room (who would be crazy enough to be there at 6 o’clock?!), a borrowed umbrella (with permission, of course) and on my way to explore Kapalıçarşı! Last time I just saw it from a distance. I wanted to see the famous market, but because I don’t like the mad crowd too much, the sooner the better.
Besides, although my hostel is paid for tonight, I plan to leave today for two nights with a couchsurfing host. It just turned out that the boy would be away from Saturday, and those were the only days he could see me.
I hesitated a lot, but in the end it is worth losing those 5 euros, which are not actually lost. The boy looks cool company (otherwise I wouldn’t write to him), so I don’t think I’ll regret the absence of the unfriendly Brita. In addition, I win an extra night, which with the forecast for a few more days of rain is not to be neglected.
The day started with a light rain and an argument with the GPS and asking the street vendors (almost the only people on the street at the time), after which it turned out that we were both right, except that we chose different bridges for the route. I was walking around the Grand Bazaar / Kapalıçarşı – it turned out that it was not open, but I realised it after another round, when it was already open and I saw the door… Interesting experience, although it was too early, the sellers were just getting ready and there were still no people.
Not to miss the boy who heard me asking if the tap water was drinkable (it wasn’t) and called me with him. I assumed he would try to sell me water and I tried to refuse. He said – take it, it’s for you, you don’t have to pay anything! His father (I guess) confirmed his words and insisted on taking the small packed glass of water! The boy had judged that if I asked, I was thirsty – he did not want to do business, but to help a person in need!! Teşekkür ederim!!!
I had read somewhere about the spice market nearby and decided to see it. I am fascinated by the piles of spices, although I have no idea what they are for.
This turned out to be the nail of the program. In addition to the enjoyment of the colourful stalls arranged like pharmacies, I was taken care of by each seller. No, they knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, they weren’t trying to sell me the goods (well, there were some not good enough psychologists, though). For a no time I drank a few teas, tried different delicacies (Rahat lokum!!!) and was perfumed with a really good perfume (I categorically refused subsequent attempts with other perfumes – I did not want to become a walking perfumery!)
So my dilemma what and whether to eat have been solved by itself. And the tea was amazing, though a little strange – in one of them floated some fruits (I guess) with a special sour-salty taste. And I don’t even have words for rahat lokum (rāḥat al-ḥulqūm)! I doubt that I have always chosen the best kind of Turkish delight, they are all just amazing! I had only heard about this delicacy, now I know why it has this glory!!!
I had fun letting them guess where I was from, before I said Bulgaria and heard the exclamation – “Oooh, komshu (neighbours)!!“, as well as the addition “Evet, evet, Azis!” Well, I didn’t want to be associated with him, but… :)))
The interesting thing was that before I enlightened them that I was from the neighbourhood, they all started with a Española and an Italiana. Subsequently, they were surprised and all said that I was too beautiful for a Bulgarian woman. Well, someone has to explain to the neighbours that Bulgarian women are number one!! What is this underestimation at the favor of Spaniards and Italians!?!
Finally, on my way back to the hostel, I came across a street musician, with whom I spent maybe 10-15 minutes fascinated by his music. The gentle flute made me close my eyes and just immerse myself in the sounds. A wonderful end to today’s walk.
The final touches were put by Aidan – a gallery owner, artist and hotelier who had lived in Bulgaria for many years. I met him yesterday while asking about the location of the hostel and promised to stop by for coffee today. That’s how I met his wife, also an artist. The coffee and conversation, of course, were on par.
In fact, Aidan, as an experienced businessman, gave me some very useful ideas for my endeavour, which I hope I will be able to implement. Thank you!
Taking the metro to my new host was a challenge, but there were that beautiful person (I am so sorry about the blurry picture, we were on a hurry not to be seen without masks) to help. She didn’t know a word of English, but found another girl who does and both of them guide me to the right direction with all the necessary explanations. Thank you!
Iit met me at the road and took me to his home. Offer me cham (or something like that) – a hot but very nice drink that is usually consumed with döner and other meat dishes. While we were enjoying our chat, something unpleasant happened, he got a call that the next day he had to go on a funeral…
So ended the evening, and I had to think where I would over the next day…
18 June 2021 – Sarıyer, Turkey
Getting up in 5, gymnastics, packing the the backpack, breakfast (mine right in the backpack) and start. Although Iit had said 9 am, I had to leave in 7. One plus of my early getting up is the early start.
I headed to Kumkoy where I found two camps. After ~10 km only climbing I found myself on a dirt forest road without any idea of passing cars. I did not worry too much because I had think of this risk and I knew I can if I must to get those 20 kilometres to there. Yet I was not particularly happy, though. I think I have to learn better to read the data…
After I was almost in the first town of the route, Ozlam – the first woman who stoped for me in Turkey saved me from my misery. In addition of taking me to the other end of the city and loaded me with two of the packed cups of water, she advised me not listening to the Spaniards (my GPS, who was constantly arguing with her direction of movement), but to continue the other way. I think this literally saved my ass (rather back), as this way was quite busy and with greater stop chances.
Here he stopped not very talkay gentleman. I asked three times about his name and after I did not understand it, just gave up. Still, we have been able to understand who is going where. We passed his final destination to get to mine. He even found the campsite and I was just getting off, he has been told that it doesn’t work and he took me back to take me to the next camp where he finally left me.
Only it turned out that this camping is not in fact camping for years. Just a beach. Paid, with showers and extras, but camping is forbidden. The boy at the entrance, after explaining all this, said there isa camping about 15 km away in Kasarlaya. 15 km… but “back on our heads“…
My luck smiled in Abdullah’s face, who, like my nameless benefactor, decided to deliver me at the entrance of the campsite for which I am extremely grateful!
Déjà vu some – Camping does not work. It is forbidden to camping because of Covid (interesting are the hotels safer than the beach?!) And there was even a police around.
Well, now I really want to cry! It’s noon, quite hot, clouds are gathering and it will rain, and I barely stand on my feet…
And because today I didn’t take any displacement, about 50° uphill were waiting for me on the way back…
Well, not a lot of choices, right? I’m starting up with the speed of a dying turtle and no one stops at hitchhiking. Only one bus. Fuck it, I don’t care!! There must be something left in my Istanbul buss card. I have no idea where it goes. Neither I do care. Just want to get me out to the high.
I got off into a village. One can guess how I was looking like, if right away a man nearby asked me if I want a water (nodded with gratitude), made me sit on a bench and run to the store to buy me a bottle of water. Little after they took him by car and I do not know his name but he is already on my list of thanks!!
I did catch my breath and looked around whom to ask about accommodation. Walked slowly and passed two shops and two cafes. I do not know why I decided to ask in the butcher shop. Wonderful smiling people. I did not even think of asking about their names, I even barely remembered mine…
There were two girls, I think they were daughters of the owners, and a gentleman who were having lunch. With the help of a girl who knew a little English, I managed to explain the situation. The mother offered her chair to me, a water and make me tea, while the man, whom lunch I did interrupt, began to talk on the phone. It turned out that he was looking for me for a place to stay overnight and he even took me with his car to the campsite. With a risk of bringing problems to themselves, completely unknown people have accepted me without even seeing my eyes.
Only one evening in a tent, they say. That’s all I need!
While putting the tent up it started to rain. I just found my cup of oatmeal to have lunch/dinner, but was called for dinner with the owners!
It turned out that the whole family lives here – brothers and uncles. Basically, it is camping, but now, because of the constraints, only works as a restaurant and beach.
While sitting with the others after dinner (to charge my phone a bit and have better coverage), with the useful help of Google translate, I got the offer to stay another night sa wel!
19 June 2021 – Kısırkaya, Turkey
After 20 hours of rain, my tent surrendered and when I woke up I found the external battery (connected to the phone) in a puddle next to me. And it was still raining outside…
At least there was only one puddle. There was nothing I could do before it stopped raining, so I just cleared the area and went out to do my gymnastics under the canopy. At 4:45 there is no one to disturb. 😜 Then I went back to the tent to keep my waist straight, and I fell asleep again.
Successfully at 8 I appeared “in public” and at the table with the morning coffee I shared that I hope it doesn’t rain anymore, because I already have water into the tent. They apologised for forgetting about me the night before, otherwise they would have taken me under the shelter for the night and showed me where to move the tent (which I did after it stopped raining and the tent dried up).
Well, I literally swallowed my grammar! Not only did they not earn a penny from me, but I was dependent on them for food and water, and they apologised for the rain! I think that those employed in tourism in our country have a lot to learn from the neighbourhood…
The day was spent mostly in the hustle and bustle around the tent and my laundry (which finally dried up after two days!) And walks on the beach of course! 😉
My phone’s SD card has died and I hope I haven’t lost photos and videos that haven’t been synced yet. We’ll find out when I open the laptop.
Since I foolishly refused breakfast in the morning, I was ready to eat one of the uncles at three in the afternoon! And despite the delicious soup (in Turkish it was something with meatballs in the name), a little later I finished eating walnuts and chocolate… I’m just in a world-eating period again, but I decided not to be at their expense. Well, in the evening I received a bread with little meatballs, which of course I did not refuse! 😇
What kind of music do you think is played on the beach in Turkey? Chalga and maaneta, as at home? Well, I will disappoint you, I was more than surprised to hear Bulgarian folklore music (remix of course)…
The plan for tomorrow is that I continue. That’s all. I haven’t found a host or hostel along the route. Well, I know I’m going to the border at Malko Tarnovo. And that’s still something, isn’t it? 🤔
20 June 2021 – Gümüşdere, Turkey
After I was told yesterday that someone had to go to the nearby town in the morning and would take me there, the early getting up at 5 was a necessity. It was not clear at what time the departure would take place, and I had to be ready with my luggage and tent so that they would not be waiting for me.
Only I had to wait until 10 o’clock for them to wake up and tell me that no one would travel…
Well, it is what it is. The backpack on the back and in the heat on the same hill I hit two days earlier. There is no living person around, let alone a car. It’s Sunday, apparently they are sleeping until noon around here. Eventually a small van passed by, the man picks me up and we stop in a nearby town/village (the same one with the butcher shop) to find out who where is going.
During the conversation it became clear that on Sunday everything is closed, no one goes anywhere because it is forbidden to go out.
It felt like a blast! Not that I didn’t know this from Kaya in Istanbul, but had completely forgotten about it… Now what?! It’s not just a hitchhike, also a bus it’s unlikely to find today.
And here is the invitation… The man took me to his house, fed me, said if I don’t hurry, I can stay as many days as I want and when I decide, he will buy me a bus ticket so that I don’t have to hitchhike…
Meet Hamit, my redeemer! 😉
That’s all for today, it’s forbidden… :)))
21 June 2021 – Arnavutköy, Turkey
I lie quietly and lazy. I will not go anywhere today, I will take advantage of the invitation and I will stay one day more to work.
Well, I sat down to work, but after about an hour the electricity stopped, after another hour my battery died and after some hesitation, I decided to continue with laziness and nap while the electricity comes back.
I woke up startled by nothing. The next moment, my phone muttered – a message from Hamid. His children are arriving tonight, I have to leave today… Damn it! Several times!! It’s almost 2 in the afternoon, where can I start going now?!? The battery of my laptop is in the red, on the phone – about 30%. No electricity yet…
I pack my backpack, plug the phone into the external battery, and somehow shove both devices into my waist bag. I toss Hamid’s breakfast, which he refused earlier, in a bag with a few apricots and a banana and in my backpack. Meanwhile, I am arguing with Hamid on the messenger about the direction. I want to go to Saray, but he says I can’t. and had to go back to Sarıyer (literally to Istanbul, where Iit was) and from there to Saray. So I stopped arguing, said OK and sit waiting for the driver to take me to the bus for Sarıyer (which I had no intention of catching!).
It was about 3 pm when they showed up. I thanked Hamid again and threw my backpack on my back. He handed me 50 TL – he had promised to buy me a ticket. I didn’t argue, I thanked again and left. I tried to persuade the driver to leave me on the main road instead of driving me all the way to the bus station (actually it turned out to be just a stop), but the cause was lost and I just gave up. Leave me where you want, I’ll be fine from there…
Everyone directed me to Kısırkaya for a hotel or a campsite, but I didn’t want to go back, and I already knew that the campsites didn’t work. Besides, if I’m going to pay for a hotel, then at least get closer to the final destination, instead of moving away.
As I walked towards the highway it was clear to me that no one would stop – the directions are many and no one knows exactly where I am going (if I had foreseen this moment, I could have secured a piece of cardboard and a marker). I was so happy when a boy with a scooter stopped and offered me a ride… with this huge backpack, I wouldn’t fit on even if I left him to hitchhike! And yet he made me smile and reminded me that life is good!!!
Getting on the highway, I went through (well, I personally – went past) a toll booth. I know that hitchhiking on highways is forbidden everywhere, I don’t need to ask. So I expected a policeman to jump out of a booth at any moment, shout after me, and send me back. It was already near 5 pm, I didn’t want to think about the consequences if it happened.
While walking I was constantly scanning the surrounding area in case I need to camp. I decided it won’t be a pleasure, but would be possible. Although the water would be a problem of course, but still, I can manage it.
In the end, after about 7 km on foot, a car slowed down and stopped. I hurried to it and Jankat (Kurd) and Hassan (from China) were smiling at me from the inside. I only spoke to Jankat, I guess Hassan only knew Turkish. Well, his companion even spoke a little Bulgarian in addition to Turkish, Arabic, English and Russian (and maybe more).
They passed by their very own destination to leave me at the right fork, from where I could continue with detailed instructions. I just took a picture of them, threw my backpack on my back and turned to leave, when Jankat called me back. He apologised for what he was going to do, asked me not to misunderstand him because it’s part of their culture, and handed me 100 TL – “Let your accommodation tonight be on us! ” I have nothing to add here…
I continued forward and in the distance I saw a stopped car with the hood raised. Of course, I don’t know anything out of cars, but still, when I got there, I asked in English if I could help with something. You don’t have to be a mechanic to be useful. The boy didn’t understand me, said something and waved at me. I decided he just wanted me to keep going, so I just smiled, waved at him and passed by. He started yelling after me and waving me back as he closed the hood. Already in the car, I asked him about a cheap hotel or motel nearby. He said – no problem, I’ll take you there. Me – but it has to be cheap! Ferid – yes, it’s very cheap!
And here comes the discrepancy of who thinks what is cheap.
At the entrance I am greeted by a friendly smiling gentleman who speaks directly in English (it is clear from miles that I am not from here) and stressed me out with the amount of 300 TL. I explain that this is a lot for me and although I am convinced that the room is worth it, I just can’t afford it. And the bargaining begins (apparently even in hotels there is a tolerance for bargains). We dropped to 225 TL, which, considering that I have been given 150 today, left me to pay the acceptable 75 TL.
Not that I had much a choice. It was around 5:30 pm, I had nowhere to go that late…
When you think about it, the day started quite normally. The usual awakening in 5 am of the mosque across the street, gymnastics, coffee, luggage and a fluffy four-legged escort.
First I was taken by a work van, which brought me a few kilometres closer to the highway, and then Yusuf, a very pleasant and sociable young man, with whom we had an interesting, albeit short, due of the limited time, English conversation. He deviated from his route, to leave me at the right place, and headed for his shop in Kapalıçarşı.
Soon Erkan took me, insisting to take me to Silivri, from where there were more cars for Saray. Why are these people stubborn and do not want to accept that I know where I am going?! It’s a bit like auto spell correction – it always knows better than me what I want to say! 😈
I walked for a while before Vahit stopped for me. We travelled for a while, chatted as much as we could because of the disappearing coverage and Google’s refusal to translate without internet, then stopped at his country villa for tea / coffee and “light” meal.
At least the internet was constant here, and the conversation flew much smoother. So I received the offer to spend the night here, even though there is no electricity or water, and to continue in the morning. A proposal that I gladly accepted, accompanied by countless birds and crickets.
After Vahit left for Istanbul, I went to wash my things and “take a shower” with a bucket. I was just finishing when I heard noise and voices.
My hair stood up! I had left the door open to let some air in, as it was very hot inside, because I knew Vahit would not come back and I was alone. And now there was someone outside, and I – completely naked in the bathroom!! I ran to the door showing only my head and shouted at the man who was looking at me in disbelief (in Bulgarian, of course) – who are you and what are you doing here?! He, in return, hurriedly spoke in Turkish, at which point I simply reached over, took the key from the outside of the door, and slipped it inside. Here, from the tone and gestures, I understood he was telling me that the house was his. I shout – I don’t care at all, I’m naked! And I locked the door right under his nose.
It took us a while to figure out who was who, and then we laughed out loud for a long time. But until we get to the laughter…
My unexpected guests turned out to be Ahmed, co-owner of the property and his friend Tursun. They were no less startled than I was. “We had work nearby and decided to have some tea here. I come and see the door open. Stress! I go inside and a naked woman comes out, yells something to me and scolds me…“
He had seen me earlier in Vahit’s car, asked who I was, and Vahit explained that I was a hitchhiker. Yes, but Ahmed did not believe him. “I thought he was just taking a woman home. I’m driving around and no one stops me hitchhiking, how so?!”
After the initial mutual shock, we chatted a lot, took a walk into the meadows and I was ordered to wait for breakfast in the morning before leaving! 😆
What a day… 🙊🙉🙈
23 June 2021 – Kırklareli, Turkey
Wonderful awakening from the birds. For the first time in 20 days, I did not hear the hodja at sunrise. Only birds. And an outraged, probably by default angry cow nearby.
After the morning rituals, I cleaned the terrace a bit and sat down to drink my coffee and wait for Ahmed.
He has told me at 8 o’clock. I gave him half an hour in advance, after all Istanbul is quite far, there is no need to split the second in two. On the other hand, 30 minutes is quite enough delay, so at 8:30 I locked up the door, lifted my backpack and left.
I will miss this place. Maybe it’s the place with the most charm where I stayed on this trip. This is exactly what I am looking for!! I don’t need hotels and noisy cities. Simplicity, sincerity, beauty! Nature!
After “long” 5 minutes Mustafa loaded me at his car and took me all the way to the main road after Saray. A nice and intelligent young man who knew English and we chatted a lot. He turned out to be a wind turbine worker nearby, going to the materials in Saray. Well, that luck was mine! 🙂
Then a van stopped, the cab so full that I had to put my backpack on the place of my feet and my feet on the dashboard. Good thing the trip lasted only 5-6 km. I can imagine what a sight I was. In my short pants…
Just as I got off the bus, my phone started ringing. An hour and a half later, Ahmed had shown up and was looking for where I was to come and pick me up… I’m sorry, my friend, maybe next time…
There was an interesting moment when a truck stopped while I was just walking. I generally don’t stop trucks just because they are too high to get on with my heavy backpack and get off later.
However, it stopped without an invitation. The man answered something unclear when I said Kirklareli, but somehow I didn’t like the driver’s tone and the whole feeling, so I just waved him away and continued walking. I don’t think what he wanted was to give me a ride to somewhere…
No more surprises. Or at least of this type. A few minutes later, I was picked up by an intelligent gentleman, with whom, thanks to my training with Google’s voice translator, we had a very interesting conversation. And for a long time, because Kemal took me all the way to my final destination.
It turned out that the deputy director of Marmara Üniversitesi Teknik Eğitim Fakültesi Makina Mezunu, who had just retired. I have also learned that his wife’s parents are Bulgarians from Kazanlak. He was an interesting and pleasant interlocutor, despite the limitations of the translation.
We stopped for breakfast in one of the villages before Kirklareli and he called a friend to look for a cheap hostel for me. I had found only hotels online, and the cheapest was about BGN 40. Arriving on the spot, we understood why – all hostels are closed. Because of the pandemic. As well as campsites. Logic?! Who needs logic…
Eventually, Kemal toured half the city in search of a cheap hotel. Then we walked around the other half, just on foot, for the same purpose. As a result, I was accommodated in a decent hotel for 90 TL (about BGN 16) with breakfast included. Returning to the car, I started to take my backpack off to take it to the hotel, but I was denied the “privilege” – it’s noon, see what the heat is, how will you go with this heavy backpack?!? Thank you, Kemal!!!
The goal was to do an antigen test and continue to the border in the morning, so after a quick shower I went to look for the place where I would be honoured to be poked in the nose.
That’s how I came across the first rude Turk. He didn’t know a word of English, but he didn’t even want to communicate, he just insisted of my passport. Well, I don’t give my passport to every rude person I meet, and without a clear purpose! The famous gesture of rubbing my fingers, led us to a sheet of paper with a number written on it, which I did not like. I said I didn’t want a PSR, but an antigen test – cheaper and faster. Should not pay for another night because the doctor in front of me is a tree (ass)!!
I shook my head, turned and left! Tomorrow I will try to pass without a test. I must be able to do it within 24 hours after entering Bulgaria and in the worst case I will have 10 days quarantines. Tomorrow we will find out first hand…
I had half a day left, so I took a walk to see the city and pamper myself with the famous Turkish baklava.
24 June 2021 – Aheloy, Bulgaria
The hodja invited me to get up at 5 AM, he thought I was too sleepy. Breakfast starts at 8, but who has time to wait – it’s already hot, and the road is waiting for me – at 7:30 I’m there and self-serve.
An egg with a few olives and a little salad is enough. The rest of what is due goes into the backpack for lunch. 😉 A cup of strong Turkish tea and a backpack on my back.
The traffic is light and the closer I get to the main road, the more it decreases. Strange, I expected it to intensify…
A smiling young man, Mustafa, stops for me just at the end of the town. He is going to the last Turkish village, Dereköy. After it there are about 15 km to the border. He asks me how I’m going to get there, while we’re literally the only car on the deserted road, if I don’t count a few trucks in the opposite direction. How – on foot… “No, I’ll take you. Just show me you have a passport.”
An understandable question to a lone stranger with a backpack walking to the border. I show the little red book, he smiles happily, as if I’m doing him a favor, not he favours me.
We don’t talk much, the voice translator wants internet, and there the coverage is lost, but the time we spent was nice. We observe the constantly changing beautiful views and enjoy.
I was delivered at a meter from the border checkpoint with many smiles and handshakes. Thank you Mustafa!!
I did cross the border without a problem after a short wait on the Turkish side (the computers did not work) and with the secret hope that at least on the way out they will not care that I am on foot. If I have to find a car here to take me through the border crossing, I can spend a week with this traffic…
The Bulgarian side handed me a few pieces of paper and explained about the test situation. Unfortunately, I found out that there is no laboratory in Malko Tarnovo, I have to look elsewhere – Burgas or Tsarevo. I leave the decision on the road – from the very beginning he leads me quite successfully…
However, I reach a cross path and I have to choose between the two. Contrary to logic (although at the moment it seems logical to me) I am going to Tsarevo. After a total of 11 km in the midday heat (30+°) I begin to doubt my decision. And then a car stops, with a smiling young man, who speaks to me in English. If he also wants to speak Tajik, I would not care, just please shorten the distance between me and the final destination!
I understand that he is actually going to Malko Tarnovo, which I just go around. So I want to cry, but it is what it is. I say – for me even a kilometre is a difference, so thank you!
After a few more remarks, my savior asked me where I am from, I answered – from here, from Bulgaria, whereupon he laughed and turned into Bulgarian “Why didn’t you say so!” “Well, you spoke to me in English…” Apparently, when he stopped, I unknowingly said in English “Thanks God!” so he decided I am a foreigner…
He tells me that I am on the wrong road – 10 cars pass through here a day (I had noticed it in the last 2 and a half hours…) and I had better go the other way to Bourgas. He can take me there. In fact, he took me a lot further and we were engaged in a very interesting conversation all the way.
Amedeo turns out to be one of the hosts in the workaway and we are both on the same page, albeit from different sides. The conversation is very interesting and fruitful. I think I already know who my first host will be when I register on the platform.
Amedeo left me in Zvezdets, from where he turned around, and I continued in the direction of Burgas. It wasn’t long before a Silistra-registered car pulled up next to me and Mustafa (yeah, another one) cleared the front seat for me. He had also just crossed the border and also had 24 hours to take a test, so he decided, instead of looking for where and how, to come with me (a friend had already given me an address of a laboratory in Burgas). I made a commitment to monitor the results online and send them to the RHI so that he does not get lost with it. After the testing we sat down for a coffee while I was searching for a place to spend the night.
In the end, I decide that since Mustafa is travelling to Varna anyway, he can drop me off at a campsite on the way. I find one, make an appointment and we headed towards it. Later, Mustafa also decided to spend the night at the campsite – it was a long day, really.
So the tent is postponed for the next morning – tonight I have the luxury of a single bed in a bungalow. 😉
He obviously needs something different and some refreshing emotions. He wouldn’t do it alone, but obviously infected by my enthusiasm, he decides on a little variety.
We eat a portion of sprats, walk around and I left him with his glass of gin and tonic and head to the realm of sleep.
It was a long day indeed…
26 June 2021 – Aheloy, Bulgaria
Mustafa shows up just as I’m finishing my gymnastics and we head to the beach. We are talking. In fact, Mustafa is talking. I try to be interested in boats and fishing. This man is thirsty just to be heard…
I go to sunbathe, he brings coffee and goes for his fishing rods. Just for the idea.
We have sprats and salad for lunch, I take out my laptop to work, and he chats to the other fishermen and soon leaves, despite his obvious hesitation about staying another night. Apparently he assesses the situation correctly and starts the car despite his reluctance.
I thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he did for me, and he replied: “No, I thank you! Thank you for the time, for the experience and for the attitude!!” That was all I could give him and it have been much more valuable to him than the money and everything else…
And this, as it turned out, are the fruits (dried) of the carob tree, which he left for me along the way. Well, these are actually the leftovers, when, already at home, I finally thought of taking picture of them… Besides, he left me a whole jar of something between jam and locust bean syrup – incredibly sweet and perfect for my oatmeal.
I’ve never seen or tasted this fruit, but I like it! Especially the fruits (the seeds are hard as stones and are a threat to the teeth), which are sweet and filling – perfect on the go!
I spent the rest of the day working. In the afternoon I was going to the village to look for an ATM – I only have some pennies in cash. Asking about the distance, the owner of the restaurant, who is just getting in his car, says – get on, I’m going right there – lucky me!…
It turned out he was going to pick a client up from the buss station. And that’s how I met Vanya with whom we spend some interesting time.
The next day the program is similar. Meanwhile, while I work so that I don’t have to spend hours have just a coffee (I use the convenience of the restaurant facilities) and also because I still have to eat something at some point, I ask Tsveti – the incredibly smiling and friendly waitress, about the cheapest thing on the menu. In the end, I eat a delicious chicken soup, and when I ask for her bill, only my two coffees are present in it…
The owner Antonio, who took me in his car yesterday, is the second positive and sociable Italian I have met in recent days – always smiling and communicative. He speaks 5-6 languages and, although his Bulgarian is not perfect, it is a real pleasure to communicate with him.
Antonio, or “Uncle Tony” (the restaurant is called “Chicho Toni Mamma Mia” (Pizzeria Uncle Tony Mama Mia)) moves nimbly around in his wheelchair, finding a word and a smile for every customer, for every kid or employee. A wonderful person!
I’m still wondering about my leaving tomorrow. The first day something bit me in three places on my legs. All three swelled terribly and caused me severe discomfort with pain and itching. I wouldn’t pay attention to them if one wasn’t in front of my feet just below my ankle. I have no idea if I will be able to put on my shoes tomorrow or walk at all… We will find out in the morning, for now, after the seaweed compresses on the beach, we continue with plantain compresses. 😉
27 June 2021 – Lyaskovets, Bulgaria
Lonely raindrops pounding on the tent replaced the hodja, who was waking me up usually those days, just before 5 o’clock. It’s early. Too early after the neighbours partied until 3 in the morning… I look outside – the probability of rain is maybe 50% or even less. However, I know that I will regret ignoring the warning if I do not put the tent away and it rains, so I reluctantly get up and start the procedure…
Everything is ready, I’m done with my gymnastics and luggage, exceptionally I have had even a breakfast. It’s already 7:35. I just put my backpack on my back and the rain pours down. Have to “run” to the restaurant – there I will wait for it to pass. I need coffee after an almost sleepless night, anyway.
Plantain compresses have done a great job, by the way – it still aches, but the swelling is almost completely gone. At the end of the day it turns out that in 33-34 degrees of heat I have travelled 11 km on foot – viva la plantain! :)))
Gencho is the first who stops for me, leaves me shortly after Sunny Beach and advises me to stand somewhere in the shade and just wait. I can’t do this waiting thing, though. Inaction at one place burdens me, it seems like a waste of time. The backpack weighs on my back anyway, so at least there should be some progress.
After a few kilometres of “waiting“, the person who stops me looks confused when I spoke, but recognises “Varna” and makes room for the backpack. He’s obviously a foreigner, so I switch to English and everything falls into place. Florian is German and despite his strong accent, which makes it a bit difficult for me, we have a very interesting and varied conversation. When he says that his dream is to ride a motorcycle around Europe, we become true friends! :))) The only difference is that he has and rides a motorcycle! After an accident though, he fears whether he will endure such a long journey. Well, my dream is just a dream… For now!
Unfortunately, lost in the conversation, I forget to take pictures (like with Gencho before).
Florian enters the city and pass the whole Varna to leave me on the highway to V.T. (in the opposite direction of his). We say goodbye warmly, we have really become friends, not only because of the common dream! While helping me to put the backpack on my back, he managed to put also BGN 50 in my hand, “to help with the endeavour I have undertaken“. Thank you, Florian!! Touched by the gesture and the warm attitude, I forget that today I carry something other than the backpack. After a few minutes I realised I forgot in the car the bamboo that Mustafa gave to me…
Peter brings me another 20 km closer to the goal. The conversation is in high speed, as time is limited and there are many topics. We will probably meet again to finish our conversation. 🙂
On the empty highway, I find a small speck of shade from a lonely nearby tree, support the backpack on the guardrail stick and until with one hand I continue to “greet” the cars passing by, with the other I take out the sandwich that Vanya took care of last night.
I was starting to worry, to be honest. The heat was deadly, there was no shadow anywhere, and my water was decreasing menacingly… My foot reminded me of itself, but without dramatising unnecessarily, for which I was grateful to the plantain still under my sock. Water was my main concern… None of those who took me carried water with them, and there were no gas stations along the way.
I was grateful for the air conditioning in the next car – at least my body temperature drop to normal. Marian wasn’t very talkative. Maybe in principle he is, but it was just obvious that something was weighing on him at the moment and he wasn’t being talked to. I did not insist. It was already early afternoon and I was tired myself. I indulged in the pleasure of the coldness and gratitude that even though he was not in a mood for anyone else, the man stopped and took me in his car!
So I reached the fork for Shumen and from there a wait started again. Walking wait, of course. I lived with the hope that I could still find shade somewhere and eventually stop there for a while. Well, it didn’t happen. Instead, a nice couple travelling to Sofia covered the rest of my way and left me at a fork, from where I walked the last 2 km and, hidden behind sunglasses, amused by the curious glances.
Svetla and Todor made the last part of my journey memorable. The conversation with both of them was not only pleasant and interesting, but also quite useful. Thank you, dear people!!
Oh yes, not to miss the latest scream of fashion in road marking! (See the last photo.) (it’s written there “drive slowly, there is a turn“)