Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Turkish-Bulgarian Border

A line of lorries begins two miles before the border control. They sit tucked in on the right of the road, I cruise past in the left hand lane. I scan the number plates - Turkish, Turkish, Bulgarian, Turkish, German, Dutch, German, Turkish...a car passes me with a number plate I vaguely recognise - big letters. It's British. The second one I've seen in three months. The drivers of the lorries are milling about, eating fruit from the roadside stalls, sipping tea, chatting to the guys who wander up and down the line with armfuls of beads and trinkets. Some wave at me, most just watch me ride past.

Turkish passport control has a line of cars leading to it which I join. A policeman who is supervising things approaches me and holds out his hand. I shake it. 'Where are you from?' he asks me. I tell him. I also answer his other questions - yes, I get tired sometimes. Yes, it's heavy. No, I'm not a professional cyclist. When it's my turn at the passport booth he goes in and explains to his friend what I've just told him. 'Where are you going?' his friend asks, whilst matching my face with the photo in my passport. I point forwards and declare 'Bulgaria!' like a man about to try and conquer a country. They both laugh and wave me on.

There's a line of about 40 cars for the customs bit, but I just roll down the outside and slip into the queue two before the gate. An official, in the process of emptying someone's boot, sees me and waves me through. 'Thanks mate' I wave as I pass.

A cluster of duty-free shops are ahead, fronted by a large, full carpark. I weave my way through without stopping and approach a huge marble-effect archway across the road, embossed with large letters - TURKEY. I pass underneath and am faced with 30 yards of road before another archway, this one more simple, a plastic banner declaring 'BULGARIA'. I freewheel the 30 yards and think to myself 'I'm not actually in any country right now'. I say it out loud to myself and laugh.

Beyond the Bulgaria banner is another booth preceeded by a dip in the road that is lined with metal grids and is, I notice, wet. The two guys in the booth see me and smile. I know what's coming and smile too - as I enter the dip they turn on the disenfectant sprays. I fake disgust. They laugh. I drop my passport. One of the guys runs over and picks it up for me. I proceed to Bulgarian passport control, beyond which I can see a long, straight, empty road skirting the side of a shallow valley, hills in the distance. 'Where are you going?' this guy asks me. 'England' I reply.


  • At 8:25 pm, Blogger Basscadet said…

    as I enter the dip they turn on the disenfectant sprays

    having heard rumours that mould-covered water bottles were being smuggled across the border.


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