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At the Ageaen Sea

Turkey & Caucasia

07.10.2003 from Xanthi, Greece - 2783km

After Orsava at the Danube, my bicycle tour continued over a broad plain to Calafat, the border crossing to Bulgaria. Somehow, somebody told the people in the villages along the road, that asking tourists for cigarettes, money and food (in this order!) is a nice thing to do all the time. So even 7-year old boys were asking me for cigarettes... I had a lot of contact with the locals but in a somewhat awkward way, because it was always about the same thing. Celir and Alin were a very nice exception. These two schoolboys were on their way back from school and we cycled some 10km side by side. I said things in English-Spanish-Italien and tried at the same time to figure out a bit of Romanian. We had a really great time! At the end, Celir and Alin wanted me to sign their schoolbook. So I gave my first autograph as a touring cyclist.

Arrived in Calafat at the Danube, there is the border crossing. It was already 5 pm and I wanted to avoid to arrive in the new country, Bulgaria, at night. But there should be some two and a half hours of daylight left... so I dared to cross the border already that day. Since the Slovenian-Croatian border, the time passed at the borders increased exponentially. It took me 1,5 h to get from Serbia to Romania... To my surprise, in a quarter of an hour everything was done at the Romanian side, except... One needs to wait for the ferry to get on the other side of the Danube. It took a good hour for the ferry to arrive. So it was about 6.30 pm and it should still be ok. I pushed my bicycle quickly on the ferry. Along with me two other cyclists were on the ferry... The local smugglers. They had just filled their pants and jacket with cigarette packages. One could fit 6 big packages in his trousers: amazing! All in all, they had about 40 packages with them, 38 more than they would be allowed to bring to Bulgaria. A part of the cigarette were then handed over to the ferry crew. Probably because the crew does not get checked while passing the border. It took then another hour for the ferry to sail off. The crew waited for a truck to pass the customs. But by then there were that many cars waiting, that the ferry was heavily overloaded and some of the cars had to be parked on the loading ramps. Night had fallen by the time the ferry left for the other side of the stream. The captain did not bother to light up the position lights, neither was there radar. The crew made themselves comfortable in a special cabin equipped with satellite TV. There were then some problems on the Bulgarian side. The flood lights could not be used to land the ship as a truck was way to much on the loading ramp, that it obstructed the vision. But anyways, in the end I landed safely on the other side. Customs control was really efficient and I could cycle on to find a hidden place to pitch up my tent.

In Bulgaria, I cycled always southwards passing Montana, Sofia and finally Serres in Greece. The ride through Bulgary before Sofia was really nice. The sunlight shining on the autumn fields in this hilly landscape was very beautiful. After Montana, there suddenly appeared a mountain pass at 1400m. Starting the climb at 100m above sea level made it a bit long and tiring. Just before the climb started, a truck driver offered me to drive with him all the way to Sofia. The driver could simply not understand why I turned down his offer. Even in perfect Bulgarian I would not have been able to convince him that I prefer to cycle...

After the pass, I found a lovely place to put up my tent. A small mountain stream was just beside and I could finally had a full body wash. It was really cold, but the prospect of the comfortable feeling afterwards could not be beaten. Down in the traffic mess of Sofia, I suddenly saw a sign pointing to Istanbul. It was a bit frustrating as I was cycling in just the opposite way. The sign directed drivers towards the motorway directly leading to Turkey.

Now, I am already in Greece and I am enjoy some nice autumn sun. Last night I cycled up a small hill, just above the Aegean Sea. At the top, I had the most beautiful campspot imaginable! The view over the sea and the coast, in addition to that a breathtaking sunset. Wonderful! There are now some 150km to cycle until Turkey! And then Istanbul!

Best greetings from the road!


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Turkey & Caucasia