Another good day today. Cycled from campsite to centre of Alexandroupoli at 7am to use internet, collect laundry, and send u-lock home to Dad. Packed up and on the move at 9, and went via the bike shop to say thankyou a lot again.
I started into a headwind whichstayed with me all day. Unfortunately the last 6km to the border is motorway. I explored other ways, but without serious offroading and getting my bike over a 2 metre fence, it wasn’t possible.
At the border the Greek guards asked how far I’d come – 3,600km – and then laughed, so I cycled off towards Turkey. Going over the bridge the Greek side is painted white and blue, and the Turkish side white and red. Across the middle of the bridge is a white line with blue on one side and red on the other. I was officially in Turkish territory. At the centre of the bridge, on either side stood a Greek and Turkish soldier, not allowed across the line into the others country. But they were leaning on the railings chatting and comparing their guns.
Going into Turkey, there is first a booth where my passport was checked, and I was told to continue on to the next booth. First though I changed all my Euro’s into Lira in the service station area. At the second booth I was told I need a visa, which I can get in the big building. I go in and to the little window. In the office a man is reading a newspaper at his desk. He looks up, sees me, sighs, and continues to read the paper. I assume he is finishing his sentance or paragraph. A minute later he turns the page and continues reading. Iask for a visa. He sticks a 15euro visa in my passport, and I say I have no euros, so I pay 30 lira instead.
Back at the second booth my passport is stamped and I continue to the third booth – customs. I’m waved right through. At the fourth booth I’m asked for my vehicle registration number. I say I’m on a bike. The guy sticks his head out the booth and laughs. He says I can continue, and I cycle on and under the big Welcome to Turkey sign.
First imprssions are good, the people seem friendly and all wave and shout support as I go past. A little boy sees me from his house, and runs across a field to see me, he was just curious, but there were no understandable words spoken between us. I reach Kesan where I have a WarmShower (like CouchSurfing, but for cyclists – no sniggering!) with Rahman. I call him from the main road junction, and think I’m supposed to go to the school where he’s a maths teacher. Up the hill into the town I go, which is very steep, all the time being curiously stared at by the locals, but in a friendly way.
After asking a few people directions I arrive at the school, and am immediately mobbed by children wanting to A. practice their English, and B. find out which football team I support! They’re all amazed that I’ve come from England, and have no idea who Carlisle United are. Rahman and his friend Fatih, an English teacher, arrive, and we go back to Rahmans house.
I’m going to be staying in the small basement flat of Rahman’s uncle, which is very nice. We chat about my trip and I use the internet. It’s ramadan, so no eating between dawn and dusk. I hear the mosque for evening prayer, and Rahman brings down a huge feast for me (Iftar). It’s just what a hungry cyclist needs – salad, fish, bean soup, rice, bread – all of it delicious!