When it stopped raining, I left Plovdiv.
But not before I had arranged an e-visa online for Turkey, which required only marginally less patience than hacking the pentagon. Or so it seemed when I struggled to get my creditcard accepted..
In 2007, when Bulgaria entered the European Union, Cyrillic became the third official alphabet in the EU. This means that on new euro banknotes, one can find next to the Latin and Greek, the enigmatic EBPO, which is EURO in Cyrillic. This design was to ensure that Bulgarians could understand the euro banknotes too.
Cyrillic was invented because early missionaries in Slavic countries, notably St. Cyril and St. Methodius, wanted to translate bibles into Slavic languages but lacked the proper letters in the Latin alphabet. Since they not only brought Orhtodox Christianity to the Slavs, but introduced the art of writing as well, they were free to choose or invent any alphabet they saw fit and so they cobbled together a new alphabet, or rather, a new azbuka, as it is called after the first two letters. Unfortunately, for the users of the Latin script, there were quite a few so called false friends in the new set of characters, which made it all quite confusing.
For example: pectopaht looks like a medical term, but is the cyrillic tranliteration of restorant, where p = r, c = s and h = n.
At the border with Greece I drank excellent coffee with my last leva before cycling through customs. I hadn’t realised, but Bulgaria is not part of the Schengen zone and so there was a passport control. As any bureaucrat, the man who checked my passport wanted to know things not because it was relevant but because he was curious.
Where are you going?
And after that?
For what reason?
I looked at my bicycle. Tourism.
And after Istanbul?
I don’t know.
You are going back to Netherland?
I don’t know.
Okay, he handed back my passport. Not knowing what you want is okay.
The road in Greece was a stretch of wide and smooth tarmac, but very few people seemed to use it. The route itself was a bit longer than the one through Bulgaria, but I had heard that the new A1 motorway was not ready yet and a lot of traffic still used the old road. The Greek alternative was quiet and a pleasure to ride on. To my surprise I saw cotton fields next to the road.
The border crossing from Greece to Turkey was a breeze. It was a small road through the tiny village of Kastanies and heavy traffic was therefore not allowed. After cycling through the no man’s land between the borders and after nodding to a soldier who stood motionless with a gun in his hand, a mad, loud barking dog started chasing me. The soldier looked surprised, but for some reason refused to shoot the animal.
At customs I showed the e-visa on my smartphone and that was fine. Welcome to Turkey.
Three countries in one day…