Across the Border

To travel is to have to work around inconvenient train schedules. The easiest escape from Bulgaria was a 5:10 train to the border town of Svilengrad, from where a taxi took us to the border proper. The border zone was a real piece of work. About five Bulgarian booths separated by a hundred yards each, and at each one some guy would look at our passports and wave us through. More of the same on the Turkish half.

Needless to say, we were the only people negotiating the damn thing on foot, and a few of the agents craned their necks back and forth as we approached their booth, as if searching for our car. At the penultimate booth the guards wouldn’t let us walk and threw us in the back of a passing car for the next hundred yards, because, well, rules are rules.

So the Bulgarian leg is over and overall I couldn’t be happier with how it went. My gloomy expectations were pretty far off the mark; the country reminded me of Italy in a lot of ways: friendly people, good wine, beautiful countryside. Cyrillic was a joy, it was like a fun puzzle, with a satisfying fraction of words transliterating to cognates. Bulgarian food is actually pretty good: I feel like the chefs of Bulgaria all got together awhile back to decide whether they were going to look southeast to Greece and Turkey or northwest to Serbia and Romania. They made the right decision.

We haven’t seen too much of Turkey as yet–it’s raining in Edirne and so we haven’t really seen the town, but the handful of stunning mosques in the city center serve notice that we’re entering a land whose cultural lodestar is no longer Paris, as it was in Bulgaria.

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