“No by foot, need auto”

We set out for Turkey after much consideration and with almost no information.  We took the pre-crack of dawn train out of Plovdıv to Svelingrad, which as far as we could tell was as close as we could get to the border without taking an overnight train to Istanbul which didn’t stop at our desired destination: Edırne.  So we figured we’d get to Svelingrad and a way through the border would then become obvious–I mean someone must go from Bulgaria to Edirne, right? 

A single taxi sat by the station exit, which we hailed:”taxi na Tursky?”  Sure enough, without a glitch he drove us right up to the border gates.  We hopped out, through our bags over our shoulders, and headed through the crossing on foot.  Didn’t seem crazy at the time.  The crossing was endless.  Gate after gate of passport check, stamp, laugh at crazy Americans standing in line with cars, check passport, send back to buy visa, stamp passport, failed attempts to draw the long a of ‘Hazel’, passport check… 

We could see the final gate just 100 yards ahead when the Turkish customs stopped us.  “Where auto?”  “No on foot” “Need auto”  I started to dread the trek back through the gates to Bulgaria… The customs officers were quite dumbfounded, but told us to wait over by the cars that were being searched.  We twiddled our thumbs until the officers saw that a car was coming through with empty seats. 

Minutes later we found ourselves hitching through the final checkpoint with two very friendly Bulgarian women.  As soon as we got through the gate, literally no more than 100 yards forward, they dropped us off.  We looked around confused for all of 10 seconds before the taxi drıvers swarmed us–clearly crossers on foot in need of a taxi didn’t come along very often.

So here we are in Edirne, safe and sound.  Mosques interjecting the skyline, juicy baklava adorning bakery wındows, and colorful markets busy in every neighborhood.

Bulgaria gets 4 stars and I have high hopes for Turkey as well.  

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