Days 210 to 215 – TURKEY: From Turkey into Greece


I lost my pen a while back, so all I have to remind me of the last few days is photographic evidence. So let’s begin.

Sleeping in half finished building in M.Eregilsi, Turkey

Ah yes. The first day out of Istanbul was cold, wet, and generally ugh-ish. The tailwind was the only saving grace, and I managed to squeeze 120kms out of the lightened and slicker recumbent. I feel like I’m riding on air now. Losing about 10ks of luggage has made a huge difference. The road was dead straight, and had plenty of long gentle ups and long gentle downs. Traffic was light enough (it was Sunday). The four lane highway was definitely not my preferred environment however.

Sleeping in half finished building in M.Eregilsi, Turkey

The next day, Day 211, was spent sleeping in the half-finished building that I had slept in the night before. The quiet lapping of the waves (the buliding was right on the sea front) was a much better environment to rest in compared to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. At about 4pm, two builders wandered through the building. Upon seeing me they dragged me out of my sleeping bag and greeted me with great joyous pats on the back. Almost as if foreign tourists are found sleeping in their buildings all the time.

Friendly chaps shouted me coffee and cheese in Tekirdag, Turkey

Day 212 was accentuated by two happy meetings. One was thanks to the owner of the small shop above, who gave me cheese and a coffee to go with my bread that I bought. Thanks guys! The other was thanks to Mutlu Polat, who hooked me and another traveller (Hose, a Spaniard walking from Spain to Israel) up with a room in his house for the night. Thank you Mutlu!

Mutlu (center) let us sleep in his house in Yenice, Turkey

Hose was an amazing inspiration. He left his home in Spain 8 months ago with no money, and only a back pack and sleeping bag. He walks about 30kms a day. He has no rain gear, no flash trekking boots. He relies on the kindness and generosity of strangers in order to make his way to Jerusalem. He still has no money, and throughout Europe has stayed often at churches. I have no doubt that he will have no worries in Turkey either. The Turks will take him in.

Endless straight road to Greece (near Malkara, Turkey) Endless straight road to Greece (near Malkara, Turkey)

Day 213 was straight. Dead straight to Greece. The gentle undulations continued right up to the border. These roads are no fun. Nothing to stimulate the mind. Give me the murderous hills of the Black Sea coast any day.

Greece! Freaking woooohoooo!

I sat next to this sign for a good 15 minutes. Trying to take it all in. Greece. I am in Greece. Europe. Stoked. Just stoked. To celebrate, I slept in a thicket under a bush.

Must be Greece (near Ferai, Turkey)

The next day (Day 214) I set out in a thick fog. Little letterbox-like constructions at intervals of about 500m each crept out of the fog as I rode by. In each was an icon of the Mother Mary, along with a bottle of water. Holy water I presume. Must be some of those Christians about…

I can't help it - Ancient cobblestone roads near Alexandropoli, Greece

The road from Alexandropoli (how Greek is that name!) going towards Thessaloníki is a big fat expressway. I found some repose for a little while when I spied signs indicating an old cobblestone road. I took this road for a few kms until it got too stony, then braved the expressway again until Mesti, where a smaller secondary road escapes the madness, going northwards for a bit before running parallel to the expressway.

Hideyuki (cycling from Portugal to Japan), met near Sapai, Greece

It was near Sapes that I met the second cycle tourist I have met since I started from Japan. Hideyuki is cycling from Portugal to Japan via a similar route to me through central Asia. The poor bloke. He doesn’t like hilly roads. Therefore he was looking forward to the flat riding along the Black Sea coast of Turkey. I felt bad for dispelling his mistaken assumption. I made sure he was aware about the torture that awaits if he chose to take on the Black Sea coast.

Mad catipillar line near Komotini, Greece

A photo for the insect lovers out there. What’s the deal with this? Why are the caterpillars all in a line? I never seen noting like this before.

Greek feta cheese

A photo for the cheese lovers out there. You have no idea. You know how your favourite cheese from the local store around the corner is really really yummy? You have that favourite brand of cheese that you rave about? You are living in denial. This Greek feta is the most amazing cheese I have ever tasted. Ever. Ever. And it was the cheapest stuff in the supermarket! If 3 Euro per kilo cheese tastes this good, I fear the 9 Euro a kilo stuff that was sitting idly beside the cheaper stuff. I am in love.

Slept in the pagoda under the trees (Komotini, Greece)

Today is Day 215 (I am now in Komotini), and last night I slept in the garden/forest of this dainty church. There was a pagoda with benches and a table. I slept like a baby. Satoshi, a regular on this blog, mentioned that I should stay at churches and monasteries etc in Mediterranean countries. Stoked. Looks like places like this may be a frequent occurrence here in Greece. With the extra cost of food and internet (2 Euro per hour for internet now), sleeping at hotels/hostels in Europe looks off the cards all together. I prefer it that way anyway…
As always, I am encouraged and uplifted by all the comments from visitors to the 14degrees blog. I apologise if any questions may go unanswered or unacknowledged due to time restraints here in the internet cafes. You can rest assured that every comment is read and savoured! I really do appreciate the mental support that even though I am on the road alone, I am being watched by many.


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22 thoughts on “Days 210 to 215 – TURKEY: From Turkey into Greece

  • Tim

    you'll have to get things organised to quickly upload and get offline so you don't spend to much on internet cafes.

    btw does the yumminess/digestablity of food increase with the price?

  • Chris J

    Hi Rob,

    Congratulations on making it to Greece! From the pictures you have clearly lightened your gear quite a bit. Perhaps you will be able to enjoy some better roads from this point forward as well.

    As a bit of a cheese enthusiast (being from Wisconsin and all) I can only imagine what sorts of new treats you have discovered.

    I would have tried to explain about catepillars and pheromone trails and all that as well, but obviously more knowledgeable folks beat me too it. It appears that the biggest challenge for you from this point forward may be more financial than physical. Keep close track of all your pennies! (Oh, but you may want to buy a new pen at least…)

  • carl w.

    Nice your still trucking along, I would have kept the tent but that's just me. Well I was going to say it was all about lay lines of engergy, which the caterpillars where following along…however the gig seems to have been blown wide open with facts from wikipedia… enjoy greece if you get the chance eat some salted slow roast pork with vegs very good indeed

    regards

    C.

  • Daniel

    Hey Rob,

    what about coming to the "Spezialradmesse" in southern Germany? It might fit in your time schedule: April 28. + 29 . The website is located under http://www.spezialradmesse.de (Special Bikes Show – there's also an English version). Maybe you could make a deal with HPVelotechnik, the manufacturer of your Streetmachine. And a presentation of your tour would be great.

    Last year a couple was starting its round-the-world tour (globecyclers.de) there and giving a presentation.

    Have a nice ride and I wish you not too much traffic,

  • Akimoto

    Hello Jollynut,

    so you discovered the cheese of Greece?! Yes it is tasty and cheap. Watch out for Switzerland = Cheese-Country, Germany = Cheese-Country, France /Alsace = Cheese-Country, Netherland = Cheese-Country. So if you realy like cheese, the future will be heaven for you.

    I think it is a good decision to get rid of the tent and the other heavy stuff, cause you already got adapted to minimalism and it must be so much more fun and freedom to cycle kind of a normally loaded bike than fully packed. And with the more heavy traffic on european roads it is absolutely the best decision regarding security on the road.

    What about the dogs? There are normally a lots of straying dogs in Greece.

    Did you visit your first Kafenion and had your first Mousakkas with Ouzo? I guess food would be better in springtime and after, but greek lamb should be very tasty and available.

    Do you go straight through Greece, or do you visit some antic places? Anyhow, keep away from the crazy east-european drivers.

    Cheers

    Akimoto

  • Jean

    Hi Rob, what's your address? I'll post you a new pen (harhar)

    By the way I remember reading somewhere that if you line up a few caterpillars nose to tail and make the first one go round the top of a cup, they'll just keep on following each other forever (there's probably a law against that though…)

    Jean

  • Mum

    Glad to see you've made it to Greece albeit 3 months later than planned! Looks like you are still getting good hospitality too. I would imagine that "foreigners" (= aliens, strangers, outlandish etc.) will be more common in the countries you go through now although if you keep away from the main tourist areas you may still be a rarity. I was thinking that if you still had the beard you could be taken for an Orthodox Priest. Loved the pic of the church building. Nice place to camp. Any services that could you could have attended?

  • Aunty Jenny

    Hey Rob, I envy you with that yummy Feta!!! I make a tart for Mel's cafe with Feta, so I could do with some of that real authentic stuff! I've only got a week left of baking for her and then I have 3 weeks off … to get ready for the real world of working 9 – 5.30pm. I got a job working for a firm called Office Max in their Call Centre. Something a bit different for me. I can't believe you are in Greece you lucky thing. I've only seen Athens, and that was amazing enough. The food is very yummy there too. I notice the fuzz is already making a mark on your face! Obviously, the clean shaven look is going to be very short lived?!

  • Aunty Les

    Hi there, Rob. I'm back on your trail again having been away on holiday for 2 weeks. Glad to hear you are now in Greece – you seemed to be going through Turkey for a very long time!

    Saw lots of bikers while up around the Nelson area but only one recumbent. They all had loads of baggage so can't have been going far!!

  • martynJ

    Hi Rob. Many congrats on making Greece. Yes those processionary caterpillars really are the strangest creature ~ as Jean pointed out, a behaviorist forced a 'closed~loop' of the insects and they maintained the formation for a full week ignoring food! Now you've ditched the tent I wondered if you have ever come across Hennessy asymetric hammocks? Apparently great for stealth camping ~ take seconds to put up / take down ~ fold down to nothing ~ weigh nothing ~ more comfy than a tent ~ and kind to trees! http://www.hennessyhammock.com/

  • Satoshi

    Ia Malaka Rob

    OK I will be a pain once again but for your own good. You didn't mention how your border crossing went between Turkey and Hellas (that's how the Greeks call Greece, don't ask me why) but yeah from here to UK there won't be any more passport control within EU however between the continental Europe and UK they still give you a stamp for non-EU passport holders for free and I don't think you got UK passport. Anyway you might have been givenm a three month Schengen tourist visa upon entering Greece. It's valid throughout 15 EU countries as I understand (but could be 6 months, you should check it, i dunno anything about the conditions for kiwi pass holders). If you can't make it to UK and get out of it before the expiry of this visa no problem you shoud be given a Swiss stamp on your passport that lets you outside EU – Switzerland – and then when you re-enter EU – Germany – insist on a German stamp. Unless you ask for it they wouldn't normally give you anything when you enter EU from Switzerland so just ask for it and have your passport data entered on their database (these day a quick scan of the photo page would do all the checkups and they even know that you got arrested a few times during your trip so if they ever ask you any questions don't deny it and show all the papers you got from the police in china and other places).

    What visa have you got for UK?

  • Lee

    Hehe, Rob (and Malcolm), you'll never guess what someone's innocently stuck to our fridge.

    A cube of blue-tack.

    Ah, the memories.

    Too long a story to explain on a blog, but hopefully one of you remembers.

  • Alison

    Hi there.I have been enjoying following your trip. Just on your caterpillars – I think they form these processions when foraging for food,not sure if they head along the paths that other caterpillars have trod,but I know they are led somehow by pheromones!

    Good luck with the next leg of your journey. Alison.

  • Daniel

    … my theory about the caterpillars: they're imitating a snake – so it's a kind of megalomania. The prey they can catch is therefore much bigger (as they think 🙂

  • Ailsa

    Yay, you've made it into Europe, rather exciting, have been loving just catching up with you blog, makes me rather jealous, especially when stuck in grey wet London, anyway looking forward to more of your adventures, also you should maybe check out http://www.couchsurfing.com you can stay in random peoples homes as you travel, just incase you experience much rain or flooding, it is that time of year over here!!!

    keep going and keep off the main roads as much as possible they'll just get more and more nightmarish.

    ailsax

  • Cornell

    Congratulations for making it this far! Good on ya, mate!

    I am still with you and I can taste that cheese!! Real good food from now on.

    Take care and looking forward to seeing new entries.

  • Tim

    Hey Rob,

    I've been following you from the beginning. Great job! I think my job is harder. I sit and watch your escapade dreamily from my office. Anyway, nix the Hennesy Hammock. I've got one, and they will freeze you to death. Imagine the cold you have endured, then imagine someone strapping you 4 ft. off the ground in that cold. It's ike hanging a Rob burrito out to freeze at night. You'd be better off with bivy sack on the ground, under a bush. That was all. Oh, and I've got to try that caterpillar trick! 🙂

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    BULK REPLY:

    Tim (I assume Cousin Tim?), cheap food in Greece so far has proved to be tasty and digestible, so I think I'll stick to it! And cheers for the Wikipedia link.

    Chris J, the lighter gear has made such a difference. It shows in my average speeds for sure!

    Carl, slow salted roast pork sounds great. Any idea how to say that in Greek?

    Daniel, the Special Bikes Show sounds awesome. I will keep it in mind, and if it looks as though I will be in the area, I will be keen as to attend. Dunno about committing to a presentation though. I'll see how things pan out over the next month or so. As for your theory on the caterpillars, you never know, you might be right. Perhaps you should write to the Discovery channel to report your theory!

    Akimoto, the lighter bike is like riding on air. So good. The dogs in Greece are all show. They bark, but are scared little puppies if you stand up and yell at them. Not like the ones in eastern Turkey! The plan is to cruise straight through Greece, through the southwest corner of Macedonia, and then into Albania. Some guys last night warned me that all Albanians have pistols, and most have AK47s. Sounds like a nice place.

    Mum, see the latest posts for a church service.

    Aunty Jenny, the fuzz has returned indeed. I need to get some growth inhibitor or something. Cut down on shaving costs.

    Aunty Les, interesting that you saw a recumbent in NZ. Did they look 'foreign'? Recumbent riders are a rare breed.

    MartynJ, my bro has a hammock tent, and I had thought about getting one myself. I had thought however that in some places I traveled, like most of central Asia, trees are few and far between. Might be hard to find a place to tie the thing up.

    Satoshi, a Japanese cyclist I met recently also mentioned the 3 months only thing for the EU. I must check that out. Apparently once you leave the EU, you are not allowed back for another 6 months. Or at least that's what the Japanese guy thought….

    Lee, high school kids can be real rotters.

    Alison, thank you for keeping up on the progress. I had never seen anything like those caterpillars in New Zealand, so was a little bewildered…

    Ailsa, cheers for the link to CouchSurfing. I had been reminded of that a while back, but hadn't gotten around to sorting things out. Will check it out for sure.

    Cheers Cornell.

    Tim, thanks for the advice and experience in the hammok tent. If you try the catapillar trick, take photos, or better still, take video.

  • eleni

    Hey!! great job, I am Greek so I thought it would be nice to answer some of your questions…

    Firstly this little kind of post boxes that you saw close the roads..well it is not for good..means that some person had some accident and he survived so they put this "little church" there to thank god for surviving…

    I think the caterpillars are always in line because their way is always defined by the way of the canterpillar that they have in the front. Well what about the first caterpillar? I have no idea..

    Also, this thing with Albans it is not so true..it is just that the political situation there is not so stable and it might be a bit dangerous…but -you must know now- albanian people are just people like all of us!!

    Yes the cheese is the best!!

    I wish I had your courage to do the same trip!

    Welcome to Europe!!

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    Eleni, thank you for your info about the boxes on the side of the roads. I thought it might have something to do with road accidents, but wasn't sure.