Sunday, November 16, 2014

11/12/14 Day 300 The Struggle Getting to Istanbul

Our last days in Europe are spent in a valiant effort to hitchhike across the border to Turkey. In a decision based on logic we decide that the 300+ miles from Thessaloniki to the border would probably take way too much time so we opt for the student priced Trainose rail again, only 7.40€ each for 7 hours of slow train transport to Alexandroupolis station. Our plan, to hike from here the 4.5 kilometers to the E90 highway and hitchhike from there the remaining dozen kilometers out of Greece. Unfortunately for us the highway had almost no traffic for us to flag down besides the occasional Greek car mostly driving up to the next village. I don't think we waited much more than 40 minutes before we picked up our bags and trudged the 4.5 kilometers back to town, defeated. We had to wait 6 hours to catch a train for only 1.60€ each to Peplos the last village before the border where a remarkably foggy creepy, deserted farm village awaited us. After determining that yes every crevice in the town including the naked mannequin decorated farmyard was too weird we hustled another couple of kilometers to the highway boundary where we found a perfectly hidden hillside to slump our tent near for a few hours of sleep. Crossing the border between Greece and Turkey requires a vehicle through the 1 kilometer no-mans land crossing the river. We walked up to the Greece controllers and attempted to explain ourselves out of our obvious overstay in the Schengen, (due to the fact that we drove an Irish car out through the ferry, England never stamped us out and France never stamped us in, and because we had no Schengen stamp entering Croatia they wouldn't stamp us upon entry or exit, and again because of...ferries?! So Italy never stamped us back in, leaving us with a 4 month grey area void of stamps. We received a dirty look accompanying a reassuring question about our intentions of coming back to Greece after Turkey, no sir we will be in Thailand. With a stamp and a nod he sends us on our way through towards Greece where we were able to flag a car to drive us the 1 mile to the Turkish border, and with no hassle at all thanks to our online E-visa we made it to Turkey.
Since our flight leaves from Turkey we decide to spend more days in Istanbul at the end of our trip, leaving us only one full day in the city, it is enough time to see most of the touristic things in the city. We stroll through the Grand Bazaar, make it to the Blue Mosque, walk through a nice park, and managed to eat lots of street food. We ended our Istanbul wander with a hole in the wall restaurant that served us; lamb skewers and vegetables, a salad, chicken garbanzo bean and rice pilaf (a common street food served for only 2 Lira/<1$), Fanta and Turkish tea for only 12 Lira (less than 5$!)

The train in Greece

Peplos in its eerie fog
Pide, Turkey's version of pizza
Homeless cat house in cat town, even the kitties have opportunity housing
They seriously do not have it so bad

The Grand Bazaar...full of expensive flashy jewelry, completely lacking any sign of locals

Fresh pomegranate just for 1$ and orange juice for .50¢. Yes please!

The Blue Mosque in all of its minareted glory

Bead inlaid gourd lanterns, what a beautiful inspiration

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