63km Alexandroupoli to Ipsala
A few days ago we met Greece’s nicest bar owner and today our paths were lucky enough to cross with what we are sure is the country’s best bike shop. It was pure chance that we happened to stop at a sports store – looking for bike gloves for Andrew – where the owner knew someone who knew someone and a few phone calls later a cheery man called Costas appeared on his motorscooter to lead us to the bike shop. Costas was good friends of the owner of this little shop, tucked a few streets back from the main coastline drag.
We spent a few happy minutes picking out Andrew’s new gloves as well as a few bits and bobs for the journey ahead. When the moment came to pay, we were digging around in our wallet for the money when the owner plucked a 10 euro note out of our hands and declared the bill paid. It was only a fraction of the total and despite our protests he wouldn’t take another cent. Instead, he ran off to get a laptop so we could check our email for free from his shop, then wished us well a few minutes later as we set off for the rest of our journey.
Once again we are humbled by the kindness of others.
After a quick lunch we were soon passing through the farmland that leads from the bustling coastline city of Alexandroupoli to the Turkish border. The headwind that has plagued us for the past two days continued as strongly as ever and we struggled to even get down the hills, let alone up them! It took us over four hours to cover about 40km and the sun was riding low in the sky as we approached the Greek checkpoint. A quick look over the passports and we were on our way, cruising over the bridge between the two countries, smiling at the soldiers and finally reaching the Turkish border post. Our sixteenth country so far!
It only took one person to approve our exit from Greece but four different officials had to look over our passports as we entered Turkey, plus a fifth bonus person for Andrew since his British passport required a visa.
“For you, today only, $100 special price,” said the border guard in all seriousness before he cracked a smile and added: “The grey building, just over there, $20.”
Of course it wasn’t just the passports that needed examining but also us on our bikes. Smiling faces wanted to know where we were going, where we were from and were we really cycling all the way to Istanbul? They just about fell over when we mentioned China and when we once let Iran slip from our tongues we got our first advance notice about how dangerous it would be to go to Iran. We hadn’t even fully entered Turkey and already we were being warned off the next country.
We aren’t worried. If the dangers we face are the same as the ones we were warned about before we entered Turkey and just about every other country we’ve been through so far then we should be just fine.
Finally having cleared all the border checks we rolled into the first town and hunted down a hotel for the night. Our first meal of Turkish food, including a pea soup, rice, and a tomato-aubergine stew was delicious and we look forward to more taste tests!