24.06.2012 27 °C
I made it to Istanbul, the last stop on my journey. It's feels like a big achievement, especially since it was quite an effort today to get here. The day started out with breakfast downstairs in my hotel, in their alfresco restaurant. I guess since the whole area shuts down over winter, they only need an outdoor restaurant.
I wish we had enough warm weather outside of winter to do this at home. It makes such a difference to the culture here, everyone sitting around in the evenings, eating and socialising. It's worth mentioning too, that this was my first hotel with a soft bed!
After I checked out, I headed down the road to the bus stop, to catch the local bus to Burgas city to get my connection to Istanbul. A guy from France whose mum is from Bulgaria was on the same bus, so we chatted for the hour long journey. He was off to see the ancient treasure on display in Burgas, which sounds like something I would have liked to see. However, I only had an hour before my bus arrived. It was a lovely luxury coach, and I soon settled back in my reclining seat to enjoy the "6 hour" ride to Turkey's capital. Then I got hit by the tired stick, and couldn't keep my eyes open. I kept nodding off, but the roads were so bad that I was jolted awake every few minutes. It wasn't my most pleasant journey so far. After a couple of hours, we reached the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. As I suspected might happen, as soon as we were in Turkey, the roads were smooth and fast. Unlike crossing the border, which was quite an experience.
First we had to hand over our passports to the bus hostess, who took them off to show someone. Then the customs person got on and looked at each of us against the photo in the passport. Then we got our passports back with a stamp in them for exiting Bulgaria. Next, we all got off the bus and took our passports to an office where we were given a stamp to enter Turkey. After this, we had to collect our luggage from the bus and take it through a checkpoint. Once we and our luggage were back on the bus, we had one more stop, where customs got on again and checked the entry stamps in our passports. All of this took about an hour, and then we were back on the road again and heading for Istanbul.
Heading into Turkey from Bulgaria
If Romania was green, and Bulgaria mountainous, then the little corner of Turkey I saw today stuck me as being golden. As well as the continuing fields of sunflowers, there were acres of fields of barley or wheat, all golden and waving in the wind. I was also surprised by how many mosques there are, with the minarets towering across the skylines of every place we drove thorugh.
When we reached the outskirts of Istanbul, I got to see my second sea of the day. Having left the Black Sea in the morning, by early evening, I caught my first glimpse of the Sea of Marmara.
Although it was true that we reached Istanbul in 6 hours, it took another good hour and a half to navigate through the city traffic and reach the bus station. The sun was setting now, and I was faced with having to break my golden rule of never arriving anywhere new at night time. However, there was still enough light left in the day for me to find the metro station and then transfer to a tram which took me to a stop very close to my hotel. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to make it to my hotel, and get rid of the huge bulls-eye on my back - my backpack.
My room came with a complimentary arrival cocktail in the bar, so I headed down there to enjoy that, and watch England play Italy in the quarter final of Euro 2012. The temperature dipped to 25 degrees here tonight, that's the coolest temperature I have experienced in weeks, night or day.