Tale of two halves Turkey

So we pick up on the road to Turkey. Leaving the back way we wanted rural roads and to avoid the major land crossing, Kapikule just by Kapitan Andreevo (around 400,000 cars and 4 million people a year go through that crossing!)

I highly recommend the route as it took in winding Forests through Bulgaria. And it is quick!

We then head on highway 7 from Burgas to Hamzabayli Sinir Kapisi crossing which is new and mostly created for HGV / lorry traffic, opposed to cars. We had heard it was lower traffic than on the other crossings that can take up to 4-5 hours.

Upon arrival at the customs gate we were greeted by a racist border guard, moody staff and be prepared for showing all your documents over and over and over and then when you think you are done … show them again.

The Bulgarian Guard was a hoot! He doesn’t like the UK. Or Turkey. Or the EU. We offer our documents but he says he doesn’t need those?! But he does like us and our car so after a good old chin wag, thru we go. Conversely, Turkey has Stony faced very serious border guards who had zero interest in conversation.

Now at this point if you read our first post you will know we were told we couldn’t take the car to Turkey. This was because the Power of Attorney Letter had not been written in Turkish, albeit we had green card and documents and visas. I can say that nothing made sense, we expected to be told we needed documents, but then sent to the next place. We were told repeatedly they didn’t want to see our car documents, only visa and passports.

30 minutes from entering we were through! It was chaotic and for some reason (we found our later) sausages are not allowed in Turkey. Well that was one snack we ate fast!

We cross the border and head out on the D-535 (direction Istanbul) for a few miles before turning toward Edirne on the Otoban-Merkez-Ilce-Siniri road. Now at this point you may think, hmm that’s sounding Turkish – oh yes, this was a ‘off beaten path’ kind of road. 20km of just dust and dirt and about 15 lorries. Just dead sunflowers for as far as the eye could see.

Then we rounded a hillock and in front of us we could see minaret after minaret clustered in the distance. I was just saying we should stop for a picture when I saw something crossing in the road I brake hard and Kat wonders what the fuss was about. A real tortoise. Yes, a real live tortoise! Now, I am sure many will know where they live etc but I never ever even thought I would ever see one. Let alone side of the road in the middle of the sunflower fields and rocky outcrops of Turkey. Magical.

When we close in to the city we realise why they say the minarets are the largest and oldest in the world. They are unbelievably amazing from afar and by the time you see them close up you cannot help but be silenced by them.

As we come into the city on winding roads we pass a prison right opposite a children’s playground – one of many examples we have of the two halves.

Driving the outskirts it is evident that it is better off than Burgas albeit with poor parts. It looks every bit the developed nation it projects and without any signs of rebellion or political issue. It somehow looked more authentic and naturally beautiful than I imagined.

Arriving at the hotel, we were greeted by our hostess and a massive room with jacuzzi bath. We also noted a footprint on the ceiling. Yup, two halves again.

We left for a walk to a traditional Turkish restaurant recommended to us. We were told “400m away, turn right from hotel, 300m, then right at the lights 100m”. Now, those directions were somewhat incorrect but no worse than Google Maps.

An hour of walking and we had found nothing resembling a restaurant. We found housing blocks, leading to more dirt roads, to packs of stray dogs. We walked under and over roads and finally we arrived…. at a mosque. Yes, our google maps had a case of the whoopsies. I have since learned it hasn’t got full street cover.

A quick recovering walk (further 3 miles back the way we came) and we found the Hamada restaurant we wanted by the old stone bridge. Stunning location! And by the time we arrived, sunset.

We are struck by the buildings, people and the constant presence of a watermelon cart on each street corner. A few glasses of Raki and a mixed kebab later and we had enjoyed an amazing day.

We are impressed enough to book a second night and decide to spend the whole next day to see everything we can possibly see. We got a taxi back to save our poor feet and look forward to more the next morning.

The next day we walked to the centre and saw all the main sights. We went into the Semillye Cami (Edirne’s most extravagant mosque), the bazaars, and statues of Sultans. Our legs have barely rested and miles more to come!

After enjoying a nice Dondurma (sticky ice cream), cay (tea) and hearing the call to prayer we set off for the shopping areas and stumble upon the best Baklava in the city!

We saw the 3rd of the old mosques, whilst looking for the Travellers rests that dated back 500 years, and continued to walk the streets around the central areas well into the day. We seem to have the luck of the Irish as we manage to see everything before heading back for another wonderful evening in Edirne to relax in the Turkish baths before striking out to the trendy Uni student district to eat at David People Big Boss restaurant! Chilli chips and cocktails order of the day.

What strikes us is how serious the Turkish can be. Amongst the friendly nature is a seriousness that comes out during the next chapter in our story was we attempt to cross into Greece.

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