Time to head to the Turkish border. Just a few hundred kilometers away lies the grand metropolis of Istanbul (aka. Constantinopol, Bizantium, Tsarigrad.. this ancient city is known by many names!) and the final destination of this ride.
First, tucked away in a busy cafe, I do some quick research about travel in Turkey, typing in phrases like “solo female travel Turkey” and “bicycle travel Turkey” and quickly absorb some quality tips and info. Bicycle travelers recommend gas stations for free camping (weird but true), Turks are found to be formal, polite and very helpful to tourists, and Western women report pleasant and problem free travel granted you too remain formal and not get too smiley (otherwise they tend to think we are all “Samantha’s” living out our lives like in the “Sex and the City” series…) Ok, duly noted. Also, on a whim, I quickly check Visa requirements for both Poles and Canadians and realize that tourist visas are required for Turkey and come at a fee. I experience a mild panic attack as I face the unanswered question: do you get the tourist visa at the border or do you have to ask for it months in advance??
A few Skype phone calls later, to the embasies in Istanbul of both my countries, and I calm down. Everything is OK to cross the border in Malko Ternovo; visas are attained on site and I’m even told how much they will cost: 15€ on a Polish passport and 45€ on a Canadian one. Kind of a no-brainer as to which passport I’ll be using
The no. 9 secondary road to Malko Tarnovo is fairly peaceful, running mostly through farmland and forest, and very up and down. I like it though – the ups give you time to think and the downs time to leave all thought behind…
I arrive in Malko Tarnovo around 18:00 and so with (theoretical) plenty of time to cross the border and seek lodging on the other side. However, my other Internet searches have revealed nothing as far as camping or cheaper hotels in the Turkish villages nearby (or petrol stations for that matter, if camping there is indeed as wonderful as others make it out to be). I would rather not put myself in an awkward situation my first night in Turkey, so I decide to wait until morning to cross the border.
I stop instead at the only hotel in town, where I’m warmly greeted by one of the employees – an perfectly beautiful woman, about 35 years old with dark hair and almond-shaped eyes. She gives my shoulder a big squeeze when I explain what I am doing and how I come to be here, tonight, at this hotel, on my way to Istanbul. I’m promised a good coffee and an omelette in the morning to give me strength to continue on my way!
Back in my room I relisten to some of my favourite Vinyl Cafe podcasts, this CBC radio show is a treasure and makes me laugh out loud, a lot. It’s a great Canadian connection when I’m far from Canada not to mention chock full of fantastic stories, both true and invented.
It’s been a good day, all in all, full of two of my favourite things: biking and stories
Kasia – your story-telling cyclist
- dog at a gas station
- horses living in an abandoned building!