Petrol station camping in Turkey ↑ all posts
The wind picked up as I approached Turkey, a strong headwind trying to keep me in Greece. This meant that the last 30 km to the border took much longer than I expected and I was not looking forward to a lengthy border crossing. It turned out to be pretty straightforward, and the most interesting border crossing of the trip (continental European borders are now little more than a sign, and maybe some dilapidated abandoned customs buildings if you’re lucky).
First it’s the Greek border guards who waved me through into no-mans land. The next thing you reach is a huge Duty Free shop which inside is basically identical to airport shopping. Not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not this. I walked in from 35 degree heat and dusty roads, covered in sweat and grime, and was suddenly in an expensive perfume boutique, completely empty apart from three or four sales assistants who did their best to stay well away from me.
The actual border is crossed in the middle of a long low bridge across marshland. It’s painted blue on the Greek side and turns red in the middle as you cross into Turkey. Huge Turkish flags were flying and little groups of soldiers with submachine guns pointed me to the first line of border crossing booths. The guy in this booth didn’t want to see my passport, just pointed me onwards to the second line of booths, not clear what the point of this two stage process is. At the second set of booths I was told I needed to buy a visa and directed to a third booth off to the side. Here I bought a Turkish visa for 15 EUR and went back to the second booth where I was waved through to yet another line of booths!
This stage seemed to be customs - some cars were being stopped and searched. A guard waved me onto the pavement and round the side where one final line of booths lay between me and freedom. The final booth was manned by a guy who had the job of making sure you had a Turkish visa in your passport - I was sure this was the point of booth two but didn’t mention it. Then I was in Turkey and the first sign to Istanbul, just 230 km to go!
Turkey immediately seemed friendlier than Greece - children on bikes shouted hello to me, a couple of lorry drivers honked and gave me a thumbs up. One of the first things I encountered was a guy in a donkey cart driving the wrong way up the fast lane of the two lane highway I was on. He didn’t seem too bothered by this and gave me a big wave.
The road to Istanbul first heads in a straight line from the border to Takirdag on the coast. The road planners weren’t overly concerned with circumnavigating hills so this road involves a lot of long climbs which you can see coming from miles away. Relentless and tiring, especially with the headwind.
I camped outside a petrol station at the top of one of the hills. The petrol stations here are great, lots of them have little restaurants complete with wood fired ovens, and so I eat a decent meal, and make use of the 24 hour toilets and shop. A little patch of grass near the restaurant was a convenient place to sleep, but not quiet - huge trucks would swing into the forecourt every so often through the night and wake me with their sweeping headlights and roaring engines.