|Tomas and I (Zshill, as the bulgarians pronounce) geer up in the morning for the much anticipated event...the Bulgarian border crossing! The Let's Go EU guide book warns about the difficulty of the Turkey/Bulgaria border crossing in particular. Many hours of passport control, customs, police and the reported harrassment of women. This does not sit well with Zshill, especially after a large cup of heavily caffinated Turkish coffee. Hallucinations of "Check Point Charlie" and being interrogated in a small white room by Nazies is all Zshill can think of.
The initial trek to the minibus stand takes place in silence. Although they are greeted by a man and his broken down bus with no windows that open, this surely will be the least of Tomas and Zshill's worries for the day.
The 18 kilometers from Edirne to the actual border crossing seems to take an eternity. Upon the approach, on the right hand side of the road, the bus passes by a seemingly endless line of 100+ stopped trucks, obviously waiting to clear customs. Things are not looking too good for Tomas and Zshill.
Approximately 20 meters from the crossing, the bus driver stops and everyone deboards, including Tomas and Zshill. Now, usually, "When in Rome" it's best practice to do as the Romans do. However, everyone scatters. Some people approach the line of cars, looking to hitch a ride across the border. Some people dissappear behind the line of trucks, and others literally just stand in one place, looking lost. Tomas and Zshill have no idea what to do next until out of the blue, a border crossing patrol motions "this way". Tomas and Zshill approach with caution. Much to their surprise, the patrol says, "It is forbidden to walk across the border. You must drive. However, I trust you as you look like nice tourists so please, proceed." And with that, Tomas and Zshill walk the 200 meter barbwired and gated straightaway towards Bulgaria. Next, the police greet Tomas and Zshill with great big smiles when they learn they are from America, going to Bulgaria to travel. After a flash of the passports and a quick stamp, Tomas and Zshill are then "welcomed" by customs. Not only is it incredible that no one requests to see the contents of the bags, the customs control officer gives Zshill a boquet of pink carnations and motions towards the taxis where a ride is waiting to drive them to the nearest town. Truly unbelieveable. Fortunately, "Let's Go" could not have been more inaccurate about the crossing.
Tomas and Zshill are now safe and sound in Plovdiv and enjoying Bulgaria for the truly diverse and amazing country it is.
More to come. Chao for now!