Wednesday, 10 March 2010

4th - 7 February 2010

It is Sunday afternoon when we moor in Igoumenitsa.
Fairly quickly off the boat. No customs, no formalities. Start and drive off.
Finally a sun that shines. Good roads, they seem new. Soon the roads elevate again. Tunnels and viaducts alternate quickly. Suddenly we drive a foggy cloud and sure enough, it begins to snow. Fortunately overhere they are not out of salt. The roads remain reasonable and we have never committed to the idea that it is risky. The greatest danger lies in the Greek road pirates. We have seen better drivers.
Quietly rolling, we are taking our time and around 8 o'clocks at night we are at the Turkish border. The snow changed into rain, the wind blows hard. It no longer freezes.
The border town is deserted. More devastated is almost impossible. Fo this everyone has warned us; to spent hours at the border, endless queues and filling out useless forms. Being send from cabinets to walls that only seem to exist in the minds of officials.
Stamps and bribes as oil and grease for stuck economic disputes.

A car in front us stops at the Greek police. We stop behind, leave the engine running and M gets out with both our Dutch passports. The other get in his vehicle and drives off. The officer gestures with his head to hand him the documents. Despite the wind and the rain there was deafening silence. M passes the man the passports. If he sees that we are Dutch he gives them back without looking into them and he says its good. Relieved.
Back in the car. We drive along a deserted area. The original strictly separated lanes for freight and passenger cars appear to be fused together. The wetness of the rain makes it difficult anyway to distinguish road markings, everything shines and sparkles in the light of our headlamps.
Suddenly a modern lighted building with unclear parking. Restaurant? Toilet?
Both. And a super Taxfree store.
One that would not be out place at an international airport. What a contrast. Sufficient staff in the shop, but its to feel that would prefer to do anything but attending customers on a rainy Sunday night. We quickly buy a bottle of Metaxa for S's mother. And we dive into the dark again.
On to the Turkish side.
A dual carriageway. Watchtowers on both sides.
Despite the wind and rain every watchtower is occupied. We are in doubt to wave or not. Still Greek.
Two towers, one left, one right of the road. A viaduct, a bridge.
Two flags, the first Greek than Turkish. This is the real border.
It seems a mirror image. As more Turkish watchtowers pairs. And occupied.
Another bridge over an clear river.
The traffic ( are we the only ones!?) is deflected to the left. Sharp turn, the control point, the size of a football field, unfolds in our view. No car shows. No queues, in the distance only a single truck.
We drive to the first police station for passport control and step out together. Passports and identity card. And friendly agent M points the way to the issuance of visas in a dark building.
M has no problems getting his visa and returns outside. S is happily talking to the agent; about the weather, the fact that visas are not needed if you are married to a Turkish and so on.
We step back in and drive to the next window.
A friendly officer in his forties looks over his glasses back through the open hatch of his comfortable checkpoint. We step towards him, presenting our passport, vehicle registration and insurance green card through the hatch.
10 minutes later we have five cars behind us waiting, but that doesn't hurt us. The friendly customs officer decided to fill out the details of our car well in the various systems in order to avoid any trouble in the time ahead. Yet only a note in the passport and the signature of a colleague and with the advice not to drive too long because of the bad weather we are soon back in our warm car to the last check, not more than a formality .
We travel within Turkey .....
It's still raining and blowing too.

The roads are bad. We bounce from hole to hole with in between some splashing gravel. The perfect reflectors as we saw in Greece are not yet on the market here. The TomTom makes a game of the speed limits. We decide to stay overnight in the first town, so we will be Monday in Istanbul around noon. Nobody has to stay up late for us.

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