On the 130th anniversary, I recreated part of the journey of the first person to cycle around the world on a bicycle. Taking it one day at a time. View the archive.

Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey

By Stuart Lowe on

I packed up my tent and said goodbye to the people from the night before. As I left I was given some more warnings about the lady who runs the campsite near Edirne.

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Sunflowers

My "official" route was to go from Bulgaria to Turkey. However, I saw a sign pointing right that said "Greece 3km". How could I not pop in for a coffee? I really wanted to be able to add another country that I'd cycled to, so despite having no Euros and not knowing how long the border crossing would be, I took the detour. I crossed the Bulgarian check point with no problem. At the Greek check point I was sufficiently unusual that the border guard asked me to step to one side. He asked me why I was entering Greece. I felt a little silly but I told him it was because I'd seen the sign saying 3km and thought I'd visit. I told him I'd come from Liverpool and was heading to Istanbul. He asked me what was in my bags. I told him it was smelly clothes, tent and sleeping bag. Apparently satisfied with this he told me I could cycle a few km along to another border crossing that would go into Turkey. Although Stevens probably stayed on the northern side of this valley, the next place he mentioned was Edirne and I'd still be going there. I decided the minor detour was worth it to see another country.

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View of Bulgaria from Greece

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Greek church

In Greece my plan was to get a coffee in a little cafe. The banking system had other ideas. I stopped to get some Euros out at an ATM in a village. The first had clearly crashed in some way. The second seemed to be working and I went through the screens to get money. I waited. Nothing came out. What was wrong? At this point a nice Greek lady who was behind me in the queue told me, in excellent English, that the crisis meant that the cash machines weren't giving out money. Drat. So much for coffee. I rode onwards to the Turkish border on incredibly quiet roads - either this is how it usually is or the crisis meant people were saving fuel.

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Greek ATM

I passed through the Greek check-point, across no-man's land, and showed my e-VISA at the Turkish border. Back at the start I'd had to tell them the day I was arriving. Thankfully I'd made it on time. I was now in Turkey. The people changed. The roads got busier and of worse quality. I cycled around the south side of Edirne a little bit worried about road safety. I eventually found an ATM to get some Turkish lira and I think it charged me a big fee (on top of my bank) to take the money out. At least I have appropriate money now.

Thanks to Tess, who I met in Serbia (having cycled from China), I already have a Turkish sim card so have some 3G and could get back online.

I found directions to the Grand Öm campsite which was a few kilometres east of Edirne along the D100 highway. I arrived to find a rather strict looking sign full of the rules of the site. The campsite owner was referred to as the "campingplatz führer" which wasn't promising even if this probably doesn't sound as bad if you are German. There was no reception. I spent a few minutes stood near the entrance not sure if I was allowed to go inside to find the owner or if that was against the rules. Eventually I plucked up the courage and found her sat around by the pool. I made sure I didn't cross the line into the pool area as the signs plastered nearby told me that would cost me €10. I asked if it was possible to camp. She said it was and told me the prices. Then she listed all the rules. Every trip to the pool area would cost €10. There were lots of things I couldn't do (although I wasn't bothered as I just wanted to eat and get some sleep). She pointed out the toilet block although that turned out to have no toilet paper in it and when I tried to have a shower only a tiny trickle of water emerged. A bit later after I'd eaten I saw the lady striding to an out-building where she banged on a bit of plumbing and told me that Turkish plumbing was terrible. I asked if there was something wrong with the showers and she said there was no water because she'd used it all to fill the swimming pool. The pool that had two local kids (or relatives) in it. I wasn't up for paying €10 to get clean on top of the pitch fees so I was going to bed smelly.

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Grand Öm campsite near Edirne

I'd been repeatedly warned that it was impossible to cycle into Istanbul without dying. Now I was in Turkey it was time to seriously think about it. Over my 3G internet (thanks Tess!) I found a website suggesting taking the D020 north-east from Edirne to the northern coast then following that into Istanbul. However, as I was following Stevens' 1885 route, I'd have to check off the town of Silivri on the southern coast. After a little more searching I found a website with advice for a route from Silivri into Istanbul although it wasn't hugely detailed, its advice boiled down to hugging the coast as much as possible to avoid the D100.

As always on my first day in a new country, I've had to work out what the drivers are like, what roads I can cycle on, how/where to get food and water, and where to find toilets.

I fell asleep before 8pm.