Day 14 (2): Finally out of the EU (again...)
Khaskovo Travel Blog› entry 20 of 260 › view all entries
April 19th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
The bus from Khaskovo to Izmir was already completely full when I boarded. I was the only person to board at Khaskovo. I wonder where this bus had originated from, as there had been no direct bus from Sofia.
The bus was full of elderly Turks, or Turkish Bulgarians as I later came to understand. I think these people live in Turkey but have Bulgarian roots, and they travel to what they call Bulgaristan quite frequently.
Too bad the conversations were limited to a few words in German and Russian, but they made me feel as welcome as possible.
I was quite impressed with the amount of staff in the bus. For long stretches like these there should always be a relief driver, but in practice this is not always the case. However, on this bus there were no less than three drivers, plus two handlers who helped people with the luggage and regularly brought the passengers tea, coffee and sweets, as well as keeping an eye on the road in case the driver dozed off.
At the border I enjoyed the benefit of being an EU citizen for probably the last time this journey. While my fellow travellers were all scrutinized by the Bulgarian border guards, I was able to walk straight through the aisle for “EU passport holders”.
This was immediately followed by the disadvantage of being Dutch when I reached the Turkish border control post. While most EU citizens don't need a visa for Turkey, the Dutch do. Probably a response to the tighter immigration policies my country enforced in recent years (a large chunk of immigrants in the Netherlands are from Turkey). The 'visa' as they call it was little more than a sticker in my passport, for which I had to pay 15 euros.
To make matters worse, they demand these fees are paid in your own currency, so for me this was to be in Euros. However, I didn't have any Euros on me! I had known this in advance, but I had expected there to be a bank, however, the bank was conveniently located *behind* the passport control, so I couldn't go there to change my left-over Bulgarian currency into Euros.
Smuggling is not taken lightly in Turkey, and customs control is extremely stringent. We all had to get our bags out and open and the customs officials picked two people for random checks - they had to have their bags put through X-ray machine. In my case I was only asked if I had anything to declare and my 'no' was seemingly enough for him. He was far more interested in the Turkish travellers on the bus.
Once across the border the co-driver collected all the cigarettes and wine the people in the bus had bought at the duty free shop. Turns out hardly anyone had bought any for themselves, but instead the bus crew have a little business on the side trafficking cheap cigarettes and booze into the country (as they cross this border several times a week, I doubt this was all for their own personal use).
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