Best hitch hike (auto stop) I ever had!

Istanbul Travel Blog

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On the Turkish border.

So I did hitchhike through Greece! Hitchhiking is called auto stop in Europe. Last hitch was the most memorable of my career (aim high).

Hitching 101: The last two days my muscles been exhausted just thinking of hitching to Istanbul from Thessaloniki, Greece- about 700km.  Walking in the heat does me in. To get out of the city, I took a bus at 10:30am to the farthest point and closest to the highway going to Istanbul. This is the rule of the thumb. Then I tried the first entrance ramp for 30 minutes and nothing so I walked along the highway (illegal) hoping to find a better entrance ramp. I saw a truck stop parallel but with a fence between me and it. I cant be the first person who hitched, or broke down on the highway so I figured there would be a cut in the fence, there was so I went inside and showed my sign “Kavala” to the 5 people inside. Kavala is the next closest city, behind them was a blond Norwegian guy, definetly not Greek. I came up to him, he’s been there since 10pm the night before and got a case of the lazies.  Two men hitching is a difficult hitch, man+woman is next best to any number of woman hitching. So we made the rounds at the truck stop, truckers aren’t great for hitching in Greece, then walked to the next entrance. 10 minutes later an older Bulgarian picked us up. He thought we’d speak Greek or Bulgarian, he was having difficulty staying awake and just basically keeping the car on the road.  I made monkey (fear of death)faces. If it doesn’t kill ya- enjoy the experience! First time someone asked me for money. I understand him wanting money because we didn’t live up to his expectations. We thanked him and he didn’t seem to put out. He dropped us some 1 hour or maybe 150kms. Not quite to the border town Alexandriopolis, so now 1:30pm we hitch again. A broken down van with Bulgarians screaming “money” stopped and left.

 Chris, I met at the truck stop, is a great kid, 22, did Army in Norway, kinda naïve like Wally Cleaver ... sincere to his bones but abit much of the: “Have a nice day. Thanks so much. Awe gee Beav.”  It is cute… still annoying. We wait talking about Karma for Squirrels and other less interesting topics.  

A white BMW- half SUV, sedan and all luxury pulls up. I am later told this car is 120,000 euros. Window comes down and a fat man in shorts, stained t shirt reclined in the passanger seat says ‘do you have a license.’ We say yes and they say get in. A BMW!!!  The driver is short, muscular and couldn’t find the open trunk button with the assistance of the other 2 it is opened. The man in the back, skinny, faded jeans with holes, glasses, and no upper teeth- though he looks weak, he also looks intelligent. Kinda like a Nazi doctor in the camps intelligent. None of these guys look like they give a damn about us.  I am like 90% correct on my quick assessments. I read the situation, these 3 men don’t drive BMW’s. The one driving is all of 160cms tall but built like a shit brick house.  Chris ask “do you fight?” I am like what the fuck, an obviously high strung little man, built like a brick shit house in a car he probably can’t fucking spell- you don’t say “do you fight?” Chris will do this throughout the day and night. In the back I tell him to be careful, he writes down his email incase he dies, like I wouldn’t die with him? We take a break in Alexandraopolis (the border town) for a frappe, here we could have gotten out. One of our men the fat one changes cars, follows us to a smaller border crossing some 100kms north.  The skinny guy with no upper teeth speaks 5 languages including decent enough English, he is the oldest 49, he is pretty tired, he says he played backgammon the last 3 nights til 7am. Tim and I get along well, it has been 7 years since he spoke English and we establish a quick friendship.  I am helping him with his English. Tim would take over the driving duties. At the smaller border, the muscular guy got out to get “documents” apparently the name on the company car doesn’t match Tim’s name. Tim starts letting out little pieces of info, Tim and I joke we’re the see no, hear no, speak no monkeys and all is cool. We play this game, he wants me to ask questions but I ask no questions. He ask questions, I am honest, after my divorce I basically try to detach emotion from my life and don’t want a wife. Much rather have a puppy dog to give me all the love I could ever want. He learns I really am NOT a curious guy. I tell him of a Bulgarian girl I met and we cement the bond. Tim really feels (x10) that Bulgarian women are the best homemakers in the world- the last of a dying breed of women.  He insist I should marry a Bulgarian woman and ask her to Chakalala with me. A type of Bulgarian dance.

This is the Balkan Mafia. It has a very Good Fellas feel to it. Mafia may sound exciting but trust me it is a lot of sitting around and waiting. If it is legal- the legal way of getting to from point a to b you take for granted cause it is a straight line. Illegal you got a zigzag and patience is important- it pays to be patient and to make small talk. We are at this point of small talk Tim says, ‘if you (me) ever want a job, he has friends that would hire me.’  

We go back to the Alexandropolis border to try with Chris driving. The Greek side wave us through but the Turkish side we still need the correct documents so we wait. Chris and I needed Visas and the Balkan Mafia bought our visas, then bought our sandwiches and 2 packs of Malboro each. Pass midnight someone somewhere gives the documents and we went through. Then about 3kms we pulled over and waited for our muscular friend to come through with a trucker he hitched with across.  With the little guy driving we made the 300kms to Istanbul in time for breakfast.

Tim explained that it was the boss's idea to pick us up. He was against it because you never know what you get with hitchhikers but they needed us to get across the border. He said 'we got a car from who knows where, and people who know why.' My thought is this car is going to Iran. They were meeting on the Kurdish side of Turkey with some people who were to take the car. A good travel experience is why i came to the Balkans. I have had a wonderful time traveling the east.

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On the Turkish border.
On the Turkish border.
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Istanbul
photo by: Memo