Tsarevo, Bulgaria – Akcakoca, Turkey (520 km)

Ștefan Cândea

We’ve left very early in the morning, because we’re planning to arrive to the Black Sea coast between Istanbul and Ankara sometime in the afternoon, and because this means crossing Istanbul on the motor highway that cuts the town into two and crosses the Bosphorus.

Those who have ever driven in Istanbul at rush hours know this is a more than challenging mission. Not to mention I had woken up with a food intoxication (with fever, headaches – everything) because of the copious dinner the previous day.

Some friends had recommended us to eat in Sinemorets and we had confounded it with Chernomorets (Thanks, Dan, we try it next time!) So, I am carrying this illness on my feet, or pedals…

We depart from Tsarevo towards Malko Tarnovo – a road of about 65 km, passing through a fir forest. It’s a free road, we hardly meet anybody till we get to the border. And here we are, leaving Bulgaria without having been robbed. The car is intact, no false policeman has stopped us. We’ve even been impressed by the existing infrastructure along the coast.

Entering Turkey is fast and costless. We don’t pay taxes, nobody controls our car. Speed limitation is frustrating on a plain road, without any car to occupy it. We’ve been warned radars may burn holes in people’s pocket, so we drive extremely carefully. And good for us: on the right side, a police car that has stopped four English motor-cyclists comes into sight. Lots of papers are being filled in.

We have paid the tax of 35 liras (1.8 liras against one euro) for the motor highway from the border with Bulgaria to Ankara. Three bands on each way, gas stations with wifi for free – the only thing missing was a decent coffee. Anywhere you ask for a coffee you get an instant ness weakened with too much water.

Having approached Istanbul and crossed the bridge over the Bosphorus gave me the necessary amount of adrenaline to overcome any kind of fever or headache. Just imagine thousands of trucks, buses, big and small cars and motor bicycles, all of them crowding to go beyond the bars at the tax payment point of the frontier. They all want to enter at once, if possible. The distance at the border of avoiding any emergency has changed into the distance at the border of avoiding any violent contact. It seems like the whole carpark of a hypermarket is moving in one direction with the cars almost touching each other, trying to pass beyond the bars and to flow as if through a funnel. It is a real spectacle even for the local people, who sit down for a picnic on the margins of the motor highway, watching TV, alone or in groups. Some of them are playing games, others are drinking tea or eating. The klaxon is used only to draw attention, never aggressively. Then, the multitude of cars passes beyond the bars and rearranges on a few columns. No one is blocking anyone – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to move. The chaos covers more than 30 km – sometimes the cars mass starts driving with 90 km/hour, until we get beyond the bridge over the Bosphorus and beyond the payment bar for the Ankara motor highway. The landscape we’re crossing is a concentration of hard industry and unending platforms with blocks of flats, coming one after another nearby the sea.

We leave the motor highway to Hendek and withdraw over night on the Black Sea coast. We are running on a road that is ideal for bicycles, 50 km of hills. From the distance, all of them look as if covered with grapery. Wrong. We are in the heart of a region that is famous for its massive production of hazel nuts. We go out bemused with having seen so many hazel nuts and enter Kocaali, a little harbor town, with an agitated centre, somewhere up the hills, closer to the hazel nuts hills than to the beach. It’s not the season yet and we don’t find anything for accommodation, so we drive along the coast towards the East. We stop in Ackakoca, an elegant small town, bigger than the previous. We find a hotel 50 meters from the sea, we get a room at the first floor, with a huge balcony, from where we can see the whole bay. Petruț makes a salad I am looking with eager longing at. My stomach is gasping in a threatening way. We are almost 1000 km away from Romania and I am watching the first sunset.

*The pictures were not shot on this occasion, but on a documentary trip made last year in December.

Translated by: Ruxandra Munteanu