Usually I would never hitchhike directly on the highway, but next to a toll station… It’s hard to say no to that many slow moving vehicles. And so, about 20 minutes outside Thessaloniki, a Turkish truck stopped. Before I had sat my ass down, I was handed tea and a cigarette…. Off to the Turkish border.
Or so I thought. Maybe 200kms from Turkey his boss phoned, telling him to head north to Bulgaria instead. An interesting change. So I was hitching outside of Xanthi, as I had been some weeks before. At 9pm. I don’t think I mentioned I had to be out of the European Union by the end of the next day, did I? Well I did. 30 day visa free trip was up.
Staring at my almost empty water container and scouting out possible sleeping locations, while hitching under a highway street light, I was mulling over options. Of course the road Gods delivered me Maximus, the Russian.
Maximus took me to his village near Komotini, telling me to stay at his house (and then phoning his wife Nadia, “the general,” to ask if it was ok). I don’t turn down these sorts of things… It would be silly to.
A night spent eating Russian/Greek food with Maximus and Nadia, trading various coins, and learning about his bee keeping and karate-teaching occupations. Interesting night. The next day, back on the road with too much honey, and enough food for another couple of days.
Some hours later with yet another Turkish trucker, I was at the border… At least I was 4km worth of trucks away from the border. So I began walking towards that red flag and Crescent.
I passed trucks from just about every Eastern European country, and a few western ones. The turks had set up chairs and were downing Chai, while the Poles and Romanians smoked and smoked. The Germans had Tvs and air conditioning going… Then I arrived.
Strolling through the Greek border, with the guard not questioning my last minute departure, I threw down my bag and stuck my thumb out. At this border, you have to cross with a vehicle, so here I was. Only a two hour wait.
The bridge over the river Maritsa is the divider. A couple Greek soldiers on one side, and two Turks on the other. All very young. We passed with a wave, and here I was, finally in Turkey.
The border guards here were oddly happy. They attempted an American “see you… Later,” with big smiles, as I left.
This is where I met father Nickolas, the orthodox monk.
He took me all the way to Istanbul, and I was pretty happy to finally get a ride with a monk… Well, at first. His mannerisms went from a Smiley nice guy, to pretty awkward. You can probably see where this is going. But I’ll give you the awesome details.
It started with him constantly giving me a once-over (with his eyes) every time I moved a hand or moved at all, really. A few second stare each time. But we’re all odd in our own ways. Whatever. Then the hand behind the back seat… Well, our arms get tired, right? Whatever. Then his shifting hand (the hand that shifts the shifter!) shifted against my arm. Constantly. Alright, that’s a bit odd but again, his arm could be getting tired. Whatever.
But then the questions. “So are there many gay people in the army?” Sure. “No problem?” Nope. Canada is pretty cool like that. “Do you have many gay friends?” One of my best friends is gay, yep. “… So you’re bisexual right?” No no, I was just at my girlfriends house in Greece, remember? We talked about this… And then he started to scratch his leg and crotch in an agitated sort of way.
In the end, however, nothing overly strange happened. I’m quite sure he got the gist of things, and gave up his quest. He dropped me within 5 minutes walking distance from my hostel, and all in all, it was a pretty good ride. Just a little wee bit awkward. That’s all.
So yea. I was finally in Turkey, in the biggest city I had ever seen. By far… Just, huge!