Across Europe, vol. 2: Black Sea intermezzo

The Black Sea

Burgas, Bulgaria

28 March 2011

Dear fellow-travelers,

It’s been thirteen days since I set out on the road, and during that time I’ve come along almost exactly 400 kilometers, or 250 miles.  Compared to what’s still to come, this doesn’t offer much in the way of room for colorful things to happen, but it has stretched generously enough to include:

Winding the entire length of the Bosphorus in a single day, only to find myself still in Istanbul, and having to start all over again a few days later, once my escape route from the world’s third largest city was a little better planned – spending my first night on the road almost literally on the road, sitting tentless by a drainage culvert at the side of highway D010 with just the moon and rain and heavy midnight cargo trucks to keep me company – fending off a pack of dogs with a pair of scissors at four in the morning while yelling, loudly, “Ya!  Ya!  Ya!” – singing the Wailin’ Jennys’ “Long Time Traveller” and James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes” in tones (and at volumes) to suit any shade of light, amount of dust, proximity to errant buses, or degree of entanglement in mud-sunk brambles – navigating the Turkish Black Sea coast by guesswork and compass and livestock footpaths – securing a rescue for the two occupants of a van sadly overcome by the mounting mud outside Çilingöz – stumbling into the coastal town of Kıyıköy in the dark and the rain, and responding to a hotel-keeper’s piecemeal Italian in soggy Spanish – finding shelter at night in oak and beech woods so reminiscent of western Massachusetts it made the windswept miles drift away – being told by a maniacally sacrilegious man named Boris that I reminded him of Kurt Cobain, and was clearly a pious, righteous Christian – being woken by a cowherd, and told in sign language by an old man coming down to fish at the bridge below Armutveren that the US, the UK, and France were bombing Libya – finding blinding sunlight, heat, and thirst where I had warily anticipated cold and unremitting wet – watching a Turkish gangster movie from the 70s while gulping tea in a village too small to have a corner store – crossing a hilltop border to another country with another language and another alphabet – being pulled over to the roadside or otherwise made to show my passport at least ten times in my first 40 Bulgarian kilometers, courtesy of the relentlessly active dragnet of the Bulgarian border patrol – picking up bottled water at a weirdly salacious truckers’ cafe in Byala Voda – and a day of pastry-greased tranquility here by the shore of the Black Sea, before I head north tomorrow to join the trail that snakes westward along the Balkan Mountains toward Sofia.

Yours in sirene, in salam, in portokali,


PS – If the reference above to being tentless caused you any distress, don’t worry – the tent is fine, along with everything else in the box that was missing when I first arrived in Istanbul.  Somehow the postal service was able to deliver it to the address in Çukur Mahallesi where I couchsurfed the first week, and Turkish Airlines retains a warm spot in my heart.

Next: Across Europe, vol. 3: A hard day’s night

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