On the Road to London, our journey took an unexpected twist at the bustling border between Turkey and Bulgaria. Ozi, our local guide in Turkey, had an ingenious idea as we geared up for the onward drive to Bulgaria. “Why not cross into Greece, drive a short 30 km, and then enter Bulgaria from Greece? It could save us some time,” he proposed.
The suggestion seemed both practical and exciting. The possibility of adding another country to our adventure seemed too good to pass on. After a quick brainstorm with Sanjay and our guide, the decision was made: we were going to enter Bulgaria via Greece. Our fellow road trippers embraced the idea with enthusiasm, and soon we were at the Turkey-Greece land border.
As our vehicles queued up, I walked up to the immigration center and struck up a conversation with a friendly local Turkish policeman. With a smile, he inquired, “You’re from India? Did you bring any mangoes, the orange ones?” Sadly, we didn’t have mangoes, but I offered the next best thing – a box of “besan laddoos” made by my wife who had traveled all the way from India with me. The officer savored them and even requested some for his family. “Bless your wife’s hands,” He said with immense gratitude. It was heartwarming, to say the least, and his kind words were deeply touching.
Crossing the Turkish border smoothly, we ventured into Greece, marked by a signboard pointing towards “Yunanistan,” the ancient Persian name for Greece. Memories of an old couplet by Allama Iqbal surfaced, speaking of India’s enduring glory amid the rise and fall of empires.
Upon reaching the Greek side of the border, I engaged with a friendly saleswoman at a duty-free shop. Their amazement at our cross-continental road trip was palpable. They shared their lives in the border village, Kastanies, and we exchanged selfies and laughter. Moving onward, a Greek customs officer welcomed us warmly and urged us to explore the village and its nearby café by the river.
In Kastanies village, locals extended their hospitality, offering drinks, food, and friendly conversation. Though our stop was brief, it left us touched by their warmth. The drive towards Sofia carried a newfound sense of connection, proving that amid the chaos of border crossings, kindness can always be found.
Our journey taught us that no matter where we’re from, love and compassion transcend borders. Even if in this case, the love we’re talking about is the love for food.
As told to Adventures Overland by Tushar Agarwal
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