75.6km – 11H08’
Altitude : 118m
Winter is back and we get out heavy socks, suitable shoes, gloves and caps. It isn’t a very pleasant day for Serge, with wet feet, the cold, snow on the shoulders of the road and getting splattered by every vehicle that goes by. It snows a good part of the day and it is supposed to continue for the next three days.
At km 62 we leave Greece. The problem with dogs will continue because in Bulgaria and Romania stray dogs are legion. This morning the team was witness to a fight between two packs and a total of 13 dogs had scores to settle. You will tell me that during that time they were not thinking about Serge!
We enter Bulgaria through a real border post. Up to now, the Franco-Spanish, Spanish-Portuguese, Portuguese-Spanish, Franco-Italian, Italian-Greek borders are not marked by the presence border posts. Here it’s different: to leave Greece we present our passports . This post is relatively deserted, then 500 meters further there is the Bulgarian post, which is alive and well. Again, we show our passports and we are asked to open the camper. After that we go to the window to buy a ticket because you have to pay to drive on Bulgarian roads. The ticket costs 10€ for 7 days and 13€ for one month. Since it will probably take us 8 to 9 days to cross the country we take a ticket for 1 month.
We assume this procedure, which is rare in the European Union, is because the border post is close to contries which are not part of the Union, such as Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia, all countries bordering on Bulgaria. In spite of this, Serge is very surprised to have to show his passport, which is electronically checked, whereas we in vehicles are not. But our vehicles have to be opened in case we are hiding a stowaway in the camper or the van. So it is rather astonishing that European citizens are checked between two countries which are both members of the European Union. Upon reflection, it hasn’t to do with the borders of countries which are not part of the Union but with the Schengen Agreement. I suggest you have a look at Wikipedia on the Internet for the details of the Schengen Area (otherwise it will take a second log), Burgaria, Romania and Cyprus have signed the agreement but the rules are not yet applied, and that is why the borders still have check points within the European Union.
Bulgaria became a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007, the same as Romania, and does not yet have the Euro. This is the first country where we need to change currency: 1€ = 1.96 Lev, but of course the exchange rate is less favorable in the shops at the border.
All this is a revelation to us which we will share with you as we go along: Bulgaria’s history is complex and hard to follow !
After a rather dismal, if not sullen, day, I ask Serge what minute of pleasure he had. He replies “the last minute of the day!”
Town : Levunovo (Bulgarie)
GPS : N 41.29192° E 023.17484°