Mehraba / Salem Every body ! Swıtchıng from Niš to Pırot early Frıday afternoon I left Nenad the Fırst to meet with Nenad the Second and Maja, his beloved wife, an English teacher (So many Maja(s) in Serbia !).
As in the past, each small city / kingdom / empire, torn by domestic feuds, had its own - call it Baron / Emir / Tsar or whatever the title you may give him - the present days are changing and cities’ambassadors are nominated through CSurfing.

With Nenad driving and Milos on his side we went to stroll in the gardens of Niska Banja. I did not even bother to do my packing as half of my gear were left for two nights in Nenad’s trunk and the other half brought upstairs in his 5th floor flat. I just drop everything in the back of the car and we are leaving for the thermal baths.
Why does Milos come along with us is a mystery unless he wants to get some answers to his questions and some tips about he whereabouts of hitchhiking - he does practise himself this kind of thumb-yoga regularly considered by him as a high-tech(nical) job.
"How this crazy guy is going to get a lift from that place ?" Back to the vehicle I just noticed a car near by with a registered plate beginning by PI (for PIrot) and mentioned it to them.
After half an hour walking lazily at a leisurely pace they jumped in the car ready to drop me at the traffic circle 500 meters on their way back to Nis. I was going to get off anyway at that roundabout and hitch a lift from there but call it hazard or destiny or Good Luck God sent me his messenger under the auspicious form of a Croatian human being call Philipp, priest-to-become seminarist.
Second of five sons, the oldest one being granted the honor to be God-man (priest) in Roma, the Eternal City,
the third one being happily married in Milano, Italy,
the fourth one seminarian in Medellin, Colombia
and the Benjamin still in high school.
Brother Philipp was driving up to Kalotina with Andrea, an Italian layman holding a baby in his arms in the back seat. Why did this man of Go(o)d-will stop at the right time ! God' s good will probably ?

I was pulling my stuff out of the trunk. Coming from Nis city center like us Philipp wanted to make sure he was following the right path towards the bulgarian border post. Nothing better than to stop by and ask the locals. What such a good idea came up in his mind ! What he could not have guessed was to see a Frenchman coming to his door begging him a lift. Philipp was not so easy to convince and quite reluctant at first but it did work out fine that way.
With no time left for packing I threw all my gear in Philipp’s boot. He took the exit to Pirot’s petrol station and dropped me 500 meters from the city center where I came short after 3:00 p.m.

The protocol finished and the presentation ceremony accomplished - introducing to each other with Nenad the Second and his wife Maja - it was still early and we had enough time left to take a walk in the late afternoon along the Nišava river before having a hamburger Pirot unique style and attending the First Ever PIROT Monthly CSurfing Meeting with Marija.

Saturday morning at about 9:00 a.m on his way to the hospital where he works as laboratory assistant Nenad drops me at the Blue Petrol Station but it is already too late and everybody is gone. All truckers have already moved and are driving up and down the road. What to do ? I knew this will happen to me but did not want to impose myself neither wake him up nor being too pushy or demanding by asking him to drop me earlier than 9:30. He understands well what's going on and offers me a lift to the border I can't turn down. He would save my day trip.

A little traffic is heading towards Kalotina the border post – a few trucks and rarely any private car are seen – I ask him to keep following a Dutch registered estate car and stay behind a few miles before reaching his point of no return : the border post. A Turk probably driving back home. The guy naturally goes straight to the immigration box and I ask Nenad to get the closest he can to the booth in order to catch the single driver. I get off Nenad's car finally parked and run to the immigration officer begging a lift from the driver looking Turkish in Turkish at first and in English switching in German as soon as I see he is able to speak Goethe’s language and is more confortable with it.
Richard is driving to Bursa bypassing completely Bulgaria within a few hours. I had that in mind this morning and am definitely interested in doing so.

Believe it or not but I bet you that when things are clearly set in your mind they’re half done ! Stay focused and things will happen to you the way you want them to happen. I have even greater plans for the day but never count one's chickens before they're hatched. It is way too early to write about that right now. Everything is coming in time to think about it. Past is behind. Enjoy the present. Future is next.

We haven’t arrived half way near Plovdiv that we come already across three police checkpoints greedy for money but not because of Richard's bad driving. Richard sends them to hell except for the third time he has to pay because they caught him over speeding 112 km/h instead of 90. He gets rid of the policemen by bribing them with 20 Lev (about10 Euros) and a Nescafe pack.

I am very surprised how much he keeps shouting at them whenever he gets out of his car. Amazing for an Oriental. He has been living for nineteen years in Holland that’s why perhaps he can’t stand unfairness (when specially directed towards him). The policemen in Bulgaria are among that kind - a rare species - that you are able to see only in the dark movies exploiting any mistake you can make to take advantage of you. More corrupted you can’t expect !

Big bodies in uniform but small minds in action. Their faces are drawn by craving and bad will. Welcome to Europe ! Never seen that in any other country and even in Africa the racket is always done with a big smile. At the bottom of Europe, in the last corner of the chessboard, it is done too seriously. They take it too gravely those big buddies. You don’t take away with you all those rubbishy currencies. Nothing has changed since I came across Bulgaria last time in 2006 and 2008. The policemen still look like strawmen (or bugbears) on the side of the road in which the TIR trucks throws their last paper notes avoiding sliding them into their kid’s piggy banks (money-boxes). Each time they got what they want they nod in agreement with great satisfaction and like automatons with robot-like-movements wave their hands showing the way to clear it away.

As we come closer to the border Richard is surprised that I do not use my passport to urge the process. I want to get my Iranian visa in Trabzon and in case the consulate wants / needs to keep my passport for a few days or even a fortnight I want to feel free to exit Turkey anytime.

In the last thirty years I rarely had my passport stamped with any turkish entrance or exit stamps. I need to switch my passport every 2 or 3 years because no room left for visas or / and stamps and don’t really want to add unnecessary extra immigration stamp and have it full quicker. ID-Card was enough a few years ago for French to enter Turkey. Why not today ? (although I did not check the current regulations). Richard is having doubts about it and tells me. I go across the immigration gate with my id-card accepted without any questions and get a small square-size form with my entrance stamp on it. I am free to exit anytime even if I must drop my pass for a few days.

Richard gets caught by the customs and must pay tax for the TV screen he brought along with him. As the process may take some time he asks me to take my bags out of his car. So I do. I still do not know what is the best either to keep going in his company to Edirne where he is planning to stop-over and visit some relatives there for a few hours before driving towards Istanbul and further board the ferry boat to Bursa or getting off here at the customs clearance point.

This is an excellent spot to take an ongoing lift and carry on towards Istanbul and even further because I have plan to leave the Continent tonight and sleep in Asia. I give it a try with some Stanbouliots without any success. I also speak to a young lady wearing heavy make-up turkish born driving a bulgarian registered car who does not dare to lift me and a Georgian chauffeur driving away his own car for sale but caught because he stocked too many gallons of petrol in order to save on gas. I did that in 2006 with a girlfriend driving away each one a German registered car stamped on our passports after meeting a Georgian at the Ipsala border (with Greece) and being compelled / forced to go all the way to Sarp, the Georgian border post in order to exit Tukey and cancel the customs stamps preventing us the sale of the vehicle through Turkey. I was on my way to Armenia but Valerie had a OW plane ticket Istanbul (SAW) - Mulhouse-Bale (MLH). The owner of the three cars paid her bus and plane ticket back to Istanbul in order to catch in time her flight back home.

Richard back to his car is so pissed off to have to pay tax that he does not want to take me further and leaves me behind him at the customs gate. I hardly have enough time to thank him. I speak in Russian to the Georgian driver but have doubts about him giving me a lift because his mind is busy resolving host of problems. Never things happen twice and appears the same way in life.

A RKS (Republic of Kosovo's) registered car does refuse politely my request even if half empty with only 1 passenger in the front seat. I am left alone with nothing but to keep going on foot through the main customs gate. Never give up !

A car registered with diplomatic plates is coming out of the customs gate. I go straight forward to the driver begging him in English a lift out of hell. I have been long enough here even if only a few minutes and want to go out of the customs park before they expel me. The diplomat listens to me attentively and what a good luck I have because his daughter is living in Strasbourg as well as his son studying there. He is in charge of the Bulgarian consulate in Edirne and just went to pick up at home his father. He agrees to give me a lift and drops me at the tollbooth of the highway leading to Istanbul and further to Ankara. This is so far the best spot to get a lift out of Edirne straight to Istanbul. I did 380 kilometers with Richard and 265 are left to reach Istanbul. This diplomatic tie links me to right path and puts me straight in the right direction even if the weather starts looking awful and terrible. It is raining cats and dogs. This short hitch is as much important as the long distance ones because it keeps me on the track not staying on the sidelines and not being offside.

At the tollbooth a tall guy looking like a giant popping up out of his shoebox is shouting at me then offering me a glass of sweet turkish tea. He could not be more rustic. Most of the traffic does not stop over or even does not slow down – cars as well as trucks – passing through the tollgates at very high speed. So is Turkey today. In France even if you are using the fast track you can’t speed that much. The guy is selling prepaid cards to use along the highway for foreign registered cars or foreigners visiting Turkey without knowledge of this system. The only language he does know for sure is Turkish. He can’t stop yelling at me whenever I can’t stop trying my luck with car drivers standing at the tollbooth. He is the chief and he does not want me to be involved in the process to find a car. He feels he is the one responsible for me to search a suitable driver going towards Istanbul or even further onwards. I just want to make sure he is not waiting for a bus to come and pick me up. I would not get in. The Turkish born lady met at the customs acts as a translator for a few minutes easing the relationship between us and keeps driving towards Çanakkale.

My adviser / counsellor / go-between finds finally a truck driver all the way to Pendik, a good 50 km after Istanbul on the Asian side. If I get there I will done for the day. Gott sei Dank !

Mehmet is probably overloaded and plans to go across the Euro-Asia Bridge after 9:00 p.m. Heavy vehicles due to the narrowness of the Fatih Bridge are allowed to cross over in alternate way every hour but he is taking a chance at 20:20 dropping me by 9:00 at he service area.

It's already night-time and the security team comes towards me at the petrol station asking me not to bother customers by begging a lift. They are friendly and while entertaining them I check the registered plates standing at the fuel pump and notice one with F for Frankfurt, Germany. Whatever they keep telling me I plead with them to give me a last minute chance and although they are reluctant I go straight to the driver. No one's can't stop me going forward. Ali is Azeri and is driving away a Mercedes to Georgia. He got off the ferry coming from Ancona, Italy to Igoutmenitsa, Greece and was involved in a car accident. His damaged front car is not too nice to look at. He drives all the way to Gerede, another 300 km away and is ready to give me a lift. Nice chap in his sixties we talk exclusively in Russian and a very few words in German. He lives in Baku and has three children.

What's interesting is the fact that he makes a left turn on the way leading to the Black sea (Karadeniz). He drops me as planned in a huge service area near by Gerede. He will sleep there and check in the morning any opportunity to have his car fixed. My short-day hitching already behind me I start looking for a spot to spread out my sleeping bag and where to lay down. A few men are coming to ask me what is the matter. I try my best to explain to them that I do want to take a rest for a few hours. One of them asks me to follow him and by luck we bump into the boss who categorically does not want me to sleep outdoors and tells his employee a few words. After fetching some keys at the restaurant desk and taking me downstairs he just opens a room with 2 single beds and offers me to stay in for free. We didn’t talk about money at all and I am very grateful about that.

I appreciate this night-time being like having jumped from being picked up on the sidewalk in the street into a cozy comfortable bed. It did happen to me a few times during my previous trips but rarely. I am not looking at all for free rooms where you are considered as a customer but that’s my life and if it comes to me I will take it (even if I am reluctant at first).

Turks know something about hospitality and how to great foreigners. Is it the fact that Europe is left behind and we are in Asia ? Part of it yes ( !) and I believe so or is it the fact that I did host not so long 3 Turkish CSers – a couple of ladies Merv and Sema and Serkan, a single guy – and it does come back to me like a tsunami wave even 100% stronger. Don’t expect anything back when you give but good deeds are always welcome and they nurture your good karma.

Short night but deep sleep and that's what I was looking for. I wake up at 6:25 a.m. I do not know how much time difference between Europe and where I am standing right now. It’s Sunday and I am taking it easy because less traffic I guess on the road.

Nevertheless I am planning to arrive in Trabzon tonight to check the Iranian consulate on Monday. My Sunday’s drive starts late and I get into a kombi to the junction with Karabük on the way to Safranbolu. Then a truck drıver gıves me a lıft on a short dıstance where the road works are ending or starting depending on which way you’re going to or coming from.
Next stop is a benzın istasyonu ın Çerkeş where I can convince a colleague driver to lift me a little way till his tacograph time is over. Turkish police isn't fussy at all and does not make any trouble about it if not in order but back in European Community any police does like in France, Germany where laws are state-regulated. We have one hour break time and Mister fifty-fifty decides to open his mini-restaurant on the side of his trailer doing fifty-fifty with all the ingredients he has to share. Very neat and tidy he first takes off his white immaculate shirt – only the necktie is missing to attend a wedding party ! - to be able to cook bare-arms in white T-shirt, black trousers and polished brown moccasins.

The weather is more than perfect with a strong sun shining all the way to Samsun. His driving time being over my friend drops me at a petrol station some 70 kilometers away from Samsun.

I know well the Nigerian born musician Femi Kuti but never met with the philologist Adige born Fehmi Tümer. Coming from Çorum and passing by he stops immediately seeing me on the last portion of the highway. He is going through town all the way to Fatsa, Ordu located half way between Samsun and Trabzon where he lives with his wife and three kids.

The weather is dramatically changing and it starts raining cats and dogs again. Everything on the road is Adygea – do like I did and guess what is Adygea ? - as well as the music he listens to. Fehmi keeps telling me about this wonderful lost paradise called Adyghe autonomous oblast with its own capital city named Maykop which seems completely unknown or any kind of oriental El Dorado coming from the past and forgotten a long time ago.

His reference is French comparative philologist Prof. George Dumezil best known for his studies and analysis in Proto-Indo-European religion and language. He could dominate more than thirty languages. Hard to understand everything and exchange a few words as he speaks a half-dozen of languages but none of the ones I do speak or at least understand some. Yes, (sh)it can happen ! The rains is still pouring and the Black Sea overview in Unye is fantastic with those furious waves rushing on the shore.

I think Mister Adyghe wants to welcome me home for the night but I misunderstand completely him. He wants to send me by bus for the last 200 kilometers left and I do not agree leaving without delay the bus station for the petrol station next door. He does not seem happy about that but what else can I do except to take shelter temporarily in the petrol pump and keep asking for another lift. It's only 7:00 p.m with less 200 km left to Trabzon but the weather is not helping me at all. No less than 20 minutes later an autobus comes through the station to fill up and the guy in charge of the passengers orders me to jump in without asking me anything. I usually refuse such offer like riding free buses but the weather is so terrible that the best I can do is to follow the invitation in order to come tonight in Trabzon where someone is waiting for me.

A man with a broken tooth / leg does not go a long way ! I broke it in Budapest but wanted to keep going all the way to the Black Sea (Karadeniz) in order to secure my Iranian visa and make sure I could keep traveling further to Iran anytime later.
As Hitchhiking is so much fun and part of my daily life I do not mind to go back quickly to Paris. While I can host CSers for a week I can also take care of my teeth. It would not be advisable to keep going without enjoying good health.
As I may not go back in France before half-year or longer. Whatever it takes let's do it right now ! It’s a warning and a sign . I should have done it before leaving but don’t like to go to the dentist. Btw who likes it ?

I will be back after a few days on the same trip – got wedding invitation in Gerede on 23rd April - and keep going stronger than ever.

By the end of April I will definitely enter Iran and vanished in the mountains for a period of 30 days and by the end of May enter Pakistan for another 30 days stay at the right time to go mountaineering overhere.

Never give up thumb up always and forever. All my Best and don't let people drive you crazy when you know it's in walking distance.

~ 'Life to me is a journey - you never know what may be your next destination' ~ David Russell.

Hoşçakalın (literary translation = stay happy) = (common translation =) Goodbye

Alahsmarladizk (said by one departing).