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How I got hold of my bag

The Bulgarian border guards didn't speak English.  They also didn't understood why I was sent back.  It gave me some courage to at least get my backpack back.  When I saw 2 more people on the Turkish side I decided to walk back and give it a try.  The baksheesh border cop was human enough to walk with me to the gathering of Turkish truckers dealing with bureaucracy.  I hadn't taken Ahmet's phone number, I just knew his truck was yellow.  There seemed to be 100s of trucks.  And I couldn't recognize Ahmet among the truckers.  The baksheesh cop said (in Turkish and body language) that my trucker had already left.  Which I didn't believe.

On the way back to Bulgaria Ahmet appeared out of the hurd of trucks.  Relief.  I got back my bag and shook hands with Ahmet who also didn't understand the miserable man.

Again I walked to Bulgaria in the dark, this time with some more weight (including my laptop and some more essential travel equipment). On the way 2 Bulgarian border officers told me that they never heard of anything similar and that I should just try again.  But well, not with the miser that send me back. "Not tomorrow, never can you come back to Turkish", at least, that's how much I understood with my Turkish phrasebook (that has now traveled now back in la Casa together with Marc).

I went to change some money, had to count and recount the money given by the bitchy border exchange woman and went into the warmth of a gas station's shop.  No tea.  The boy working there was able to tell there was a train to Istanbul from Svilengrad, the nearest town.

After about half an hour a guy with a familiar face entered the establishment. Somehow he started speaking French to me.  "Moi je suis un capitaliste."  He had the same madness for life, money and women as a loony Ukrainian artist I had known in Paris.  Though somewhat less successful.

"Moi je suis riche.", said Angel.  Apparently he owned 1 house, 2 apartments and 2 cars. His main occupation was exchanging foreign cash for Bulgarian coins, at least that night. Remarkably the car he had chosen that night had some troubles starting. But I had a ride to Svilengrad, where I took a shower in a luxurious hotel. The early morning light appeared outside when I fell asleep.

I had ruled out the train option when I found out it was only going after midnight. At the bus station in Svilengrad I socialized with some old Bulgarians.  The cord in my bag cover had slipped inside and fortunately an old lady was happy to fix it.  The bus arrived and took me towards Capitan Andreevo. After everyone had already gotten out of the bus 2 women and a little girl got in.

They were traders and without too much communication we formed a bond.  I knew they want to get as many cigarettes into Turkey and well, I don't speak Turkish.  They hitched a ride with car (good!), but we got out when there was no movement anymore.  We just walked, showed passports here and there. I bought cigarettes (with the money she had given me), walked some more. And more. All the way to the Turkey that was free from corrupt officials.

There I put my bag and the bag with cigarettes down.  Shaked hands, said "spaseeba", picked up my own bag and left the cigarettes for them.  The taxi leeches were looking hopefully but my response was "autostop" and I walked towards the first trucks I saw.

And of course, the second trucker I saw was happy to take me to Istanbul.  And from that moment till the next morning was an amazing succession of Turkish hospitality. He had been riding through Europe for more than 3 months.  Of which he had been waiting 1 month in Russia for some papers that didn't happen thanks to baksheesh and bureacracy.

Now he was on his way to Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.  He had to park his truck somewhere in Istanbul though.  The thought of heading to Syria was tempting but I had decided to not continue directly.

Aleppo was amazing.  Not as much for the scenery as for their people.  At a fruit stall I started talking to a real estate agent who took me on a tour through Aleppo. I had no idea I was in a city of 4 million people. The mosque was splendid and the view from the ancient building I was taken to was amazing.

I hadn't read Hitchwiki and just decided to just start walking towards the South and see where I would end up. A German speaking guy told me it was impossible to hitchhike. Heard that before. I just kept on walking and walking until I found a halfway decent spot to stop a car. And got a ride further out of the city, towards a roundabout, where I continued walking

I was summoned by a smiling Syrian cop.  It was a funny feeling shaking his white handkerchief. I decided to just sit down and wait. Surprisingly a couple of buses refused his signs and drove on. Finally a minivan stopped. The music they played was exstatic.  The landscape magic, though the spell was broken by the large amounts of plastic bottles and other random garbage besides the road. I realized I was in a vehicle that was mainly going around to pick up and drop military personnel.

I'm typing this from E's parents' home. Half an hour across the border that no one has crossed in my lifetime. I got here in a bus (it was dark and her 90 year old grandma forbade us to hitchhike and paid our bus tickets).  There were more weapons than I've seen on the other side, and their holders were barely adults.

I mostly agreed with their anti-zionist stance and my subscription of Le Monde Diplomatique only ended when they placed Microsoft ad two issues in a row.   I've read a tiny bit of Chomsky (which is still a lot).  But seeing is believing.  Many mixed feelings.