The wind swishes through my hair as I whizz down the hill, the mountains behind me fade into a faint shadow on the horizon. The vegetation thins and changes from a lush green to darker shades of browns and yellows accented by vineyards like an oasis in the barren landscape. The soil changes from near black to lighter hues of red and brown. The air thickens as the humidity increases and the churches turn to mosques, interrupted only briefly by an excursion through orthodox Greece. The feeling of Europe is rapidly fading, the clip clop of Bulgarian horses pulling hay laden waggons, each with a driver who's face tells the tail of a life of hard work. All this feels like a dream from the distant past as I cruise down a calm Greek highway, passed only by the occasional motorist out for a Sunday drive. The fields of labourers toiling to supply food to the masses are gone, Greece is on holiday perhaps? Or are they all sleeping? I reach the border without finding an answer. Dogs begin to appear from nowhere, lounging on every street corner, just waiting for a lone cyclist to pass in order to give them an excuse to get some exercise. My passport is stamped by a cheerful officer and I'm waived on to a narrow road, tall barbed wire fences on either side. Gun embankments on both side create a real feeling of tension, armed soldiers pace back and forth counting down the minutes and seconds until their compulsory military service is over. There lack of interest makes them no less intimidating, weapons at the ready in case the someone decides they've had enough.
Suddenly I feel like a celebrity as people begin to waive and say hello everywhere, in the first 20 minutes in Turkey I was given more hello's than the entire rest of the trip. I see already that this will be an interesting part of the trip.