After the fairly rapid transit through Europe, we are now in Asia. Romania and Bulgaria were like stepping back in time compared to the more developed parts of Eastern Europe. We often drove past horse and carts, and many people still work the fields by hand. Both countries are hugely proud to be in the EU; the blue flag can be seen on every public building. In Romania especially, EU-funded infrastructure projects are becoming a common sight.
Arriving at the Turkish border, we all obtained labels for our passports fairly easily. The truck was much more of a problem. They have a new computer system to record details of tourist buses which cross the border regularly. We are not in the system (of course), so we ended up waiting 7 hours while the border officials tried to get permission for us. They seemed quite keen to get rid of us, as we were playing football and frisbee in their car park. We really need our luck with borders to improve; the hard ones are still to come.
Istanbul is a bustling and exciting city. We spent three nights at a small hotel quite near the centre. The owner was keen to warn us about the dangers of the area, but we saw nothing to worry us. My highlight was visiting the Turkish baths. We entered the steam room with nothing more than a small towel, ready to be scoured and massaged by large Turkish men. It was a very relaxing afternoon and left me the cleanest I have been for a long time. While in Istanbul we were able to collect our Iranian visas from the consulate, so we are definately going to Iran. However, we have yet to obtain visas for Pakistan. We may have to leave the coast and drive to Ankarra for these.
After Istanbul we went to the Gallipoli peninsular for the ANZAC day events. We were astonished by the thousands of people who attended and the degree of organisation. Greenbelters will understand that the wristbands, generators, stewards and video screens made for a familiar feeling. The dawn service was solemn and quite moving, but us Brits felt somewhat out of place. Various other overland trucks were at ANZAC Cove, so we could compare The Beast to their more modest vehicles.
We took the ferry from the peninsular to the Asian side of Turkey and headed South along the coast. The tourist season is just about to start, so the resorts are quite and the sea is still rather chilly.