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Voyage of the Pork Smugglers

Digging to hell by beetroute
(Please listen to this sound recording whilst reading this post)

“What shall we do without our bikes?”frozen Kastoria
Thanks for the photo Stelios

With a kilo of pork ribs and €20 of salami packed away in our rucksack in a attempt to hide them from Turkish border control, we sat in our allocated bus seats, palms of our hands slightly moist with anxiety, waiting to be waved across the Greek/ Turkish border. As with most border crossings, fresh meat, vegetables and plants are considered contraband goods. Due to the Islamic influence on Turkey, you can only buy pork in licensed butchers at a heftily inflated price. Not that we are addicted to the stuff, but since we’ve been in Istanbul it seems that most foreigners living here seem to miss their beloved piggy treats. It also seems to find it’s way into daily conversations with our housemate Flurin, a chef from Switzerland, as a result we decided we missed the meat too.

It looks cosy camping in the snowy forest overlooking Kastoria

This was the second time we’ve crossed from Greece into Turkey. The first time was in December, crossing with our bikes from the Greek island of Chios over to the Turkish mainland. This second trip was in aid of renewing our 90 day Turkish tourist visas. Since we arrived in Turkey, we had been informed through multiple sources that the Turkish government intended to change their visa policy for European citizens. We went to speak to the British consulate in Istanbul, who confirmed that upon re-entering Turkey we would be given an updated version of the tourist visa sticker, that specifies that we can only stay in Turkey for a maximum of ninety days in any one hundred and eighty day period. This means that anyone living in Turkey on a tourist visa can no-longer do the usual ‘visa run’, leaving the country and returning the next day with a fresh ninety day visa. Anyone intending on staying for a longer duration in Turkey will have to go through the process of obtaining a residency visa. More expensive and a bit more hassle than the usual tourist visa… glad we’re covered for another ninety days! By the time our visas are up, we should have just about reached Kazakhstan.

Permission to ride The visa on the left is the new one

The usual Turkish visa run consists of a weekend in Greece or Bulgaria, before re-entering Turkey and obtaining a new tourist visa. We were lucky enough to spend a brilliant weekend with our old pals, and first warmshowers.org hosts, Stelios and Antigone. We spent Friday and Saturday walking and camping in Kastoria, Antigone’s hometown a couple of hours bus ride west of Thessaloniki. We decided that camping in -5 °C would be a great way to test our endurance and to see how our bodies would deal with the colds Mary and I both enjoyed over the last few days. Turns out that camping directly on the snow with no groundsheet under our tent is actually pretty bloody cold, but luckily did’t really have much of an affect on our colds. As you can see from the pictures Kastoria is a beautiful town nestled in the middle of a huge lake and surrounded by mountains.

Trying and failing to capture the four of us in one photo. You can just about see Pete’s knees

Mary’s snow shoes

Between Thursday morning and Monday night we spent a total of twenty six hours traveling on buses. It felt strangely a like we were undoing some of the distance we had previously covered on the bikes. We initially passed through Thessaloniki in the middle of October, all those months back. Since then, we cycled all the way to Athens, spent a month in Crete and two weeks of cycling across to Istanbul. It took us just ten hours and £70 to bus back to Thessaloniki. We deemed it to be a necessary motor-assisted journey, mainly because we needed to be back in Istanbul for a meeting at Studio 9 to discuss arrangements for an exhibition we’re taking part in next Month, not to mention the fact that there was no way I wanted to ride all that way just to get a new visa.

Mustachioed carnival dancer in Naoussa, Greece

On Sunday we traveled to Naoussa, another small town in the Macedonia region of Greece, for the first day of Carnival. Have a look at the film below for some snapshots of the dancing and intricate ‘suits of armor’. Our weekend in Greece felt a bit like a mini-break away from the dense urban chaos of Istanbul. It was great to get away and feels even better to be back in such a vibrant city as Istanbul. It reminds me of something a guy I travelled with in India told me (I’ve always wanted to write that) – ‘a place always begins to feel like home when you leave it a come back again’… and writing that reminds me of the cheesy bit at the end of each episode of Doogie Howser, M.D as the little fella considers lessons learnt during the episode. Don’t tell any of the people/ companies we’ve applied to for sponsorship that we spent some of our limited budget on two litres of Ouzo, a litre of Metaxa and our successfully smuggled pork products!

(You can stop listening to the recording of the poltergeist tidying our lounge. Actually, it’s our noisy neighbors digging their way to hell.  The building alongside our apartment was recently demolished, this is a recording of the massive digger that rocked us to sleep with it’s wall shaking lullaby until 1am last night. There’s been no building action all day, so with a bit of luck they’ll start up again sometime tonight. It’s been a good test of the £90 custom ear plugs I decided to invest in before we left home. If you too find sleeping through atomic blasts a little tricky, I’d fully recommend you splash out on a pair. Luckily the gap between our building and the next has been braced by some thin wooden frames that look like they’ve been made out of lollypop sticks glued together with vaseline. Our building will remain proudly standing for decades to come, is the mantra I used as lyrics to the sweet rhythm of the digger as it reminded me of what our neighbor told us about the buildings opposite our place collapsing ten years ago.)

Carnival at Naoussa, Greece


14 Responses to “Voyage of the Pork Smugglers”

  1. Ah, the things you do for love and visas.

    Hope you enjoy your porcine contraband with the Swedish chef.



    Posted by Bean | February 22, 2012, 10:04 am
  2. P.S. I have interwebs at home now, so can skype. X


    Posted by Bean | February 22, 2012, 10:33 am
  3. And that Papandreou-smoking-clown is terrifying.


    Posted by Bean | February 22, 2012, 4:04 pm
  4. Congratulations, Peter, on your work (Low-Rise? Ephemicropolis?) making Nat Geog. Brilliant. Your mam called us yesterday.
    Would a long-distance email interview be poss? Catch up, Nat Geog and your’s and Mary’s (hello Mary!) forthcoming joint-exhib in Istanbul?

    Hope you’re both well, living, loving, banjoing, travel ukeing.

    Alt best



    Posted by Grizzly Beard | February 23, 2012, 9:47 am
  5. I am never sleeping again after watching that video… Ever.

    I bet you think you’re a real tough guy, huh?

    Elle x

    P.S. Hi Mary!


    Posted by Elle | February 25, 2012, 10:13 pm
  6. Hello, Pete………….

    Hope you are both well ?

    It is that time of year when i will need written confirmation of what your intention is regards your sabbatical from your job at the college.
    If you could email me your decision as soon as possble i will pass on to the correct people at the education department.
    As always missing you both very very much.

    Pauly xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


    Posted by Paul Arnett | March 7, 2012, 10:35 am
  7. çok güzel trip amigo


    mary Reply:

    Julien! How is your own ride going?! X


    Posted by julien | May 2, 2012, 11:41 pm
  8. Mary!
    My trip is finish , i mean the bike trip to Ethiopia ;-)
    In fact, i stopped earlier than i expexted, i felt i have to be with Stephanie for her pregnancy.
    I rided 2 months from Amman to Cairo and went back to France. I stated a new job , as cook , in ” très chic” restaurant, so i try improve my experience and of course get money..; you know..
    So , from the freedom to ride in the desert to spend almost my time in this place is more than a big change of living! i just try to take it easy and dream about the next trip , that time with the 3 of us :-)
    I feel that your turkish ride is great ( i am a little jealous ;-) but glad that your’re on your ways, both of you! )
    i will tell you when the baby will get out of Stef! tamam?
    Please enjoy double time more , cause you know a french guy wanted to ride where you are now !!! So just leave a feeling , a thought from me in a place that you know it’s a good one for doing it, ok? i trust you guys and again, ENJOY !!!


    Posted by julien | May 3, 2012, 1:03 pm
  9. And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me staihgrt.


    Posted by Kailey | August 19, 2014, 4:28 pm
  10. Thanks for shgarni. What a pleasure to read!


    Posted by Irish | August 20, 2014, 2:03 am
  11. I recently came across a write-up of which refers to the same principle nevertheless a lot more so when going bigger. http://www.kiwibox.com/HornerHoppe71/blog/entry/138978199/agenzia-dax-accompagnatori-per-donne-e-signore-milano-rom/?pPage=0


    Posted by ScottPak | February 3, 2017, 10:45 pm
  12. Come joine me Free {farm-blocks-10×10


    Posted by Newtonfrush | March 3, 2017, 1:01 am
  13. Unique home stage instead of project:


    Posted by gabrielyd3 | May 2, 2018, 8:38 am

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