Living within the European Union we were unaccustomed to passing through border controls between one country and the next. We found it rather like playing snakes and ladders without properly understanding the rules.
There was a long queue of trucks stretching back at least a mile, waiting to approach the border from Greece into Turkey. As a non commercial vehicle we were able to drive straight up to the barriers and present our passports and vehicle documents to the Greek police. They inspected our truck both inside and out, checked our documents before allowing us to proceed towards the Turkish border. So far so good . . . .
We crossed a bridge lined with soldiers (aged about 10) each one carrying a machine gun, some with fingers on the triggers. We handed in our passports and vehicle documents at the border post. When they inspected the inside of the cab, they found our stash of rosé wine which we had foolishly failed to conceal. They allowed us to keep four of the three litre boxes but the remainder were confiscated and we had to carry the heavy boxes to their contraband store and pay a storage fee (£30).
They told us we could collect the wine on our way out of Turkey. We explained we didn’t want the wine and would prefer to discard it in the nearest bin, but that was not an option. We had bought the wine at Majestic in Calais but it had been in store too long and tasted unpleasantly stale, Majestic had generously given us a refund and we were only keeping it until we could replace it with something nicer. Just as Tony was paying the £30 fine, their computers went down and we had to wait over an hour before they could accept our payment. Everyone was pleasant enough but things happened according to the rule book and took so much time. During the long wait we were able to purchase vehicle insurance for £100 which would last 90 days, our maximum length of stay in Turkey.
Finally that part of business was completed and we were sent to have the truck X-rayed in large shed on the far side of the concourse. The whole area was heaving with manoeuvring vehicles going in all directions – it was chaos, no-one appeared to be in charge and it was every man for himself. There were at least four long trucks blocking our way to the X-ray building. Tony’s patience was wearing a bit thin – he did a nifty reverse, crossed in front of one truck, behind another and we managed to squeeze in and join the X-ray queue. An hour or so later we were finally allowed to head for the exit gates. Even the man of the gate took an age to open the barrier and let us out – more than four hours after first approaching the Greek border!
It was getting late and we were tired and hungry so we stopped at one of many fuel stations along the route. The following morning we filled up with fuel (60p a litre), less than half the amount we were used to paying. We drove south along the Dardanelles Peninsular and stopped at a camp site on the beach near Gallipoli where we could watch the ships on their way to Istanbul and the Black Sea.