1566-1568: Transit to Nice-Nis & Nasty-Nis

1566 cont.-:   Edirne

Friday 20th June 2020

Lunch after the Gallipoli tour was a pretty revolting doner kebab but it had to be done!  A few hours driving saw us in Edirne.  The main reason for coming here was that it is very close to the Bulgarian border, which we will cross tomorrow.   We met up with K and D at the famous mosque and eventually found somewhere to have a final glass of wine and something to eat in Turkey.  

It is a university town and close to the border, so we expected it to be quite Western … not!  Lots of places serving Cay (tea) but really hard to find a bar.  I asked in the Vodafone shop, thinking the staff there were quite young and would speak English … they had to phone a friend! Do they have Who Wants To Be A Millionaire here?  I got the name of the Patio bar, but imperfect directions.  We asked in a shop …. the next door show shop owner also owns the Patio Bar … really???!!  But we had a personal guide to its doors. 

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Karen and David elected to stay over night in the town centre, we elected to stay by the river as it was better walking for the dogs.  We slept pretty well as it had been a long day starting with the Gallipoli tour at 8.00.

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All, and I mean all, the streets had been dug up.  Piles of bricks and abandoned spades.  Quite why it was all a mess at the same time?

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The main attraction of Edirne is the Selimiye Mosque.  Built around 1570, it is considered to be Turkeys finest with a dome that it marginally larger than Istanbuls Aya Sofya mosque.   It had very clean lines and lots of light. 

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The marble sadirvan, ablution fountain.  Obviously not use enough as inside still smelt of stinky feet!

 

1567:  How Not to Tour Bulgaria

Saturday 21st June 

Turkey had imposed a countrywide curfew from 9.00 so students could get to their national examinations safely … although I presume they were all in big halls to sit the exams … would keeping people indoors make that much difference?  Consequently we set off at 8.06, slightly behind the scheduled departure of 8.00 as we had to clear up Corrie’s regurgitation of bones she’d snaffled the night before on her walk!

Although Danny and Lisa had crossed from Turkey to Bulgaria a few weeks before, we all had a slight sense of trepidation, so we met K and D at a petrol station and approached the border in convoy.  A complete lack of signage, so we led them down the bus / pedestrian route necessitating a convoy several hundred metre reverse!  Exit stamps for Turkey, only after the border control had made phone calls to confirm no penalty for overstaying our visas.  We had to sign a form to state that we agreed to 24 hrs to cross Bulgaria, and this is what we’d paid for on line motorway toll system … it even prescribes the route.

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Trucks stacked all over the place at both ends of Bulgaria  freight drivers must have to allow a day to cross the border alone.

We really only had a retina impression of Bulgaria … motorway across a wide valley and some ugly Communist housing blocks.  But our encounters with the people were a lot more encouraging … both at the coffee and lunch stop.  Fortunately both took Euros as we’d no Lev.  Welcome Break could really learn from the Bulgarians … we were given a huge choice of meat kebabs and it was freshly cooked; served with a huge munch crunchy salad … we shared a dish!  Super tasty and 19 Euro fed 4 of us!

The border to Serbia was similar … several stops and staff looking in the van, passports gaining new stamps.  At the moment Serbia is OPEN and we could stay 3 months … we won’t.  The plan is be tourist for up to 2 weeks, keeping an eye on the borders for the route home … likely to be transit through Croatia and Slovenia.

Our destination was Nis (pronounced Nish) sports grounds … lots of parking over the weekend, but it was chocker come Monday morning. We had a brief wander, mainly to find and ATM for cash and a Serbian Sim card.  The cash is going to take a lot of getting used to … Dinar 125 = £1.  There seems to be a huge number of 0’s on some of the notes and I’m back to counting them, like I used to count spots on playing cards as a child!  Should I confess that to David and Karen as I’m now the kitty holder!!!  Supper was close to the vans … a lot of restaurant choice.  Given our good lunch, we were guided by the lovely young English speaking waiter to select half portions.  He also helped with sorting out the Sim cards.  I wanted to adopt him, but Karen wanted to marry him … would that make me her mother in law!?!?

1568:  Nice-Nis and Nasty-Nis 

Sunday 22nd June 

I made use of the park by us, doing a couple of circuits for a run.  Corrie only did one circuit as she is now VERY nervous of other dogs, having had her bum nipped by Turkish canines.  J started, but stopped due to a calf pain.  And David is still off running due to shin splints.  That makes me the only runner … there’s a shock!

Over coffee we had a planning meeting … we pretty much want to see the main things and Serbia is not that large, so we will dip in and out of each other’s company.  We did a quick shop and then set off to be tourists.  With rain jackets  … it felt cold and rain threatened.  We are not used to this … please bring back the sunshine! 

Nis has a lot to offer and a good vibe.  Constantine (Constantinople) came from here, but little evidence remains.  The main sights can be visited in a day … and we did!  Fortress, Concentration Camp and Skull Tower.

The fortress is a large area of small museums and restaurants … CO2 had another run.  We continued up to the Concentration Camp … it was in the not so nice area of Nis … taking a short cut two big black dogs attempted to take their owners fence down in their attempt to attack us … resulting in the owner shouting at us to take our F…ing dogs away.  Nasty-Nis!

At the Concentration Camp, I chatted to a school teacher … his 14 yr olds were on a trip postponed from April.  He made the comment that this generation does not have relatives that remember the war and therefore it has little meaning for them. I didn’t like to draw his attention to the Serbian ethnic cleansing.  It has crossed our minds that anyone over about 45 here may well have been involved.

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The Red Cross Concentration Camp got its name from the nearby rail station … it was a German transit camp. 

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Every time a German was killed by the resistance, 100 prisoners or locals were slaughtered.  The penalty for a German being wounded was 50 deaths. 

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A monument a few km away was erected for the mass killings by the Germans.  Most of the people deported from here ended up either in gas chambers or dying from the conditions of forced labour.

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Researchers have used some documents and personal accounts to attempt to verify all the names of the people that passed through here.

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David ‘dragged’ us to the Irish bar … a light lunch … pumpkin soup with the Serbian yogurt, a little like clotted cream.  J’s paprika chips were so good, he needed help!

 

After lunch David and I had a swim … I wanted a shower without having to empty the store cupboard that is our on board shower.  Only £1.55 with an olympic sized pool.  Think it must’ve been built in the 80’s and not had any work done on it since,  The showers seemed to be communal, given the lack of signage and the chap that stayed in the shower block I was in.  No stripping off here then!  The changing cubicles had most panels bashed in, so a peeping Tom’s heaven … potentially, depending on who they were spying on!  Oh. and I was the ONLY female swimmer.  Had it not been for a mixed group of teens on the poolside, I would have thought it was a male only swim session.  And don’t get me started on the state of the ladies toilets!

 

The Skull Tower was visited early evening … the heavy rain had stopped and David brought a brolly … a sure talisman to keep the rain away.    The Tower of Skulls is another revered testament to Serbian grit.  An uprising against the Ottoman occupation 1809 resulted in 4000 Serbian deaths.  The Serbs managed to wipe out 10,000 Turks by blowing up an ammunition store.  Retribution was the decapitation of the Serbs …. their skulls were embedded in a tower left to instil fear and subservience in the Serbs.  Of the 952 skulls, only 58 skulls remain.  Some Serbs took a skull to bury as a symbol of their own lost family.  The chapel likes building was erected some years later to protect the Tower.

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The chapel likes building was erected some years later to protect the Tower.

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