I did not sleep that night as I was worried that I would miss the mini bus to Thessaloniki knowing my past experience in missing morning flights. I refreshed myself and the owners brother called in a taxi for me . I thanked him and left the hostel. It was a quick ride and it was 5 am in the morning.Being early as I do not want to miss this mini van ride. Waited and waited for that mini van and it did not appear. It was already 6 a.m . I said to myself that I would wait until it was 7 a.m and plan B will take place. It was 7 a.m already and I decided to go ahead with Plan B.
Hailed myself a taxi and went straight to the Bus Station. The bus to Gevgelija left at exactly at 8 am and I was feeling apprehensive that I would be able to reach Thessaloniki during the light hours. Shoot! There were vineyards and vegetables farms along the way to Gevgelija but I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy the views but only on how to reach Thessaloniki was the main agenda on my mind. Hmmm I asked for an adventure and I really got one. Ok! Ok! Stay focus and do not panic………
The bus arrived Gevgelija and I took a taxi to the casino which cost me Euros 5 and only then I realised that I only have another Euros 5 note with me and a few Euro coins. All in Euros 9! This is going to be a very very very LONG day for me. As the taxi reached one of the casinos, The Flamingo Casino if I am not mistaken only I found out that the service between the casino and Thessaloniki is only reserved for the Hotel Guests. The lowest panic button was pushed already. A taxi appeared from no where and the driver was willing to take me to the nearest Greek border town of Polycastro which had a ATM where I could withdraw some Euros. Drama unfolded later at the Macedonian exit point. The officer on duty made a big fuss of me exiting his checkpoint. I was held up for more than 30 minutes. My passport was scrutinised by the machine and also being held up against the sun just to check the watermarks on the pages.I was questioned why the word ISRAEL was printed on my passport etc etc etc . The driver of the taxi really look panicky and told me that the short taxi trip was on the house and he left me there alone at the border checkpoint. Even another Border Guard commented on the sweater which I was wearing which was a bit similar to the Macedonian Police uniform . A few minutes later his superior arrived and asked him what was the problem and he explained this and that. The superior took my passport and took a good look at it and said to that particular officer to let me pass through. Passport Stamped! Whew! What a relief!
The three kilometers walk to the Greek border checkpoint was tiring as I could remember that the last time that I walk that far with a backpack was during my Second Lieutenant days in the Army.I was in my early twenties then. I tried to hitch a ride in between the walk but was unsuccessful, Not my day I guess. I reached the Greek Border Checkpoint and again I was held up but for just a while as they wanted to check if I do need a visa to enter Greece. Not needed. Well I was really sweating by then . The Immigration officer stamped my passport with the entry stamp and gave me back with a smile. As I was walking I was then requested by the Customs Officer to stop and he did checked my bag by holding and shaking it. It was done in a jiffy and now I am really in Greece. Welcome to Greece Shahrin! as I talked to myself. I did asked the Custom officer again how far was the town of Polycastro was and he replied around fifteen kilometers. What? Fifteen Kilometers?
I sat down at the checkpoint and bought myself a can of Coke with my last remaining Euros. The Beatles song of “Let it be” was playing at the shop where I bought my drink and it really spurred me on into reaching Thessaloniki. Was trying to be focused and thinking on how to reach Thessaloniki now. With just a few Euros left I began walking towards Thessaloniki which was about eighty kilometers away. I tried to get a lift from the lorries that were parked there but the drivers had problems of their own with the Customs. As I was walking a red beat up car appeared and I give a thumb sign and it stopped. There was an old man and he talked to me in Greek language and I was replying him in English.I notice that there were vegetables on his back seat and by the tone of his voice I know that he said just put the bag on the them. We did communicate in sign language with a bit of Greek and English. I then mentioned Polycastro and he smiled and he brought me to the nearby R&R station and pointing to the motel. I thanked him and asked his permission to take his picture which he obliged.
When the motel owner greeted me in English I did felt some relief in me . At least I could communicate with someone. I told him of my predicament and he was willing to take me to Polycastro with a price which I agreed. I told him that I did not have cash on me and he said it was not a problem as there is an ATM machine there. He did requested for my passport just to make sure that I was a bona fide visitor.
On arrival in Polycastro and withdrawing the much needed Euros I paid the motel owner and he then dropped me at the Bus Station and wishing me a safe journey.I had to wait for an hour for the bus to Thessaloniki to arrive.While waiting for the bus a Police van appeared and stopped . One of them asked me my destination which I did replied. He then requested me my passport. After inspecting it he thanked me and wish me a safe journey.That was really a class act with full of tact for me.It shows that the Greek police had manners in dealing with the public. I managed to get on the bus and reached Thessaloniki at last. It was a bit late but I did managed to reach the destination. As the saying goes “Its not the destination but the journey”…. That was really true and I learned it the hard way!!!
Pictures Skopje to Gevgelija http://thefakawitraveller.smugmug.com/Travel/Skopje-to-Gevgelija-2011/19980685_xkcNT5#1574082342_8Rm97FQ
Pictures Gevgelija to Thessalonika http://thefakawitraveller.smugmug.com/Travel/Gevgelija-to-Thessalonika-2011/19980829_mgsrbB#1574097589_RRd9BfR