Thrace is the area west of Istanbul and the only Turkish province in Europe. It is traversed by the toll road from Istanbul to Edirne (250km). This is an ancient road that follows the Via Egnatia. (This Roman military highway stretched across Macedonia and Thrace and served to link Rome with its eastern provinces).
FROM ISTANBUL TO KIKIÖY
Buses to Turkish Thrace leave from Esenler Otogar (bus station), some 10km northwest of central Istanbul.
We went to the Esenler Bus station by Light Railway and got off at Otogar (not at Essenler).
Kiyikoy is a Black Sea coastal village. There are no direct buses from Istanbul to Kiyiköy. But three daily buses (from Esenler Otogar) run to Saray. When we arrived at Saray Otogar, the Kiyiköy bus stood waiting. The journey took 3 hours, and we paid 12 Ytl (€7.50 or $9) per person.
FROM KIYIKÖY TO EDIRNE
There are no direct buses from Kiyiköy to Edirne. We had to change buses twice, first in Vize and then in Kirklari.
Vize is some 15km from Kiyiköy. This bus takes a scenic route and does not take the main road, but it calls at several villages on minor roads. We drove through pleasant rolling countryside and overtook tractors piled high with brushwood needed for heating in winter. In summer, sunflowers move their flower heads to catch the sun., but we were here in late April. The fields were being ploughed.
After 1 hour, we were in Vize, where the Kirklari bus stood waiting. We whizzed along the main road and met few other cars and buses. A short wait in Kirklari and we boarded the Edirne bus. The complete journey took 2.5 hours, and we paid 12 Ytl (€7.50 or $9) per person.
The Edirne bus station is 2km away from the centre, but there are free shuttle buses. We almost missed the stop in the city centre (the shuttle bus goes to the suburbs beyond the centre), but a friendly passenger told us to get off, cross the road, and walk straight on. He was right; we were now in the centre.
FOM EDIRNE TO THE GREEK BORDER AND ALEXANDROPOULOS
Although the Greek border is only 20km away, getting there is not very straightforward, because there is no public transport.
A private minibus to the border costs 30€, but it is not allowed to cross the border on foot. If there is enough border-crossing traffic and the cars are not full, we could try and hitch across the border, as several people told us. But we decided that we did not want to get stuck at the border and paid 50€ for a taxi to Orestiáda. (Journey time from Edirne to Orestiáda is 1 hour and 15 minutes, excluding time spent at customs, which was some 20 minutes.)
The border crossing is at Pazarkule. This is not a village, only the border crossing. It is 10 minutes by car from the centre of Edirne. If you take an ordinary taxi, it will drop you at the border (which is complete with tax-free booths). The driver may promise you to take you to Kastaniés, the first village in Greece, but he needs a passport, visa, and export papers for his taxi, which most taxi drivers haven't got.
Kastaniés is a very small village. (From Kastaniés to Orestiáda, there are eight buses on weekdays, five buses on Saturdays, and two on Sundays.) Besides, there is not much traffic going from Turkey to Greece, so hitching would have been difficult.
What you need is an international bus company. They have minibuses and the necessary papers for the driver.
We rented a minibus from:
ECE (the name of the bus company)
Kervansaray Dükkanlari No 23
Tel: (0284) 225 32 11
It is one of the shops outside the Kervansaray Hotel, just along its wall.
There are frequent buses from Orestiáda to Alexandropoulos (13 buses per day, also on Saturday and Sunday). It costs 7.40€ per person.