This summer I'm spending two months in Bulgaria as part of a research project for my dissertation. The village I'm staying in is called Petrich and is located in the south west of the country near the borders with Greece and Macedonia. Since I have budgeted in time off during my research I was wondering how easy it would be to walk or cycle into Greece and Macedonia for day/weekend-trips.
What are the laws on passing into these countries via the mountains rather than the roads? There is a fairly formidable-looking mountain range (on Google Earth at least) between Bulgaria and Greece and would it be frightfully illegal to walk across them or is there a massive fence or something at the top of the mountain range? I do a lot of hiking and mountaineering and I would be going with friends as well (who also enjoy such things).
I would like to, at the end of my research, walk to Thessaloniki from Petrich in order to commence a 10-day InterRailing trip around south east Europe with some friends...is this a stupid idea without getting my passport stamped (do they stamp passports as a British citizen?) or not? Would it be better to get a bus back to Sofia and embark from there? I'll have some camping equipment with me.
My travelling experience thus far has been limited to western European countries and a package tour to Egypt so eastern Europe will be brand new, I've been taking Bulgarian lessons for a while now but I can't say I'm exactly competent yet and I don't speak a word of Greek. So while I've done a lot of backpacking in France and what not I guess it is a bit different in Bulgaria...can't wait!
Anyone have any idea where maps of the mountains in south west Bulgaria can be obtained?
[ Edit: Edited on 26-Apr-2010, at 03:39 by Sam2000 ]
Firstly, your question about crossing borders through the mountans is a good one.
From Bulgaria into Greece.. Well, officially you should cross at a border point. Officially I said. However, both Bulgaria and Greece are in the EU and passports no longer get stamped when crossing the borders in either direction, if you are on an EU passport/ID. However, Macedonia is a non-EU member and EU passports do get checked and stamped. It is unwise to cross from either Greece or Bulgaria (and back again) to and from Macedonia, except at a recognised border crossing.
If you are travelling on non-EU ID, then you should always cross at a recognised border point, regardless of whether it is an EU member country or not.
Secondly, Mountain maps?.... That's easy. 'Domino' have the monopoly on maps in Bulgaria. Every book shop and large petrol station sells them. They are very cheap too - but also aren't of very good qualty. I mean the maps themselves are great, but the paper quality is a bit naff.
EU countries no longer stamp passports that are from another EU country. You will however get it stamped as you enter and leave Macedonia.
Many thanks for the reply, most helpful!
We've decided to visit Macedonia via InterRail now anyway...make life easier than trying to walk into the country illegally.
I've heard Greece is a little odd with passport controls or is that just hear-say? Something to do with immigration controls and what not.
My dissertation research involves making a geological map of the area near Petrich...I'm just intrigued to see what the terrain is like over the mountains and the easiest route to take. I'll check out Domino.
Many thanks again!
The Greece border is a little unpredictable for people going out/coming back from non-EU countries, but EU-EU should be OK. Your train idea is a much more practical one.
Incidentally, spend a bit of time in Skopje if you have it. Great little city.