Written on November 17th
Something very dangerous happened today. As I was trying to leave at 1 o’clock, I had a flat tire. I tried to fix it, but Marilo took me to a bicycle repair shop near the home. I was trying to fix it on my own, but the mechanics came and said that my rear tire experiences frequent flats because it’s too thin. They suggested I replace it with a thicker one. I bought a 25-euro tire, and they replaced the inner tube and tire with new ones and ended up paying them a total of 30 euros. When I left Alexandroupolis, it was 1:50.
As I was riding on the freeway, a truck belting a neon orange ribbon transporting red cones used for road construction stopped in front of me. I had seen the same truck on my first day in Greece too. He insisted that I crossed over the safety line, and that I should ride within it. The man I saw that day got out of the car.
“I warned you. You cannot ride on the freeway.”
Ah, I didn't know. Then how can I get to Komotini?
I turned on Google Maps and he indicated a route with narrower streets instead of the freeway. It was a very big detour – a right-angled triangle – the freeway being the longest side and I had to ride around it on a 90-degree angle. “Wow,” I thought, “Europe is really different, huh?” There had never been anyone who’s given me a hard time on the highway. Well, I was stopped altogether at a toll gate once in Xi’an, China and another time in Gemlik, Turkey, on my way to Istanbul. Other than that, I’m used to riding alone on wide roads. They had many cars and lane changes were frequent. Times when I am sandwiched in between cars, or when I have to squeeze myself in between them were very dangerous, but what choice did I have? That was the only way.
Europe was different. First of all, there were many travelers on bicycles who didn’t find me very special, but rather found me ordinary. So, they just saw me and saw whether I obeyed traffic rules. Until now, up until Turkey, Asian police officers encouraged me, but the interests of the European police lay on whether or not I followed traffic rules. “Ah,” I thought, “so this smoothly laid highways are not solely for cars. They keep their eyes on me and on what roads I travel.” I thought that I would be fined had I kept riding on the highway.
I exited the highway and onto a country road. There were a flock of sheep. What’s different from Asia is that the shepherd man here carrries on his back a rifle. Unpaved roads. And wild dogs barked at me. It was 4 o’clock. Houses were drenched in gold sunlight.
After traveling down the side of the right-angled triangle, I turned right at a 90-degree angle. I was riding on a country road when a man on a motorcycle passed me by. Kept going and passed what looked like a school, in front of which the man stopped his bike and looked at me. The man had a dark complexion and was wearing a military jumper. I continued to ride. Suddenly, sound of a motorcycle drew near, and I looked to my left in fear that an accident might happen. It was the man on the motorcycle from earlier. Someone touched me and left. I was so startled that I screamed for 5 seconds.
The man rode ahead of me and maintained his speed at my pace. I yelled at him to stop. I communicate my refusal very clearly and he disappeared into the distance. I rode alone for some time thinking how terrible of an experience it was. Then, I came across a beautiful river. I stopped my bike, took photos, took off my sunglasses and put on my regular glasses. The man from before walked up to me and said,
“How are you? Do you want sex? Sex, sex?”
I shook my head with force and before he got on his motorcycle, I got on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could. The motorcycle roared in the back, and I turned my head back in fear. The man easily caught up to me on his motorcycle and touched me once again before passing me. He snickered as he rode his bike behind a tree. I came to understand this pattern of his. The man would ride 100 meters ahead of me, watch me from the woods, and then catch up to me from behind. I understood the severity of this issue. The sun was setting, and this desolate country road had maybe one traveling car every minute or so. There were no houses to be seen near the fields and I feared that this man would rape me. I became frightened and stopped my car.
I thought that I should hitchhike. It was my only way of escaping the situation. I stood on the side of the road and raised my hand up. I saw headlights of a car in the distance. I wished for it to arrive quickly, but it was so far away that I was able to see the size of it after 20 seconds. I waved my arms for help, but this German car, a Volkswagen car ignored me and passed on by. The third car came to a halt in front of me, but it was very old and small. The driver noticed me and stopped the car. As soon as he rolled down the window, I said in English,
“Could you possibly take me to Komotini? That man keeps following me.”
The man couldn’t understand me. I used Google Translate to convert what I said in Greek. I showed him, he said yes, and asked if I could speak Turkish. The man was Turkish. He got out of his car, folded the back seat to make room for my bike. Fortunately, my bicycle was able to fit inside the trunk. I got in the front passenger seat.
The car was very old and very slow. I thought perhaps a 90s model. The windshield was cracked and I thought to myself that I should be cautious of this car also. The man had a missing thumb. As he drove, he spoke very loudly in Turkish, as if I were a person with hearing problems. He knew I couldn’t understand Turkish, but kept on. I traveled 37 kilos, listening to his Turkish. Forty minutes later, the car arrived at a university in Komotini.
I called Maria. It was brutally cold outside. The university’s campus was so big, but was so dark with no lights. Maria didn’t know how to send her location via whatapp – I don’t know if she intentionally turned off the data or what but my frustration added on when she didn’t check my messages quickly. Finding her dorm in a campus with no lights or signs was very difficult. We played phone tag for some time, I thanked the Turkish man, and then I finally set out to find her dorm. Busses and cars with headlights turned on sped on by me in this pitch darkness. I finally cross-matched the lowercase-lettered words of the Greek philology in the screenshot she sent me with the uppercase-lettered words on the sign. This is the place. I walked forward following the sign and finally came to a building. In front of it, there were about 15 students gathered. “Is this the dormitory?” I asked, and two male students pointed at another building. I approached the building, and abandoned dogs barked at me in the dark. I called out, “Maria, Maria,” in front of the building and passing by about five dormitory wings. A long-haired girl in the distance ran in my direction, and I asked,
“Are you Eva?”
I finally found her. Relieved, relieved, and relieved.