Day 6 of Rally: Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey – Fun at the borders

3310 km traveled so far
32.3 kids sponsored.

Today, we started driving at 7am to get to Serbia – Bulgaria border (4hrs from Belgrade – the place where we stayed last night and the place where I hoped I would magically bump into Novak Djokovic). We left early strategically to beat the rush (long wait time) and high heat – the two factors that did us in yesterday. Just before the border, we stopped at a petrol station to fill up Harriet (prepping for many hours of idling), bought ourselves a large tetra pack of orange juice (prepping for many hours of idling in high temps), and cleaned our windshield.
At a few of these border control posts, as you wait in long car lines, other than panhandlers, there are also men with squeeze bottles of soapy water and squeegees. These warriors against bug splatters douse your windshield with soapy water and start scrubbing and squeegeeing vigorously – all before your car has come to a full stop and you can decipher what is happening. Then they harass you for money for services rendered and don’t let you move until you’ve paid up. Yesterday one such savvy bug-splatter warrior ambushed us and took advantage of our ignorance and desperation to move and relieved us of €2. Determined to outsmart them, we squeegeed our windshield to an extent my mom would be proud, at the petrol station right before the border (where we armed ourselves with OJ) and drove past them with smug expressions on our faces. Multiple bug-splat warriors ran up to our car during our approx 1km drive to border control and walked away with dejected expressions. Then we spent the next 2hrs torn between feeling smug for having outsmarted their ploy and feeling like an ass for depriving some poor man of his livelihood 😩

After 2 hours of idling/stopping/starting moving one car length, we spent another hour waiting in line to buy toll vignette (some €10-€20 toll to use their roads). (Detailing all the mundane stuff here, so you understand why we’ve been sleeping less than 6hrs/day but still not able to drive more than a few hundred kms)

On to Sofia, Bulgaria where we decided to take a 2km detour to check out Veda House – a hippie vegan restaurant where Bulgarian women in half-sarees were putting Mehendi! They disputed our claim that they were half-sarees and affirmed that these were the dresses worn by gopikas. Here’s the picture: you can be the judge.


But they were very sweet and saved Harriet from being booted (for being parked in a paid parking zone without paying) by translating for us with the meter guy and spotting us some local currency to buy a scratch card from him. TIL: you pay for parking in Sofia using an app or SMS – which is why we never found a parking meter.

The drive through Serbia and Bulgaria was absolutely breathtaking with mountains, sunflowers and corn. In my mind, I rewrote Wordsworth’s “a hundred thousand I saw at a glance” – all mine, dedicated to the sunflowers. Very apt and heartfelt, albeit plagiarized (fully and completely)


At the Turkish border met this wonderful Turkish woman (pictured here) who donates €1000/yr to educate girls in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan. She called over her teenage sons and told them about our journey and how it’s a good thing. We had them all sign the car. She is a big Amitabh Bacchan fan – Coolie being the first AB movie she saw. The son was a huge SRK fan – he signed the car “wanna be my chammak challo” 😂


It’s 10pm now. I type this at the Bulgaria-Turkey border as Anitha is buying car insurance and toll passes to cross the Bosphorous tomorrow. The mosquitoes are eating us alive. If you don’t hear from us tomorrow, blame the mosquitoes. They did us in.

We are at 32.3/200. Please share the story of the inspiring Turkish woman we met so we may find more folks to pitch in the just $20/month it takes to send a kid to school instead of to work. All donations are tax deductible and any amount is appreciated. Donate at 🙏🏽