Cyprus #4years4continents

Since October 10th 2013: 142 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.

Somebody is wrong

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I’ve always, or at least as far back as I remember, been told that I think too much. Reaching every nation on 4 continents without flying or going home must indicate that I act as well ;)
I’m pretty much drained for energy. I feel a heavy weight upon myself and I wish for the rain to come and wash it off me. It’s been a rough and yet amazing past few weeks. I fell in love with Bulgaria but had to leave. I did that on an overnight bus and only caught 2 hours of restless sleep. The bus got me to Istanbul in Turkey, where I caught another 90 minutes of cold napping in a park before giving a 1 hour presentation before Maersk Line’s Eastern Mediterranean cluster management at a 5 star hotel. I was then given a 2 nights complimentary stay at that hotel. I met with a Norwegian friend and world traveler, got invited to speak at a travelers conference, was treated to a boat trip on the Bosporus, moved into the apartment of Perçin who arranged for the conference, met with the Turkish Red Crescent, caught a cold from Perçin (thank you), picked up my sister from the airport and the wheels go round and round and round...
Parth Nilawar has been developing a new chest emblem for the new uniform. This one is a favorite.
Meanwhile I’m constantly thinking about the crowdfunding campaign, social media, learning as much as possible, delivering as much as possible, maintaining a long distance relationship with my wonderful fiancée, working out the logistics, replying to emails, creating blogs, eating right, getting some sleep, managing the budget, remembering who I am, staying neutral from politics and one day getting home. I do want to go home you know. For years now I have been in a tunnel of countries. There was no light to begin with. Just a dark endless tunnel. There is light now. It’s quite faint but it’s there and it will get brighter. 
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Crossing borders at 02:30am is more fun with family :)
My sister had hopes of reaching Cyprus with me but it’s easier said than done. Politics and opinion come into play. Cyprus is a Mediterranean island nation which has a capital divided by United Nations forces. On one side you have the Cypriot Greek and on the other side you find the Cypriot Turkish. And they all lived happily ever after... Well, I’ll go into more depth next week but for now you should just know that there is a division and that is followed by opinions. One opinion was that I would do some long term damage to potential influential friends on the Cypriot Greek side if I took a boat from Turkey to the Cypriot Turkish side of Cyprus. If you’re confused now then just know that the Republic of Cyprus gained independence in 1960 and joined the European Union in 2004. The division kind of resembles a “Berlin Wall scenario” although not really and far more peaceful with several open checkpoints open since 2003, which people can easily cross. So here’s my point: I’m a public person with social media, a blog, a mission and media attention from around 100 countries in the world. I’m certainly not famous and I’m hardly known but I am publicly available. My sister (lovely as she is) remains a tourist and can pretty much do what she wants. My sister could have boarded a ferry from Turkey to Cyprus but I was advised to head back to Greece and board a vessel from there. Sure why not? That “only” added an additional 1,144 km (711 mi) to an already 185,000 km (114,954 mi) long journey. In the big picture it doesn’t matter much. Not for nothing but I’d just like to boast that my traveling hero Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) is Said to have traveled 130,000 km (114,954 mi) over land and sea. So we’ve got him beat by now ;)
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White Tower, Thessaloniki, Greece. 
My sister was running out of time as she had to get back to work and probably more importantly to feed her 2 cats before they chewed themselves through the wall. So we ended up traveling to Thessaloniki in Greece which was my set off point for reaching: Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Turkey. Nice to be back again. We had our fair share of wind and rain but still managed to get the best out of it. Temperatures dropped to 10 degrees (50 Fahrenheit) which didn’t improve much on my cold (thank you Perçin). Especially as I went out without a jacket thinking that it would “warm up soon”. Good thing I’m not a weatherman! I’d rather be freezing though than being in my sisters shoes. She was unlucky and got a bed at the dormitory which was full of bedbugs - only we didn’t notice until the next day when she was able to count 125 bites!!! I’ve had my share of bedbug bites over the years but she caught up to me in a single night! Sorry sis! That’s no way to end an adventure with your brother...but it does make for a good story ;)
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I said farewell to her on at the airport in Thessaloniki and then I caught an overnight bus straight to Athens. In Athens I was exhausted but “soldiered on” towards my hostel during the early morning hours. While minding my own business I approached the National Archeological Museum I saw 2 bright flashes followed by 2 loud blasts. Then 2 more. Then a cloud of tear gas hit me. It took about 30 seconds before it began to sting! All I saw was a bunch of combat dressed policemen walking peacefully at a distance from me. No riot. No nothing. It was 05:00am and you could hear music from late night parties and see a few vehicles on the streets as Athens was waking up.
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So in other words: I cried when I returned to Athens :)
Throughout all of this I never stopped walking. I kept the same pace as my eyes teared up and my throat got sore. Eventually I was struggling to look out of my eyes but I managed as I kept walking. 5 minutes later I was in the clear and I was back to normal albeit an experience richer. Not the first time I experienced tear gas but a definite first in Athens. Imagine that? One of earths most popular tourism destinations. Go figure? went on, people are just people, nothing really happened and I eventually reached my hostel. They couldn’t check me in at 05:30am but I was permitted to go up on the rooftop. I did and I pulled out my sleeping bag and slept right through until 1pm. Then I was given a bed and I continued sleeping until the sun set. I got up to hunt down some dinner and afterwards I slept through the entire night. The following day I got on a bus to Lavrio from where I would catch a boat to Cyprus.
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As it turns out I already have several friends in Cyprus. Or at least the Saga has. Our friends from got in touch with which is the dominant shipping company in Cyprus. Apparently dominant in other areas too but I’ll need to learn more about that. Salamis Shipping permitted that I could come onboard their cargo vessel “Alexo”, which used to be Finish a long time ago. That’s not important except that my mother and therefore half my family is Finish so I rather enjoy that :) I reached the ship on time and met the chief officer who instructed a seaman to show me to my cabin. I really didn’t do much onboard the “Alexo”. I managed to read a couple of illustrated science magazines I’ve been carrying since forever. I replied to whatever emails I could offline. I did a few preparations and spoke to a few of the truck drivers that were onboard. However I mostly just slept and slept and slept... I have given more than 50 presentations of this project and commonly I’m asked afterwards, what I intend to do when I one day return home? I usually smile and reply that I will sleep for a month, wake up and shave and start a family. I guess the sleeping part is less of a joke than I thought? :)
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The good ship "Alexo" carried a lot more than trucks. We offloaded a selection of nice rides in Cyprus!
Welcome to Cyprus!! By sheer coincidence Cyprus became a lot more than country no 142. As planed it also became the last country within Europe but it just happened to be on the 4 year day of when I left Denmark! So in reality it has taken exactly 4 years to complete a visit to every nation on the first 4 continents: Europe, North America, South America and Africa. 4 years - 4 continents! Now that in itself is nothing remarkable but when you add to the equation that I haven’t flown a single time, that I have spent more than 24 hours in each nation (including the Vatican), that I haven’t returned home since we began, that I haven’t paid out any bribes, that the project budget is $20/day...well I guess it’s a pretty good story ;)
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A few numbers for you:
- 142 countries visited 
- 61 countries to go
- 185,000 km traveled already 
- 1,465 days
Average time/country: 10.3 days
Average speed: 5.3 kph
Calculated end date: July 5th 2019
Lets see how it goes. All I can do is keep on keeping on ;)
Somebody is definitely wrong. That goes for several things but I’ll just bring up two:
1) has every country already been visited without the convenience of flight or are we getting closer to creating history?
The answer is definitely debatable but I feel we have a very strong case against anyone who claims that it has been done. If we keep the Saga as pure as it has been thus far then it proves as a clear definition on what it means to go to every country without flying:
- No return home: it’s undebatable if it was 1 or several journeys.
- No flying: it seems obvious but some would argue that flying could be permitted under certain circumstances.
- No less than 24 hrs in each country: it becomes abundantly clear that a country was visited once you’ve spent a night and not simply crossed the border and returned immediately.
The above will prove a lot more valuable later on. Sometime around July 5th 2019 ;)
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Slowly but steadily conquering the world one friend at a time.
2) Is the world getting better or is it getting worse?
In the past 4 years I have built up plenty of proof to support that A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. That is generally beyond reasonable debate. I have also traveled through regions and countries with Ebola, yellow fever, malaria, the plague, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and ISIS. I have visited slums and crossed areas tarnished by terrible drought. I have seen poverty and extreme poverty. I have looked into the eyes of the blind, I have listened to the rambling of a mad man, I have seen the legless crawl, I have felt the devastating effects of corruption in society as well as in power. I have seen the rotting flesh of boat refugees, I have been in bed with a life threatening decease, I have been robbed in a hotel and I have seen people all over 4 continents turn into zombies behind their smartphones. Is the world on fire? No it is not!!
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Parth Nilawar has been developing a new chest emblem for the new uniform. This is another favorite.
I have played we children of all social classes, I’ve been next to people in public transportation for 4 years, I have dined with strangers, slept in strangers homes, laughed with strangers and converted more strangers into friends than I can remember. I have seen the prosperous development in undeveloped countries, I have seen people in love, I have seen people living, I have seen everything human you can think of! I’ve found WiFi in every country I’ve been to, people take selfies everywhere imaginable, people upload and watch YouTube, they complain about the weather, they talk about Trump, they have their favorite football teams, they do all sorts of things you see the n the street almost every day. E.g: I often see a a couple parting on the street. The girl wants a kiss before they go and the boy doesn’t really want to kiss in she closes her eyes and leans up for a kiss and he quickly looks around and quickly kisses her :) How many countries have I seen that in? Or how about this extraordinary commonly human thing: I often see an adult pretending that the child is stronger than him. The child is so proud and the adult doesn’t break the illusion and keeps pretending the child is stronger! :) Have you never seen that? I’ve seen that on 4 continents so far and in most countries. 
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Science and knowledge are good supplements to life.
The truth is that people are just people wherever we go. And things are really getting better on this planet. Not everything but surely many things. Extreme poverty has been more than halved in the past 20 years. The Giant Panda is no longer endangered. Tiger populations are growing for the first time in over 100 years. We are experiencing far less fatalities from natural disasters compared to the past in spite of more disasters. We have medicine for HIV which will ensure you live a full life and die from other causes than HIV. Furthermore a pregnant woman with HIV who takes her medicine will give birth to a healthy child! And the medicine is in most cases available and reaching people. A zero fuel plane completed a trip around the planet. The Ocean Cleanup Project foresees that it will have cleaned up 40% of plastic waste in the next 10 years. China has ended their ivory trade. World hunger has reached a 25 year low! There is lots of good news and we mostly hear the bad stuff? 
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Now, how is it at all possible that I could go to every country in 4 continents and not get burned, robbed, stabbed, kidnapped, fatally ill, depressed and/or tortured? Well, perhaps the world isn’t on fire? Perhaps Africa is a lot more than what hits the news and media. Perhaps people are just people and the world is far more normalized than you would ever be willing to believe? I’ll give you Africa as an example. There are 54 African countries which is more than every 4th country in the world. I’d say there are 4 African countries you shouldn’t and possibly couldn’t go to right now. There are about 10 “difficult countries” which you would have difficulties going to or where you should have above average travelers experience. That leaves us with 40 African countries which you could go to right now and have a great time. You could go to the mall or cinema in all of them but that’s not why you’d bother traveling there. Go to meet the people, taste the food, hear the music, see the sunset, enrich your life!! 
Alright now. The crowdfunding campaign has begun and you’ll find it right here: 
People have worked hard on it. Friends in Denmark, Rwanda and Canada. I’ve worked hard on getting this far. If you can spare a few coins then please throw them my way. If not then lean back and continue enjoying the Saga. That’s how crowdfunding works. Nobody has to pay if they don’t want to.
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I’ll end on a final note about Cypriots (people from Cyprus). They are soooo nice! I’ve been met with so much hospitality and kindness already. I’d be surprised if we didn’t find a way from here to Lebanon without flying ;) 

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - ready for the Middle East (after a nap)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
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Turkey - not just a bird

Since October 10th 2013: 141 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
I was here 7 years ago
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This is not my first adventure to Turkey. In 2010 a good friend of mine and I decided to buy 2 motorcycles in Chennai (India) and drive them from Asia to Europe. It was Cam’s idea. A stranger from Australia who turned friend long ago. I’ll get back to this later in this entry.
Last week I left you as I had just reached Istanbul from Bulgaria. It was a long journey from Bulgaria but only because I lacked proper sleep. A few hours of sleep in a Turkish park didn’t help much either. Lars Oestergaard Nielsen, who is the managing director for the Eastern Mediterranean Cluster at Maersk Line, happened to have all of his management assembled for a work seminar at the Renaissance Istanbul Polat Bosporus Hotel - and invited me to make a presentation of the Saga. I gladly accepted and arrived to meet a large group of motivated employees along with several familiar faces which I had already met across several Balkan countries. After the presentation we had lunch together and I was offered 2 nights complimentary at the 5 star hotel!! Wow! Thank you!
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Maersk Line management :)
Peculiarly I find that now, this deep into the Saga, I might have spent more nights at 5 star hotels than on the ground. Especially if you do not count the times I put up the hammock. Imagine the change from sleeping a few hours in a bus and catching some shut eye in a park, to suddenly sinking into a luxury bed, smelling nice from rich soaps and oils from the hotel bath. Just a few hours earlier I was shaving in a park... While at the hotel I received a message from fellow Viking Gunnar Garfors. Gunnar just so happened to be in town for a couple of conferences and me naturally had to get together as soon as possible. I first met Gunnar earlier this year while in Tunisia (
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He’s an author, world record holder, traveler, public speaker and one of the few who made it to every country in the world. Gunnar somehow got it into his mind that he owed me dinner and I didn’t spend much energy argue with my Norwegian friend. He also found it ideal if I was up for speaking at a travelers conference organized by Perçin who’ve I’d never met before? I definitely wanted to but had already said yes to joining Lars (Maersk Line) and some of his friends  for lunch and a boat trip on the Bosporus. That night Gunnar and I headed into the night of Istanbul, a city with at least 15 million people. 1,000 years before us the Vikings had already arrived naming the great city Miklagaard in their Norse language. It was therefore only fitting that Gunnar offered me dinner at a fine restaurant called Mikla. Afterwards we went to a “library” and didn’t get much reading done...
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Gunnar and I studying at the Library.
I struggled getting out of bed the following day but had to check out of my luxury environment and meet with Lars just outside of Istanbul further up the Bosporus strait which divides Europe from Asia. Or is it the other way around? I had a solid breakfast and a lot of water before leaving the hotel. And hour later I met Lars who picked me up with a big smile on his face. Lars has had an interesting career and has built up work experience from all across the world during his 25 years with Maersk. He just so happened to have a bunch of good friends over from Denmark and once I walked through the door I was introduced to his lovely wife Malou and 3 visiting friends: Kim, Tue and Thomas. With a lot of hesitation I declined a glass of champagne as the night before was still deeply rooted within me and it had been confirmed that I would be speaking in front of a group of travel enthusiasts in the evening. I found that water might had been the safer choice for me. However when I discovered that it was the “James Bond champagne” I simply couldn’t resists. We had a great afternoon. Lars, Malou, Kim, Tue and Thomas go way back and share many great memories. After lunch the 6 of us got into 2 taxis and continued down to the wharf were a rented Yacht was waiting for us. Onboard we were served strawberries, snacks, coffee, tea and more champagne. It was an absolute stellar experience for me and a great way to see Istanbul from the water. It was very easy to get along with everyone and we managed some interesting conversations somewhere between the champagne and strawberries. 
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Great company! Thank you all! :)
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Lars instructed the captain to let me off somewhere near the central part of Istanbul’s coastline. I waved goodbye and made my way inland towards the speaking engagement. What a first few days this had already been?! A taxi and a metro got me to where I needed to be. It was raining but I didn’t mind. After navigating a few narrow streets I made it to the venue and met with Perçin for the second time. On the night I met Gunnar I briefly had a chance to meet Perçin and agree to speak. Perçin is amazing and had arranged the entire event himself. He is a trainer, author, entrepreneur and traveler who has made it to 60 countries so far!! No small accomplishment! The night went well as the 6 speakers (including me) performed. Gunnar and I were the only 2 speaking in English and Perçin stepped in to translate on both occasions. Afterwards we went out for a bit before I followed Perçin home. He had invited me to stay as his guest and offered me a couch. Perfect!
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Guess which one of us is currently traveling? ;)
Perçin has a modern apartment near Istanbul’s metro line and it made for a great location for me to explore. He also has a cat called Pisimamasi which means cat food in Turkish. That’s a long story. Pisisuyu either cuddles or attacks! Dr Jekyl and Mr Hide all in one cat. I got to see both sides and the many scratches on my hands and arms prove it :) I managed to arrange for a meeting with the Turkish Red Crescent who are in fact responsible for the Red Crescent emblem. When the Red Cross was founded back in 1863 the Red Cross was the only emblem. However the Turks were not happy to use a “cross” as an emblem for humanitarian aid no matter how neutral its meaning was. Especially as the Turks were battling the Russians at the time and the “Red Cross emblem” appeared offensive to some Muslim soldiers. Keep in mind that the Red Cross, Red Crescent and now also the Red Crystal are all emblems of the same organization and are completely neutral in every way. However...there are 3 different looking emblems anyway. The Red Crescent was inspired by the Ottoman flag and is used in around 33 countries in the world. That’s just a little bit on that. What I really wanted to express was how amazing I have found the Türk Kizilayi (as they call themselves) to be! I was invited to visit a community center on the Asian side of the Bosporus. It was incredibly well organized as seen through my logistical trained eyes. Children draw pictures and play, adults learn skills (sawing, cutting hair etc) and languages, some are briefed in various forms of bureaucracy and in their rights, there are doctors and nurses, there are places to relax and’s really well done and the energy there was good. Many of the beneficiaries are coming across the border from neighboring Syria so I got to say a few greetings in Arabic. I’m very much looking forward to visiting the Middle East soon. The list of activities within the Turkish Red Crescent are endless. However you can check them out here:
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You will I'll never understand the necessity of the Red Cross Red Crescent - and I can't describe it.
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One day I got a message from Luna who wanted to meet up. It turned out that Luna is a half Turkish half Turkish musician with a lot more talent than what I find reasonable. We met and had tea and she brought along another musician called Ray. Ray is half Venezuelan and half French. I’m half Danish and half Finish so the 3 of us represented 6 nationalities on 3 chairs. How about that?! ;) They were both unreasonably talented and I wouldn’t be surprised if their careers suddenly took off! When Luna first sang for me I shed a tear which ran down my right cheek. I hand recorded their 3rd performance for me which I uploaded to YouTube and it will give you some idea:
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Ray Riveros and Luna Ersahin. You'll hear more about them later. Luna performs with her band
I’ve got a mother, a father and 2 younger sisters. Since the Saga began in October 2013 I have been privileged to see all of them in various countries. All of them except for 1 of my sisters who had not been able to visit...not until now that is!! My sister Trine landed in Istanbul and we saw each other for the first time in over 4 years. Spectacular!! And now they’ve all been out to see me :) My family is a fairly well traveled one and I can’t keep track on who’s been where over the years. However it turned out that Trine had never before been to Turkey so I decided on a few “must sees” for her. Naturally we went to see the Hagia Sophia Cathedral/Mosque/Museum which is 1,480 years old, we went inside the unimaginable Blue Mosque so we could marble beneath its beauty, we visited the Basilica Cistern which was something I always wanted to do, we strolled through the gardens and buildings of the Topkapi palace, walked through the Grand Bazaar, visited the Archeology museum and went on the ferry from the European side to the Asian side just to get the view of the sun setting behind one of the worlds greatest cities.
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My viking sister :)
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Blue Mosque.
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Hagia Sophia by night.
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The exceptional "Basilica Cistern".
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The entrance to Topkapi Palace.
Turkey is the keeper of a ridiculous amount of interesting sites and ancient history. Italy may have more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country...but Turkey has at least 150 historical excavation sites each year and there are massive finds which can hardly be explained. Castles, underground cities, massive heads carved from stone, name it and Turkey has probably got it! The area of ​​Turkey has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period by various ancient Anatolian civilizations, as well as Assyrians, Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, Urartians and Armenians. After Alexander the Great's conquest, the area was Hellenized, a process that continued under the Roman Empire and its transition into the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuk Turks began migrating into the area followed by the Mongol invasion and the Ottoman Empire, WWI and WWII. All of that is just a fraction of Turkeys history but it does give you an idea about how many great and influential empires came across these beautiful lands. 
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As I mentioned in the beginning, this isn’t my first visit to Turkey. Back in 2010 I reached Erzurum in the east of Turkey after nearly 4 months of motorcycling across Asia. My Aussie friend Cam and I were both exited to have reached Turkey. After nearly 4 months together we decided to split up for a few weeks and meet in Istanbul. He would take the train and I would get myself a new ride in Erzurum as we had to sell our bikes in Iran just a week before. Erzurum was 1,225 km (761 mi) away from Istanbul and I only had a few options:
- A barely functioning scooter
- A very old motocross bike
- A bran new Lifan Discovery
I was foolish enough to buy a bright orange, bran new, Chinese made 250cc Lifan Discovery. Not my brightest idea but for some odd reason I thought I might be able to get a good price for it in Istanbul? Just out of Erzurum I was fined for speeding. My only speeding ticket throughout the entire 4 month motorcycle adventure? I managed to visit Van, Diyarbakir (passing Batman), Kayseri, Aksaray, Ankara, Izmir and Gallipoli before reaching Istanbul for the first time in my life. 
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2010: my Lifan Discovery 125cc
In Istanbul I found it impossible to sell the bike without loosing a fortune. It was (through great difficulty in Erzurum) registered to me. All the dealers turned me away or gave me offers which were ridiculous. I was in a hurry as I needed to fly to The Hague (Netherlands) for a job. My situation seemed hopeless. I was sitting at Gülhane Sur Cafe  while contemplating what to do?!? Drive the bike into the Bosporus? Set it on fire? I was getting desperate after 4 full days of failure trying to sell it. With my head dragging between my knees I walked up to pay at the counter.
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As I paid I mumbled to the host: “do you know anyone who might be interested in a motorcycle?” The guy replied: “Yes! Me!” I couldn’t believe it?!? His name was Kamal and he was taking care of the family business. He called his father who arrived shortly after that. His father was Murat and together the 3 of us walked around my bright orange problem a few times. Then we made a price and agreed to work on the paperwork the following day!  Neither Murat nor I ever dreamt of how hard it would be, to go through all the red tape of getting my registration cancelled and sell it to them!! It was a 3 day long bureaucratic marathon through every single office in all of Istanbul!! At least that is how I remembered it. I got to know Murat quite well as we drove through Istanbul’s charming streets. I was riding the bike and Murat was on the back. In the afternoon on the 3rd day we were on our way to a notary office. It would be the final signature and stamp before I could finally leave the motorcycle to Kamal and Murat. I was very relaxed on the motorcycle as we headed down a road. Some guy listening to music walked out right in front of us and I had to brake HARD!! Only: I didn’t have my foot on the brake so I only had the handbrake available!! I squeezed it hard but it wasn’t good enough!!! I had to try to steer around - but with the handbrake tightly clutched we crashed!! It wasn’t too dramatic but we were both on the ground. Murat had torn his pants and we had a few bruises. The bike was leaking petrol and the gear shifter was bent into the wheel blocking it from turning. We had to get up quickly and carry the bike off the road. I instantly gave Murat a discount on the price we had agreed. Then we fixed the bike well enough to continue to the notary office. We signed the final document and the deal was done. We then proceeded to have some tea at Gülhane Sur Cafe before I flew off to The Hague. What an ending to an otherwise epic bike ride!!
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I used this picture for the Throwback. It was fantastic to see them again! :)
Well guess what? My sister and I were able to track down Gülhane Sur Cafe a few days ago. Guess who was serving? It was Kamal - only; a man now 7 years later!  Kamal called his father and the next thing I knew was that Murat was also there! We’ve been talking about “the good old days” and Kamal is now onto his 4th bike which he built himself. Murat is close to opening a restaurant under the same name as the cafe. I don’t know what you read into this experience but the reunion was definitely very special to me! :)
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The tourist areas naturally include a lot of: "special price for you" and "how many camels do you want for your sister". Kamuran is among these charming businessmen and you can find his family business at Sultanahmet:
Just a few final notes for you as I round out this entry. Istanbul is definitely amazing but it’s not the capital of Turkey. Turkeys capital city is Ankara which I visited in 2010. Another great city but not nearly in the same way as Istanbul. A lot has changed in Turkey since I first visited 7 years ago. I have felt safe wherever I went and I have been treated with a lot of curiosity and kindness. If I were you I wouldn’t hesitate for a second before ordering a ticket to come to Turkey. It has been absolutely wonderful to have my sister along side for a few days and while she can take care of herself I still had no need to worry for her in any way. 
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Finally I’ll leave you with this: A turkey (bird) is not called "turkey" in Turkey, but "hindi" because the bird originates from the (West) Indies. The bird resembles the African guinea fowl, which was introduced to Europe through Turkey and the "West Indian" bird became known as "Turkish hen/turkey" ;)
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And get ready for the crowdfunding campaign which is nearly ready now!! :)

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - nearly out of Europe
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
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Bulgarias wisdom 140 countries later

Since October 10th 2013: 141 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
I'm exhausted but happy
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My thoughts lately have been circling around: "what are you doing?!?" What is the Saga? What is it to you? What is it to me? What is it really about? Hmmmm...
Well one could ponder that for a while and perhaps never come up with a single answer to the question. Lately I have found that the core of the Saga is about not giving up. The social media, the Red Cross Red Crescent along with my persona are in a symbiotical relationship and the Saga would not be the same if you removed one or the other. It all plays a role but when I'm not motivated by any foreign factors (e.g. Red Cross or social media) then it all rests on me. And when I'm in physical and/or mental pain then it's hard to see why I should keep on moving forward - because if that's the case then why am I doing all of this? I think it's about not giving up. In most cases giving up is synonymous with having no change. It could be completing an education, getting a job, approaching the one you love, family issues, health issues, loosing weight, loosing hope, pain or a number of other things. The moment we give up the results stay the same: no education, no job, no partner, no improvements of any sort. It's easy to give up. It's tough to keep on going. Not giving up is the essence of the Saga as far as I'm concerned: "don't give up for anything!!" We just keep on keeping on...until we reach the other side ;)
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There is far less respect these days from people I meet regarding completing a journey to all countries in a continues journey and without flying. It's as if people mostly believe that they could do it if they had the money and the time to do so. I completely understand and completely disagree. Before leaving home I definitely thought this would be a lot easier and I was unable to imagine many of the obstacles which would lay ahead. After all, how hard is it to buy a ticket and sit in a bus? ;) I guess that if you can ward off the urge to give up and go home then you could, with money and time, visit at least 80% of the world without greater difficulties. There are challenges hidden within the last 20% which you cannot possibly imagine. However I did a quick survey on Twitter and found that those who follow already know.
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It was quite the journey to reach Sofia in Bulgaria from Odessa in Ukraine. I was dreaming about a boat which could have brought me from Ukraine to Bulgaria. However I gave up on finding out how and when to do so. I'm not great at reading Cyrillic letters and the process of booking definitely did not seem straightforward. Besides, everyone was telling me to take the bus - so I did. The bus left Odessa, headed to the border with Moldova and then crosses a tiny bit of Moldova before continuing inside Ukraine once again.
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Then after many hours of driving past various fields the bus reached another tiny part of Moldova before it entered Romania. Several hours across Romania got us to the Bulgarian border and we finally stopped at Varna in the east (where I wanted to sail to). Then another bus brought me to Sofia, which is Bulgarias capital. All in all it took about 26 hours and technically I have now been to Moldova 3 times in my life and Romania twice :)
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You may imagine that I was tired when I reached Sofia but I still opted for joining a free walking tour in the city center. You're not forced to pay anything on a free walking tour however tipping is welcomed. They do a great job at they do a great job! So great that more than 100 people had arrived for the 6pm tour. We were divided into 4 groups and given different guides. My group got Dimitar. Sofia is a really special capital and, as far as I'm concerned, definitely also a place I could see myself living. History is literally stacked up in different layers and depending on where you are in the city you can explore the Roman Empire, Bulgarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Communist era and a lot more. Bulgaria wasn't a part of the Soviet Union but it was thankful for its liberation from the Ottomans and therefore loyal. Bulgaria is often referred to as a satellite state in that connection.
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Getting the countries first McDonald's restaurant in 1994 was a big deal back then and a huge step in the direction of the western world. Today they are a part of the EU and NATO. NATO was the same year as McDonald's ;)
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Sofia or Sophia means wisdom in Ancient Greek. In the center of Sofia there happens to be a statue of Saint Sofia who was martyred in 137 AD for being Christian. She's got nothing to do with the cities name! But her name is Sofia and a the statue went up in the year 2000. The origin of the cities name stems from a temple called Hagia Sophia (holly wisdom) which is today the 2nd oldest church in Sofia. Back in the day knights and travelers would pass the temple on the road between Constantinople (today's Istanbul in Turkey) and Belgrade in Serbia. They would stop to pay there respects and over time (Hagia) Sophia became a reference as in: "hey there good sir knight, have you been to Sophia?" And now you know a little more than before ;) I approached Dimitar at some point during the tour and you know how a stranger is a friend you've never met before - so we ended up having dinner the next night at a restaurant along with a few of Dimitar's friends.
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After a day or 2 the rain came and it would rain from morning to evening. That really demotivated me from going outside but I was also just tired...perhaps exhausted. I dream about a room with no windows, doors or responsibilities. Container ships are almost like that for me and I love it. I guess prison would be like that too? Perhaps I should rob a bank! Kidding aside I need a break of sorts. Maybe when I reach Cyprus or Lebanon? I need to get to the bottom of a lot of "paperwork" which has been building up since I left Africa. The hostel I picked was the opposite of a party hostel and it was a great place to do nothing. Although as soon as I procrastinate or do nothing I immediately begin to feel guilty.
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Teodor is a great guy from Bulgaria who has been following the Saga and invited me out once I arrived :)
I mostly got out of bed after noon those days except for my last day when I REALLY needed to get some stuff done! I was up early to go and collect my new Salomon boots, which had been sent to Maersk's office in Sofia. The Sagas partner arranged for the collections and delivery without a hitch. I haven't worn any other footwear than Salomon since I left home. My 3rd pair lasted for more than 63,915 km (39,714 mi) and there's "only" 40,000 km around equator. They did well. Michael Hundeboll from arranged for them as he also did the 2 times before that. Thanks a lot!!
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Warning: the pair on the left are far more worn then what they appear to be.
With my shiny new shoes I was off to meet with the Bulgarian Red Cross, who surprised me with a massive media attack!! The moment I opened the door to their HQ there was a camera attached to my face!!! The camera followed me to the receptionist where I tried to pretend like nothing. I was guided to the conference room where we held an impressive press conference and I think that every media house in Bulgaria might have been present: radio, TV, newspapers... Okay, maybe not everyone as Bulgaria has a population of 7 million people but it sure felt like they were all there! I think the Bulgarian Red Cross were surprised too. I recently made a decision to restructure the Red Cross involvement within the Saga. The Danish Red Cross wanted me to write an "always present story" for each of the 190 National Societies around the world. In order to do this I did not only need to get in touch with the individual National Societies, but I also had to find something to write about each time so that the stories weren't to similar. On average I've been spending at least 2 days with the Red Cross or Red Crescent in each country which quickly adds up. I wouldn't mind doing it if I was being taken seriously, however I couldn't see any of those stories being valued or put into practical use? I've written 127 such stories and it has been massively time and energy consuming. In return the Red Cross rarely helps with anything although usually stays nice to me and often offers a cup of coffee, a handshake and a selfie. I do all the bookings, reservations, visas and work. That didn't sit well with me. In Geneva you have the IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent). The IFRC is theoretically linked to all the National Societies all around the world. I tried to bring it to the attention of their communication department that they were sitting on a relatively unexplored goldmine. However they didn't see it that way and largely dismissed me. Having met with, or at least written about, the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 127 countries (at the time) I was grossly disappointed and considered leaving the Red Cross at the doorstep and completing the Saga without being a goodwill ambassador.
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However on and off I get really motivated by individual National Societies or by young volunteers and then I can't bring myself to quit the Red Cross. Besides: IT'S THE RED CROSS!! We all know, or should know, that the Red Cross isn't perfect and at times makes mistakes. The movement consists of humans and: "errare humanum est" (to err is human). It's small stuff though in the big picture and we all know how people and media like to focus on the negative. The truth is that the Red Cross and Red Crescent make a colossal impact to hundreds of millions of lives and nobody really knows it. Some people may assume it's true but most don't know it. You'll just have to take my word for it. The end of this "song" is, that next to writing all these stories I have also been interacting with volunteers, visiting beneficiaries, visiting project sites and raising awareness through interviews and social media. The recent restructuring involves removing the hassle of the unused stories and focusing more on inspiring, motivating and generating visibility. There are huge untapped resources within the Saga for the Red Cross as far as visibility promotion goes. I'm happy to say it has so far been quite successful. Most of the countries National Societies I have visited since I left Africa have in different ways gained much more than before. The Bulgarian Red Cross definitely got themselves some massive visibility :)
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In Bulgaria you will not receive your drivers license before you pass your first aid exam. Smart!
After meeting with the Bulgarian Red Cross I actually had a meeting with Gabriella who's a journalist. I was sorry to have to tell her that her story was now far from exclusive but I promised to feed her information that nobody else had. Gabriella did not mind at all. She was confident and replied: "their stories have not been written by me". She was really cool and we sat down for tea for a few hours. When we finally split I had to get some lunch and I decided to splurge with a fancy meal at a fancy restaurant. I had grilled fish with vegetables and a bottle of still water. It ran me $12.60 ;) 
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For $12.60 the fish even came filleted ;)
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The bell at Hagia Sofia. No bell tower needed :)
I really like Bulgaria! "But Thor! You didn't travel around or spend much time there?" Yes that's right. But you didn't live during the Roman Empire and yet you have some understanding of it from books, movies, museums and speaking to people. I have some practical understanding about Bulgaria from looking out the window of a bus while going across the country. In connection to that I have spent time with real Bulgarians (yes, they exists), I have walked around in the capital, I did a very recommendable free guided tour and I've done more online research than you might imagine. I'm telling you: I could live here and be happy! :)
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I believe it was Albert Einstein who once said: "everybody can handle order, but only a genius can master chaos". For me that applies to Bulgaria. Bulgaria is as far as I'm concerned full of wonderful, friendly and easy to talk to people. There's also a sense of chaos which just kind of works out anyway somehow? Bulgaria is a "historical bus stop" and its green lands have been spiced with the influence of invading empires and armies over the years. It all adds to what makes Bulgaria: Bulgaria. Bulgarians also have this enormous history to be proud of along with its culture and it appears to me that Bulgaria is staying loyal to that all whilst moving closer towards western world mentality. Okay, chaos might be a strong word but I'm sure there are more than a few Bulgarians that know what I mean ;)
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After devouring my fish I went to a café to get online. I had checked out of the hostel in the morning so I was carrying all my stuff with me everywhere I went that day. And it was raining. Fortunately, thanks to Salomon and DB Schenker, I had a new pair of dry boots to put on!! :) In the evening I was meeting up with Dimitar and friends again for dinner and then I dashed off to catch my bus leaving at 10pm to Istanbul (Turkey).
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That was another long ride. My last day in Bulgaria had been hectic and I really felt exhausted. I've been eating to little and irregularly while I haven't been sleeping neither well nor enough. So much for taking good care of myself. The drive itself was actually only 8 hours but we reached the border between 2-3am where everyone had to get out and in and out and back in again. I didn't sleep before then and perhaps caught a few hours of bus-sleep before reaching Istanbul. In Istanbul I had to wait 1 hour for the metro to start operating. I then made my way through the city until I reached a park where I slept for 1-2 hours. Some birds and a dog came to wake me up. A fly did a good job out of keeping me awake too :) Then I marched on until I reached the Renaissance Istanbul Polat Bosporus Hotel (5 stars) where I was meeting Lars Østergaard Nielsen who is the managing director of the East Mediterranean Cluster for Maersk Line. That means that he manages several country managers and is based in Istanbul. The meeting went pretty well in spite of my lack of energy. More about that next week ;)
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Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - never giving up!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
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