Bakucha, A Vineyard Hotel - What a Gem
03.06.2017 - 03.06.2017 25 °C
Day 10 June 3 2017
Plovdiv to Luleburgaz / 269 KM / Border Crossing into Turkey
- As we head out of Plovdiv on the busy dual carriageway we overtake a horse & cart that is navigating its way to nearby fields. A reminder that living standards vary enormously in Bulgaria and that the cosmopolitan cities of Sofia & Plovdiv are not representative of its rural hinterland.
- For the first time we drive in rain, albeit warm.
- Today we are leaving Europe. Even though Bulgaria lies on its southern extremity, you still feel a kind of cultural safety net. The same cannot be said of Turkey. It will be interesting to see how things have changed since our last visit in 2014.
- Our destination this evening is a Turkish vineyard called Bakucha Hotel & Spa. SG could not believe her luck when Google research revealed this place conveniently located between the Turkish border & Istanbul. Staying in vineyard accommodation is a favourite pastime in Europe but unexpected here in Turkey.
- 5 km before the border, the trucks are queuing. We wonder if at the back of the queue the driver anticipates an overnight stay or 2 in his truck. Number plates are from all over Europe, but we see none from UK. Yes patience is a virtue if you are a truckie.
- In front of us in the queue is a German car with 3 young men of Turkish origin. They have driven from Munich overnight and have been on the road for 18 hours, driving in shifts. The driver explains his mother is returning to Turkey to live permanently and he is driving her brand new BMW back home for her. He returns to Germany on Monday by Lufthansa. Of course he will have driven a direct route and with no sightseeing, but his journey still represents quite a pace. Many Turks went to Germany to work as Gastarbeiter ( guest workers ) after World War 2 when Germany lacked manpower for obvious reasons.
- The border process takes about 90 minutes in all, and involves visits to various booths. It costs us 85£ in car insurance. A blanket charge for 3 months regardless of your accident risk. European car insurance does not include Turkey. We are out of that safety net.
- The truck queue waiting to enter Bulgaria is even longer ( 10 km ) No doubt because it is also an EU border. Many truck drivers are 'relaxing' roadside. They have a distinctive body shape.
- Immediately over the border is a huge mosque - for the convenience of travellers at prayer time.
- Turkey also operates a vignette system and we must pay 30 euros for our trip - we calculate that in total we will be spending 21 days in Turkey on this trip. 9 days on our way to Georgia and 12 days on our return. Turkey is a vast country but this total also includes some rest days and opportunities for sightseeing. More about that later in the trip. However this time around we are visiting neither Istanbul nor Ankara. At least that's our sincere hope.
- Bakucha vineyard is not easy to find. We suspect satnav has led us astray and the 'maps me app' is no more precise. However the building is distinctive to say the least, the countryside open and SG identifies from a distance what she believes to be our destination. It's just a question of finding the right route.
- The advantage of our zig zag approach is that we drive through a rural Turkey which is definitely off the beaten track and more accurately on a very bumpy one. We share the road with horse & carts, pass through villages with groups of men shading under the vine pergolas, see boys watching over their flocks and joy, oh joy, spot the first inhabited stork nests of our trip.
- What magnificent birds they are. Storks visit Turkey every year between April & September. The eggs will probably have hatched by now but we only see Mum & Dad. Nests, which can weigh up to 250 kilos are built up on poles, around chimneys or mosque minarets. With up to a 2 meter wingspan, a nest at altitude not only affords a degree of safety from predators but also an easy take off when the storks go in search of food.
- Bakucha vineyard is châteauesque in a modern sort of way. The Interior is better than the exterior suggests. It is busy with weekend trade. Young Turks with their small children are relaxing around the pool and drinking wine. No sign of Ramadan restraint here. There is a spa and of course in Turkey that must include a Hamam. The pool is a little fresh, presumably not heated, and SG is unsure whether to take a plunge.
- We research the indigenous wines, sold under the Arcadia label. The Manager says around 40% is exported to a London distributor. The grapes are 'sustainably' cultivated and production is not supplemented by grapes from other vineyards.
- The Istanbul chapter of the Rotary Club is here, a group of mainly Turks and a few Europeans who live long term in this country. They very kindly invite us to join them on a tour of the Arcadia winery. It is a small 'artisan' business that prides itself in high quality wines but production levels are relatively low. Arcadia is a comparatively young venture, one that has been undertaken with passion but also a great deal of scientific analysis.
- Reference several times is made to the deteriorating political climate in Turkey and how it impacts a wine business which is producing evil stuff for 'non believers'. The cynical perspective is that it brings in high taxes. In 2011, shortly after the first bottling from this vineyard, the authorities banned internet sales and marketing of wine within Turkey. Arcadia can no longer advertise domestically, so no wonder it concentrates on export markets.
- As we return to the truck parked up beside the vines, we fear the curse of Turkey has struck us once again. In 2010 our classic Ford car was hit and badly damaged by an errant sheep here. The sheep also came out of the collision pretty badly and the negligent shepherd went after compensation - for his sheep, not our car.
- Then in 2014 on our London Sydney trip, AG was confined to hospital in Ankara for 5 days all because of a stupid elbow wound. The Turkish doctor probably saved his arm, if not his life, so we bear no grudge. But we yearn a smooth and uneventful passage through Turkey this time around. And for the truck to suddenly stop working, with no previous symptoms of malfunction seems unsurprisingly like a bad deal of fate.
- To avoid delaying a large group of people from their wine tasting session, we urge the other cars to leave us to sort out the problem. So there we are, alone, locked in a vineyard, with a truck that has suddenly ceased to function.
- Keep calm. Let's think about this rationally. God it's stressful. We have a 600 km drive tomorrow and we need to have a functioning truck!
- Our 2006 Toyota truck is meant to be electronically simplistic. That's a plus point by the way. And here we are with an electrical problem we cannot solve. But hey, when computers behave similarly, what do we do? Apart from calling our personal technical support - we shut the damn things down completely, reboot & start again. SG suggests we do likewise and AG has the knowledge to do so. Disconnecting the battery, counting a minute and reconnecting is how we fix the situation.
- At Bakucha we expect fine wines & mediocre food. But in fact we are treated to a 4 course taster menu with selected wines from the vineyard. We enjoy not only fine wines but also delicious food. This place is another little gem!