The tripoint between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey was the third one I visited in the summer of 2022. The other 2 were remote points within the mountains bordering the respective countries, this one was in a restricted border zone where special permission was required. Other members of the International Border Research Group IBRG had visited the spot in 2005 and since that time no western border enthusiast had got near. The photos of this point were non existent on line or dated from that one visit. Although this was a drive in it was on an island and the access points were behind the respective border control booths. This was not a place you could simply turn up and hope to gain access.

Meeting the Chief of Police of Svilengrad

Whereas my friends within the IBRG approached via Turkey, it made sense to me to contact the Bulgarian border authorities, an EU country and unlike either Greece or Turkey whose military controlled their borders, the Bulgarian Border Guard were an element of their police force. I had one further advantage, when I applied I had a teaching post in a top University within the UK, I therefore made a request as an academic to visit the tripoint as part of my research.

From the outset the Bulgarian authorities were helpful and supportive, my initial enquiries were handled by the Chief Directorate Border Police and then by the regional authorities RDBP Elhov. Several e mails later, permission was granted and I was to go to the BCU office in Svilengrad. The whole process took 6 months, upon arrival there was one further hurdle to overcome which was I needed final approval from the Chief of Police. This was granted after an interview and I am hugely grateful to him, his colleagues and especially the officer who accompanied to the tripoint who had oversight of the Frontex activities of the area. Without his approval and the colleague accompanying me it would not have been possible to got through the security checks prior to accessing the tripoint area.

On this map the tripoint is marked as 001, and there are subsequent BG/TR border markers #320. These were not visible on my visit. Also the border was a straight line through the 001 point with no curve.

Another border puzzle

The border between between Bulgaria and Turkey was confirmed with the Treaty of Constantinople in 1913. The Treaty of Neuilly 1921 agreed the demarcation of the border and yet another treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 established the position of the tripoint with Greece which finally was fixed on the Maritsa River by a demarcation commission in 1926. So here is the puzzle, the treaty clearly places the tripoint in the river and looking at the above maps this would make sense. Differing maps give differing positions, but all in the river.

A wet tripoint?

Bulgarian Map (1933)

A Bulgarian topographical map has the border in the Maritsa river with the island being divided between Bulgaria and Turkey. The tripoint is wet, and there is no Greek territory north of the river. Other Bulgarian maps also have the tripoint in the river but at a different point.

A dry tripoint?

Greek Map (year unknown)
Soviet Map (Year unknown)

This Greek map has the tripoint in its current de facto position with the south western part of the island belonging to Greece. Both maps have the BG/TR border in the same position (above left)

Soviet topographical maps also have a divided island between the 3 countries (below left).

To date it has not been possible to discover when the border in this area was altered or by whom and how was this ratified by treaty. People I spoke to on my visit from both Bulgaria and Greece were not able to explain why we now have a dry tripoint when early maps and the treaty suggest otherwise.

My best guess is that Bulgaria ceded a portion of the island to Greece so the tripoint was symbolically relocated. There is reference to the new tripoint monument being called the Peace Monument.

Photos from my visit

The Tripoint

Note the Turkish border fence that cuts across the monument.
BG/GR flags visible
BG flag visible
My Bulgarian guide

Monument Details

The monument had national flags and transcriptions on the 3 sides. Unfortunately due to the Turkish border fence which cut across the monument it was not possible to walk around the monument itself.  Latin-Cyrillic-Greek script at a tripoint maybe unique.

SOLIDARITY FOR A UNITED EUROPE it says on the Greek and Bulgarian side, and probably also on the Turkish side.

One of the highlights of my visit was whilst I was there, we were joined by a group from Greece who had crossed the Maritsa river by military launch. They were friendly and chatty, but somewhat surprised that a UK national was visiting the site. They all had links to the Greek military and were accompanied by a Greek Army officer, all of which suggests to me that this is also not an easy place to access from Greece either.

Joining the Greek group for a moment

The Borders

Bulgaria – Greece border

As the maps indicate above, the Bulgaria Greece border is a straight east- line from the tripoint. There are no signs or indication of Greece, although there are solar panels and CCTV surveillance along the border, the Greek group told me the vegetation is cleared once a year.

The Bulgaria – Greek border
Greek military base across the river
A Bulgarian guard post? Clearly not used that much.
On the Greek side of the border.

Turkish border with both other countries

It is very easy to identify this due to the Turkish fence which was constructed in 2009. This is separate to the Greek and Bulgarian anti migration fences built elsewhere along the border,

Looking north along the Bulgarian – Turkish border with Kapikule border crossing in the background. There is a gate in the border fence (locked).
Looking south along the Greek – Turkish border

Accessing the Tripoint

Without my Bulgarian border official guide, I would have had no chance of accessing the secure area which was behind the Bulgarian passport control booths, driving straight through the booths, and then making a sharp right hand turn onto a small road moments before the Turkish border.

After turning right, I was confronted with a high security gate which was opened by 2 border officers who clearly knew my companion. Immediately on my left was a concrete wall and behind that the Turkish border facilities with watch tower flags and passport booths.

Driving slowly down the access road with high vegetation in the middle ant to my right took concentration, I never noticed any bridge as I was expecting, but then the tripoint monument awaited.

Security Gate

Access to the tripoint was via manned security gate.

Turkey Border control facilities

Behind a fence and then concrete wall the Turkish border control facilities are very close.

Access Road

Access road, looking north back towards the Turkish border control buildings.
The access road is close the border fence the whole way down to the tripoint.
Bulgarian Border Guards at the gate and then later at the tripoint as the Greek party arrived.

IBRG Expedition 2005

I was not the first member of the International Border Research to have visited this point. Indeed 9 members visited in 2005 from the Turkish side. The monument was much smaller and the Turkish border fence had not been erected. For further information click the photo below or here.

Date of Visit: 2 August 2022

3 thoughts on “BGGRTR

  1. Great photos there, thanks for sharing!

    Regarding the issue of the actual tripoint being ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ on different maps, it has to do with a later bilateral aggrement between Bulgaria and Greece when the precise river borders between the two countries have been settled.

    The initial border treaty between the three countries, which was based on a survey of 1921, stated that the actual border is at the midpoint of the main branch of the river as it was at that time. The island did not exist then, it emerged after 1932 when the river formed a branch at its southern bank which now carries the main flow.

    After a serious incident with casualties between greek and bulgarian army forces who both claimed for themselves a newly appeared islet west of the one with the tripont in 1956, a commitee was formed and agreed to split these islands -there were three large ones, the one at tripoint included- between the two countries, and as such the half of the island was equally split between the two countries according to the shape it then had.

    Later, between 1972 and 1975, an alignment took place at the river banks between the greek and bulgarian sides and the new river border was finally precisely set and agreed..

    Unfortunately, such an agreement has not been able so far to be signed between the turkish and greek river border also, in order to solve issues and claims that occasionally come up…

    Nikos, Greece

    Liked by 1 person

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