Istanbul to Bulgaria: Where Them Bears At?

Istanbul, Turkey to Kalotina, Bulgaria/Serbia border

Number of kilometers: 12,193
Number of countries crossed: 8 (China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria)

After a wonderful long weekend it was back to reality. Back on the bike, back to the tent, back to eating meals on the side of the road, and to top it off rain and cold swept in from the Marmara Sea as we headed towards Bulgaria. Having left half of his belongings in his hotel room in Istanbul Oli did manage to pick up Matthieu’s cough and cold and it was with this that the two of us limped into Bulgaria.

Not only does this rubbish bag make for an excellent waterproof jacket, but it is also strawberry scented.

Not only does this rubbish bag make for an excellent waterproof jacket, but it is also strawberry-scented.

Feeling rather down and out we met a lovely chap called Jorge in the first service station we came to. Jorge was from Chile and had made his way to Turkey from South Africa. His stories of charging elephants and exotic “conquests” along his route made for an excellent distraction from our heavy heads and chesty coughs. Two became three and after 20 km three became four as Adolfo, the great bearded eco-warrior, hopped over the barrier in the road and cycled back the same way he came(!). We all camped that night in the garden of a street-side cafe and talked about the good and the bad, travelling tales from far and wide, everything and nothing. We stayed with them all the way to Sofia.

The newly formed 4-man wolf (and bear) pack

The newly formed 4-man wolf (and bear) pack

Adolfo.jpg

Adolfo: an encyclopedic knowledge of the bicycle but a questionable sense of fashion.

Bulgaria can best be described as a country covered in beautiful forested hills littered with towns that look as if a nuclear bomb was dropped on them 40 years ago, with only one family surviving. The drab, grey, horribly depressing buildings left no doubt as to why the majority of the population seemed like the walking dead. “I told an awesome joke and she just stared blankly at me. That has never happened before”, Matthieu said one day after trying his luck to get a better price on the motel room we intended on staying in. Ok, ok, this is a little harsh given we were only in the country for four days and whizzed through just a tiny portion of the country. And Plovdiv city was quite sweet with its old medieval centre made up of little back alleys. And we did have one of the most beautiful days riding for a long time as we entered Sofia, with a bluest of blue skies and stunning autumnal colours littering the rolling hills with reds, yellows, oranges. Maybe it was only a couple of towns we went through that had too many cousins marrying other cousins who had kids with their brother and an affair with the nephew.

Plovdiv.jpg

The Good

The Bad

The Bad

The Ugly

The Ugly

Unwarranted conclusions aside we did enjoy Bulgaria. It was a big change to the countries we had been traveling through for three months – grilled meat instead of kebab (yeah, yeah, it’s sort of the same), churches instead of mosques, scantily clad women on billboards advertising power tools (we strongly disagree with this tasteless act of sexism), hot pants instead of hijabs. It felt like we were closer to home. After three miserable days coming out of Istanbul, this was riding as it was meant to be and we were on track with our ridiculous schedule to get to cover 2,000 km to get to Milan in 19 days.

bulgaria Fall.jpg

camp site Bulgaria.jpg

bulgaria landscape.jpg

Bulgaria bill board.jpg

Whether vintage or modern, the fundamentals of advertising in Bulgaria seem fairly simple.

Whether vintage or modern, the fundamentals of advertising in Bulgaria seem fairly simple.

Yes, we are still taking selfies of us drinking beer after 7 months on the road

Yes, we are still taking selfies of us drinking beer after 7 months on the road

The moment Matthieu realizes that this is all just a dream and he is actually in the Metro, in Paris

The moment Matthieu realizes that this is all just a dream and he is actually in the Metro, in Paris

One thought on “Istanbul to Bulgaria: Where Them Bears At?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s