OE Day 37 Malko Târnovo to Vize 86km

Entering country number 8: Turkey. Which was relatively easy once the passport control morning shift showed up. Which meant a long queue had built up. We cycled to the front. And being well trained queued politely until others pushed in. Not stopping to think we’d jumped a queue by cycling to the front off course, we huffed and used the bikes to guard our position.

The route was lumpy today. First 10k went up 360m. Good roads on Turkish side. So we soon left that to go on quieter ones. Soft gravel up and down steep hills meant it was a little “grippy” in places. I think we’re the only ones with mudguards. The others asked “how did you keep your bike clean”?

This part of Turkey in West Marmara Region, Türkiye reminded me of Wales. Misty then damp, always green. Sheep 🐑. Lunch in an oak forest.

Mosques now of course. The Call to Prayer can make you jump when you’re not expecting it. In most of the villages it’s men sitting outside cafes/small beers. All friendly. It’s strange, even though we’re back to “normal” script vs Cyrillic, it feels more difficult to grasp what’s what.

Wood fuel dominates, with sonic solar water heaters appearing. Sunflowers 🌻 off course. And good old multinationals: as we entered Vize, where we stay tomorrow, a coke and Toblerone icecream was very welcome.

Coffee: strange for a shop to sell Nescafe Americano cold in a can. Good though. Tonight’s Turkish coffee ☕️ will be enough caffeine for days. Food was in a little cafe: point and nod. Enjoyed, especially the chicken soup.

Tomorrow a rest day.

OE Day 36 Burgas to Malko Târnovo 80km

Our last full day in Bulgaria. The route continued to offer up the varied interesting fare this developing country offers. 10km of getting out of Burgas: it has cycle lanes to be fair. Yellow lines painted on the pavement. I think Cardiff copied this model as they switch from left to right and encourage you to cross the traffic flow. It is interesting to see the occupations along the way, mainly light industrial and manual.

On a down note, we were diverted around an accident early morning. Turns out a bus with illegal immigrants was evading the police. It rammed a police car trying to stop it, killing the two police men 40 and 30 year olds with family. First fatalities in the police for a long time. Reminds you as we tour along there are some serious things happening.

Then into the country. Men in a fishing competition by a lakeside just like in UK, with all the same paraphernalia. Up into the country I should have said. The ascents through woods gave the local knats time to feed.

Lots of border police evident. Speculation is it is to control Syrian refugees entering from Turkey. Where we’re staying tonight is required by the Army from tomorrow. There are elections in a month and the army is deployed to stop corruption, we’re told. The “lower” classes sell their votes: the army will seek to stop this. How I don’t know.

Something missing from the photos of Bulgaria is churches. Much fewer than Romania with religion on the decline. Unlike smoking which nearly 40% (cf UK 15%) do.

First heavy downpour just after we arrived. Welcome too!

Tomorrow country no 8 Turkey. Destination Vize.

OE Day 35 Kotel to Burgas 134 km

A route change.  The original planned finish has been requisitioned by the Army. So we’ve headed to the Black Sea and Burgas.

The city is surrounded by the Burgas Lakes and located at the westernmost point of the Black Sea, at the large Burgas BayLUKOIL Neftochim Burgas is the largest oil refinery in southeastern Europe and the largest industrial enterprise. The Port of Burgas is the largest port in Bulgaria, and Burgas Airport is the second most important in the country. Burgas is the centre of the Bulgarian fishing and fish processing industry. God ol wiki!

So a longer day,  with some lush descents through forests onto the plains. Which become plains like. Grapevines appear: the only “properous” looking town is near there.  The villages are poor on the whole. 

First sign of industrial farming with a combine harvester hoovering up the dead sun flower stalks. That’s one of the surprises for me on this trip: the majority of the acreage of crops is sunflowers. Another is all the roads in Bulgaria have tolls. The cameras catch them.

Horses too today and yesterday, cantering along the road. They avoided the busy highway we were on for a good while. The relief when we turned off was short lived: now quieter and a headwind. No complaints though as it becomes a tailwind to hasten our descent to the Black Sea. The sound of the waves is always good to hear.

OE Day 34 Veliko Târnovo to Kotel 103 km

A day on very quiet country roads. Very quiet as in not maintained making for some bumpy surfaces. The best of those was the stone road out of Veliko Târnovo.

Our attention was on two things. The lovely scenery through wooded landscapes; the lovely vertiginous hills we rolled up and down. So coffee stops whe we could get them was the order of the day.

Most villages appear poor. The folks are friendly and inquisitive. More cattle and other animals than we’ve seen hitherto. Some curious sights along the way.

First solar power farm we’ve seen for a long while. The local fuel is wood. Most labour is manual, including loading the logs onto the timber wagon.

Tomorrow a diversion for an early dip (for some) in the Black Sea.

OE Veliko Tarnivo

A rest day. A translation of our tour blurb. One of Bulgaria’s oldest towns, Veliko Târnovo has as its centrepiece the magnificent restored Tsarevets Fortress, citadel of the Second Bulgarian Empire. We didn’t see that though hearts magnificent might be a little overdone. Historic Târnovo is tucked into the dramatic bends of the Yantra River, clasped by an amphitheatre of forested hills. This means it is steep up and steep down.

Bulgaria’s 19th-century National Revival splendour is easy to relive along historic lanes such as ul Gurko. Our hotel is there and it is a lovely 17c lane. The history here is too much for my wee brain to take in. I think it is summarised as fought over by everybody, a golden century (pick one), and heroes.

Which meant I enjoyed the rest day. Rested for a few bumps tomorrow. Excellent food.