OE Day 39 Durusu to Istanbul 61km

Today’s ride in some ways was the toughest.  A short 40 miles sounded just the job. There was a set end time though to get a boat and no early breakfast. So us back markers had a frisson of pressure. Happily amplified by the absolutely gratuitous challenge of some steep (off and push) gravel sections. Fewer photos today!

Towns getting bigger and busier: there seems a code to navigate the traffic. Mine feels like to shut my eyes and go at times. Not too many toots of the horns so perhaps all ok. To be fair even on the busy sections drivers were good: usually a gentle beep to say we’re here and coming through in time for us to move over that little bit to show willing. Give n take works.

A lovely last hill or two (not sarcasm) through a wooded park before descending to the Black Sea and the end point. Lots of film crews with serious kit: alas I don’t think we were the objects they were looking for.

The final part of the day was a boat trip. Lunch and a dip at sea, before berthing outside the hotel. For various reasons I slept through most of this party.

Tomorrow bike packing (professional help makes it look so easy) and the start of a few days unwinding in this city of 15 million people.

PS bought my first eSim card as BT roaming doesn’t work here. Works a treat.

OE Day 38 Vize to Durusu 114km

A good days ride. Good roads with considerate drivers in the main. Headwind to keep it interesting. A few hills to keep the heart beat up.

Leaving Vize, there wasn’t much debris from the previous night’s concert and fare. Passed through a few small towns. The common sight was men sitting chatting in cafes. A good ziggy was the migrating storks.

Shepherds of sheep and cattle. Amazing what a friendly wave does.

Bottled water send seems the norm. A few roadside streams marked as potable which have people queueing to fill containers.

The final hill was psychological. You can see it in front of you and know the 8-10percent that’s coming. We made it! Penultimate day complete.

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.