Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day 185 - Sofia - West Bulgaria

I'd cycled for nine days straight from the Greek coast to here, so felt like a rest.

My one night, two day, stop in Turkey was quite a shock coming from quiet, unassuming Greece - Turkey was alive! People everywhere, on tractors, horse and carts, cars, bikes...waving at me, saying 'Hello', shouting at each other. Edirne, the town I stayed in, was the true embodiment of the word 'bustling'. I walked the crowded streets, photographed the huge and impressive Mosques, ate kebabs with the locals, talked to random strangers who approached me and started conversations in the street, got confused with the new money that I hadn't looked up the exchange rate for and, for the first time in about four months, felt cold. The weather was finally turning!

Entering Bulgaria the following day was as equal a shock. My first experience was of peace - a quiet road lead me along a valley, gently up and down some slight hills, mountains in the distance, fertile countryside all around. Then I started passing some small towns and got my first sight of the people - whole families piled onto horse and carts, people picking through rubbish piles, old men picking fruit and berries from trees. The first town I stayed in had three hotels, all contained within the same building, a tall, shabby towerblock. They each took up two floors of the building and had a reception each in the small lobby. I paid with the third different currency in three days, Bulgarian lira, changing it from Turkish and having even less of a clue as to its relative value. I drank a beer in one of the two cafes in town, then ate a pizza (there is pizza everywhere here - they love it!). Surprisingly, the other establishment in the small row was an internet cafe, so I went online and did some currency conversion. That night I paid: Eight GBP for the hotel room (supposedly 3 star, but more like 2), 40p for a pint of beer and about one pound twenty for a beer and a pizza.

My diagonal ride across the country over the last week had a few notable 'highlights': Quiet roads and peaceful riding but a constant headwind that was really draining. A couple of really nice towns, my favourite being Plovdiv, 'cos I thnk the name sounds funny. Two cochroach infested hotel rooms in smaller towns. The second one had a restaurant attached which was the only place in town to eat. I ate there, accompanied by more cockroaches on the curtains next to me. A stretch of country road about 5 miles long that was lined with large, flourishing marijuana plants. I stopped to investigate and they were indeed 'the real deal'. Arriving in Sofia along a big, very, very busy road.

Sofia seems to live under different rules than the rest of the country - my hotel, one of only a few I could find in the centre, is the same price as the posh room I rented in Nice and not half as nice. I met a couple of dudes in a bar last night who took me on a mini tour of Sofia's thriving ex-pat scene. I watched the England football match surrounded by drunk English people in a smoky pub. They pointed out all of the mafia run bars and clubs to me ('The ones with the Masseratis and Porsches outside? Yeah, mafia. Don't go in there.'). I drank too much Guinness for my cycle-weary body to handle. One day I might learn.


  • At 11:49 am, Blogger Belinda said…

    Be careful in Bulgaria!! That's where we thought you might get amnesia and be taken in by strange farming types and have to marry their beast of a daughter....


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