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After crossing the Danube into Bulgaria, I made my way through town. It was nearly time for the sun to go down so I took the small road instead of the main road with the idea it’d be easier to wild camp on the side of it. My GPS took me down a rather small road and through the poorest part of town, where the Roma lived. At the entrance to the area one guy warned me ‘no go. gypsies!’ I thanked him and kept going. 200 metres later, another guy just said ‘scheisse’ and pointed that way, but I ignored him too and entered the Roma ghetto. The houses were smaller, the area was dirty and there was barely space to ride my bicycle, but it was fine until after a while a group of children decided to surround my bike. They were just bored, and not malicious, but decided to try grabbing the pink pool noodle that I’d bought in Bucharest to make my bike more visible. They were asking for me to give them things, but I had no plan to do so wished them a good night before trying to ride off. They chased after me and tried to grab things again until I got the attention of an adult who shouted at them until they left me alone.

The next day I visited Ivanovo, there I could see the amazing churches built into the cliff faces. A brief visit and then onwards to Veliko Turnovo where I again paid to sleep, a sure record for the trip, this time at a hostel so I could meet some interesting people to hang about for the day instead of going to visit the castle.

I had a Warmshowers lined up the following night in Gabrovo, the main thing that I remember about it being that it is known as the Bulgarian comedy town, and also its cheap town. This wonderful combination leads to the idea that it’s the place where they chop tails off cats so they can close doors faster in winter – a cat without a tail is actually one of the local symbols. If you are intrigued by this sense of humour, there’s an entire Wikipedia article dedicated to it and so you too can get a sense of the Bulgarian sense of humour!

Inside the church

From there it was over the Shipka pass, a very important place is Bulgarian military history, and the sign of warmer times to come because that seemed to be the last cold place and it was the warmth of Turkey ahead. It also meant that I got to visit a quite fantastic UFO, you can see it in the pictures below or read about it here or here. It was a bit of a bugger to find the entrance, but a couple of other people were there at the same time and we found it together – a good thing too as there’s some rather high risk jumping and climbing involved. My hostel visit the previous night paid off as when I was trying to get out by myself they turned up with a rope and helped me get out without breaking a leg.

My knowledge of Bulgaria before I arrived was mainly based on the 1994 World Cup, so while I can’t call myself an expert I can definitely say now that I know that Bulgarians love their coffee (there are instant coffee machines everywhere) and that the country apparently used to make all the food for the International Space Station. I’m glad that I went down the middle of the country rather than the Black Sea coast.

In the UFO

On the UFO

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