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Published: August 22nd 2012
My first Bulgarian town
Bulgaria - 16 Days
I was looking forward to Bulgaria but it turned out to be a little disappointing, I often spent time cycling to an alleged "highlight" on the tourist map and came away saying "Is that it" (although I can’t deny it may have suffered from following Turkey, which was a fantastic country). Though Bulgaria still has some nice places and on these cycle trips interesting things can happen, and did happen, in random places.
The short version
is that I crossed the border from Turkey at Malko Turnovo then cycled through Strandzha National Park until i reached the Black Sea coast and spent 3 days cycling from one Benidorm-esq town to another. From Varna I headed West until Koprivshtitsa zigzagging over mountains and through valleys and stopping at the Stone Forest (Rock formations that look like trees), Stara Zagora (to visit some Neolithic remains with some interesting figurines), Kazanlak (with its famous Thracian tomb, shaped like an igloo) and then on to Kalofer and Karlovo both full of statues and other memorials to the revolutionaries that fought the Turkish/Ottoman rule. Koprivshtitsa was a cute mountain town that
Strandzha Natural Park
I cycled through the park to the coast
had colourful buildings, as did the Unesco historic centre of Plovdiv, which also had roman ruins. Just before I reached Plovdiv I got food poisoning so my progress lessened a little but I still managed to cycle up and over hills to reach the The Bachkovo Monastery (with its famous paintings) and the amazing ruins at Perperikon (with its amazing rock cuttings/carvings which look like some sort of metal works or processing plant, with holes and channels joining many chambers). It then took me 3 days to cross the mountains to the area of Melnik which was amazingly hot and dry but had another cute town, another monastery and some spikey rock formations they call the "pyramids". From Melnik I cycled to Macedonia, my journey a little longer than it should have been as I went around a road block and discovered that it was there because a bridge had collapsed and you couldn't cross the river.
So in summary not a bad country but nothing special.
The Long version -
Well there isn't that much to add really. The people weren't very friendly and were a bit full of themselves, but of course
A famous activity of the area
I met nice people it's just a general observation, also they were the brownest white people I have ever seen but this doesn't surprise me as it was fluffing hot (look at the photo of the gypsy woman who very kindly bought me a hot chocolate). I don't blame the people either as I think they have quite a poor standard of living (look at the photos of the skanky tower blocks which the country was full of and the vending machines on the streets which their coffee culture revolves around.
In terms of the trip I can add that the Black Sea coast
was really touristy, conveyer belt tourism like Benidorm and other cheap resorts around Europe. Nesebar was a cute town, a unesco world heritage site with some nice churches, cobbled streets and it was set on a kind of peninsular/island, or at least soon to be island.
The Valley of the Roses
area was full of towns which produced revolutionary heroes that fought the Turkish/Ottoman rule, there were statues and memorials everywhere (I included some more from Strelcha but didn't want to bore you with too many).
with its colourful buildings was so nice I got a hotel room for the night so that I could enjoy the scenery and atmosphere.
My food poisoning
was either from mouldy bread or some dodgy salami stuff both of which I had to eat as I was in the mountains before Plovdiv, but I learned from my Greece Lightning trip and got antibiotics straight away so was only feeling dodgy for 4 or 5 days.
was the best place I visited in Bulgaria, a large megalithic site (largest in the Balkans) situated on a 470 m high rocky hill, thought to have been a sacred place dating back to 5000BC. There were some amazing rock cuttings/carvings which looked like some sort of metal works or processing plant, something where they needed liquid to flow between chambers with holes and channels joining many chambers, very interesting and requires further investigation
Before arriving in the Melnik area
I crossed a big mountain which was part of the Pirin Mountains and there was a massive change in the climate and vegetation - it went from wet, green and foresty to hot
My arrival at the Black Sea
and dry with yellow grass.
The only other thing to add was that Bulgaria was bloody hilly, but really the hole trip has been that way, I’ve had very few flat moments, but I struggled a bit more on this trip due to the heat.
So i'll say it again - not a bad country but nothing special.
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