Four more days of riding and we are in Varna, Bulgaria, a very nice beach resort on the Black Sea. Our first day of riding out of Bucharest was, thankfully, uneventful. We rode on a major highway straight to Russe, Bulgaria. It seems that the dogs that are everywhere in Romania recognize that the are not welcome in Bulgaria, a big relief. Russe is a small town. The road into town is lined with communist style, very run down appartment blocs. The town itself has a nice pedestrian mall and many small cafes and restaurants. Very pleasant. Our camp site sucks. The only running hot water is in a shower that is more like a sauna because it is a sealed room. Only two water taps at dirty sinks, both with only cold water. One toilet for all of us. Ugh!
Riding in Bulgaria is challenging because the language uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Some of the letters are similar to ours, but pronounced differently. For instance, if you want a good meal you would go to a PECTOPAH p=r, c=s, h=n, so the word is Restoran. Based on our travels to Russia a few years ago I actually remember some of the alphabet and I am able to read words such as names of cities, etc.
From Russe, we road to Veliko Turnovo, supposedly a big tourist attraction because you can see an ancient fort/castle. But, not much really there. We were supposed to be camping at a hotel, but the camp area was pretty bleak. I asked for a room and was told that only an “apartment” was available for 40 euros. Turns out it was a mini suite with a huge bed in one room and a separate sitting room with a sofa and chairs. I planned to keep it for myself, but when I saw how horrible the camping was I invited two other people to sleep on the floor. Several other people rented rooms and invited guests. This hotel was clearly a Sopranos hangout. Fancy cars in the parking lot, huge resort type pool (even a bridge over the pool to the bar), and lots of people. We hung out at the pool all day. Swimming is a great antedote for tired biking muscles.
Our next day was tough. 105 miles and 5,800 vertical feet in 95 degree weather. I made one wrong turn and went about 5 miles off our route. I was able to get directions from people in a restaurant (lots of pointing and gesturing). It turned out that the road I was on went directly to where we were headed for the night, but I had been going in the wrong direction. Signage was sparse, but I recognized a Cyrillic road sign for Varna, which I knew was in the right direction. Eventually, I saw signs for our destination – Sumen. But, in Cyrillic it is spelled Wymeh – thanks to my coaching from Barbara’s mom while we were in Moscow, I was actually able to recognize the word! Many people did not ride at all this day, many quit at some point during the day, and several got lost. One of our vans had to do a search and rescue mission for people who had made the same mistake I made, but who were not able to find their way again. When I got to our camp site, I was told that the two guys I invited to sleep on the floor in my room the night before had both gotten rooms and had both invited me to stay with them. I chose to stay with the guy who had carried my suitcase upstairs to his room – small pleasures.
Today was a relatively easy 60 mile ride to Varna. Within a few hours of arriving here I had ice cream, beer, water, a swim in the Black Sea, a margarita, and caramel corn. As I write this, it is not yet dinner time!!!!!!!
We have a rest day in Varna tomorrow, then only 6 riding days and one rest day before we get to Istanbul. The total distance will be about 250 miles. Very manageable.
I called my Ragbrai buddies in Des Moines today – I knew they would be packing the bikes and van. Great to talk to them.
posted Saturday July 2007