Bulgaria, our first favourite country that we both wanted to see again, has a story behind it. Our passion for touring with a bicycle started during a 1 week trip in late summer of 2012. We flew to Sofia, our bicycles tucked in the cargo hold, without knowing what to expect of this country. The initial plan was to cycle +/- 500 km from Sofia to Varna (the coast). Unexperienced, with city bikes and hauling way too much gear we enjoyed it from the first moment. Especially the climbing roads and views over the magnificent mountains once we reached the top of a pass. It was in Bulgaria that we discovered how rewarding the struggle of climbing a mountain pass on a bicycle can be once you get to see the incredible views. Our planned route eventually took us out of the mountains towards the coast but as they were disappearing behind us we decided to not continue to the coast and instead made a detour to go back into the unspoiled nature of the Balkan Mountains. This was the moment that we both fell in love with travelling on bicycles, carrying everything we need to make us fully independent, meeting friendly local people when passing small and unknown little towns.
So both of us were looking forward again to the week or so through Bulgaria. But unfortunately on the first day we received some warnings from the locals that our planned route through the Balkan Mountains would not be possible at this time of year and especially not now with the heavy snowfall from the past week. The route only had partially paved roads so with the recent bad luck in Macedonia on unpaved roads in the cold and wet weather we really got concerned. The second day we really had to think of a plan B because even two more locals we met were warning us that it was not wise to follow the route further into the mountains.
When we arrived in Kulata, very close to the Greek border we were in the final junction before the planned route would take us further on the supposedly dangerous route. Longing for the same experience as in our previous trip in 2012, it took us great effort to make the smart decision and not follow our heart but instead heed the several warnings. So plan B was called upon and we crossed the border into Greece instead.
We’re still happy however to have been in Bulgaria if only for two days. Crossing the border from Macedonia to Bulgaria meant again a different world altogether. The surrounding nature changed into woodland. There was almost no traffic and for the first time since this trip we felt the freedom to cycle without watching out for dangerously fast driving cars passing by all the time. On top of that, in only 48 hours we met many friendly and helpful local people.
Bye bye Bulgaria….one day, we will come back in summer time and conquer the Balkan mountains again. J