Because we were well rested and because we had everything for breakfast in our apartment, we left early today and we were on the road by 7:30am. Finally the sun had returned and as we rolled through early morning Bulgaria we enjoyed a few hours of smooth tarmac, quiet villages. The countryside in Bulgaria is strangely like the UK with rolling hills and tree/Bush lined roads and fields.
The main difference is the number of horse-drawn carts. They are not carriages, just trailers with one or more people sat on the front edge and a space behind for straw, fruit, veg or whatever else they are moving. I’m quite familiar with rural life in Eastern Europe’s, but for some reason I’m always fascinated when I see people using animals to do the jobs that are all done by machines in Western Europe. While undoubtedly hard, in a physical sense, there’s something special about it and the intimate relationship that villagers here have with the land they live on undoubtedly one of the great strengths of this part of Europe.
Amusingly, most of the locals on their carts are just as curious about us. Even the horses look surprised to see foreigners cycling through their ancient villages.
We followed the signs for the wonderfully-named ‘Feribot’ and crossed the river with some large lorries in Oryahovo for 1 EUR each.
Across the river in Romania everything changes. It’s only a 15 minute ferry ride for us, but the Danube has insulated these neighbouring communities for generations and the differences between life in Rural Romania and rural Bulgaria are as numerous as the similarities. It’s also a lot flatter.
As we rolled through village after village, Romania and Romanians did everything possible to cheer us on and it was a wonderful afternoon of cycling.
We arrived in Turnu Măgurele (which sounds more like the name of an African man than a Romanian village) to find a large ethnic music concert taking place in the town centre. We watched a woman ‘la la’ her way through a song and with the help of a very serious policeman, we found the hotel.
As we were about to check-in, a well dressed man can over to us and shiftily asked if we needed an apartment. We did, and since the only hotel was a mildly expensive 4 star option, me and Sarah decided to take a look at what he had.
Leaving the bikes with Ariana we followed the guy to a nearby apartment block and through the turquoise painted entrance hall. Like many Ukrainian communist-era apartment blocks, the lobby and stairwell was dark, cold and smelled depressing. However, from experience I know that this usually has no bearing whatsoever on the interior of the apartments which, while small, are often as nice as any in Western Europe. In this case however, the room was quite basic, had a shower and kitchenette and one not-so-clean looking double bed. Still, at 20 EUR for a night for the whole apartment, it was 30 EUR cheaper than the hotel.
We went to discuss with Ariana, but after some debate we settled on the more expensive hotel. There’s a lot to be said for having clean towels, a hot shower and free Wi-Fi after 120 km of cycling in sweltering heat.
Today was the furthest I’ve ever cycled.