Bulgaria is another great example of country that we knew absolutely nothing about, apart from the name of the capital and some negative preconceptions, which we had lots of curiosity for, especially after being positively impressed by Serbia, and which left us feeling like one day we’ll have to go back to see more of it.
Yes WE KNOW, we said it before and we’ll say it again; that’s a common sentence in this blog but hey, traveling opens up perspectives, didn’t you know? 😉
So, what did we like about Bulgaria? First of all, two thirds of the country are covered by mountains and forests. That’s an easy one right? Yes, deserts are fun but everyone loves a nice hilly landscape. In our case, it was really refreshing to have some relieve in our routine and we took total advantage of it. We re-found our adventurous spirit and decided to climb some mountain passes just for the fun, the satisfaction and the views.
Other things that made our cycling experience there a pleasant walk in the park include finding tasty and fresh drinking water everywhere, in fact humans have always settled these lands due to the ready available supply of springs (cold and hot) across the land (more to come on this point) and the fact that generally we didn’t have any bad experiences with drivers there.
As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, humans have lived here like since forever. In fact, Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city and a super interesting place to visit, is considered by historians to be among the oldest cities in the world! Sofia also caught our heart; cosmopolitan, modern, full of sights, just a few bus stops away from amazing mountains and, of course, with lots of great people to meet. Like the guys at the Sofia Bike Rental (www.sofiabike.com) who put us up for a whole weekend, helped us out with some technical issues and were also great hosts or Hary who is actually from Greece but spoiled us to an amazing breakfast everyday at CoffeeBar (Shishman, 15)
We cherished the time spent in these two cities although it must be said that they are not really representative of Bulgaria as a whole. One truth about this great country is that it’s actually the poorest in Europe. We were immediately shocked, upon entering the capital, to discover that the reality of the big cities is as far away from that of the small, often abandoned, countryside villages as it can possibly be. We witnessed this first hand since day one as we entered through the north-west which is technically the poorest part of Bulgaria (which, remember, is the poorest in EU).
Other things which we learned while in Bulgaria which we will never forget are, for example, the peculiar coffee machines found in the middle of nowhere often encrusted in a metal or even brickwork casing, the fact that there is a total lack of post boxes across the country (we had to ride to the central Post Office once to post our postcards), the Cyrillic alphabet was invented here by Saint Cyril and, my personal favourite, the fact that even very small villages often have public libraries and that these are always very well indicated.
It’s safe to say that, from our point of view, Bulgaria has been a good overall destination for two cyclists looking for adventure, sights, nature, culture and great people. Considering that we only explored the west and the south, the north and the east are much flatter and you can find the Danube and the Black Sea respectively, it’s almost ideal concerning the offer of different landscapes.
We also have an amazing YouTube channel with lots of different videos (in lots of different styles) from the road; 421adventure on YouTube
And please don’t forget that part of our adventure consists of fundraising and raising awareness for two incredible NGOs so please help us to spread the word and, of course, if you’re feeling generous, donate here; DONATE