I’m in Gelibolu, right at the Dardanelles which I will cross with a ferry tomorrow thereby switching continents from Europe to Asia. While of course Africa is still my main destination I’m happy about having covered all the way out of Europe by bicycle (3400km) cheating only once (the 80km train ride to Constanta).
I’m a bit behind describing the places I visited in Bulgaria (still have a bunch of pictures to publish) but today I already arrived in Turkey, am staying in Edirne tonight.
I’ve finally left Vama Veche today after staying far longer that I had intended. If you happen to get there, I can highly recommend Elga’s Punkrock Hotel, the peoply running this place are super nice.
I’m in Varna, Bulgaria now. Getting used to stuff being written in the cyrillic alphabet although at least here at the coast which has some tourism and in the city quite a few of the signs have both cyrillic and latin letters. Also am pleasantly surprised by the good english skills of everyone I tried to talk to today.
The route was quite tough, 110km and some steep climbs. Also had another flat tire. Guess it’s about time I get to Istanbul where I hope to find replacement tires, the back one is quite worn down now (I did not start the trip with new tires).
Cycling here feels a bit different from Romania. There most villages and small towns are very long and thin along the road so you see the whole place riding through. As they are so long often the next village would start right at the end of the first one. Here in Bulgaria (the small part I have seen so far) you don’t get to see the villages/towns at all sometimes if you stay on the main road, the places will be next to it or even a few kms away.
The other big difference: I only saw one single dog for the whole day between crossing the border and arriving in Varna. I think I did not write about the dogs in Romania so far. There are so lots and lots of them there (both domestic and stray ones) and it took me a few days to train myself to the right behaviour that will keep most of them away: make a point of ignoring them, don’t look at them. Keep riding at normal speed and don’t react even if they come chasing after you, then they will leave you alone after a little while. I was really proud the first day that behaviour had not a single one come after me :) This works especially well with the stray dogs, of the 3 situations I was actually afraid it was two times gard dogs jumping through holes in the fence, those seemed much more agressive. The third time was stray dogs but in a group of 10 or 12 but even there ignoring them worked.
Despite being tired after the long day I took a quick walk in Varna. Looks like a really nice place. There is a big pedestrian zone in the center plus many parks and all that right next to the beach (which is more of an endless line of beach themed restaurants but does look quite inviting). Pictures below.
And no, I did not see any long queues at banks or ATMs (there have been reports about a bank run in Bulgaria in the last few days). Took me while to find a local SIM card for my phone, though. Those where out of stock in the first stores I tried. It’s great though, you can get a SIM card without any hassle, filling endless forms or even having to identify yourself. That is fantastic, big thumbs up for Bulgaria there! I wish other countries where less anal about that, too.
I’m still hanging out in Vama Veche, planning to continue cycling around wednesday next week. It’s getting more busy here now on the weekend but still, a very relaxed place. I like it here :)
As I’m not really made to lie on the beach doing nothing for more that 2 or 3 days in a row I picked up the laptop and started coding a jekyll plugin for processing and aggregating my gps tracks recorded during cycling. You can see the result on the new Route & Maps page.
I’m not quite there yet, apart from the overview track which does not have all the detail I was going to publish the individual segments in higher resolution but I need to update my ocopress setup to get a more revent jekyll version for that first and pagination in the latest octopress seems to be broken… I’ll get back to that another time.
After spending a day in Constanța I continued south to Vama Veche yesterday.
So after cycling through Wallachia for over a week I arrived in Constanța yesterday, the biggest romanian city on the Black Sea coast. I have to say I’m glad to be here. While it sure was some relaxed cycling all the way it got a bit dull towards the end, there is not too much interesting stuff to see after passing the iron gates.
As I said in the last post most people I met there are very friendly (imagine buying a soda, the store owner sees the bicycle and offers to lubricate the chain) but with me not knowing romanian conversations tend to be very limited. Being on the danube track again I did meet a bunch of other cyclists from Australia (check out their blog here), England, Finland, Austria but most of them French (including a couple cycling with their 4 kids).
The last part of the way turned out to be difficult. I knew that I’d have to cycle on the highway a bit after the first 60km on smaller roads but I have done that before here and it has never been an issue so far. But that part of road yesterday did look too dangerous to cycle, especially as there was pouring rain all day which limited visibility severely. So I first tried to hitch a ride with a truck big enough to load the bike but hardly anyone seemed to go in my direction to I gave up and took a train. That involved 3 hours of waiting in wet clothes and dealing with an unfriendly asshole of a conductor. But also meeting friendly strangers who helped with the non-trival task of getting all my stuff into the train on a station without an elevated platform.
Starting tomorrow the weather is supposed to be sunny again so I’ll do the only reasonable thing: cycle a bit further south, find myself a nice spot on the beach and don’t move unless the beer is empty ;)
Here’s some more Details of the previous week with pictures:
While I haven’t had any sunburn so far my equipment suffered some recently. One of the tension belts I use to hold the bags on my bike had a number of burn holes in it. Also the bag I use to hold my tent, sleeping mat and stuff like that has a small hole as well. Luckily it’s only a small one but that’s of course worse than the cheap strap as the bag is supposed to be watertight.
It took me a while to figure out was actually happend, I first thought it might have happend when I passed one of the numerous road repair sites with their hot tarmac. But there was no tarmac residue so I finally understood that the PET water bottles I had strapped on there had acted as a lens and that must have burnt the holes. D’oh! I wonder why that never happened on my trip in India…
I passed by the statue of king decabal yesterday. That thing is huge, I’ve seen pictures of it before and imagined it to be much smaller (it’s 40 meters high)
I’ve been travelling through the most beautiful landscape for the last 2 days. But especially today it was also quite hard as it is very hot and hardly any shadow to be found. Also there’s no villages for long stretches of the way so you can’t just stock up on water every other hour. Well, that might be good training for the things ahead of me ;)
Had my first punctured tire today after 1979 km. I’m at 1997 km now so the next round number is just around the corner.
But let me tell all that in more detail with some pictures: