Bulgaria


 

For more info on the country check out the Wikipedia article.

11/10 This border crossing is different: there are cones across the road and a friendly Romanian cop checks my passport. Here I have to wait, what for I don't know. There are few people and almost no vehicles crossing here. He radioes that he has a German motorcyclist to process (that much Romanian I understand). After about 10 minutes I can proceed 50 m to passport control. Then it's off to the BG side. They want to see my bike papers, what for I don't know, like the Romanians. Nobody asks for bike insurance (I don't have one) or health insurance (I read about this requirement and printed out a copy of my policy, just in case). No stamp, but the whole waiting took about 30 mins. These countries join the EU in 10 weeks time... Oh well, wait until I get to Turkey!

First impressions: the roads are better, but there are still a few large and small potholes. Grass and moss growing in them indicates that they have quite a long life expectancy. Everybody, except bikers, must buy a road user vignette. Not just for motorways, but for ordinary roads. Speed limit for bikes is 80 km/h, the same as for trucks and buses. Cars are allowed 10 more. Road rules are treated the same as in Romania, i.e. as guidance only. Sure enough, not far from the border, in a village with no people or traffic, wide straight road, there is revenue gathering in progress. Must be a boring job. There are far fewer people and horse carts on the roads, agriculture seems done on a more larger scale than in Romania, the fields are bigger and well tended. There are quite a few carts drawn by donkeys, something rarely seen in Romania. The people I do see in the villages don't look as cheerfull as Romanians, the kids don't waive and shout, just look. Makes me feel a little uneasy.

Shortly after the border I spot a small lake with an island and a lone house on it. Strange place to put a house, I think, and stop to take a pic. It's a nature reserve.

On my ADAC map there a few points of interest marked and I choose some to look at. First is Cape Kaliakra. Impressive cliffs and on a clear day probably good views. I take a few pix but I have my doubts. It's blowing a gale here, it's getting cold and a few drops fall out of those black clouds. Oh yes, the sea is black now.

Next is Albena, supposed to have a pretty centre. Strange, as I turn off into town I'm looking at toll booths in front of a car park. I try to enter the town another way, but all other entry roads have been solidly fenced off, not even pedestrians can get in or out. I decide to pass. On to Madara, some distance inland. The compass gets good use again. On the main roads the signs are in Cyrillic and English, so if I can find the towns on my large-scale map navigation is not that difficult. On the smaller roads it's often Cyrillic only, or none at all. Madara sports three attractions: the huge bas relief of a rider and dog on a lion hunt. According to the ADAC blurb this is the only monumental relief from the early Middle Ages in Europe. This was only rediscovered in the 1860's. The sign at the bottom says that the trail is 400 m and takes 2 h. This doesn't make sense and I ask the lady at the till and she says 1 h. OK, I admire the relief after 5 mins, but the trail goes right to the top of the cliff, 100 m up, and is more than 400 m long. And yes, the blurb is right, the view over the valley is fantastic. The restored fortress foundations are rather underwhelming. Then there are some caves, but they are closed.

Storming the fortress is fraught with danger even today!

It's 17.30 as I get back down and there is a motel and camping right here. There are also a lot of continously barking dogs here and this place is the classic tourist trap, so dsepite the late time I decide to head back for the coast. I think I'm going to regret it, but this time I'm wrong. Yes, I do end up riding in the dark, but eventually I find a lodge. The room is huge and comfy, decorated with old furniture and wooden doors. I dare ask the price: 16 EUR. Done!

12/10 No breakfast in the morning, the place is shut and so are all the shops, so I head for the coast. This is capitalism gone wild: construction sites everywhere, huge billboards advertising all the luxuries every Bulgarian peasant needs, one says: "Luxury Frontline Properties" in English. I think they are referring to the war on Nature. I have the strong impression that Bulgaria is embracing capitalism with fervor. The beaches, where there are any, resemble those on the Riviera, Adria, Costa del Sol, etc. Hotel and apartment blocks right on the water. In a small coastal town I stop at a shop for breakfast, as they serve coffee. I get talking to the owner, who has learnt German in school, studied agricultural engineering, was a teacher, then a traffic cop. What a career. He's retired now, but apart from the shop also rents apartments at an incredible 8 EUR/day and person, half that out of season. I tell him what happens to small shops in the EU and that gets him thinking.

Next stop is Nessebar. There is a nice old town on top of a spit, with wooden houses built on stone foundations. This is just about all restored and done up, shops and souvenir stands everywhere. I old friendly guy offers me a cheap room and I'm tempted, but after a walk around the small town I decide I've had enough of this tourist trap. This place must have been charming once. Perhaps like Tossa de Mar.

The sun is out most of the time and the tail wind is still blowing, so I make good progress until Burgas. There are almost no signs again and so I end up heading 20 km in the wrong direction. My compass tells me that, of course, so I try to take the back roads. That way I discover factories, working or crumbling away until one good road runs for miles in the right direction, deteriorates, turns into a muddy dirt track, crosses a wetland in a valley, then leads me in a circle back to where I came from. When I finally enquire I'm told that there are no other roads, back to Burgas. Coming this way there are signs... There are cops eveywhere with quite a few road blocks, but I don't need to stop anywhere. From Burgas the road follows the coast as an excellent motorway-like road, bypassing all settlements. I pull off at Sozopol, having lost so much time getting lost my stomach is requiring attention. There are people eating in a restaurant, but I'm told in no uncertain terms that I won't get fed here. I have plenty of leftovers from breakfast, though. The road narrows and twists through the wild green hills along the coast. Just before Carevo I get a fright, as a noisy big bike blasts past at Warp 10, no licence plate. It quickly disappears over the horizon, but a few minutes later I see it again, parked on the side of the road and the law having a word with the rider.

If you look at the map you can see that the main highway 9 turns inland here at a right angle towards Malko Tarnovo and the TR border. The coast road continues for another 30 km to Rezovo. Could there be a small border crossing point there? This is the nice part of the coast, hardly any concrete blocks are being built here. Since it's getting late and there are very dark clouds on the horizon and all around I will have to spend another night in BG, so I decide to head along the coast. The road is now very small, a real backroad, going through nature reserves and a few small setlements until, just before the end, it is blocked by the Frontier Police. They are housed in an ancient wagon, the pot belly is going and either side of the barriers an old Gulag-style fence disappears into the forest. No problem though, they just have to enter my passport details into a book, while the friendly officer explains to me that they are here to protect Europe against people wanting to enter illegally from places like Turkey, Iran, India, etc. I can proceed, but am told not to take photos of the neighbour.

Since it is forbidden I just HAD to take this picture. I'm like that. In the foreground an orthodox chapel, like an up-yours-finger facing the Turkish village on the other side. The Turks have minaretts, of course, and a couple of concrete watchtowers.

Rezovo. The arse end of Europe. It's a small, non-descript village perched on top of a cliff. On the opposite side of the bay lies a Turkish village and a couple of large concrete watch towers. I wander down to the water and stand at the river mouth. I'm 20 m from Turkey, but to get there I have to travel another 80-odd km. If I wanted to get across the river it would be twice that far. Such is the folly of man. I take a nice room for about 6 EUR and have dinner there, too: sole or flounder, copious and yummy. Not cheap, but worth it. The wind has gotten so strong that the ceiling in the bathroom moves and I think I can hear roof tiles shifting, so I close the window, just in case.

People actually live and work here?

Now that's a road sign I can use!

13/10 It rained a little last night and the wind is still blowing. As the restaurant is closed some construction workers take me along to one of the two (!) shops  where I can get a coffee and something to eat. Backtracking I arrive at the turnoff, where Istanbul is even signposted. But somehow I think I'm on the wrong road: according to my map this is road E87, but there are no such signs. The surface is poor and full of holes and there is no traffic to speak of. There is only one other border crossing to TR, so where is the frontier traffic? The road winds its way through lush green hills higher and higher, until I end up in fog. This whole part of the coast and the hills reminds me of NZ, ignoring any human signs, of course.

About half way there is another border police checkpoint where I get entered into another book. A shepherd on the side of the road waves me goodbye. Just about the first person at all to have waved at me in BG. After a quick coffee stop I breeze through the BG border. I'm told that this crossing is at 750 m altitude, which explains the fog and cold.