East Balkan part 1
We are about to cross the border to Ukraine. We cycled all the way through Bulgaria and Romania, south to north. East Balkan part 1 is about Bulgaria. What strikes us about this country? Our must see tips and our way of giving back. So, let’s go to the moment we entered Bulgaria.
At the end of February we cycle to the border post Ormenio-Haskovo between Greece and Bulgaria near the Turkish border. Both the Greek and the Bulgarian border police are very difficult at first. The border is closed and they don't let tourists through.
"We are NO tourists”.
We stand tall and convince the police we are no tourists. Working for Foundation XPLORid we are on our way to Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Center Green Balkans in Stara Zagora. We can cross the border.... What a big relief: another border post is far away. We couldn't be there within 72 hours, the expire time of our PCR-Covid test.
We immediately notice we're in another country. The donkey and horse wagons are adorable. The poor condition of the houses shows the countries' poverty.
We’ve only one incident while cycling through Bulgaria. In a small town after lunch break we are surrounded by several boys. They ask if we have food or money. They seem like they have no bad intentions, but it doesn't feel like our belongings are safe. We leave while having the boys running after us. A moment later we are ambushed again. This time the way they ask for money is quite aggressive. They touch our things and don't want us to leave. We jump on our bikes, almost knocking them over because they keep on standing in front of our bikes.
In Bulgaria you need to plan ahead to be able to find a place to sleep. Only in the big cities you can find accommodation. When we arrive in the small village of Anton, the only airbnb in town is fully booked with permanent guests. Fortunately, the neighbor offers us a homestay. We have a nice warm shower and we are invited for family diner by Nikoleta and Ivaylo. When we leave the next day we both get a pair of Bulgarian woolen socks knitted by the family’s nanny and a bottle of rakia to go.
Vratsa and Belogradchik rocks
The rocks of Vratsa are impressive. No wonder why many mountaineers visit this place. Belogradchik rocks are a massive sand and limestone rock formations covering an area of around 90 sq km. The rocks vary in color from primarily red to yellow; some of the rocks reach up to 200 m in height.
Besides our homestay in Anton and the kind locals we meet along the way we are totally surprised in Montana. First our host Vladimir of the Corner House Apartment offers us out of the blue two new XPLORid signs for our bike. Next, Koku, the owner of Mandarin Coffee, gives us 2 homemade bottles of rakia, a large jar of homemade honey, 2 sandwiches and some bananas to go. We enjoyed breakfast over here and they had good coffee. He’s following us on Strava now
The Rakia flows freely in Bulgaria
We visit Helen's House of Hope in Sirakovo. Dog abuse is quite common in Bulgaria. Helen and her team of volunteers have a warm heart for every dog they take care of. We helped this dog sanctuary by having 5 dogs sterilized. Our blog and video about this aid project can be seen through these links:
If you want to help Helen as a volunteer or if you want to adopt a dog, check out Helen's House of Hope.