We crossed the border yesterday into Turkey enjoying the coolish conditions after a fierce nocturnal thunderstorm, this time so violent that it actually woke me from my sleep of the dead.
This was a relief after the day before when it was 40 and breathless as we climbed hill after hill, along a quiet country road far from the mad mad traffic of highway 9. Our oasis on an otherwise struggle of a day was the accordion player who entertained us in Zevedc: tangos, waltzes, Edith Piaf songs and the Marseillaise. He leant forward for us to drop money into his pocket, as he played on and his strains followed us down the road and out of the village.
Another car accident, caused by careless and reckless behaviour, where ridersfrom our group were first on the scene, assisted the injured and directed traffic. Seems the locals don’t care much for helping out others in trouble on the road. Bulgarian roads are generally two lane,of variable surface quality, no shoulder, and packed with vehicles travelling at 130kmh.I’ve had my fill of Eastern European roads and will never ride a bike along them again. The Bulgarian system of traffic control is unique:cardboard cutout police cars beneath billboards exhorting drivers toobey the rules and drive safely.
The various occupations sufferedby Romania and Bulgaria are going to be felt for decades still, beforeeither country achieves the vibrancy of the Turkish villages throughwhich we have ridden. Here there are well-fed children with smiles ontheir faces and shops brimming with goods, unlike the ghost villages wehave ridden through in the two former countries which in the main arepopulated by the hard workers and old folks whose youthful relatives have fled to the cities to find a fortune.
Crossing the border brought stark differences: the terrain is dry and rocky, similar to that of the country around Rockbank,but with high rolling hills; the villagers are out and about goingabout their business; the dogs are mangier and skinnier than inBulgaria although some seemed to be owned; the people I have spoken to know about Australia and smile broadly, doubtless because they have relatives who have migrated.
Last night we were feted by the Kirklarelli mayor, who hosted a bus tour, tea in a rich man’s house, followed by a delicious meal in a restaurant. A picture from a tour two year’s ago is in the tourist information booklet about Kirklarelli, and last year the mayor, on his bicycle, accompanied the group to the outskirts of town. We felt special indeed.
SoI have washed my last lot of biking clothes and suspended them from a rope in my room. I have cleaned my bike and oiled it for the last time before packing it into a box. I am wondering how did I get within 202km of Istanbul on a bike. I am looking forward to our next three daysof riding.
Some more stats….
July 14: Varna to Aheloi, 107 kms, about six and a half hours, along the dreaded highway 9 for almost all of the 107 kms
July 15: Aheloi to Malko Tarnovo, 107 kms, about five and a half hours, but I had to resort to the bus for the last 10kms on account of feeling ill and it being more than 40 degrees
July 16: Malko Tarnovo to Kirklarelli, 51 kms and three hours
Read Janice’s blog; Wheels on Fire: Cycling from Paris to Istanbul