Trip Start Jul 04, 2013
Trip End Aug 29, 2013

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Sofia Province,
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Obviously one does not travel 2300 miles across 9 countries without experiencing changes. The language difference has radically changed. In France, having taken 3 years of French in Junior High and High School, I was able to understand some of what I heard, accurately pronounce what I read and occasionally dig deep into my left frontal lobe and retrieve a functional phrase or question. In Germany and Austria, many people spoke English and the written word was often recognizable in context. Romania became much more difficult especially since NO ONE in our group speaks Romanian but at least they use OUR alphabet!! As I've mentioned previously, Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet which is basically useless to us, but fortunately there are often "translations" with the Latin alphabet. According to Wikipedia, Istanbul uses the Turkish Alphabet which is a Latin alphabet modified to reflect phonemes unique to the Turkish language.

And then there's the currency issue....
In the course of 6 weeks, I've spent and/or acquired Canadian cents,euros in 3 countries, francs in Switzerland, forints in Hungary, lei in Romania, lev in Bulgaria and will make one final currency change in Turkey (lira). So on any given day, I may not have any idea where I am, what day it is or how much money I have/am spending. It's very freeing. All I really know is that the further East we've gone, we've gotten a bigger bang for the buck. France was very expensive, but we have eaten gourmet meals in Romania and Bulgaria for half of what it would cost in the States. It's our last day in Bulgaria, so everyone is offering to buy rounds of drinks, coffee, ice cream, etc in order to use our levs rather than exchange them.

Bulgaria has been a pleasant surprise for most of us. After seeing the lack of development in Romania, I think we expected more of the same in Bulgaria. Also, the trip is winding down (only 3 more riding days) and perhaps some of us were thinking "just gotta get through Bulgaria". But it has been a refreshingly pretty country and our accommodations have been very comfortable. There are resorts around the country built or renovated apparently w/ EU stimulus money. We've been staying at these and it's been a real treat - swimming pools, bar, restaurant even if in the middle of nowhere. And of course, we've had more opportunities to sample the local cuisine. Yes, we continue to eat our way through Europe.
The rides have become long and arduous so no one's counting calories. The roads have for the most part been very nice but I'm convinced our diabolical tour directors are messing with us these last few days (Shanny: "I know- let's tease them with a nice cool 10k descent through a canopy of pine trees early in the morning, then after lunch we'll hit them with 40k of climbing. In fact, let's send them through town on 3 miles of cobblestone even though WE know there's a road that'll take them around town". Cat: "And then, when the sun is at it's highest and hottest, we'll put them on that 10k climb on fresh asphalt". Shanny (now giggling uncontrollably): "Yeah,and to make it really fun, we'll give them the wrong name for the hotel". Cat (laughing and holding her belly): "Ok - AND let's put the red flagging in the BACK of the hotel to put them right over the edge!!!"
Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how it goes...;-)
Actually,Shanny is a very nice guy- remember he IS Canadian and can take some ribbing- and to his credit, he gave us fair warning about today's ride. As it turns out, the "road from hell" which evoked nightmares of punctured tires and face plants, turned out to be one of my favorite routes. It was a secluded country road which was indeed in very poor condition, but with a little vigilance I was usually able to find an isthmus of asphalt between the gargantuan potholes and gravel. At the end of the road lived a Roma (politically correct term for "gypsy") family who excitedly greeted us and allowed us to take their picture. The father was quite intrigued with Brian's Garmin and bicycle in general. The mother and children giggled with delight when I showed them their picture. The children were dirty and living in tents and I got that ache in my heart once again.
A few feet later, our bikes took us out onto a beautiful highway, lunch and a post-lunch long, fast and scenic descent before continuing the familiar patten of up-and-down, finally arriving in Malko Tărnovo. It's another beautiful, cool breezy evening and we again had dinner outside.
And tomorrow we ride again...into Turkey.
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Jim Young on

Great photos and commentary, Lori. Thanks for keeping us tuned-in.


Sounds awesome! Is this an out and back ride? :)
Sounds like you're having a great time! Can't wait to visit when you get back

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