Veliko Tarnovo wipes Sofia off the map

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Castle Hotel (not sure of the name but it is the only hotel in town)

Flag of Bulgaria  , Tŭrgovishte,
Monday, November 1, 2010

We had missed the clocks changing but that was a bonus as it meant we beat the school trip to breakfast.  Nutty waitress served us again, she continued to make strange noises as she repeated what we ordered in Bulgarian.  English breakfast turned out to be 3 fried eggs and bacon, I am going to turn into an egg (actually isn't that what I started out as?  An egg?  Well half of me anyway).  Cycled back UP to the main road, already sweaty so first clothes change of the day required, and set off for Veliko Tarnovo, the old capital of Bulgaria.  The guidebook had billed it as Bulgaria's prettiest city and it did not dissappoint.  Had we not been on a mad race top Istanbul we would loved to have stayed a night and explored.  The ice cream floater in a cafe overlooking the cities centrepiece monument was more than satisfactory however.  We pedalled around and found the giant fortress sitting proudly on the hillside.  The we cycled up a ridiculously steep hill top get out of the city.  Again we were driven on by locals laughing at the stupid English people on bikes.  The red road was pretty uneventful, very up and down but it meant for some quite quick miles.  Roadside picnic of the lunch which we had bought 2 days before, not the best sandwich of the trip.  Infact, really stale and horrible.  Nevermind, all we needed was fuel and it pushed us on to Antonovo which we thought would only take us an hour.  However, with the hills it took almost two and we were getting annoyed!  Stopped at a garage for more fuel, I had to go for Twix as when I picked up a Bounty Polly pointed out that I had already had one of those today!  Not wanting an argument, I did not question the chocolate croissant, Snickers, bag of Haribo and Fanta she stood holding at the till.  A very friendly kitten wanted to get in on the action but we were hungry, so hungry I could have actually eaten the kitten!  The last 17 miles of the 62 were tough, another reminder that anything more than 50 miles a day is a struggle.  The approach to Omurtag presented another massive 4 mile climb and from a far the town looked grey and grim.  The hotel, advertised as occupying an old castle, certainly looked like some form of castle, but definately not the fairytale castle one pictures.  Checked in and in the resturant we met a really wonderful person.  His name was Sholpon (or Silpan,  or it could even have been Sampson).  Anyway, he was a really lovely waiter who even wrote out our breakfast order so that the language barrier would not stump us with the non-english speaking morning staff.  He said he really liked his English teacher when he was at school and that is why his English was so good, maybe one day one of my students will like me.  He talked about how he lives with his Mum and that is how Bulgarian families are.  He said although he is a Bulgarian citizen, he is actually Turkish because his decendants were part of the Ottoman Empire.  This part of Bulgaria is certainly beginning to feel Turkish and it is a gem we did not expect to find in Europe.  The last few days have required a second check of the map, it is unbelievable at times that we are still in Europe given what we are seeing.  Quickly, come to rural Bulgaria before it gets ruined.
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