Shipka Pass

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

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Where I stayed
Park Hotel

Flag of Bulgaria  , Gabrovo,
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today was one of the most rewarding rides we have done thus far.  We left our room in the spa town of Pavel Banya not at all unhappy that the 4 star hotel had been booked out.  Instead we found the perfect breakfast.  A little bakery had opened up its window to reveal a pile of freshly baked cheesy rolls (big ones) with a frankfurter running through the middle.  Anyone reading must set this up as a business in England, they would sell!  We sat in the quiet square to enjoy with a machine generated espresso (Polly also managed to order a cup of sugar).  It was really peaceful apart from a toy machine which everytime somebody walked past would pump out hard techno music.  Cycled out through beaten roads and little villages using the hills as landmarks (no signs round here) to a place called Shipka.  On the way we were very unexpectedly passed by a wedding procession (see video).  A few locals helped us out along the way but the golden roofed dome of the mosque was eventually upon us as we reached this mountain base town.  We stopped for drinks in the knowledge that the next few miles were going to be punchy.  8 miles later and 1 :45 hours had passed before we reached the summit of this stunning pass.  On the way up we had the full honking and waving of buses, lorries and day trippers.  At the top we felt like heroes!  Sunday lunchers looking us up and down as we took our first wobbly steps off the bike after the non stop climb.  We celebrated with a truly victorous lunch.  A bulgarian stew called a 'Karvarno' was possibly the best Sunday lunch yet.  The 360 degrees views matched the cuisine and then all was left was to enjoy the 10 mile (20 minute) downhill.  Gliding downhill on a bike from high mountains is a truly exhilarating experience.  It was slightly annoying when the road starting going uphill again.  When we arrived in Dryanovo it was decision time, do we press on for Veliko Tarnovo or call it a day?  It was not a hard call and we found a nice hotel to sit back and reflect on a great ride.
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