30.05. - 05.06.2012 Border Bulgaria - Ruse 449 km



By crossing the Bulgarian border we not just reached a new country but also a different time zone. Thus, our first official act was to put all our clocks one hour forward. Bulgaria greeted us sunny and hot (30 to 40°C), as well as hilly and with lush green and blooming vegetation. We immediately noticed that the Bulgarians are more cautious than the Serbs. Not everyone honked wildly and waved to greet us. The roads are often very bumpy, you meet horse and donkey carriages, overrun snakes and bright green lizards on every corner and the roads are lined with mulberry trees bearing delicious ripe fruit. The thirsty cyclist finds again and again fountains providing him with cool water in villages or along the way to refresh himself. Did you know that Bulgarians shake their head when they want to say "yes" and nod when they mean "no"? Very confusing when you ask for water and they shake their head, grinning happily.

On our first day we met a very nice Bulgarian couple whom we asked for directions. They welcomed us with "Hola!" Hola? Did we accidently go to Spain instead of Bulgaria?  The woman then told us in Spanish that she used to work in Spain and that their children still live there. For our further journey they supplied us with boiled eggs and homemade tomato juice. Yummy!

The same day we unfortunately also made our worst experience so far. We were just cycling uphill on a serpentine road through a forest when suddenly a pack of five big dogs led by a German shepherd appeared in front of us and came running towards us furiously barking. We tried to cycle as fast as we could but no chance to outrun them uphill. I panicked when the German shepherd reached me and I used my pepper spray for the first time, without considering that Olli behind me would cycle right into the cloud. I realised my mistake when he started cursing and coughing, the other four dogs at his heels, but nevertheless he luckily could escape them unscathed.

We finally reached the Danube again, hoping for a flat and rapid progress. Who would have thought that it would be so hilly there! I'm sure you can imagine how exhausting and torturing it is to cycle uphill in the heat and that we enjoyed even the slightest breeze and shade. We noticed however, that day by day our stamina and muscles kept increasing slowly but surely.

We wanted to conclude our exciting first day in Bulgaria quietly and comfortably with a huge pot of pasta when suddenly there was a loud bang a few meters behind the trees next to our tent, followed by wads of smoke. We immediately rushed to the location of the incident, where Olli helped an elderly man out of his car, which had slid down the embankment and crashed against a tree. His wife had already been able to escape on her own and explained that the brakes had failed when they were driving downhill. Fortunately they weren't hurt. This incident just substantiated our suspicions that most of the Bulgarian cars wouldn't pass a technical inspection in Germany.

The next day we were so happy when a big yellow "Lidl" sign leaped into view: "Yes! Finally proper German whole-grain bread again!" For weeks we have been eating only white bread ("crumply bread "). 6 other German cyclists,  whom we met at the entrance of the supermarket, must have thought something similar. Out of sheer joy Olli bought way too much and our bags and stomachs were cram-full thereafter. Despite thunderstorm in the evening no cooling in sight.

The next day we went steeply uphill once  again, as we unexpectedly were outdistanced by another German cyclist. He waited for us at the summit and told us that he had already heard of us from the other 6 Germans, whom he had met as well the previous day. He, Volker, is cycling from Donaueschingen to the Black Sea. Some time later suddenly Olli's bottom bracket started creaking, which upset and wore him down quite a bit because apparently only his bike was making problems all the time. Unfortunately we could not quite fathom the reason for these strange noises. Maybe a broken ball in the ball bearing?

For the last few days we hadn't seen much of the Danube, since the bike path always ran in some distance to the river, but to pitch our camp that evening we followed a muddy dirt road away from the road straight to the riverbank and were rewarded with a beautiful place in the backyard of a fisherman's hut. Our host Ratku even offered us two beds in his hut but we rather wanted to sleep outside in our cool tent than in the sweltering heat inside.

The next day our shirts were so sweaty and full of salt stains that we finally decided to fill up 12 extra liters of water to extensively do our laundry. I almost died laughing when Olli, in search of a suitable campsite, suddenly jumped out from behind some bushes wildly screaming: "Just get out of here!" As he had recovered his breath he explained that a huge spider had climbed onto his hand. Unfortunately, he refused to go back to that place to take a photo. What a wimp!  ;) Nevertheless, in the end we found a cozy place between the vineyards, where we were curiously observed by field workers which seemed very interested in our laundry and hair washing.

The following day we got lost and suddenly found ourselves on a very busy main road.  Kamikaze trucks came roaring and booming from all directions and passed us dangerously close. When we saw a truck, which had broken through the guardrail and had fallen down the embankment, we felt queasier with every second and we left this "Highway to Hell" immediately when we had the opportunity.

The scorching hot sun, which got even hotter every day, had gradually burned my skin, despite the use of sunblocker. So we finally decided to look for a couchsurfer in Ruse to give our strained muscles a break and to cure my burned skin, which I had covered with long sleeves and scarf despite the heat .



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