Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bulgaria Part 1

Made in former eastern Germany but so fitting to the way of life we found in Bulgaria
Our home away from home once more: Veliko Tarnovo campground
Our visit to Bulgaria came in two stages. The first one basically a ride through to Romania to get some visas organised. The second visit to Bulgaria was after Romania and more than just a ride through. As we had enjoyed our stay at Nick and Nicky's Veliko Tarnovo campground so much, it was to be our first stop of our second visit to Bulgaria too. The good people from the Veliko Tarnovo campground came up trumps once more. Most campground owners tend to get a little iffy when you open a tool roll but Nick offered us his workshop! When the XTs rear rim presented too big a challenge to fit the new tyre by hand, a well known problem with the standard XT rims, they took us to a local tyre fitter, who fitted it for just 2 Euros and 50 cents...! They are definitely one of the most hospitable people we have ever met. 

Still in everyday use
Bulgarian version of fast food, much better than McD
The Veliko Tarnovo campground is one of those places which is hard to leave. Despite the Bulgarian weather at the end of our stay trying it's best to flush us out we had a great time. It's all due to the people. You know the saying 'kind looks for kind' and it's like that at Veliko Tarnovo campground. Nick and Nicky are wonderful people and they thus have help from lovely people who help out in the bar and kitchen area too. Add to that ex-pats from England that love the place and see the bar as their 'local' and a well laid out campground with spot on facilities... and you have a recipe for the perfect stay. 

Yes this is someone's home!
The rolling lush green hills around Veliko Tarnovo have attracted quite a few Britons who have exchanged England for an altogether easier and more quiet lifestyle, and with better weather too! In the end we even left late that morning as two fellow motorcyclists, who had arrived the night before, turned out to be journalists and wanted to interview Mike...

Bulgaria is a heaven for off-road riders as there are some 15,000 km of gravel trails, known as class 6 roads, to be discovered. As these are all public roads, access is no problem. Ask Nick for an itinerary! Now before you all pack your bags and head off for Bulgaria, which quite frankly your should, please treat the roads with respect for the locals and don't tear them up with your 100+ hp adventure weapon at full bore. It's magic that we can all still use them, so let's not ruin it...

Talking about roads, the traffic in Bulgaria takes a bit of getting used to. Bulgarian drivers basically come in two forms: mental idiots who don't care about traffic rules, safety or anyone else. The types you find everywhere else in the world too. They are at times seriously dangerous but are easy to spot as the male version comes with a face that's cross between a huge potato and an egg-plant and usually doesn't have much, if any, hair. The female version wears toilet seat size sunglasses, thinks she's pretty and usually drives an up market saloon. In other words look out for egg-plants, potatoes and huge sunglasses and you'll be fine. 
The second form of Bulgarian drivers are the ones that haven't worked out the function of a throttle yet, they have probably looked at it once or twice and maybe even briefly touched it but found the noise it created alarming and thus poke along at sleep inducing speeds. 

Solar field in Bulgaria
Riding through the Stara Planina mountains, the landscape reminded me of North-west France. The rolling hills, the friendliness and the abundance of green. In the towns we found a strange combination of characterful old buildings from pre-communist days, the typical communist style concrete blocks and modern glass fronted buildings. On the road we found a similar mix of old and new. Old 2-stroke cars like the Trabant and Wartburg shared the asphalt with Russian Furlong vans, Kamaz and Tatra trucks and modern cars. Quite a few Simson and MZ motorcycles are ring-a-dinging along too. They represent an era when money was tight and sensibilty ruled over form, because let's face it anything that came from former east-german IFA concern was properly made and lasted for ever. My own MZ 250 is testimony to that. Meanwhile Bulgaria is changing it seems, trying to catch up with the rest of Europe. One of the more positive signs of this are the solar panel fields we found here. Still I hope that Bulgaria will not try to catch up too much as it is beautiful the way it is.