Nice ride in the Bulgarian countryside to Haskovo (67/15,780k, 325m)

(written by Dave)

You can probably tell by the title of the post that Nancy felt ok this morning and we broke free of the Svilengrad border town vortex.  As noted yesterday, Svilengrad was not an exciting town and I feared having to stay there one more day.  I made over a dozen trips up and down Main Street yesterday and dreaded more laps today.  Probably only half as much as Nancy dreaded the potential of another day fighting off whatever it was that got her.

So, even though Nancy was not 100% today she soldiered on for a shortish and flat ride through the Bulgarian countryside.  Our route followed a nice back road for the first half, taking us through field after field of wheat, sunflowers, potatoes and other crops.  Farming here looks like hard work with lots of hand planting going on and a few horse drawn wagons as well.

We stopped for a drink at Harmanli, at a new servo brand called Perfekt.  I got quite a kick out of the name and you can only guess how tired Nancy will be of hearing how “perfect” our stops are [editor’s note – tired already….].  Perhaps the servo brands in Macedonia will be called something different – we can only hope.  After Harmanli we stayed on the same road but from here the new expressway has not been completed.  This meant that we shared a shoulder-less road with all the big trucks going to and from Turkey.  This was not as bad as it sounds as for some reason they came in waves and for the most part in places where passing was easy – I think that we were lucky.

We arrived in Haskovo before noon and found two hotels.  Either would have been adequate and are pretty good value for money.  We chose the Rodopi Hotel as it was a little closer to the town centre and across the street was what looked like the local produce market.  After cleaning up, we headed for the market picking up some great fresh cherries and apricots.  Produce is cheap here and now that it is in season, we ‘ll try our best to eat more.

Today is a holiday in Bulgaria.  Like many holidays in Turkey, it seems to have numerous reasons for it being a holiday.  The 24th of May is the day of St. Cyril (827-869), and St. Methodius (826-884), who created the Cyrillic alphabet.  It is not clear if it is the holiday for these saints or the holiday of the alphabet.  We also found references to this being the holiday of literature, enlightenment and culture.  Take your pick I guess.  As far as we could tell, there was little evidence that it was a holiday, except that we saw lots of kids that probably would have been in school on a normal work day.  Search as we might, we were not able to find a parade to crash.

We enjoyed a nice lunch at a city café today.  Food is certainly different than it was in Turkey and it may take us a while to figure out what to eat.  Not such a bad thing if, as in Nancy’s case, your tummy is still a bit unsettled.  We had a big salad and pizza for lunch.  The menu seemed sort of “normal” European but I’m not sure if this was because it was a “hip” place to eat or if that’s what we’ll find as we progress through the Balkans.  We both noted missing Turkish lahmacuns – we have yet to find the Bulgarian equivalent.

Tomorrow we head for the second largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv.  It only has 270,000 folks so it’s not really that big.  It is reported to have scenic old-town and riverfront areas.  We’ve already noticed a big change in Bulgaria in that at least so far, we don’t feel the need to shower and rush out to look at some old building or site.  This probably changes in Plovdiv but we’ll see how it looks when we get there.  We are thinking about a day off in Plovdiv as well.

I’m in charge of dinner tonight and we are thinking of trying out Chinese takeaway.  It could be another one of those lessons about eating local but spotted a Chinese restaurant in the town square.  They didn’t claim to make sushi, kimchi or Pad Thai so at least they seem to know what Chinese food is.  Time will tell…

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2 thoughts on “Nice ride in the Bulgarian countryside to Haskovo (67/15,780k, 325m)

  1. I hope Nancy is all better.

    Can’t say Bulgaria looks inviting. It looks pretty ugly. I wonder what it was like before the Soviet thing?

    • The rolling green hills were nice today, they don’t make for dramatic photographs however. The towns so far have been completely un-inspiring. Tomorrow, Plovdiv this should change. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, claimingcontinuousoccupationfor close to 8,000 years. 50 years of Sovietinfluencecan’t undo 8,000 years, we hope.


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