(written by Nancy)
Well, Dave did manage to get Chinese takeaway for dinner last night in this little town in Bulgaria and it was actually pretty good! We haven’t had rice for ages and that and the spicy chicken (not very spicy) hit the spot. Completely different to the food we have been eating for the last several months so it was nice to have a change.
We managed to get breakfast at 7:30 this morning, though we weren’t quite sure that the receptionist understood what Dave was asking – breakfast is apparently normally starts at 8. Anyway, we weren’t he only guests in the restaurant early this morning so it wasn’t just for us. The breakfast was a bit weird – a bit like a Turkish breakfast except instead of an egg we each got this huge sausage (hot dog, really). We should have taken a picture, it was that odd looking. Dave ate his, I had one bite but decided I’d pass and just focus on the toast. Oh, and we also each got an apple – nice change to have some fruit. The best thing is we seem to get espresso automatically, so maybe our days of Nescafe are coming to an end.
The road was wet when we left the hotel; it looked like it had rained pretty heavily overnight. We had grey overcast skies all day, but only had very light sprinkles a few times – not even enough to get us wet, really. The road was nothing exciting. We were still dealing with some truck traffic, which wasn’t too pleasant given the lack of shoulder on the road. The trucks were not too bad – the cars passing coming the other way were the real annoyance. It seems like they like to drive very fast here, at least it seems like they are going fast when they are coming at you!
We ran into another touring cyclist today – I am not sure we got his name right but I think it is Mülo Hämäläimen. He is from Finland and was making his way back up to Finland after riding down to Istanbul. Amazingly he is 75 years old, riding all on his own. He was pulled over having a rest, eating an apple, when we rode through a small village so of course we pulled over to have a chat. We did have kind of a chat, though he didn’t speak much English and we don’t speak any Finnish! His trip will total over 7,000k by the time he finishes. He seemed to be in great spirits, and pulled out his maps to show us where he had been and where he was going. We took some pictures and finally waved goodbye.
We finally rode into Plovdiv about 1pm or so. We had an area picked out to head to where we thought there were a few hotels. The first part of the city ride was fine, through a suburban area full of Soviet grey apartment blocks. Then we hit the old town area and headed into the center of it, following google maps. At that point the road surface changed to very big rocks – completely unrideable. We pushed the bikes around these little streets trying to find the area we were looking for, which was probably the hardest bit of the day. Pushing the heavy bikes up the hills, slipping on the rocks, lost – not really the way you want to end a bike ride!
After a few false turns we finally found the area we were looking for and pulled over to park the bikes so Dave could do the hotel search (yeah, his turn). He came back after checking the first hostel, shaking his head (actually, I think ‘feral’ was the word he used). So, off again he went to look at a few more. By the time he’d checked a few more it had started to rain, and then it started to pour! I ducked in under a little overhang to wait for him – thankfully he came not too long afterwards and we wheeled the bikes down the road to the Plovdiv Guesthouse. They did not mind at all when we dragged the sopping wet bikes and bags into their foyer. We dragged the bags up three (3!) flights of stairs and collapsed for a bit. The room is nice and bright, on the top floor with two skylights, so Dave did a good job choosing today.
By the time we got cleaned up and headed out it was 4:30 or so, so we decided to head down into the town area to get a late lunch/early dinner. We passed by some interesting buildings along the way – Dave included some pictures but we’ll try to get some more info tomorrow.
We searched for a place to get something to eat and stopped in to look at what seemed to be a deli of some sorts. They had all sorts of great looking food – ribs, potatoes, bread, lots of salads, and on and on. We stood there salivating a bit and then realized there were a few tables toward the back, and that you could get the food and eat it there. So, that was dinner for us – ribs, cheese bread, meatballs, and a nice salad. Unfortunately Dave was so hungry he dug right in and it was gone before he even thought to take a picture! He was a bit hungry… But, I suspect we might be back there so we will try to take a picture next time.
We walked around a bit to walk off dinner – lots of people out and about, getting ready for a big night on the town. Fashion here is a bit funny – or maybe we are just out of touch, having been on the road so long. One thing I don’t really get is this hair style that seems to be popular here – it seems to be the style to kind of crimp your hair, mostly around the top and then tease it a bit. The crimping looks really weird to me – it must be done with some kind of appliance like a curling iron. It makes me laugh that someone would do that on purpose – I am usually trying to brush all those stupid bends out of my hair in the morning! It doesn’t look too attractive to me, but I don’t pretend to be too fashion-forward.
Tomorrow we are taking a day off here to explore a bit. Plovdiv is the 2nd largest city in Bulgaria and apparently has been occupied in some form for 6,000 years. It seems to have a bit of an “artist” culture – in our short walk about we saw lots of statues and murals. We will try to see if we can learn a bit more about Bulgaria – stay tuned for the follow-up.