Cycling in Bulgaria
Bulgaria In A Nutshell
There was something about cycling in Bulgaria that I absolutely loved. It could have been that beer was only 60p a pint, but I'm hoping it was something more. I met some lovely (and weirdly lovely) people, the countryside south and west of Sofia is unassumingly appealing and I enjoyed Sofia very much. Or maybe I liked it because it came immediately after Turkey, and after six weeks I was utterly sick of Turkey. Did I mention beer was 60p a pint?
Where and When I Went
11th - 17th August 2012
Edirne (Turkey) - Harmanli - Plovdiv - Banja - Sofia - Tran - Vranje (Serbia)
I'm not the first to notice that cycling through some villages and smaller towns attracted what felt like threatening glances. I suspect this is just curiousity rather than genuine resentment. It may even be the infamously intimidating Balkan Stare. Whenever I stopped to ask for help or directions, everyone was entirely friendly. (In one village, a local bike repairman even repaired a spoke for free.)
The hilly bits are beautiful as are hilly bits in most places. The towns were more hit and miss. Sofia is a vibrant modern city, as is Plovdiv. Some smaller towns (Harmanli, I'm looking are you) are complete shit holes. The south east is flatter and duller. Stick to the hills or the larger towns.
Bulgaria's Road Quality
The roads are surprisingly good.
Bulgaria's Accommodation & Costs
Bulgaria has a few campsites scattered about. The only camp site sign I saw looked like it had been closed down for a very long time. I stayed in cheap hotels whose rooms ranged from adequate to really quite nice. The prices ranged from €15-25 outside of Sofia. I found a room for €29 in the capital (at the on-the-tip-of-your-tongue Hotel Slavyanska Besseda).
Restaurants were good value and beer was almost free.
Bulgarian is an oddball language to learn just for a few short days' tour. Getting to grips with Cyrillic might be useful if you plan to use restaurants. Some people speak English but you can hardly count on it.
Bulgaria has a diverse range of interesting neighbours: Serbia, Romania, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkey.
Reasons To Go To Bulgaria
Nice countryside (and I've also heard good reports about the parts I didn't see), good value, if you believe Nigel Farage (which personally I don't think you should) then it's a chance to explore an entirely empty country now that everyone's moved to the UK.
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