“Fancy a bike ride, dear?”
By George, He’s Got It.
This Tent comes with Underfloor Heating
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears
A cool morning breeze welcomed us as we packed up and set off South after a fabulously cosy warm night in our super-heated tent. With no particular route in mind, except to hug the coast and ride South, we breezed through Naples and stopped 44 kms later in Pompei. What a lovely town, coffee bars everywhere. The tourist shop at the station gave us maps and instructions and we ignored them all, waved to the ruins and the queue outside and carried on.
Day 12/56 : 15,000kms around Europe.
Day 21: Leaving Greece
We’ve admired the majesty of Mount Olympus and the ruins of Dion. We’ve been introduced to the exploits of Alexander the Great and have camped in the grounds of a hotel in Alexandropoulis. Our Sertao is packed and resplendent with new Back tyre and new Brake pads. We are at the Eastern border of Greece. “Where to now? North or East?” One look at our little map shows us that Istanbul is 380 kms away. Let’s go there.”
Bulgaria, The Worst and the Best
Turkey is not part of the EU, but has applied to be part of the EU. The currency in Turkey is Lira, with an exchange rate of one Euro equal 4 Turkish Lira, and they take Euros, sometimes. Turkey has applied to be part of the EU and has been refused entry. Britain is part of the EU, doesn’t use Euros and doesn’t want to be part of the EU anymore. Bulgaria has been part of the EU, since 2007. One euro is equal to 2 Bulgarian Leva and they do not take Euros, ever.
A delicious traditional breakfast of Bulgarian soft-cheese-filled-pastry saw us out of Sofia. With Mitko’s advice and plotting on the map, we decided to go south down the hilly highway to a small turn-off which would take us West to the mountains bordering Macedonia. We are going to follow the trail of Alexander the Great (also Evil and Cruel).
We really do have too much stuff! The morning was spent repacking the bike, accompanied by curious peckings from peacocks and peahens. The notes in my tiny blackbook say “lose some stuff”. It was obviously so irrelevant that we cannot even remember what we turfed into the bin. This just goes to show how little we can survive on. With our bike now a bit lighter, more balanced and a bright blue sky overhead, we venture into Scary Serbia. We’ve read the news, watched TV and heard the stories. We’ve been warned off venturing south towards Kosovo *as there is still trouble there.
A hot and sunny 7am saw us refreshed and revigorated after a swim, supper and a good sleep. Our sociable campervan neighbours brought us boiling water for coffee and in return we entertained them by squashing, rolling, shoving and strapping all our stuff back on the bike. By 9am we were ready to go. Our neighbours just closed their doors, turned the key and the campsite was cleared. We continue up and up into the hills, riding past rows of parked cars and people wandering along the pass in their swimming costumes and draped in towels.
Romania, Vampires and Red Roses. Day 29 – 33
The rain kept us in our sleeping bags till 10am. When the sun emerged we gave it an hour to dry our tarp and tent, chatted to a bike one-week-tour group from Israel, before setting off along the valley road.
Our very dated 60’s room-en-suite was situated on the 4th floor in the top left corner of this vast empty hotel, apart from the 300 children whose presence we never heard. It took ages to pack up and get our luggage into the intriguing lift that had 3 metal panels and an open grilled front, jamming doors with feet and taking two trips to reach the bike. Breakfast was a dreary affair on the empty terrace, only this time there were two waiters and a big trolley carrying metal urns. We were offered tea or coffee. B asked for black coffee. Big mistake.
With the sweet cakes we purchased in Brasov through a glass window cubby-hole , we were safe in the knowledge we had a bit of padkos (road food). An early start led us away in glorious sunshine down a 2 lane highway with hard shoulders, where alarmingly all 4 lanes were used. This highway soon gave way to a ‘bucking-bronco’ back road, which is not so comfortable but far more interesting. The ladies in the towns wore full length traditional swishy-swirling skirts and scarves, not for the tourist, just their normal day wear. It was like riding backwards through 100years.
We left Bucharest, capital of Romania, on Day 38 of our Travels. It has rained constantly, forcing us to give up on camping and stay in hotels. We’re on our way to Belgrade, capital of Serbia, dodging raindrops and thunderous black clouds. We get to Vidin, a town on the border where a slither of Bulgaria juts into Romania and Serbia. We’ve crossed the Danube 3 times to get here in this windswept, forgotten corner. Romania and Bulgaria are both countries of so many contrasts.
Are we in Italy? No, we are in Croatia, it just seems very Italian. We start the morning with an early swim in the Adriatic Sea, and put our bike gear over our wet cozzies to give us a cool ride on this hot, hot day. We’re riding the 534kms Dalmatian coast from the campsite at Rijeka in the north all the way South to Dubrovnik (https://goo.gl/maps/nV7ingfscYC2).
We have a very important date with our family from South Africa, who by chance are also touring Europe. With lots of map and route-checking we calculate that our paths will cross in 4 days’ time at Briancon. As we have not seen each other for 6 years this is a mega-reunion and the timing is crucial.