There was something about 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 weird) 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?
11th - 17th August 2012
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. 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 flat and dull. Stick to the hills.
The roads are surprisingly good.
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.
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.
Please email your comments about this location to firstname.lastname@example.org.