Up the Balkans (pics now up!)
Since our last blog we've been having a great time in the Balkans and Central Europe. Bulgaria was very interesting with a lot more horse and carts on the roads, no shops (where do they buy food?!) and of course, the delights of everything being written in Cyrillic (cue the purchasing of 2 identical maps, one in Roman, the other in Cyrillic, but IM's reading coming on a treat!).
Into the Rila Mountains which are gorgeous, and also many archeological fun things too - more tumuli than you can shake a stick at plus Thracian tombs a-plenty (and a 'hello' from Plovdiv for the ace Dobrinka Tabakova).
Needed to buy a new front tyre (now looking a little threadbare and not changed since leaving, so good on you Bridgestone Trailwings!) but the only one we could find was the ritzy make "Vee" rubber...hmmmmm... (no bikes in BG), so we waited till a more rufty tufty one could be found (in Romania).
The Romanian border was super easy (phew) and not even a glance at papers, so a nice change from Turkey. Eastern Romania is an odd place, strangely ritzy Black Sea holiday resorts, but then with very poor rural areas of looong streets lined with mud brick bungalows and mini marts. Our first brush with the local 'colour' was a guy who had obviously been on the breakfast beers, and some gentle harrassment at the traffic lights, until wife/girlfriend/fellow drinker turned up, threw a glass of drink over him and chased him through 4 lanes of traffic, causing much chaos, then the lights turned green..vroooom.
Bike drop number 18 happened at 7am on the way to a boat trip on the Danube Delta (birding fun for JB), BIG muddy puddle:
Birding highlights include Caspian Tern, Pygmy Cormorant, Marsh Sandpiper and the incredibly dull but hardcore and rare Paddyfield Warbler.
Onto Transylvania, which has a very different feel to the rest of Romania, lush greens, mountains and wooden pointy houses alpine-esque. We fantastically arrived in the area during a storm, and then free-camped by a graveyard (how very 'Buffy'). Muchos vampire fun had at Bran Castle and Sighisoara (where Vlad Tepes did his impaling) and we managed to spend many happy hours supping the local beers whilst watching a music festival in the town square, ending with the jazztastic Harry Tavitian.
Our 'bathroom' in Sighisoara
Next country Hungary (filled with Tescos! most odd) which we ended up staying in longer than anticipated as, at Hortobagy National Park, we met the wonderfully monikered Zoltan Sellei, who invited us back to his home. Four days of fantastic cooking from Violetta, playing of games, all in mime, with their son Dani, and a highlight for James, feeding his 'pet' Hobbies with dead sparrows, bunnies and the like. We found it quite difficult to actually stop and rest in one place after always being on the move, and several times we had to be talked into staying another night, and to enjoy the generosity of (at first) strangers.
After promises of keeping in touch, eating turo-rudi and maxikings (any weight lost, now put on, sigh) we bid a fond farewell to our new friends and we were back on the road. First to Slovakia and more mountains (Tatra), this time for the Wallcreeper, which is still maintaining its elusiveness, even after 5 months of searching. Now back in the land of chilly nights and our first sight of snow in ages, brrrrr, it really feels like the start of autumn, after so many months of baking temperatures.
Realised that we were a stones throw from Poland, which is a bonus country for us (number 20) as we hadn't planned on going there. Had a great night in Krakow, even eating out in a pub, our first time since Albania, with beetroot soup and perogi on the menu, instead of packet soup and veggies with pasta. We then headed west for an afternoon at the sobering Auschwitz/Birkenau.
Onwards to the Czech Rep. for Becherovka drinkage and then towards Italy...
Posted by Imogen Mitchell at 05:30 PM