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Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



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  #1396  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/337.html



It rained last night. Thankfully, most of the showers stopped when we woke up and we stared outside at the overcast skies, planning out our route for the day.


Everything is so peaceful out here in the countryside

Our lackadaisical pace around Eastern Europe is now butting up against some pre-scheduled dates on the calendar. It would have been nice to stay a day or two here in Buynovo, to enjoy the peace and quiet and nature.


Our hostess bids a farewell to us as we leave her tiny village
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  #1397  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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The plan for the day is to ride the length of the gorge road and take in the scenery

The Buynovo Gorge is the longest one in Bulgaria. It was carved out of the limestone over several millenia and now boasts several pools, waterfalls and caves. None of which we're going to see because we're riding, riding, riding today!


The road is narrow and the pavement is uneven, but the tall walls of the gorge make for an awesome ride as we follow the twists and turns of the river


At times the road rises and we can peek over the edge at the water below. Until we hit a tunnel carved into the rock. Cool!
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  #1398  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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The gorge is so narrow at one point the top of the canyon walls almost touches above the road. The narrowest point is called "Wolf's Leap" because legend has it that wolves jump across the chasm here to attack sheep pens on the other side.

The Buynovo Gorge road is less than 30kms long, but it's a one way road, so we turn back and start heading north.


Stopping on the way back


Enjoying the marvelous scenery
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  #1399  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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On the road, we see more Disney castle missile silos


Shops and stalls in the little villages that we ride through


Damp roads out of Southern Bulgaria
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  #1400  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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Plovdiv is Bulgaria's second-largest city and is about three hours north of Buynovo. We are making a pit stop here just to sleep before we head further north.


We are staying in a nice quiet neighbourhood in the suburbs of Plovdiv


The owner of our AirBnB place lets us park in the garden


The next morning, we are all suited up and ready to head out. The owner snaps a pic of us.
It's so nice to be able to get a picture of the two of us together. It's so rare.
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  #1401  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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We debated about whether to leave without seeing the city. It's so closeby and the weather is really nice today. So at the last minute we ride into town, stash our riding gear and take a quick walk around town.


Fountain in front of Plovdiv City Hall

Such a funny sounding name to English speakers: Plovdiv. I found out that it's named after Philip the Arab, a Roman Emperor who named the city after himself. Philip + Deva (city) became Plovdiv after several iterations of translations.


Pedestrian street, downtown Plovdiv


And then, we stumble across this...

We don't make a point of only visiting cities and ruins with Roman amphitheaters in them. Honestly! It just turns out that the Roman Empire spread out pretty much everywhere in Europe. And everywhere they went they built an amphitheater. And the most beautiful one they built was in Pula, Croatia.
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  #1402  
Old 21 Feb 2017
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I think they uncovered this amphitheater after the modern city was built on top of it. They've integrated it well into the city.

You can see in the background: another Disney castle missile silo. I wonder if Walt Disney fashioned his iconic castle after Bulgarian architecture.


Well, that was a nice tour. I'm glad that we got to see the contrast between the big city and the rural areas in Bulgaria

In the picture above, I point out the same sign I've seen all over Russia and other Slavic countries. "Look Neda, Pectopaht!"

"Pectopaht" is actually "Restaurant" in Cyrillic. It amuses Neda to no end whenever I say this, because that's not how she reads it in her head. It's like saying "Kah-now-led-gee" to an English person.... "Do you mean 'knowledge'?"

"Rig-Hit!"

But enough of the language lessons. It's time now to head further north. New country! And towards one of the best riding roads on Earth! Stay tuned!


On the way out, we make a game out of spotting the national vehicle of Bulgaria. They're everywhere!
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  #1403  
Old 22 Feb 2017
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Thanks for the language lesson Gene
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  #1404  
Old 22 Feb 2017
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I forgot to embed this video in the last post:

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  #1405  
Old 23 Feb 2017
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/338.html



The weather is hot and sunny, and we're leaving Bulgaria and entering a new country today: Romania!

Most of the cross-border traffic takes the main highway to Bucharest, crossing the international bridge at Ruse. But since we're on a bit of a backroads tour of Eastern Europe, we enter by way of a small ferry SW of Romania's capital city.


Catching the ferry at Nikopol, Bulgaria


We're allowed to ride to the front of the ferry. The Danube River is a natural border between Bulgaria and Romania

It's only a short 15-minute trip to get to the other side. Bulgaria and Romania are not officially part of the Schengen Zone yet, so we have to stamp out and back in again at the ferry docks on both sides. I steel myself for more unfunny Brexit jokes and ribbing from the border guards, but the guys here don't seem to be very friendly.

Good.
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  #1406  
Old 23 Feb 2017
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The Romanians keep their nuclear arsenal just outside of Nikopol. Unlike the Bulgarians, they don't bother to Disney-fy their missiles.


Riding through the Romanian border town of Turnu Măgurele

Turnu Măgurele is not a pretty town, except for its churches. But we've done enough traveling to learn never to judge a country by its border towns. My best friend, who I've known for like half a century, is Romanian so I'm really looking forward to exploring his home country.


Within the hour, we arrive at Caracal, where we're spending the night. The Romanian greeting party is ready for us

Just like in Bulgaria, the accommodations and food are cheap in Romania. Their currency is the Lei (sounds so close to the Bulgarian Lev), and we found out they don't take Euros in this country. So we got Lei-d at the ATM and then walk around town to try to find a grocery store.
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  #1407  
Old 23 Feb 2017
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The Dormition orthodox church in Caracal

The grocery store in Caracal remains elusive to us, but we do run across a convenience store. Inside, there is a long lineup at the cash register. I notice that most of the people are paying for their goods with food stamps instead of Lev. I feel a bit guilty walking back to our luxury apartment. It's the nicest place we've stayed in since we've arrived in Europe. And we only paid €20/night through the booking service online.


The next day, we hit the road again. Some scenes from our ride through Romania

That church in the top left looks like a Stave church that we saw in Norway! It's actually a type of wooden church typically found in northern Romania, in the Maramureș region. most of the churches in the south look like the one to the right.


Just in case you forgot that there is also another motorcycle & rider at RideDOT.com!

Those are not my oil stains on the ground...
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  #1408  
Old 23 Feb 2017
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It's about a three hour ride on fairly boring roads until we hit some interesting scenery. Our slog through the flatlands of Romania come to an end at the base of the Făgăraş Mountains, where we see a sign for a very special castle...


Castle Dracula! Well, not the literary Dracula, it's Vlad III's castle, Poenari.

Bram Stoker's character, Dracula, was based on Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad was a nasty, nasty Romanian ruler who was quite fond of impaling people, boiling them alive and cutting them up into little pieces. He was the second son of Vlad Dracul, the surname of which Bram Stoker would base his blood-sucking vampire on.


It's a hot day and there are 1480 steps to climb to get up to the Castle Poenari. When we get to the top, we're greeted by impaled people... Nice.

Castle Poenari wasn't actually built by Vlad the Impaler. He took it over in the 14th century, 100 years after it was built by the Wallachians, medieval Romanian people.


Romanian flag flies high atop the castle walls
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  #1409  
Old 23 Feb 2017
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We had to wait our turn to pet the resident puppy.


From the top of the castle walls, we can see our bikes parked at the bottom of the mountain

There are actually two Castle Draculas in Romania. The more famous one is in Transylvania and it's called Castle Bran. There's a bit of a feud going on between these two castles. Poenari likes to advertise itself as the "REAL" Castle Dracula, since Vlad Dracul was actually a real person. However, the castle in Bram Stoker's book was really based on Castle Bran despite the character being named after Vlad.

It would have been nice to visit Castle Bran, as it's much more grander than this one. But we are actually in this area for another reason...


Castle Poenari is located right at the start of a very famous road called the Transfăgărășan


Finally! It's our turn to pet the Poenari Puppy!

I think this puppy lives up here. There's a water bowl just outside the the ticket office. I'm going to call him Vlad. Because he's a bloodhound. And his favorite food is shishkebabs.
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  #1410  
Old 23 Feb 2017
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Back down at the bikes, father and son herding their goats along the river



We are now going to ride the road made famous by Top Gear, the Transfăgărășan Pass! Everybody raves about it as being the most scenic mountain pass in the world, even better than the Stelvio Pass in Italy. Check out the map above! We've really been looking forward to riding this road ever since we heard about it.

I pulled out my Sena camera so we could capture the run on video. But then over the Bluetooth intercom, the camera admonished me, "Low Battery Warning".

I forgot to charge it! Dammit!


Thankfully, I had a USB battery pack. I juryrigged it and stuck the external battery in my backpack. So ghetto-looking...
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