Update 4 - From Budapest to Sofia.
from Sofia! We arrived on Friday 31st August after eight
days on the road from Budapest. We can tell we are getting
fitter as we don't feel too tired after a relatively
straight forward 875km including a 1445m pass!
We spent two good rest days in Budapest, a city with
a Western feel and Western prices. It is so commercial
now it could be mistaken for a German or Austrian town.
The only telltale sign that it's not Win the EU yet
is the large number of Trabant Soviet relics still on
the road. On the last day there we went on the excellent
Absolute Bike Tour (www.budapestours.com)
with our guide Csaba and explored Buda and Pest. We
thoroughly recommend it.
After feeling refreshed after our stop we continued
South along the Danube towards Yugoslavia and Kiskunmajsa.
We had a big day planned so an early start was essential
- 6 or 7am . People who know us would not be surprised
to hear we finally get our admin sorted and leave at
10:30 with 160km to do! To top it all 5km out from Budapest
and Adrian broke a spoke! The same thing happened again
20km up the road - he's too fat for 32 spoked wheels!
We eventually arrive to a campsite filled with Dutch
and Germans, a surprisingly frequent occurrence on our
next day we made our way to Mako on the Romanian border
expecting to cross on the E68 to Arad. We discovered
however there is a new border crossing to Cenad making
our day to Timisoara a lot shorter. It was so new however
that the roads to the crossing were still being made!
It was a 4km dirt track, the most surreal crossing we've
Romania, a beautiful country full of surprises and full
of genuinely friendly and inquisitive people. Romania
is still Eastern Europe as us Westerners imagine it
to be. Unlike Hungary it has not benefited from flocks
of German and Austrian tourists, and the difference
in the economies of the two countries was notably evident
within a few kilometres of the border. Romania has a
Wild West feel to it, with more horse and cart on the
road sometimes than cars! The first town we passed through,
Cenad, was typical of the Romanian towns and villages
we cycled through over the next few days. Run-down houses
lining the main road, flocks of suicidal geese wandering
all over the road, battered Renault-like Dacia cars
and lots of either very old or very young people sat
by the side in the shade of a tree selling watermelons,
tomatoes, grapes or peppers. After our initial uncertainty
and anxiety we quickly grew to enjoy Romania. The people
were friendly and generous (one old man even offered
to fill our water bottles with his home-made wine!),
and everyone we greeted would wave or smile back, often
with a "Drum Bun" (Have a good trip).
We spent our first night in Timisoara - the city where
the Romanian revolution started twelve years ago. Our
evening in Timisoara was a little bizarre. As we sat
eating our Spag Bol and Pizza (a traditional Romanian
meal!) in a restaurant on the main square, it felt as
if we were part The Truman Show. The whole population
of Timisoara seemed to be out wandering around the square.
It was most peculiar, as they didn't seem to have anything
we made our way towards Calafat and the Bulgarian border,
we rejoined the Danube again and followed the Yugoslavian
Border. We did think about following the Danube into
Serbia and Belgrade on our way to Sofia, but chose Romania
thinking we would have visa problems at the border.
We later found out this is not the case, and it could
be a possible route for future overlanders.
Into Bulgaria by way of ferry boat over the Danube
and into Vidin, once the largest town in Bulgaria. We
stayed there in an ex communist block campsite next
to a disused fairground - only after a very helpful
man personally showed us the way on his bike! This friendly
start continued as we headed to Sofia - nearly every
car would give us a friendly beep or a wave of encouragement
- we like Bulgaria!
first test of fitness came 90km North of Sofia - the
25km ascent of the Petrohan Pass (1445m). We left very
early to avoid the heat, but only two hours later and
we were at the top! The great day of cycling ended as
we entered the capital and met up with Mark, Tony and
Sabina from the British Embassy, who we stayed with
for the next few days. It seemed perfect timing as only
the next day we watched England thrash Germany at football
with other Brits and some bevvies! We also had three
chaperones showing us around Sofia, a nice yet slightly
concrete city, during our stay - Nadia, Annie and Annie.
Thanks! We'll never forget it. We even met the British
Ambassador to Bulgaria, Richard Stagg, obviously a busy
man, but he still showed interested in our expedition.
It was either the copious amounts of kebabche and shopska
salad we were eating or the fact that our immune systems
were down after eight days of cycling that caused us
to fall slightly ill. This continued as we left Sofia,
but wasn't too much of a problem.
Our great thanks go out to Mark, Tony, Sabina, Nadia,
Annie and all the others for their overwhelming hospitality
while in Sofia. Thank you so much. We hope the move
to the new building went well.
Total distance to Sofia: 2908km. Click here
to see the Progress Chart.