Here we are. It is a pleasantly chill August morning but we are all packed up with leather jackets, long pants and ankle-length shoes. Stef has made it clear: when it comes to motorbike travel safety comes first. Having a breezy comfortable ride is optional.
We have taken the week off to embark on our first long motorbike trip around Bulgaria.
The plan is to do a roundtrip from Sofia to the seaside: visit several places (the Krushuna Falls and the historical capitals Veliko Tarnovo, Pliska, Preslav) in Northern Bulgaria, camp in Kara Dare and go back on a long one day ride through South Bulgaria.
First Stop: Tropical Waterfalls in the middle of North Bulgaria
I have plenty of time to think about life, movies, music and the terrible infrastructure we travel on. Many road imperfections can escape your attention when you are riding in a car, but motorbike travel amplifies each uncomfortable road bump to stellar levels.
But I quickly forget about my road woes when we get to Krushuna. The place is stunning. Named after a local type of falcon (“Korshun”), the Krushuna falls are in the vicinity of Lovech but they look like a postcard from a tropical island.
The travertine (limestone) formed by the presence of mineral water with rich calcium content creates a translucent backdrop against which water appears in a beautiful turquoise color. The graded water terraces make the view even more exotic and I am glad we visited this place and could see it in person.
Veliko Tarnovo: The Tsar’s City
One of Veliko Tarnovo’s old names is Tsarevgrad Tarnov (The Tsar’s City Tarnov) because in 1185 (after the fall of the Byzantine rule) it became the capital of the New Bulgarian Tsardom/Kingdom. It is much smaller than our hometown (about 100 000) but it is rich in history and has a great old town charm which has always mesmerized me.
We come in the middle of an ongoing reconstruction near the historical fortress so the bulldozers feel like an elephant in a china shop. But even the clamour cannot spoil this great city’s powerful historical resonance.
We spend the day walking around town and enjoying its cobble streets and hidden charms. A glass of wine here, a museum visit there and time slips away in an instant.
Capital Route: visiting Pliska and Preslav, former capitals of the First Bulgarian Empire
On the next day, we continue on our Bulgarian glory path. I have never been to this part of Bulgaria so I am excited to see Pliska and Preslav: two former capitals of the First Bulgarian Empire: Pliska (capital from 681 to 893 AD) and (Veliki) Preslav (893- 972AD).
The road to there is without exaggeration: apocalyptic. It is the middle of August and temperatures easily hit over 35 C. That is for normal people who are not wearing leather jackets and heavy motorbike protection. Under our armour, it is by all means above 40C…
It is a short ride from Veliko Tarnovo to (Veliki) Preslav, but when we reach the latter, I am barely breathing from the heat. Pliska is also quite near so we see both historical sites within the same early afternoon, but it takes a toll on me to travel in the extreme heat.
I am not the only one dead. My camera’s battery is gone after just two shots for this photo story.
I have to enjoy things the good old-fashioned way: by looking at them, being present and reading up. Feels good actually.
The Shoumen Panorama
Between 12th and 14th century Shoumen is a major military and economic centre in the region. In the 12th century, it is mentioned by Andalusian travellers as “Simeonis” (Simeon’s city) probably named after Tsar Simeon: Bulgaria’s own Charlemagne.
The city is overlooked by the monument Founders of the Bulgarian State: massive set of sculptures representing important historical figures and moments from Bulgaria’s glorious past.
As you can see from the photos: size is a major tool in conveying owe in the viewers.
Varna & Karadere: Breeze and Camping
In Varna we spend the night in the apartment of an old friend of Stef’s father. He is well into his 70s but he is happy to host us and show us around.
We need a good night’s sleep because we are meeting Andi and Adi the next day. And that certainly does not imply sleeping anytime soon.
Time to relax and turn the camera off. After this sneak peak of Bulgarian pop star Rushi Vidinliev. Apparently he has the same taste for remote relatively wild beaches.
On the way back
We only stop at Kalofer to pay a visit to the monument of one of our most beloved poets and revolutionaries Hristo Botev (who was born there).
We have been to many places in the region (and visited Sopot, Karlovo and Kalofer multiple times) so it feels like revisiting an old, well-known friend. We are really dead tired from the road and in a hurry to go back home.
Keeping my camera on the neck strap, I manage to steal away some shots of the route.
We arrive completely worn out but happy as can be.
Seeing Bulgaria on two wheels is worth the pain in the limbs.
A more detailed text about the trip was originally posted on my Bulgarian blog.