Day 45: Onwards and Upwards to Veliko Tărnovo!
Saturday August 10 - Day 45 - 56miles - Total 1806miles
We have been trying to be better about getting up earlier to beat the heat, which just gets be too draining later in the day. Today we set the alarm at 6am and were completely packed with all the bags downstairs and on the bikes at 7am - which is a new record for us. We even have two completely frozen bottles of water in the "fridge" so that should be great for later when the heat builds.
The Belgians had already departed - they truly are the Amazing Disappearing Belgians! Hopefully we will see them later in today in Veliko Tărnovo. Last night, we were all a little nervous about the ride today as we start up into the hills of Bulgaria, and we feel a little responsible as the Belgians changed their original route to our intended route. Hopefully they won't regret the choice!
We let Rebecca & Stefan sleep in - they are planning on the 10am ferry across the river to Romania and then back into Ruse, Bulgaria by bridge later in the day. Bon Voyage - again!
We had a fantastic breakfast of a ham & cheese omelet, with tomato & cucumber and washed down with strong coffee and then started cycling out of town on Route 52. We are so glad that we got up early as the cycling out of town was excellent as it was cool out! It was a glorious summer morning. We pedaled out past the old Roman fort of Novae, which was being excavated as part of an archeological dig.
We initially paralleled the Danube through the towns of Vardim and Novgrad, to avoid as many of the hills as possible. We turned onto Route 54 and hit the first real hill of the day just before Tsenovo. The road surface was good though so we managed to power up it, although we did take a couple of rests in the shade of trees! We have to take shade where we can find it.
At Byala we turned onto the main road towards Veliko Tărnovo. This was a major thoroughfare so it was a bit busy. The lanes were wider, but unfortunately there was no shoulder. Most of the drivers were still very respectful though, which is nice. We only had one close-ish call and that was a Scottish car towing a caravan.....if anyone should have been aware of slow moving vehicles it should have been him. We were hoping to see him later to give him an earful but we never did.
The rest of the day's cycling consisted of a few hills, which we actually easier than the awful flat roads in Romania.
On the road, we stopped at a gas station for a shade stop and found a pump attendant who spoke English! He said that we were only 30km out of Veliko Tărnovo, about 18 miles. Almost there!
After this we went through the gorge with monasteries and outcroppings on either side. There was a climb up through the gorge, but we found a cold fountain at a closed "Snek" Bar ("CHEK bAP" in cyrillic)! We love cold fountains!... and cyrillic...
We took another couple of breaks on the way... Drinking yogurt out of the fridge which was still icy cold! Because the water was still frozen! Finally, we made it to the turn off for Veliko Tărnovo. We managed to avoid the tunnel that goes under the town... so we were very happy about that!
Although we were not very happy about a tough little uphill into town... meh...
Into town, we saw some beautiful vistas looking over into the fort and onto the basilica. We cycled in and saw a hotel so we checked the rooms and the price... This hotel we saw 110 lev/night = $70! When Andrea went in to do the hotel scope-out, she asked if another cycling couple was staying... the receptionists nodded vigorously and when she asked if they came in on a "Big bike" they nodded even more vigorously... Though Toon and Lien were not actually staying at his hotel... they had made quite an impression... Andrea got the wifi password to check and see where the Belgians had disappeared to... do you see a pattern here? Thankfully, there was an email from Toon and Lien about staying at the Hotel Comfort (we had seen signs on the way into town) only 50 Lev and a GREAT view of the fort and church, air-conditioning, fridge, and a great host! SWEET!!! But where was Hotel Comfort? There was another sign pointing up a serious flight of stone stairs... meh...
Bruce gallantly offered to look after the bikes and Andrea had to walk up some seriously steep steps to find the place... The hotel was perfect! It is located on a cobble stone street with tons of touristy stuff/shops... we were on the 2nd floor, the room was big, the bathroom bigger, and our host, Angelo, was quite a character... Andrea happily took the room and got direction on how to get the bikes to the hotel... not up the steps...
Valiko Tarnovo has a gorgeous little old town... so we showered quickly and headed out with Toon and Lien to check it out! We had Lunch/early dinner at a restaurant with cooling misters... that's all we needed to know... They had a huge menu. On it there was something called "sachs" which turned out to be an iron hot plate filled with whatever type of sachs you order. The Belgians ordered it full of veggies. It looked good. Andrea had a potato broccoli casserole and Bruce had the chicken and sausage and potato casserole. We were all very full and very exhausted by the end of the food... so we went our separate ways.. Bruce and Andrea had an ice cream on the way back to the hotel... and then a nap...
Later in the evening (when it was cooler) we went out for some local wine and feta and tomato salad. Delicious!
Rest day is a coming!
The World is Ours!