A bike trip around Bulgaria

Cycling across the country for 34 days and 2000 km and how it gave birth to new ideas about sustainability and tourism.

Cycling across the country for 34 days and 2000 km and how it gave birth to new ideas about sustainability and tourism.

Първите 10 дни от вело-обиколката на България

Първите 10 дни от нашата вело-обиколка на България обобщени в 2 минути 📽

Благодарим на всички които ни помагат да го осъществим! 😊

Posted by От Б до Я on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Video by Emiliyan Nikolov (first 10 days)

December 2018. Together with my close friend Emiliyan I visited the next event / conference based on the topic of sustainable tourism. We both were developing projects around this idea in Bulgaria, so we were looking forward to combine efforts and do something together. At this event we came across several great examples of initiatives promoting alternative travel routes. The highlight of those came with Kai Markus Xiong, who ran the ancient silk road, with the idea of bringing together and showing the different cultures he encounters along the way, from Hamburg to Shanghai. We then thought:

What a good way to show the diversity of our culture and how great an experience that would be!

Kai Markus was not the first such example we met, but it was definitely the one that ignited the flame and pushed us forward. This is how the idea of a journey around Bulgaria was born. A seemingly crazy idea quickly turned into a plan. We refused to run, but we thought that if we did it on a bicycle, we would be able to get to know more places, keeping the initial idea of doing it in a truly sustainable way.

We called this initiative: От Б до Я

(the above, since it is a wordplay, is difficult to translate into English, but it basically means to get from the beginning till the end).The bicycle was the symbol behind the idea for sustainable tourism, which goes hand in hand with the conservation of nature. It is important to state that neither of us has experience with extra-urban cycling, so we were about to enter into completely unknown terrain. By contrast, we were driven by enthusiasm.

So, after about two months of intense training, planning the route, arranging accommodation, and so on, on April 1st it was time to start the journey.

As soon as we left the big city (we started from Sofia), we realized how different of a feeling one have as soon as escaping the city noise, and surround himself by nature. We felt it instantly dedicated ourselves to the maximum to enjoying every experience.

The Route

Taking into account that it is just the beginning of spring, we decided to start south, which means, we were supposed to jump into a mountain adventure, going through Rila, Pirin and Rhodopes. Then we wanted to go by Plovdiv, through the Thracian Plain to reach the sea. Then, cycle alongside the Black Sea coast, from Bourgas to Varna and from there go through the hilly Danube Plain. After climbing to Ruse, we planned going downhill to the south through Veliko Turnovo and the Troyan Balkan area. The last stretch foresaw the Vratsa Balkan and the Iskar Gorge before returning to Sofia. All this would take us 34 days.

Many people told us that it is too much of a challenge for amateurs like us and it will be very difficult for us. We wanted to prove them wrong.

The Challenge

The first day would be indicative. We thought, if we could withstand the load and get back to it the next day, it would mean that we can handle it. Making it happen, motivated us tremendously. Of course, the big challenges were yet to come. Heavy rains, strong winds, torn tires, long climbs, accumulated fatigue, there were many factors that could have made us give up at a time. Despite the difficulties, even for a moment we did not question the completion of what we had already passionately started..

The Places

I will not surprise anyone by saying that Bulgaria is wonderful. Bulgarians and visitors alike know it, but we often give this for granted. There are places that really look like another planet. Places such as the Buinovo Gorge, for example, the longest in the country, an exceptional natural phenomenon offering a unique landscape of rock formations of up to 350 meters, bathed by the buoyant waters of Buinovo River, turning in places into fabulous waterfalls against the backdrop of a dense forest and unique caves such as Yagodinska or Devil’s Throat cave. Places like the Ivanovo Rock Churches, an exceptional example of the power of the human spirit and faith, as well as the exquisite fine art. Places like the Krushuna waterfalls, which bring you to a fairytale world where you can spend all day contemplating how the water flows, amid a real natural idyll.

Вело-обиколка на България, вторите 10 дни!

Вело-обиколката на България, която стартирахме на 1 Април, продължава по план. Това са вторите 10 дни от това пътешествие, където изминахме разстоянието от село Косово (Родопи), до Варна.

🚴🏼‍♂️⛰🇧🇬🛣🚴

Очакват ни още много приключения…

Posted by От Б до Я on Saturday, April 20, 2019

Video by Emiliyan Nikolov (days 11-20)

The Guesthouses

However, if there is something that impressed us the most, it was the hosts who welcomed us at the guest houses where we were staying. If there are people who embody the idea of ​​a local Insaider, it is precisely those real hosts who not only shelter you, but also welcome you as one of them, making you feel like at home. One of the unforgettable moments, for example, was at our arrival fully wet from the heavy rain in Villa Vera, and being welcome with warm tea and biscuits and all kinds of delicatessen from the eco-garden. Exceptionally special was our welcome at Makak Bed and Breakfast, where not only did we taste the most delicious banitsa in our life but also were walked by the hosts into the history of the village. One of a kind was also our experience at Hotel Sokai, where we sensed the local atmosphere through the beautifully recreated stories shared by our hosts, duly preserved over the years. These were not exceptions.

We had similar memorable experiences in each one of the places where we stayed, what proved to us one more time that hospitality is one of the core values of our people.

The journey

Many people had warned us about how bad the roads are and how much we should be careful cycling around. We have always been alert, but I dare to say that we did not feel any particular threat or danger even for a moment. We drove mostly on secondary roads. There were places that proved to be a real challenge, such as the 30km long climb before arriving to Pamporovo; the vertical ground entering Dospat or Chepelare; as well as the intense traffic  before getting to Veliko Tarnovo, in a day that we traveled more than 130km.

Personally, my favorite part of the route was our tour through the Troyan Balkan, especially the road from Apriltsi to Troyan. Besides the tranquility and the unloaded road, the place predisposes for a specific cycling-meditation. Encircled by the balkan on both sides, driving down into the valley, amid the fabulous views and the pleasant scent, one can fully enjoy the riding experience.

Impressions

There are many ways in which one can get to know Bulgaria, but doing it on a bicycle has proved to be really exceptional. Apart from the pleasant emotions we have been able to provoke in the people we met along the road and the positive impact that they had on us, traveling this way somehow makes you somehow part of the landscape. There were places I had previously traveled through by car, but the sensation was quite different this time. I was feeling much more conscious of how my actions impact the environment, being at the same time entirely dependent on it, a wonderful sensation of harmony with everything that surrounds us.

Последните 14 дни от пътуването

Успяхме! Обиколихме България с колела в едно вълнуващо 34-дневно пътешествие. 🚴🏼‍♂️🛣🇧🇬🚵🏻‍♂️⛰

Едно кратко видео за са последните 2 седмици, изобразяващо пътят ни от Варна до София.

Мисията е изпълнена, но това не е краят…

#велопоход #отБдоЯ #biketrip #България

Posted by От Б до Я on Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Video by Emiliyan Nikolov (last 14 days)

 

I don’t know if (or when) there will be another cycling adventure, but one thing I know for sure. I will continue traveling consciously with the idea of fully immersing myself into the local atmosphere in complete harmony with the surrounding nature.


 

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