Goodbye Turkey, Hello Bulgaria
I left Istanbul with a heavy heart. I really wish I will be able to go back one day, as I didn’t get to fully explore the city as we had limited time. The journey has to go on so we pedalled towards Edirne, the last town in Turkey. The first 15 km was mostly flat ground, but there were massive hills that we had to climb after that, some even stretching for 1-2 km. The hills in Bangsar and Bukit Gasing, where I trained, were nothing, compared to these killer hills and to make it worse we were sharing the road ( no shoulder) with buses and lorries, that were just a few inches away from grazing our bikes. But there were also some nice downhills once we got to the top. There was a nice downhill section where we could enjoy the beauty of the coastline. That was the upside, even though we couldn’t fully enjoy the view of the coast, as we were cycling on the right side of the road. We were a bit slow in our cycling due to all the hill- climbing, that we only got to Silivri. As it was getting dark we decided to stop at a petrol pump to inquire if there was a budget hotel that we could put up for the night. As there were none, we then asked the staff for permission if we could spend the night at the petrol pump, instead. They, then, ushered us into a small cabin which had 2 chairs, a small TV and a portable heater. We then spent the night there. We were very grateful to the staff that we had a place to spend the night, without freezing to death :p even if we had to spend the night sleeping on chairs.
We reached Edirne without much problems except for the usual headwinds and rolling hills. Most of the landscape after Istanbul were farmlands, with very few crops, as it is still winter. I can imagine how pleasant it would really be to cycle in Turkey during late spring and summer. While Edirne isn’t a big town, it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire before they shifted to Istanbul. There are a few mosques such as the Selimiye Mosque (Unesco world heritage site) and the ‘Old Mosque’ which are even older than the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The mosques built during the Ottoman Empire are really magnificent works of architecture. It really makes one wonder how they managed to build such beautiful structures.
After Edirne, we cycled towards the Kapikule border of Turkey/Bulgaria and once we were done with immigration & customs, we cycled towards the border town of Svilengrad. It is a very small town with a lot of hotels with casinos. I guess a lot of people from Turkey cross over to Svilengrad to gamble. We didn’t go out much as there were gypsies around the town giving us strange looking stares, some would even come up to ask for cigarettes or money. Gypsies are also known for robbing people of their valuables.
The next day we proceeded towards Stara Zagora, but after battling massive headwinds and crosswinds which slowed us down a lot, we decided to detour to Haskovo. After that it started to rain, where we were once again slowed down as we had to stop until the rain subsided. It was a tiring day and to top it off, it started to snow a few kilometres from Haskovo. Well,that is why I signed up for this trip in the first place, to experience the adventures and challenges of bicycle-touring 😀