Bulgaria – Hot Pants and Cold Passes

“Mein guten Hund! Did you see that?!” cried Haz shortly after our arrival in the Bulgarian border town of Svilengrad. Neil, his jaw having become entangled in his front spokes was unable to answer. We had just seen a girl in the shortest, hottest hot pants imaginable.
On our return to Istanbul after months in Pakistan and Iran we had been amazed at how much arm girls were showing. In Svilengrad we were now confronted with too much leg and far too much butt-cheek. Even allowing for the fact that we had become prudes, surely this kind of thing shouldn´t be legal?
Later, ordering our first restaurant meal, our delightful waitress pulled a face like we´d just asked her to get down and give us 20 (or, worse, to smell our cycling shorts) when all we asked her was if we could see the menu. Was it really that much effort? Maybe we just weren´t ready for Slavic Europe. Maybe we should turn right around and head back to Turkey where we were always guaranteed a cheery waiter to serve us our usual lunchtime mercimek corba…?
We decided we should probably carry on and headed for the south of the country marked the Rodopi Mountains on our map.
“I´m not sure why it says mountains, these are but hills.” (N. Pike – 2nd day in Bulgaria). The next day, following a large lunch in Smolyan we had to set up camp early, when Neil was broken by a climb into the hills behind the town. On reaching the top of the pass at 1,700m the following morning we´d climbed nearly 1000m in under 10kms, and we were far closer to a ski resort than we´d ever anticipated being. Neil was wondering why the road hadn´t looked so steep on the map, but was pretty chuffed at having made it up the steep incline. Haz was too busy throwing a tantrum over the fact her hands were numb with cold, to care.
From the top we chose different approaches to getting to the warmth of the valleys again. Neil took it easy, to avoid freezing to death in the wind. Haz raced a few cars down, hit a maximum speed of 66.8kph, and had downed a hot chocolate at the bottom before Neil sauntered into town.
For 5 days this trend continued – long climbs followed by freezing descents, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. The roads were good, the traffic light (and usually an hilarious Zastava which made the rarer Ladas look like right posh motors, or a granny in a horse and cart) and the beer cheap.
On day 6 at 14:30, having already cycled 70kms we found ourselves in the south west of the country, not far from Melnik.

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