After doling some of its finest attributes like thunder and lightning, downpours, goat path cycling routes, and few sleeping options, Bulgaria more than made up for the barrage of cycling pains we experienced over our first several days.
We thawed, rested, and dried our gear for two days at a mountain hut after a killer four kilometer day.
Yes, that’s right. Four kilometers. Don’t judge.
As our bikes rumbled down the remaining few kilometers of the rocky herding path, coincidentally, we encountered a sheep herder, much to the delight of our Australian Shepherd.
Bisecting the border between Greece and Bulgaria, we opted to cycle along the southern section of Euro Velo 13, which took us up and over the Rhodope Mountains, introducing us into some of the best cycling territory we had encountered during our six-month European cycle tour.
With the crisp autumn air and bluebird days that lay ahead, we soaked in the pure beauty of this land, as we navigated some spectacular hills leading to equally spectacular views. We loved it so much that we completely forgave Bulgaria when she tested our love by pelting us with frigid rain down a very long pass.
Unintentionally, this particular route through Bulgaria proved perfect for the cycle tourist. With abundant hydration stations gushing fresh mountain water, accompanied by covered shelters complete with picnic tables and grills, we handily found camping spots with access to water throughout our journey.
Our favorite spot sat poised at the top of a ski mountain overlooking the relatively untouched Rhodope Mountain range, near the city of Smolyan. With the ski village closed for the off-season, we had the land to ourselves where Sora could run freely and the brilliant Milky Way glittered above as we slept.
The well-maintained, low-traffic roads through the mountains and small villages, chock full of grocery stores for provisions offered us worry-free cycling. During the majority of our tour through Bulgaria, we pedaled along peaceful, empty roads that provided sweeping views of the scenery below, occasionally encountering the lone car or more often, the horse-drawn carriage.
Also, Bulgaria is cheap. We found one hotel that cost €15 and spent my birthday in the spa town of Devin, where we indulged in $25 massages. Happy to please, restaurants amended offerings to accommodate our vegan diet, resulting in plenty of wonderful meals for just a few dollars.
Despite the slog we experienced over our first few days cycle touring Bulgaria, we left feeling madly in love with the place, wanting to share this secret cycling paradise with everyone we knew. With the mountains (and of course, goat paths), Bulgaria certainly tops our list as one of the most difficult countries, but really, it is those painful legs that result in the greatest adventures and memories, no?