Monthly Archives: September 2012

Trains & bikes &…….

Just come back from a cycle trip in Varna on the Black Sea coast.  We took our bikes on the train, a first for us in Bulgaria and it was easy. For 2 lev you can put your bike in the guards van. There are no restrictions on the number of bikes per train.

We started the ride by cycling from Hotnitsa to the train station at Gorna Oriahovitsa. The ride took me 50 mins. If you’re lucky, at the station you might get to see the magnificent train which used to belong to King Boris, currently being used as a tourist train and pulled by a steam engine.

The Steam Train

Our train was not so posh but the journey was fine. Probably worth paying an extra 3lev for first class. No buffet but there are loos.

Our train

Varna is a great place to cycle especially the Sea Garden which is a huge park with statues, an outdoor theatre and plenty of cafes. The Cathedral of the Assumption in the centre of town is worth a look as is the Naval Museum where you can see a couple of  pics of ships which were built in the ‘Toon’ – Newcastle on Tyne that is. There’s also a great ride (on the rather scary E 87 it has to be said) up north to St Konstantine and Elena. There you’ll find the thermal baths with natural spring water so hot you can’t bear to stand underneath it. Have a massage provided by Nelson to complete your trip.

Cathedral of the Assumption

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Shameless self promotion…..

My book, ‘Changing Gear’ is in the top 100 of the Kindle bestselling Travel section. In fact it’s at number 76. I can’t believe it. I was browsing the section last night looking for something to download and there it was. I’m thrilled to bits.

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Riding the Roman road

Last Saturday there was a noisy thunderstorm early in the morning which left the air cool and clear. A perfect day for a 19 mile cycle ride from Hotnitsa to Nikopolis ad Istrum and back.

Nikopolis, founded by the Emperor Trajan is our local Roman remains site. I’m proud that it’s close to us and proud that nearby in 2006 the world’s oldest piece of worked gold was found. But I have to tell you that being brought up in Northumberland in the UK and spending every school trip looking at stones arranged in various ways on Hadrian’s Wall has finished me off with the Romans. I know it sounds as if I’m a Philistine.. well that’s as maybe. Onto the ride.

Take the well worn route to Resen from Hotnitsa and ride straight down the main street. Stopping for a quick espresso at the vending machine outside the shop on the left on the way through. Continue across the bridge and turn right at the cross roads. The terrain here is a steady pull up but manageable. At the top there is a lovely bit where you can coast down into Nikup, the village nearest to Nikopolis. Cycle through the village and after the area where people wash their cars and animals take a drink turn left along a narrow road which looks as if it’s going nowhere. We had to ask directions at this point. Further down this road there is a sign which was reassuring.

After the sign there’s a wonderful piece of road. It’s high up, the views are great and there is a feeling of space and history. It’s difficult not to think of all the people who’ve gone before us on that site .. Greeks, Romans Byzantines, Bulgarians. On the right there is a lake. On Saturday as we passed there were 4 elegant herons standing quite still and before long they were joined by 4 pure white egrets – magical.

If you go to Nikopolis it costs 6 lev to get in. There’s sometimes a guide available but if not there’s some information printed in English as well as Bulgarian. Currently there is a joint UK/Bulgarian dig going on there. However if like me you’ve seen enough Roman remains, take a picnic and sit near the lake while you eat. Stare across the water, watch the jumping frogs and swooping birds and then get back on your bike, restored and ready for the ride back.

I did take some photos on my camera but I don’t have the right cable to download them! However the stones looked like stones so you didn’t miss much but I’m sorry you didn’t get to see the egrets.

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The Ditchin Demon

We’ve been away for a week at the coast. Sozopol to be exact. Fantastic place especially at this time of year when the Apollonia Arts & Music festival is on. But I digress, the purpose of this blog is to tell you about a ride I did a week or so ago.

From Hotnitsa take the road to Rusalia, it’s a bit up hill but not too bad if you take it steady. At Rusalia take a right and when you come to a fork in the road take the right again. This road leads to the village of Ditchin and it’s a lovely part of the ride. Obviously the road is full of potholes but it’s shady and at the end there’s a lovely view of the river Rositsa. The one big climb of this ride is over the bridge as you approach the village.

The river Rositsa at Ditchin

At the top turn right into Ditchin. Ride straight through the village to Vodale. The road is high so you can see for miles. Continue through Vodale towards the cross roads where you turn right into Resen.

But don’t forget to look to your left just before the cross roads to see the ostrich farm!! Yes there really is one. See pic below.

Once you’re in Resen take the usual route through the village back to Hotnitsa. This ride is about 19 miles, so it’s quite a comittment but on a sunny afternoon when you have no time constraints it’s brilliant!

Quite strange!

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For one day only…..

My book ‘Changing Gear A Bike Ride from Britain to Bulgaria’ is free today on Kindle. Why not take a look? If you have time please write a review. Hope you enjoy the book.

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