By Herb Kavet
I had my worries about Bulgaria – I thought it would be a throwback, charmless place. But a some friends suggested a trip, so I joined them without knowing much and expecting surprises.
I wasn’t let down. The first surprise was Sofia. The capital wasn’t a rundown and drab former communist but a lively, happening place with well-dressed people and modern buildings surrounded by ancient churches, mosques and parks.
To make it even more inviting for cyclists, the road courtesy was great. Pedestrians wait to cross at a traffic light, and the cars stopped at cross-walks. They even obeyed all traffic lights. And the road were a lot better than I expected.
Bulgarian food tended to be too peppery for me, but there were salads, bean and veal soups, and so many types of breads. Yogurt is used in every imaginable way. One local dish was sunny-side up eggs over yogurt with garlic. Cheese was found in almost every dish.
Then there’s the countryside. There were snow-covered mountain peaks even in June, and the nearby hillsides were verdant green and alive with flowers. Horse-drawn carts passed by, but not as many as the new cars.
Every hotel seemed to be near a thermal spring, so we could reinvigorate our sore biking muscles most nights.
Roman ruins seemed to be everywhere, including an impressive Roman forum and hippodrome in Plovdiv, the country’s second largest city. Because of its cobblestone streets, it is better to walk around to explore, so we enjoyed a much needed rest day in the old section of the city.
Bulgaria is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. I’m glad I visited before the crowds.
Herb Kavet of Wayland is the author of “Die Young … as late as possible.”
If you want to embark on your own biking adventure in this land that has been the crossroads between Asia and Europe for thousands of years, check out SpiceRoads’ Highlights of Bulgaria by Bicycle.