Balkans 2016 – Day 9 : A new country 

Today will be the day I will head off to Bulgaria.  Engin was convincing me to stay one more day but I told him the weather was very good and I didn’t want to miss riding in these conditions.

By the time we said our goodbyes and photo taking, it was pass noon before I headed out. This was ok as I do not plan to ride too far as I anticipate the immigration and customs check at the border will take time.  

When I am around 8km from the first checkpoint I saw the last truck in queue. It was the first time I had seen such a long queue of any sort. I learned from someone later that the queue can be as long as 15km!  I was really feeling for the truckers and also admire their patience. They all appeared calm as the are probably used to it. I am not sure really how long a wait for them. 

Checking out of the Turk immigration was uneventful and quick but I was held back by a lady customs officer yelling something about paper. I thought what paper and said no paper. It went on for awhile until they gave up and another officer just wave me through. I am guessing it must be the customs declaration form or something. 

Anyway onward to Bulgarian clearance and the queue for cars was longer but the motorist just waved me to the front seeing me on a bicycle. How nice. And I cleared immigration quickly  without a hitch and finally set foot on Bulgarian soil. The landscape is quite similar to Turkey except there were no mosque in sight. Bulgaria is around 83% Orthodox Christian and 12% Muslim and the rest others. 

The town that I intended to stay for the night is called Svilengrad. A charming small border town with more than 6 casinos and more being built. Seems like a lot of Turks and Greeks come over here to gamble. 

After going to the ATM and getting a prepaid sim data plan card ( 5 Euros for 100 mins call and 1GB data for 20 days) I had a quick bite before riding around town to have a look see and also scan for places to stay. 

As I was riding around I was hailed down by a young Bulgarian in a car for a chat. He introduced himself as Nikolai and seemed very curious about what I am doing and we chatted awhile. Turns out he saw my Malaysian  flag and since he knows a few things about Malaysia he wanted to have a chat with me. He had told he has seen many cyclist before and hosted some. But it seems he is not able to host me because of some personal issues at home. 

We decided to exchange phone numbers so we could meet later and he would show me around town and tell me more about this place. 

After a few circling back and forth the town ,I found a hostel for 10 Euros for a huge room with 3 beds. 

Had a quick shower want quick bite to eat and meet up with Nikolai. We walked around the town for close to 2 hours and he chatted with me about Bulgarian and its history and politics and just about everything else. 

Tomorrow I am asked to swing by Nikolais moms cheese and jam shop as they wanted to gift me something to take on my journey. How nice. Day 1 in Bulgaria and I am impressed already with their hospitality. 

Lions Project : RM 30.49

Engin and the Yusuf GaJah card I gave him
All geared up ready to push off to Bulgaria
Thanks guys for a great time.
The long queue Turkey side
The long queue Bulgarian side
This place just after the checkpoint is way too expensive. Skipped it and headed to Svilengrad
Hello Svilengrad
Old Ottoman built bridge
My hostel for the night
Dinner 3 Euros

Author: krankster

I am an avid cyclist that loves mountain biking, bike commuting and most of all bicycle touring. I am a freelance leadership coach and hope to inspire others through my cycling adventures.

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