Eastern Europe

Jump to: Gallery, Route, Next Stage: Turkey & Syria

YMCAEntering eastern europe was in many ways the beginning of the trip for me. For the first time since we left the UK, language became different. Even in Holland with a degree of guesswork and German, I could find my way. Crossing into Slovakia though suddenly brought a wholly different feel along with the language. Strange, how the night before entering I had one of the longest and most enjoyable conversations with a lady who’s bike had broken down. At least the currency had stayed the same, though that brought troubles of its own as we struggled to afford food having changed all our Euros prematurely into Forints.
The trip also began to suddenly leap forward in its speed. Leaving the comfort and company of the Danube for the first time, soon we were out of Slovakia and hopping between cities through Hungary and Serbia, until we hit the Iron Gates. The only pause was in Budapest, an unforgettable week in an unbelievable city. Renting an apartment there, meeting Raul, eating the food, seeing the amazing city, and of course… Seeing Jo.

Cold!Serbia brought with it the first real cold of the trip. Suddenly, we found ourselves regularly scraping ice off the tents in the morning, and battling the winds howling along the river (of course against us, always against us.
And with the steep valley sides of this truly stunning natural landscape, waking in the shawdows each morning didn’t help the situation. We longed to be on the other side of the river, cycling the flat roads in stunning sunshine. The grass is always greener… And drier….
At times the river became so narrow, I felt I could almost leap across the water and onto the other side…. If not for the deathly drop.
Eventually we pushed up and over the steep slopes of the iron gates, and said goodbye to the most effectively signposted cycle route of the trip. Entering Romania was a welcome sight, and once we found a cash machine and could afford food, we set off. The countryside was wonderful- large rural areas in which to camp, and countless friendly locals waving, cheering, and giving hi five’s as we sped past. The closest I’ll get to a hero’s welcome!
Buying food proved to be an entertaining challenge too- with the currency recently changed, we found (bizzarely) that even the cheapest sausage would cost £10. No, in fact it turned out they still used the old numbering system to refer to the new cost. £1 was closer. Confusing? Very.

Our last day day through Romania was a tough 130km slog through strong winds, as we aimed to get to Ruse, and into Bulgaria. We pushed on and on, and despite Google Maps misinforming us about a bridge (and sending us through the muddiest field I’ve ever seen in my life), we made it.

Tired....A day’s R+R in Ruse fixed us up for the onward journey. I had read about the treachery of Bulgarian roads, and was surprised to find them surprisingly navigable. Drivers were responsible, the roads in decent condition, and we sped on down the country. In fact, it has been Hungary and Serbia where the biggest danger lay- during a week of rain and narrow roads, trucks and cars rattling inches away from us was a regular thing. Stu had a close call after skidding off his bike during a turn, and Craig was once run off the road by a bus built for motorways.
And so during a rainy day off in Belgrade, we had planned our route carefully to take decent roads while still avoiding the worst of the mountains. But sadly, to avoid all of them was impossible. It would be our first major ascent, but far far FAR from the last.

We eventually made it to Elhovo, the border town of Bulgaria, on a damp and foggy evening. Exhausted, but glad to soon be entering Turkey.


Route

Eastern Europe:

View in Google Maps


Eastern Europe

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Statue Park
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  1. We left London on the 31st of August, and arrived in Syria on the 10th December, but that included a good few weeks off over the course of the few months. It took about a month to get through Western Europe and to “Eastern” Europe (Slovakia). We arrived in Turkey at the beginning of November, and Syria exactly a month later.

    Leaving England a few weeks earlier probably wouldn’t have hurt, and may have helped avoid some of the cold that we felt from Serbia through to Bulgaria, but there were no points that were particularly bad. The coldest temperatureit ever reached was -2 (that I recorded), and that only happened a couple of times I think in Romania and Bulgaria. But even then, with the right gear it wasn’t too bad. The daytime temperatures were always comfortable enough for cycling, and we were pretty lucky with rain too.

    Hope that helps!
    C.

  2. Hi there,
    regarding your ride through west and east Europe, how long did it take you?

    which month/s were you riding in west Europe?, and Eastern?

    with thanks,
    Joyce

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