Despite the mountainous terrain Slovenia and Croatia were gone in a flash and soon enough Robert was at the Bosnian border conversing with a very polite German speaking guard. Papers checked and Robert was soon on his way again. The dangerous roads and regular road kill were a bit of a shock, but not nearly as frightening as the tales of knife wielding gangsters told to him by an older gentleman with a Styrian accent (apparently a lot of people in Bosnia speak German). Bosnia wasn’t a country Robert wanted to spend too much time in, but within a few days he’d arrived in Serbia.
Unfortunately, like Bosnia, the rubbish was piled high along the streets of Serbia and the sun was doing its best to help it decay and stink like death. A three euro pizza in the town of Sremska Mitrovic and a cold bottle of water and Robert’s emotions were on the rise again, the positive feeling continued through Serbia all the way to Belgrade. In Belgrade Robert enjoyed a cycle alongside the Danube watching the river and the city walls rolling from hill to hill in the background. The Balkan charm of Belgrade was obvious to Robert even through the city is unapologetically grey.
With weather problems and unplanned delays, Robert had fallen behind plan by a couple of hundred kilometres. As his girlfriend, Lisa, was flying into Sofia the following day, he had to travel by train through the night from Belgrade to arrive on time. Traveling with a bike on trains in Eastern Europe was a new experience for Robert and unfortunately the train staff took every opportunity to extort money from him so that he could travel with his bike. Robert and his new companion stayed a couple of nights in Sofia enjoying the city centre, it’s good food and the soft mattress of a hostel.
From Sofia the pair cycled east through huge valleys towards Burgas and eventually the Turkish border. The people were welcoming, the roads were smooth, the scenery beautiful and the roadsides were rubbish free. Highly recommended for a bicycle, car or motorbike road trip.
Soon enough Lisa and Robert had reached the Black Sea, a reflective moment for Robert who had travelled a very long way, mostly under his own steam, in just over a month. Bulgaria ended with a scenic ride through the Strandzha National Park, but the calm and peaceful shelter of the National Park was short-lived as the couple arrived late in the coastal resort of Sinemorets and had to make camp for the night behind noisy bars with a sounder of wild boar snorting around their tent’s perimeter. From Sinemorets the Turkish border was a two day cycle through bug infested forest, at this point Robert had hardened to insect bites, but poor Lisa was ravaged by the little monsters. Having navigated the forest and the EU’s increasing border controls the couple had made it to Turkey.
Kirklareli was their first stop and Lisa and Robert were shown around the town, its famous spots and best restaurants, by a young man named Gokhan. That night they camped at an orchard owned by the young man’s father. Already Turkey was living up to the hospitality that Robert had been hoping for. Gokhan met them for breakfast in the morning at introduced them to a bicycle mechanic who was able to tune-up their bikes for the ride ahead of them. Shortly before arriving at Vize they were greeted by a farmer aboard a big red tractor who offered them a field to pitch their tents. That evening the farmer returned with beers, Raki, mellon and cheese and told them stories and poured them drinks until Robert was drunk. Suddenly things turned sinister and Robert was attacked by the farmer who sprayed pepper spray into his eyes and started beating him. The next thing Robert knew he was in hospital. Apparently the farmer had tried to attack Lisa, but Robert, although blinded by the pepper spray did his best to fight away the attacker. The whole ordeal can be read on Roberts blog, but suffice to say that Robert and Lisa had done enough to ward-off their attacker and the following day they were able to identify the assailant who was taken into custody. Bruised and struggling with what had just happened, the couple used the 70km ride alongside the Marmara Sea to heal from the terrifying incedent.
Robert's complete blog posts can be read (in German) at www.worldomania.de