We are flying on a tail wind through rows of vines and rose bushes. Bulgaria produces most of the world’s rose oil and has been in the wine business since the 5th century BC! Jean-Martin has been riding with us for a week and we celebrate the milestone by picking up a couple bottles of Château Karnobat before leaving road #6 to head south.

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When we were introduced to Cycle, a series of wines by the Minkov Brothers, one night in Razgrad, it was love at first sight! Fifteen kilometres west of Karnobat, we were home! Venetz, Burgas District, Bulgaria.

In Detelina, we stop to fill two of our MSR 4-liter Dromedary bags at the village’s spring water faucet. The sun is low and we will surely find a place to camp within two kilometres. The rich black soil has the consistency of pudding, and soon we are riding in Krushovo in the dark, knocking on the post office door. The tall employee refuses our request to pitch the tents behind the building by the old church. He locks the door behind him and invites us to follow him across the street. He slides another key in a closed-up restaurant’s door and shows us around our room for the night: light, tables, chairs, booths, toilet, running water, television, wood stove and a Coke Zero 2-litre bottle. Kazimir, our host, and his bow-legged dog Bouffon, come back an hour later with Gwen. The British expat was enjoying a quiet drink at the local bar/store when Kazimir went to fetch her for her linguistic abilities. So far we have gotten by with some basic Russian and it is a relief to have a lovely chat without any ambiguity. Krushovo, like hundreds of villages in Bulgaria, has seen its population go from 1,000 strong during the communist period to just 80 people, and it feels like most of them get curious about the small gathering and stop by for a drink and a cigarette. Once the Bulgarian syrah is gone, Kazimir keeps our glasses filled with his homemade rakia and the table garnished with plates of grilled almonds and marinated mushrooms. Villagers arrive with sheep cheese and pickled fish. Conversations are animated. The Thracian ancestors are discussed—hundreds of their tombs dot the surrounding fields—so is the presence of the Greeks and Romans. The tone rises when the five-century Ottoman rule gets mentioned. The highly organized and ambitious Turkish invaders are remembered as a heartless sadistic bunch. Then, communism’s rise and fall, and its aftermath are touched on. Everyone is hopeful, things are looking up as we cheer one more time. Nazdràve!

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This is early and we already look fuzzy! Things happen when you ask for a place to put two tents up in a small Bulgarian village. Closed restaurant, Krushovo, Burgas District, Bulgaria.
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So late in the season most fields have been left empty. We get very excited when we spot this man harvesting giant cabbages. Surprised but pleased to encounter 3 neon riders in his small village he picks a small head that he slices in three. Perfectly fresh and juicy snack to make it to Burgas. Ravnets, Burgas District, Bulgaria.

Once we reach the Black Sea, a four-lane highway links the city of Burgas to Sozopol, one of Bulguria’s major seaside resorts. Settled since the Bronze Age, the current town was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists—local history is so thickly layered in this part of the world, it can be overwhelming. Nowadays tourists come to the scenic town for its climate, beaches, good food and relaxed atmosphere.

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Black Sea traditional wooden houses in the seaside resort of Sozopol are a miracle! Sozopol, Burgas District, Bulgaria.

The old town has well-preserved traditional wooden houses that contrast with all the bricks and cement we have seen so far. Easy to imagine spending some sweat soaked evenings on a seafront patio, a glass of Burgas chardonnay in hand. It is November though and we have received an invite from the Orient Hostel in Istanbul, they are willing to host N² for five nights starting on November 27th, on Pierre’s 49th birthday.

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Saturday morning, on their way to a traditional dance class. Sozopol, Burgas District, Bulgaria.

We head south on route #99 through bird-filled Ropotamo Nature Reserve, getting glimpses of the dark Black Sea. In Tsarevo, a couple in their car stop to tell us that we are on the wrong road to Turkey, the 65 kilometres to the border are potholed and hilly with little traffic. This is all true and they have no idea how much this is good news!

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Close encounters of the goat kind! Somewhere between the Black Sea and the border with Turkey, Burgas District, Bulgaria.

In Malko Tarnovo, we spend our last Bulgarian levs on dry salami, kashkaval cheese and baklavas, and we down in one what’s left of our Romanian tuiça before climbing the 10 kilometres to the border post. We have bought our Turkish visas online already and JM already has his since he landed in Istanbul so the crossing goes smoothly.

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From 1946 to 1989, Bulgaria was a People’s Republic part of the Soviet sphere of influence, with the designs to go with it. Malko Tarnovo, Burgas District, Bulgaria.
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“Is your baklava nice and juicy?” ” Yeah! Itch very jushy” Three kilometres to Turkey, Burgas District, Bulgaria.

A first pedal stroke on the Kirklareli-Bulgaristan Road confirms we are entering a new world: our worn tires are tickling the smooth surface of a 2-metre wide shoulder! It’s already twilight and the cold air smells of coal when we roll into Dereköy looking for food and lodging. A shop owner convinces us easily to eat at the adjacent restaurant where his mother cooks. The meal starts with a hot bowl of delicious red lentil soup and a mixed salad. Then, the kofta come, perfectly barbecued seasoned meatballs…twice. The bread basket is replenished and Turkish tea ends the banquet. When we ask ne kadar? the answer is 80 liras. “Fourty dollars!” We stay calm and ask “is this your best price”. We’ve been allowed to camp on the front lawn of the forestry office next door, so we pay up but we feel equally cheated and stupid. This sensation will persist until Pinarhisar when we’ll come to terms with the fact that Turkey is more expensive than Romania and Bulgaria and that we actually mighjt have eaten for 80 liras that night!

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Turkish side of the border is a racetrack. Come on Turkey, you’re just showing off now! Kirklareli-Bulgaristan Road (D555), Kirklareli Province, Turkey.

Food also comes for free as we fight a side wind on D020. A truck driver throws 3 wrapped cakes from his window. In Kirklareli, the sweets merchant gives us a refill of tulumba, a fried batter soaked in syrup, a distant cousin of the Spanish churro. Complimentary Turkish tea flows on the side of the road, offered by a squash seller or gas station attendants. Heartfelt handshakes and clear gazes of men who never had a drink in their lives are the new norm.

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-What do you want for Christmas halva or the Turkish flag? – I want the Turkish flag made of halva! -Here! Kirklareli, Turkey.

Just before Saray Janick has her first flat tire of the trip. O.K. This is too strange talking about myself in the third person and since Pierre made our coming out in French already I’ll do it here too. Pierre writes the French posts while I labour at the English version. We select the photos together but we write the posts separately without discussing them, making our entries different and complimentary for people who can read both. Voilà! So, I stop to pump my tube 5 times over 2 kilometres before Pierre and JM show up to my rescue. Pierre tells me, “you know you have two new tubes in your seat bag”. I had completely forgotten them and the boys backtracked 3 kilometres in a rainy headwind to “save” me. Oops!

Road D020 is being upgraded in sections and after Saray the pavement turns definitely vintage, with chunks missing and a patchwork of asphalt from different eras. Traffic is getting denser and I wear my neon green jacket as if it was a superhero cape that can protect me from evildoing trucks. Once D020 crosses Highway 03, the main artery running between Edirne and Istanbul, it becomes D567, a quiet 2-lane road. A strong northerly wind pushes us unhindered through green fields and windmills to the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul is so close now.

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Trying our best to enter Istanbul, a city of 14 million, without too much drama, staying close to the Sea of Marmara. Silivri, Istanbul Province, Turkey.

Gambling on the best way to enter the city of 14 million, we roughly follow Highway D100 while trying to stay off of it, staying close to the sea, riding through empty gated communities and closed-up shopping centres.

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Where is JM? Looking for a place to sleep at the end of another cold windy day we don’t have to say a word. A man sees us, rests his head on his hand (the universal mime for sleep) and invites us to follow him. Three doors down is a warehouse for his farm equipment and we’re in for the night! The Good Samaritain comes back in the evening with some beers, juice and a 5-litre water jug! Bicycles open another door…and heart! Selimpasa, Istanbul Province, Turkey.

On November 27th we push harder on the pedals and use D100 as a fast track across Beylikdüzü to Avcilar. We are balancing loaded bikes on the solid white line of a 6-lane highway, hugging the hilly landscape of the metropolis. The experience is worrying but electrifying and propels us through Bakirköy—where jumbo jets fly over our heads to land at Atatürk Airport—Sahil Park and, eventually, Sultanahmet, the Old City of Istanbul, dominating the European side of the Bosphorus.

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Look Mom! I’m riding on a highway! D100, Beylikduzu, Istanbul Province, Turkey.

It is already dark outside, but Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque are illuminated. The ancient city walls—so high, so old—and the myriad monuments, fountains and mosaics give us a serious case of rubber neck as we are managing the cobbled stone streets. Celebratory doner kebabs and draft beer follow our check-in at the Orient Hostel, showers will have to wait until tomorrow. Joyeux Anniversaire Pierre!

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Turkish Delights! Rosewater, Bergamot orange, pomegranate with pistachio, coconut and hazelnut, take your pick. Grand bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey.
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Fountain of Ahmed III. In the background is Hagia Sofia, built in 538 as an Orthodox cathedral it became a mosque in 1453 and is now a museum! Istanbul, Turkey.
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The Milion was a mile-marker erected in Constantinople. The mile zero for all roads of the Byzantine Empire. Istanbul, Turkey.


Cappadocia calling! (Uçhisar, Turkey - KM 7,875)
Low skies in the lowlands! (Sliven, Bulgaria - KM 6,560)


  1. Margaret Clark

    Am so enjoying following your journeys thru both Scandinavia and Europe.
    May the wind stay alwys at you backs . . .

  2. Searching the internet for route options to Bulgaria on bike and came across your blog. Had a huge grin as I realized you guys are also from Canada. We’re from Manitoba, and started our cycle tour (more of a hike bike tour at this point) last fall by cycling up the Saguenay Fjord 🙂 Cycling from Istanbul to Oslo starting in a few days, looks like will be following your route almost all the way to Ruse, Bulgaria before we head farther west. Have enjoyed spending time looking at your great photos and reading about your adventures!

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