Instead of a gradual change from the Carpathian Mountains to the plains leading to the Danube River, we have gone from the quiet open country of the Transalpina to being squeezed between the busy road #66 and a grey sky. Ruins of communist-era buildings dot empty fields and road kills are plenty: dog, cat, snake, rat, bird, dog, cat, snake,… Riding in the fall through this part of the world could be gloomy if it wasn’t for the people that are becoming warmer and funnier as the daylight shrinks.

François has been riding along for two weeks and in Craiova we part ways, he has just two more weeks to arrive in Istanbul in time to fly home. Becoming a sort of inn on wheels we are welcoming Jean-Martin aka “JM” and his mount just four days later. Upon landing in Istanbul, our Quebec City friend makes his way by bus to Razgrad, in Bulgaria, in order to start his first bike tour. Our third wheel is a good friend, a seasoned traveller and an excellent bike mechanic: another great addition to our caravan.

Here, just south of the Balkan Mountains, we have stopped to write this post but are expected in Istanbul in less than 10 days. The pressure is on to ride onward tomorrow morning. As a result, a simple photo gallery shall relate this episode. A picture is worth a thousand words they say, and we might fill in the blanks once we have reached Istanbul. Ride on!

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Down from the mountains, on road #66 heading south, the looming thermo-electrical power plant in Roviani announces a definite change of scenery! Gorj County, Romania.
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Business is booming for this Roma travelling clothes saleswoman on road #66. Gorj County, Romania.
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Camping between a police station and the railway line in the Danube plains, a dense mist has drenched the tent. Drying and drinking coffee. Bradesti, Dolj County, Romania.
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Finding ourselves with slim camping options at nightfall, a gentleman invites us to follow him to a house he uses as a building material warehouse. Bags of cement are moved, light bulbs changed and in we move! No tent-drying necessary in the morning. Zanoaga, Dolj County, Romania.
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Our host is sending us back to the road with half a litre of homemade double-distilled fire water made from his garden’s grape, tuica, and a couple of Pepsi Twist. Zanoaga, Dolj County, Romania.

Speeded-up crossing of Buzescu village, Romania, a collection of sumptuous and palatial mansions belonging to successful Roma families.

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Trying to link the city of Alexandria and Giurgiu at the border with Bulgaria in a diagonal, we are refuelling in one of many small villages. A table and chairs are brought to the sidewalk by our parked bikes and route advice is flying. On that day, between 9am and 3pm, we rode 80 kilometres and saw 3 signs at regular intervals: Giurgiu 40km, Giurgiu 42km and Giurgiu 42km! #treadmillriding Purani, Teleorman county, Romania.
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It is lunch break also for these lumberjacks and chicken. Teleorman county, Romania.
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Days are shortening quickly in November and looking for a place to pitch a tent in the dark is hairy until we spot the medical clinic/police station and get permission to sleep in the backyard. Saved again! Malu, Vlasca County, Romania.
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The Danube River starts in the Black Forest of Germany, snakes through 4 capital cities and 2,872 kilometres before emptying into the Black Sea. Pedalling across Giurgiu-Ruse bridge between Romania and Bulgaria.
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On JM’s first day riding from Razgrad we find a perfect shelter in an empty field. Table, bench and a roof, what more do you need? Popovo, Targoviste Oblast, Bulgaria.
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Bulgaria’s population has been shrinking since the end of communism in 1989 and some villages and roads have been abandoned. Targoviste Oblast, Bulgaria.
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Atmospheric Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s second empire medieval tsarist capital and the Northern Plains cultural and artistic centre. We took advantage of “good vibe” Hostel Mostel strategic location, at the foot of the medieval fortress and a stone throw from Varusha bars and cafes, to mingle with local university students and professors, getting our 101 on Bulgaria’s culture and history: “We invented the cyrillic alphabet. It all started with two brothers…” started one of the many lectures to be had that night! Tarnovo Oblast, Bulgaria.
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Honey and bees in the Balkans foothills as we entered the little town of Elena, famous for its first grade milk, cheese and yogurt factory! Lactobacillus bulgaricus is a daily treat here! Tarnovo Oblast, Bulgaria.
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After having climbed up and down Vratnik pass (930 metres), our passage through the Eastern Balkans, we stopped over for lunch and a little warmng up session at Byala’s pub. The owner of the establishment set in a former communist-era cafeteria treated us with a rare kindness which memories we shall cherish for a lifetime! She even left the premises to go home and get 3 pairs of hand-knitted wool socks to offer the 3 visiting cyclists…merci, like they say here too, in Bulgaria!
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We paid ourselves a trip through time as we rented a fourth floor room of the communist-era Sliven Hotel. Nested at the foot of the Eastern Balkans and lining the Valley of the Roses, Sliven is an industrial centre known as the Windy City. Sliven Oblast, Bulgaria.



Out of Bulgaria! (Istanbul, Turkey - KM 7,120)
Threesome in Transylvania! (Târgu Jiu, Romania - km 5,850)

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