09.05.2019: Moto Camp Bulgaria – Swilengrad

After a wonderful night of sleep, we were woken up by our alarm at 7am. As it was pretty chilly outside, the brekfast was served in the living room of Polly and Ivo, the owners of the camp. It was simple but delicious. Besides the usual servings like bread, cheese, cereals and sausage, Polly prepared some fresh bread soaked with egg which was then fried in a pan. Very delicious!

While we were eating, we had a small conversation where we talked about our planned itinerary for today and the following weeks. She then pulled out a map of Bulgaria where she pointed us to some places which we could visit today. Our main goal of the day was only too familiar to her: The Buzludzha monument. She told us that it is officially closed and typically guarded in order to prevent people from entering.

With our stomaches stodged with the delicious bread-egg mix we fixed our luggage on our bikes. While we were doing this, we met the two other travellers from Germany. As it turned out, they were also heading for Mongolia. However, they are planning to spend a total of six months on the road. Nevertheless, they had much less luggage with them than us. To be fair, this is already the second time they are doing the trip. Last time, one of them broke his leg in Iran which ended the trip there.

Before leaving, we left one of our stickers in the bar area of the camp. Dozens if not hundreds of previous guests have left their stickers here which results in a pretty impressive collection of decals.

We then put the sovjet saucer as goal into our GPS. For the first 30 kilometers we were again routed over small country roads and through tiny villages which looked a little decayed. Then we finally made it back on a bigger road where we soon found a fuel station. Chris was already worried as the shopping trip from the previous evening had resulted in a distance of 340km without refuling. During the last days, the fuel light had mostly gone off at around 300km. Sometimes at even less. This made Chris worried, that something was wrong with his bike. Once, the calculated consumption was as high as 4.6l/100km which definitely is too much. As we refuled, we were surprised by an average fuel consumption of 3.6l/100km. 

Based on this (and future refuelings) we assume, that we made mistakes during past refulings. This resulted in the tank not being 100% full. In addition, the higher speed and the luggage increased the consumption. A combination of these two factors resulted in the “record” consumption of 4.6l/100km. With reduced speed and proper refueling, the consumption is now 100% in order.

After the refueling, we continued our way towards Buzludzha. As it lies on top of the balkan mountain range, we had to take a road leading to a mountain pass nearby. The road had some good concrete and nice twisties which made the ride very enjoyable.

On top of the pass there is an other monument which was erected in order to remember a battle the Bulgarians and the Russians won against the Turks in 1877. As a result of the battle, Bulgaria became an independent country again after 500 years of turkish occupation. From the monument, we were already able to see Buzludzha in the distance. In order to get there, we had to cover some more 10km on top of the mountain range. The condition of this road was horrible so we had to ride slowly and very careful.

We soon made it to the monument which in person is 100 times more impressive than on the pictures. When we arrived, there were only two cars there. One was from a bulgarian couple which was also taking pictures. The second one was an older, black Audi A6 in which a guy was sitting. We soon came to the conclusion that he was the security guard that Polly had talked of. So we abandoned our ideas of getting inside – too bad since apparently there is some very nice masonry inside. Nevertheless, we had a look around the building and also over the surrounding landscape.

As we had climbed to 1185m we had to get down again. At the monument there is a road which leads down so we didn’t have to ride back to the pass. The condition of the road was surprisingly nice with wide curves. After we made it down, Fabi asked Chris, why he was riding so slowly. Apparently she would have preferred a higher speed and more lean angle. He on the other hand argued that he was just being careful in order not to overwhelm her. We concluded that next time, she wouldn’t wait until after the curves to voice complaints with the riding style.

The remainder of the way to Swilengrad was pretty boring compared to the last 50km. But due to trucks and the speed limit of 90km/h, it still took us some time to get there. For travellers, Swilengrad is a popular city to stay for the night before crossing the border to Turkey the next morning. We didn’t book any hotel in advance but instead just rode there. As the directions were a little unclear, we rode past the hotel twice. The third time, the owner was already waiting for us, holding open the gate to the yard where we could park our bikes. As we entered the court, we saw two familiar bikes: The two riders from Germany that had also stayed at the Bike Camp last night! We did however, not meet them. The nice lady at the reception did not talk English and the Google Translate German-Bulgarian did not work that great. But we managed to get a room as well as the location of a nearby ATM from her. Food this evening was the Döner-like food we had yesterday in Sofia. As the Wifi of the hotel was stellar (50Mbit/s up and download!) we were able to combine dinner and the most recent episode of Game of Thrones which was a nice way to end the day.