Today began early – places to go and things to do. After unsuccessfully wandering about in the local park (including a zoo, tennis courts, amusement park), I found the path to Sorgozia Fortress, on top of (of course) the nearest hill. A good example of medieval wall construction, but not much else.
Even unloaded the bike still handling poorly, and testing the night before showed the tire still in true. Back to the hotel to gear up to get to the bike shop opening at 10 am. While I had time to go to the bike shop and back before time to check out of the hotel, the gear on the bike provides a certain amount of street cred.
The shop owner spoke no English, and wasn’t that interested in me. We finally managed to identify a tire (“Czech Republic”) and chain lube. I brought both outside, removed all the gear from the bike, pulled out my tools, and started working on the wheel. The shop owner wasn’t up for that. He took the new tire and wheel from me, and quickly swapped everything out for me (including a new tube). I cleaned and lubed the chain, and the bike is now functioning within normal parameters. I’ve never had a tire fail by separating; to affect the bike that way the tire was in rough shape.
Next, to Vidin, with the only intact medieval castle in Bulgaria. Vidin is about three days cycling in the wrong direction, as I have to then reverse course to where I want to go in Romania, and I’m a bit behind my general schedule. While the cycling should be along the Danube, I hadn’t found much else to see along the way, and six days means I have to skip over something later. The forecast today is rain; while I’m working on it, I still don’t have rain gear, and lower temps makes that significant. None of which makes cycling to Vidin today a great plan.
The. Only. Intact. Medieval. Castle. In. Bulgaria.
Stopped by the bus station, but the only bus to Vidin left at 3 pm, and I couldn’t determine if my bike would fit on the bus (always a question depending on bus size, and how much luggage is already on the bus) – a lot of sitting around with an unreliable return. The train station across the street on the other hand had a train leaving in 30 minutes, with a ticket cost about $10. With the usual worries about getting on the right train at the right time, I was on my way, my bike stored in the handicapped bathroom at staff insistence. Paying attention to the map, the rail tracks split at about the halfway point. Good thing I paid attention, because I unknowingly had a change of trains. Another last-minute rush switching trains, and the remainder of the trip completed uneventfully with me not arriving in Sophia.
Trains in Bulgaria follow the same norm as everything else. You can’t judge the inside from the outside – a good reminder for life.
Several security folks today have checked on me and the bike. At the bus station, one of them took the effort to convey said he’d watch my bike for five minutes while I was inside. On the train, one of the Rail Police confirmed I was keeping an eye on the bike. On the flip side, while leaving the rail station, Security stopped me to check my passport – always a heart-stopping moment, even when uneventful.
I made a hotel reservation from the train, and found the hotel without issue. I unloaded everything, and spent the late afternoon and evening wandering about the town. Found dinner and Tourist Information (closed but handy for tomorrow). Also found an abandoned church, so a bit more urban exploration along the way. The Baba Vida Fortress was closed for the evening, but a good start.
Today (both this morning and evening) served as a reminder that cycling unloaded is a blast. Just a matter of getting my rhythm right. Show up, set up camp/hotel/whatever, then into town, and prep for the morning.
This tour already has a ride by car, bus, train, and the ferry to Asia. My first tour had only the (mandatory) ferry over three months. Part of that decision at the time was financial, and part pure stubbornness. Since then I’ve slowly added other modes of transport to my tours, to solve specific problems, and make the trips be more about seeing what I want to see, and less pure cycling. That behaviour is a bit unusual among cycle tourists, but I’m ok with that.
Haven’t quite decided what tomorrow will bring. At the least I must figure out how to get to Romania with a super-highway in the way.