Up

Nothing happened today.

Slow start up this morning. The weather was cool, and I like letting the tent dry out. I also did not have far to go today, only about 50 km to Veliko Tarnovo. I started out fighting  headwinds today between 4 and 5 on the Beaufort Scale which should be a miserable day cycling, except for one thing – payback. The first 30 km were down, enough to offset the winds. Still blew me around, but wildly better than wind matched with up. About the point the road leveled out, the winds died down. Score!

During one of my regular snack breaks, I bought water and a new soda, a cherry sour something or other. I like trying random soft drinks – flavor and calories. On my first swallow the expression on my face was likely priceless. I took a second swallow, and thought, “How do they drink this?”  Peering intently at the label (which of course is in Bulgarian), I noticed 1:20, and the adjacent word I translate to “Concentrate”. My drinking water will be now be cherry sour flavored for a while. . .

I was within 15 km or so of the city by noon, with the downhill and highway making great time. The last leg heading into a big city on the major highway normally causes a significant uptick in traffic, so finding an alternate route can be key. I found another route coming in from the north of the city. Likely a few kilometers longer, and with some hills, but an acceptable trade.

Not today. Veliko Tarnovo is in a valley, and I wasn’t coming in with the water. That final road coming into town was straight UP, as a mountain between me and the city. OK clearly not straight up, and not marked for grade, but well past my ability to climb, so about a 3 km hike up with traffic whizzing by. The final descent into town was clearly marked as a 10% grade, and the grade uphill in comparison was significantly more. I don’t know where I’m going next, but it’s unquestionably whereever is downstream!

Coming into town, the fortress rises up along the crest of the mountains I’ve been cycling over, dominating the landscape. An inspiring sight, and worthy of both my quest for castles, and the mountain I crossed to get to it.

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With cobblestone roads, the next day cycling will start as a pedestrian. The hostel rests at the bottom of the valley, and I don’t think there’s a point in this city that doesn’t involve moving vertically to get to it, with the city built into the sides of the mountains.

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I’m spending the night in an amazing hostel. Not only gorgeous inside and a community of travellers, but $12 and includes all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner (All-you-can-eat takes on a whole new meaning when cycling).

I walked over to the fortress before dinner, and for some reason the entrance was free today. The all-day walking tour of the city and fortress tomorrow makes tomorrow a “rest” day.

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