Germany to Iran and back

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Boarder06, May 3, 2009.

  1. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Nessebar to Veliko Tarnovo



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    The coastal route has been a bit boring and I decide to head inland to the old capital of Veliko Tarnovo. The route takes me on quiet country roads


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    with plenty of storks and Ladas to keep it interesting.


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    I stop to take a picture of a not so shabby looking Trabant. I have soft spot for them because my first car was a Trabant. It has 600cc and 26 hp, less than my bike. It’s very light and has a two stroke engine, thus it is surprisingly zippy. It didn’t even have fuel gauge, just a dip stick. The family of a friend of mine drove one all the way to then Soviet Georgia and back to Germany with four people and a spare motor. So it’s tougher than it looks. Sounds like a fun trip that should be repeated. It’s also very easy to fix or take apart. I once gutted one and cut it in half to use it as a storage cabinet in my 5th floor dorm room [​IMG]


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    In Veliko Tarnovo I stay at the wonderful Phoenix Hostel, lovingly run by Nick and Cathy, who got stuck there on a motorbike trip. One of the nicest places I have stayed in all my travels. I got a lot of excellent local advise from the two and I regret I can’t stay longer.


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    Veliko Tarnovo is the former Bulgarian capital and is fun to explore.


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    It features the dominant Tsarevets castle


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    and a strange monument


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  2. SpitfireTriple

    SpitfireTriple Seek Truth

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    Bristol, Britain
    I flew in to Munich to visit a friend there. He had armed me in advance with a check list explaining how to use the ticket system. I seem to remember something about how buying a ticket was not enough, you had to go to a separate machine (queuing again) to "validate" the ticket. No idea whether i managed it or not, but luckily for me I encountered no ticket inspector. I experienced something similar in a car park in Croatia, by the Plitvitza lakes. Got so fed up I ended up just riding off. Why they need such ridiculously complicated systems I do not know.

    Ah, there's the rub!

    Oh, by the way, your photos are, as usual, stunning. Make my efforts look like holiday snaps. Which is, of course, what they are...
  3. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv

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    Nick from the Phoenix Hostel recommended going via the Schipka pass and checking out the Monument of Communism. I’m a sucker for abandoned buildings and off I go. I must have misunderstood him about the approach though. After I work my way up the steep walking pass I discover a road on the other side. It was much more fun this way [​IMG] The place is unreal. Like a spaceship plunked down on a mountain top.


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    I refrain from leaving graffiti like the “BMW Mania 2008&#8243; felt inclined to do and work my way down the mountain to the plains leading to Plovdiv.


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    Plovdiv has a nice historic center, with lots of one way streets


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  4. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Plovdiv to Dospat



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    I head into the Rhodope Mountains today. First stop is at one of the &#8220;Wonderful Bridges&#8221;. It&#8217;s a nice dead end mountain road to the bridge


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    through some scenic remote villages.


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    The Rhodope Mountains have a colorful history and have changed hands many times, most recently in the Balkan Wars and World War I. So, there are a lot of influences here. In the picture you can see a mosque.


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    As I near Dospat it rains on and off and I find myself a nice room by the Dospat Reservoir. The hotel next door has an old Tenere parked out back but I never get to meet the owner. There are lots of Bulgarians in camouflage gear in Lada Nivas milling around. Seems to be some sort of weekend warrior standard here [​IMG]


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  5. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Dospat to Rila



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    There is still lots of water on the dirt road on the Western shore of the Dospat Reservoir. Here is a picture of one of the better sections.


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    Plenty of people setup camp side at the shore and seem to have good time.
    The ride through the Rhodope Mountains is pretty awesome. The area seems very remote and the infrastructure pretty slim.


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    After going through this village the dirt road gets worse and worse


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    but I take my time and actually enjoy the bad bits. After a while it gets better again


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    and I eventually get back on tarmac.


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    I take a detour up the Bansko ski resort. Nice twisties and no traffic [​IMG]



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    I arrive plenty early to get a room next to the Rila Monastary and have stroll around before sunset.


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  6. DCrider

    DCrider Live from THE Hill

    Joined:
    May 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
    4,459
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    B06, your report and the one from Sambor for Afghanistan are IMO two of the best ever posted on ADV! In addition to the AWSOME riding details, the fact that you two have helped many westerners see the beauty and the culture of the common people in these lands is a huge plus. Keep it up!
    :clap :clap :clap
  7. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Thanks bmwew1. I have to check out Sambor's report. Looks promising. I enjoyed reading many a report on here. So it's my time to give back a little.
  8. strommer

    strommer Ride for balance

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Oddometer:
    374
    Location:
    Beantown
    I was wondering about the rest of your trip after Ankara, glad things worked out and that you missed the airborne cow.

    Best

    Strommer
  9. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Strommer,

    Yes, all is well. Just some software issues and then life caught up with me :-)

    Hope all is well with you. Thanks again for all the help!

  10. Sniff800gs

    Sniff800gs Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Oddometer:
    21
    Location:
    Suéde
    Great pictures and nice narration! If you go for a trip again please post more.

    QUESTION?: Doesn't iRan require an escort/shaprone? At least that keeps me from going. How did you do it? You don't seem to be dragging some bearded official with you. :ear
  11. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Only if you are American. I was by myself the hole time. Only once did I get challenged and they told me I couldn't go a certain road. I argued with them for a while and they let me go but told me not to stop or take pictures. Yeah right. There was a transport of military gear (looked like missiles) on civilian trucks on the road at that time.
  12. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Rila to Belogradchik



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    The nice thing about staying next to the monastery is that I get to enjoy it late in the evening and early in the morning without the hordes of other tourists [​IMG] My hotel is interesting in its own right, solidly stuck in a communist era service hell. It’s kind of fun because it reminds me of childhood holidays in similar establishments.
    The Rila is the largest and most important Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and of huge historical importance to the country. It was a reposetory for the Bulgarian culture and language while the area was under foreign rule.


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    My goal for the day is to reach Belogradchik. On my wanderings I come across yet another strange monument.


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    There are just a lot of strange monuments all over the country. Most seem to be from the 80s. There most have been a government initiative to plaster the country with monuments during that time.


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    I keep coming across strange things on the road side, like this Montana sign


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    or these random bells.


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    Belogradchik is nestled in a lush green valley


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    and is dominated by an old castle that is built into natural rocks and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.


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    It’s a lovely area with lots of dirt tracks and what looks like very climbable rocks. I just ride around for a while and explore.


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    I have dinner in a restaurant that offers “dreaded cheese”.


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    Restaurants in Bulgaria are strange. Basically the food comes as a kit set. You can’t just order a meal. You must order all the individual ingredients. You can’t just order bread and hope to get enough for breakfast, a soup, or a salad. You must order precisely the number of slices you want. Same with butter, marmalade, or anything else for that matter. Try that in a foreign language. What the final price will be is anyone’s guess. For that reason I have completely given up on breakfast. It is just too much work before coffee. Can’t cope. Luckily, there is always the Schopska salad as a snack standby throughout the day and prices are pretty low.
  13. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Belogradchik to Ruse



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    I leave Belogradchik to work my way along the Danube to the border town of Ruse.


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    There is no traffic at all. At some point the road is just gone and there is no sign of any ongoing work at all. So I get a bit of sand riding in that way [​IMG]


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    Every once in a while I get a glimpse of the Danube.


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    At some point I get turn around at a road check and I have no idea why at the time. Later I find out that the road leads to a nuclear power plant.


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    Another random road side monument, this time for world peace. Can’t argue with that cause.


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    It’s just lovely country side and empty roads.


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    I make a stop at the rock-hewn Holy Virgin Church in Ivanovo, which is in a nice river valley.


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    Afterward I explore the area around Ivanovo a bit, but it is late


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    and I don’t even make it up to the castle.


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    Ruse is a border town, a bit on the scruffy side but not without its charm.


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    There is a free concert going on in the central square and I join the locals for a few drinks and a bit of fun.


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    Tomorrow I will head into Romania.
  14. roofcrash

    roofcrash SCV

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2010
    Oddometer:
    20
    wow there are 6 rows of skulls and on each row there are 13 skulls.
    I went to google and type in the search box :
    "6 13" and the first result is "6 13 bible" I click on the link and I get this:


    "Mark 6:13 And they cast out many devils ..."


    im more a spiritual person than religious but this captured my attention.
  15. roofcrash

    roofcrash SCV

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2010
    Oddometer:
    20
    is almost 4AM here.. and I could not go to bed before finishing to see this beautiful ride report.

    amazing, amazing, amazing ! yupiii:clap
    thank you for sharing...
  16. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Ruse to Curtea de Arge&#351;



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    Today I&#8217;m off to Romania. This is the one country that well meaning people have warned me most about. According to them I will have all my stuff stolen and will be besieged by begging Sinti and Roma. I generally ignore such warnings. Surly, the country can&#8217;t be as bad as its reputation. I do have some trepidations though. Romania, along with Albania, were there poorest of all the countries of the former communist block. I remember sending care packages to these countries as a kid.


    So, I make my way to the border, going past this small post communism, phase 1, enterprise.


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    Romania is just across the Danube. Luckily, motorbikes get a free ride over the &#8220;Bridge of Friendship&#8221;. Border formalities are minimal for EU citizens.


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    I try to exchange my Bulgarian Leva for Romanian Lei but the exchange place won&#8217;t take Leva. Great, no choice but to go back to Bulgaria. I fill up the tank and buy some snacks for the Leva I have left and head once more across the bridge.


    The road is good and there is not much traffic. I make my way through some villages


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    until I have to go on a major highway with crazy traffic.
    My destination for today is Curtea de Arge&#351;, which turns out to be a lovely town at the foot of the Fagaras mountains. Historically it was the second capital of Wallachia, around the 14th century. The Princely Church from that era still stands. It&#8217;s the oldest church in Wallachia.


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    The Curtea de Arge&#351; Cathedral at the other end of town is from the 16th century and a true architectural marvel.


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    I can&#8217;t get enough of it and spend a long time locking at some of the details. I&#8217;m no expert and it has hard for me to make out which parts are from the 16th century and which are from 1875-1876, when Frenchman Lecomte de Nouy added some pseudo-moorish bits. The overall result is undoubtedly stunning.

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    Tomorrow I&#8217;ll take the famous Transfagarasan!!!
  17. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Curtea de Arge&#351; to Brasov

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    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I have been looking forward to today's ride for quite some time :rayof.

    The Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#351;an, or actually DN7C by Romanian road designation, crosses the Carpathian Mountains between the two highest peaks, connecting Wallachia and Transylvania. It’s famous for its many turns and great vistas. Crazy Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceau&#351;escu had it build in the early 70s at the cost of 40 lives.

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    Riding through the first tunnel. I notice that it is kind of dark. Sure enough, my front light bulb is broken and it took the fuse with it. I swap out both and continue.

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    Coming out of the last tunnel on the Northern side I see this:

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    The map below shows the same section of road as the image above:

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    [​IMG]

    For those of you who want to do a Google Earth fly over, here is the same section as a KML file that should open in Google Earth:
    Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#351;an for Google Earth

    Once I get off the Transf&#259;g&#259;r&#259;&#351;an it does seem a bit boring by comparison [​IMG] I end up in Brasov at the end of the day.

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  18. gunpowder

    gunpowder Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    31
    Location:
    Istanbul - where the continents meet
    I just found out...
    I was wondering what happened to the report, was missing to me...
    Nice to have you back,
    Thanks for the compliments,
    Hope all clear for you,
    Still enjoy your RR,
    weiter so....:beer
  19. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Thanks gunpowder. One day I'll finish the ride report :-) Hope all is well.

    Cheers
  20. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Brasov is an interesting town. The historic center looks very German, which is no surprise since it Transylvanian Saxons had a huge influence in the area as far back as the 12th century. Brasov is called Kronstadt in German. Nowadays the German population amounts to less than 1%, most of them left after WWII and the end of communism. You do meet the odd German speaker on the street though and it always makes for an interesting conversation.


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    There is some sort of cultural festival going on and I get to see a performance here and there
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    Another old Trabant. This one looks like it hasn’t moved in a while.


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    OK, off to a little loop around Brasov.
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    First stop is Bran castle, often revered to as Dracula castle. Evidence of that is pretty slim. It just seems to be a money making machine for the royal descendant from New York who owns it now. Pretty much a tourist trap but in a nice area. So it is still worth going there. Even find free parking after a bit of a discussion.


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    Half way between Bran and Brasov is Rasnov (or Rosenau). On a hill above the town is Rasnov fortress with a long and colorful history, dating back as far as 1331.


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    Rasnov too has a “Hollywood” sign. Seems to be the latest craze here.
    On my way to Peles, Castle I stop for a nap at Sinaia Monastery.


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    Peles, Castle, built by King Carol I and inaugurated in 1883 is very impressive. It does look very German though, which I guess is again no surprise considering that Carol I was Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen before the Romanians made him King.


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