Day 1 [km 210] On Friday afternoon, the idea of a two-day ride in Bulgaria from rural mountain roads was dropped on the "excursion" table. Looking at the map of the country, it is easy to see that Bulgaria has its main roads horizontal, such as the Trakiya Highway, and the secondary network is extending vertically. They are usually small provincial roads and mountain passes that cross the Pirin, Rila, Stara Planina and Rodopi mountains. It was decided to spend a night in Bansko. I departed from Thessaloniki [GR] a little earlier than my friend Ilias, who needed to buy new tires, to catch up with the remaining daylight and enjoy my ride. After i entered Bulgaria from the border station at Promachonas, i followed the provincial road 198 leading to Gotse Delchev. It is a 60-kilometer mountainous route that climbs the south side of Mount Pirin. Asphalt was of medium quality, but the road was all mine, since i did not meet another vehicle. A few kilometers before the town of Gotse Delchev, i met on my left the statue of the Bulgarian revolutionary Georgi Nikolov Delchev [Kilkis, 4 February 1872 - Banitsa (Karyes), May 4, 1903], known as Gotse Delchev. He fought against the Ottomans and was one of the leaders of the well-known «Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization», a paramilitary organization that operated in the European lands of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. The organization in which he was a founding member was originally called «Bulgarian Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Committee» and later in 1902 it was renamed «Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization». Its main pursuit, in the context of its actions for the autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace, was the organization of terrorist acts against the Ottomans (eg the bombings in Thessaloniki in 1903, the destruction of the railway bridge over the river Aggitis), with the aim of provoking warfare so that these two geographic regions could be annexed in Bulgaria as a result of the intervention of the Western Powers or as a part of a future wider Balkan Federal Republic, after the weakening of the Ottoman Empire. Despite his clear and unambiguous Bulgarian national self-determination, Delchev is now considered a national hero also in FYROM, according to its usual practice to claim as its own the history of other Nations. The homonymous city was founded in the time of Emperor Trajan, and nearby the Romans built Nicopolis ad Nestum, a military post to secure the route from Constantinople to the North. In 1951 the city was renamed in honor of Gotse Delchev, while its former name was Nevrokopi. I delayed in the city because of works. Changes in traffic settings created psychological problems to my GPS, which insisted on continuing my course through a playground. Then, via the provincial road 19, i headed north and i was soon to Bansko. Day 2 [km 425] With Ilias now, we started our day by following the provincial road 84 to Velingrad and from there we decided to head north to Belene Island, by riding on secondary roads. It is located approximately in the center of the Danube River, some 12 km west of Svistov. Nowadays, because of its isolation, it is a protected bird area, but on this island back in 1948, the Communists established a labor camp for political prisoners. The camp functioned up to 1989. On the way to Velingrad we often met large groups of motorcyclists, while in Yakoruda there were some events going on. After Pazardzhik we moved north, to the indifferent and rugged provincial road 8004 and 606, entering the heart of the Sredna Gora mountain range and the small town of Koprivstica, over the river Topolnitsa. Upon our arrival, we fell into the rehearsal of a parade. The participants were dressed in traditional costumes and military uniforms, reflecting all the historical periods of Bulgaria. We were informed that on that day the Bulgarian National Day of «Independence Day» was celebrated. It is said that from a small bridge in Koprivstica, which later took his name, Todor Kableshkov shot for the first time against Ottomans, which marked the beginning of the «Revolution of April» in 1876. The city also draws its reputation as an architectural and historical center with over 300 architectural, historical and ethnographic monuments. Significant examples of the Bulgarian National Revival period are the private residences, built between 1762-1878. Although the town was founded by refugees from Veliko Tarnovo, after the fall of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, it became a center of carpets and bed linen, and so its merchant inhabitants grew rich because of the close relationship with Constantinople that absorbed production. After that, we headed for Beklemeto, also known as Troyan Pass. It is the provincial road 35 connecting Troyan to Karnare and the road with the highest altitude in Bulgaria (1520 m). This passage is one of the main routes that connect central Bulgaria and the Danube valley. It was important from the time of the Romans, who called it «Roman Via Trayana» (Trajan road). At the top of the pass, at an altitude of 1630 meters, at the Goraltepe site, is the «Arch of Freedom». It is a monument devoted to the victory of the Russian army in January 1878, that captured the passage and led to the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. The monument is also devoted to the Russian-Bulgarian friendship and unity that followed after the WW2. I found myself under this 34-meter high building for the second time after my trip in Russia back in 2016. I can say i was equally impressed with my first visit there. Architecturally, it follows the socialist style and it was finalized on August 9, 1980. On its two bases are depicted Bulgarian revolutionaries and Russian soldiers, while women are welcoming them with salt and bread, as tradition requires for the arrival of loved ones. At the top of the building, on both sides, there are important historical dates. On the northern side of the arch is depicted «1878», the date of the Bulgarian Liberation and on the southern side «1944», that stands for the «September 9th state coup». It is worth visiting this particular spot of Stara Planina and for another reason. From here there are great views to the south and the mountains Rila, Rodopi and Sredna Gora, to the valleys of Troyan and Beli Osam to the north, while to the west and east there are views to other peaks including the highest, Botev. Descending the provincial road 35 towards Troyan, we soon arrived in Lovech. I found particularly beautiful the old town that reminded me of Veliko Tarnovo, but on a small scale. It can be reached by crossing the River Osam via a bridge. South of this bridge, there is a beautiful reconstruction of the medieval covered bridge with fur shops, which existed at that time, built in 1874 by the famous Bulgarian craftsman Nikola Fitsev, known by the nickname Kolyu Ficheto. It was destroyed by a fire in 1925. foto: Klearchos At that point we reviewed our program. We did not have enough time to go up to the Danube River for Belene Island. We also decided, instead of Veliko Tarnovo, to stay at Idilevo and specifically in MotoCamp, which many riders prefer. Idilevo is a small village in the middle of the country, where probably not much happen and life is rolling quietly. Here, Doug [a four time round the world traveler], Polly and Ivo set up a small oasis for motorcyclists. Ivo (Ivaylo) opened the main door. In the first ten minutes my story, his story, my motorcycle, his motorcycle. It gave me the feeling that i already know him. Their facilities are simple but nice and clean. In the center of the courtyard there was a kiosk and a group of British guys. We got the BMW room. There was also a Yamaha room, a Harley and more than enough space to set up a tent, if someone is equipped with one. After we settled, we asked if there is nearby some place that we could go and dine. The British i mentioned, when they noticed our arrival, they put on the barbeque some more souvlaki and steaks and of course they did not let us go. We marked several beers with Ilias in the book (this book is probably kept for the convenience of those who drink and then they forget to count) and we spent our evening with them discussing trips since all of them had their intercontinental trips. Finally, we learned that this village has attracted many Britons, who have bought property, and whether they live permanently there or use it as a base for trips to our Balkan neighborhood. Later to our company was added, a New Zealander, Clinton Logan, who, i think, would spend the winter in Bulgaria, since he was already on the road for several years, living his own RTW trip. The mascot of MotoCamp was Harley, with whom I immediately became best friend, from the moment we shared half a steak. Day 3 [km 625] Fresh from a splendid sleep, but also full of yesterday's eating and drinking, we had our coffee in the MotoCamp «lounge» while Ivo prepared breakfast for us. This place is a former barn, decorated with tasteful heterogeneous elements, but mostly from the world of motorcycles. When we were ready to leave, we asked for the bill. In fact, the price for accommodation, food, beers and breakfast was lower, per person, than a stay in a city hostel. But what can not been cost and really won me was the people of MotoCamp, the patrons and those who are working for this place to exist. Writing these comments, i seek nothing more than encouraging someone to visit it, so to pay back for the hospitality i have experienced. More about MotoCamp: motosapiens.org . The goal of the day was to return to Thessaloniki. We planned to use the provincial road 44 towards Gabrovo and from there ride south to the pass of Shipka. This plan was canceled as Ivo informed us that the road would be closed for a rally car race. Finally, we chose the route Idilevo - Dryanovo - Tryavna to reach the provincial road 55. A beautiful road with dense vegetation and picturesque villages like the Tsareva Livada. The small town of Dryanovo, which is mainly known for the craftsmen of the wood at the end of the 19th century, but also as the birthplace of the architect Kolyu Ficheto mentioned above, made me a special impression. After arriving outside Kazanluk, following road 55, we could not miss visiting the Buzludzha monument, located north of the city, on one of the peaks of Stara Planina. It is a gigantic brutal building made of concrete, a hymn of the so-called socialist architecture, which is still standing in decline since the fall of communism in 1989. I have visited the monument several times, and i have written a relevant post: Alone in Central Balkans. For three decades the monument has been exposed to weather conditions and vandalism that brought it to its present poor state. It has now been included by the Europa Nostra organization in the lists of buildings to be protected. The future of the ex-conference center and the (70m high) tower with the red star are probably on the right track since Authorities have placed a guard on a permanent basis and have stamped with concrete and stones all possible entrances, as a first measure for its maintenance until its final restoration for the public to visit. Every time i found myself near the monument, i was thinking about the resources spent to complete it. Approximately 70,000 tons of cement and 3,000 tons of iron, 6,000 workers of every specialty and 8 years of work. What always attracted me to the building was its architecture and size, but also the exploration of the interior. Although several locals claim it is needed to be demolished and no further resources to be spent to maintain a monument that reminds them of a period of oppression, i personally see it as an achievement of architecture with very remarkable mosaics that would be worthwhile to save. I read on my favouriteprofile on Instagram about Bulgaria a comment for the former convention center: «Abandoned but not forgotten, guarded but not loved, abused but not understood» and i totally agree. Whenever i am around the monument, i particularly like to observe to the right and left of the main entrance the slogans from large cement Cyrillic letters. I have the impression that they are fewer every time. An attempt to translate would be: (left) «Stand up on your feet despised Comrades, stand on your feet slaves of labor! Repressed and humiliated, resist the enemy! Without mercy and forgiveness let us break down the old and rotten system..» (right) «Workers, men and women, from all countries unite. Forwards! Without fear, Comrades, build our great deeds! To work and create..» To the west of the monument was visible the top of the Shipka Pass and the location where the homonymous monument was set up. As we were admiring the view of the surrounding peaks, near our motorbikes parked several Honda motorbikes and we met their riders, who were from Thessaloniki and Serres. It's great to see people from your place when you are abroad and find out they share the same passion for the motorcycles as you. We left the monument, waving farewell to Dhimitar Blagoev’s statue near Kran. Very close to the road, next to a gas station, i met another monument dedicated to the «Liberators of Bulgaria». Scattered in the Bulgarian province are numerous monuments like those and i wonder what their luck will be in the future. The route to Plovdiv included some fast riding, since we were already late. We decided to enter Greece from the border station near Drama, having previously used the provincial road 37, connecting the town of Batak with the town of Dospat. The route is stunning and is recommended for a motorbike ride. To a future post i will stand, beyond the obvious, that is the attractive landscape and lakes, to what comes to the mind of the average Bulgarian when he hears the name Batak – that is the massacre during the rebellion against the Ottomans. This ride completely covered me as a biker. We rode 1260 km, mainly on small mountain range roads, we saw enough cement and buildings of Soviet influence and socialist architecture, but what i mainly keep, is that i met new people who i hope to meet again. Also, Ilias, thanks for the company. This is the route (of a total of 1260 kilometers) that we followed.