It was still raining in the morning, and everything was damp. We had a host lined up in Sofia though, a guy from Couchsurfing named Dani so we knew we would be able to get everything dry once we reached the city, which was a little over 30km away.
The route to the city was a straight shot along the same road we had been following yesterday, so once we were packed up we rode happily right along through rain, safe in the knowledge we would be inside soon.
We had originally planned to meet Dani at 7 that evening, but given the rain we decided to take him up on the earlier time he was available at 12:30. We pulled into a petrol station to use the wifi to contact Dani, it was into then we realised that we had passed into a new timezone, we were an hour ahead of where we were yesterday.
So we peddled a bit faster in order to get into Sofia on time. There was a short delay as we navigated a complex situation of roadworks, diversions and off ramps to get into the city, but (with the rain still pouring) we made it to Danis address just in time.
Dani was a great host, a really friendly dude who worked as a developer in a start up based out of the city. It was midweek (Thursday) so he had to get back to work after meeting us but very generously let us stay in his place while he was out, which gave us the chance to hang our gear out to dry.
Sofia is a very unique city, it has the East meets west feel at any city under Ottoman control and that close to Turkey would, but also the contrast of old Soviet style architecture and city planning and the new western shops, malls and cafes. It’s a great place to visit, and it’s also cheap!
We got a good look around the city and ran a few errand that had to be done too. All of the maps we’d used so far were posted back to Ireland by Finn along with some other items that weren’t being used and just dead weight at this stage. We also finally managed to find camping gas for the stoves, all though we had gotten pretty proficient with using petrol as a fuel.
We spent some time hanging out with Dani too, who gave us some great insight into the more esoteric aspects of Bulgarian culture, including a crash corse in Bulgarian gypsy pop music Chaugra (not sure if I’m spelling that right.) He was also kind enough to take us around the city after work one day, his hospitality really made the time in Sofia memorable, thanks Dani!
The day we left we were cycling up out of the city and into the mountains that surrounded it when I started having trouble with my bike. The chain was slipping over the teeth of the chainring, the whole drivetrain was completely worn out – but we didn’t realise this at the time, the symptoms were similar to what Finn experienced with his loose hub.
Incredibly fortunately we were passing a bike shop so decided to go and get the mechanic to have a look over it. His diagnosis initially that it was just the chain and maybe the cassette worn out.
He was a really helpful guy and changed both out to see if that would fix the problem. It didn’t and I was sure no it was the hub but again I was lucky, it still wasn’t the hub that was broken, it was my chainring that was pretty badly worn out. I had planned to get the whole drive train replaced in Istanbul, but I guess it didn’t last as long as I hoped. Either way the it was going to be replaced at some point on the trip and here in Sophia was as good a place as any to get it all swapped out, and cheap too.
So a couple of hours later than we would have wanted, but still with enough daylight to get out of the city proper we left Sophia and starred climbing. We found a great spot in a field that overlooked the city we had just left, the last city we would stay in in Europe and the jumping off point for our ride into Turkey.
I haven’t been able to update the blog much, but expect a glut of posts to follow in the next few days. Our run to Istanbul was the longest between city stops we’ve done so far but we’re here (in Istanbul) now with a backlog of photos and posts to get through so keep your eyes on the blog over the next few days.