Gone Bikin' 3: Romania, Bulgaria, and Istanbul

23rd July 2017

WE'VE MADE IT OUT OF EUROPE!... Just about. We've limped our way into Istanbul after some mechanical difficulties so a good time to reflect on the last week.

We went straight back to camping on our route through Romania. Soon after leaving our campsite on the 2nd day the road deteriorated into gravel/dirt and not long after that mud. It was just the sort of off-road terrain we had been looking for. The Romanians aren't massive fans of signposting their roads so after getting lost a few times we eventually made it around the lake and across a pass into Transylvania.

Next up was the Transfagarasan pass - another famous top gear road. The Romanians cheated slightly here by not actually crossing over the top of the ridge, but tunnelling through. So we got off our bikes at the top and walked up the remainder to get some stunning views - actually very similair to some places in Scotland we thought. The walk was pretty exhausting, we blamed the altitude, but might have something to do with our mixed-grill heavy Balkan diet.

We then entered Bulgaria, which was hugely industrial at the border with some pretty awful towerblocks surrounding factories on the Danube. It is, however, a very agricultural country. So agricultural that even the motorway billboards advertise tractor-tech. We didn't pass much to comment on the way to Buzludzha, where we planned to camp.

Buzludzha was built in 1981 in the heart of the Balkan mountains by Bulgarian communists. Once upon a time, it served as their headquarters but it has now fallen into disrepair. But it is a remarkable place.

It's boarded-up and off-limits but we found a way in through a hole in the ground which went into the basement. Was pretty damn creepy but it was so worth it - the place is amazing. Going to be a hard spot to beat camping-wise!

We got a bit cocky taking a steep off-road route up to it and Dave has basically destroyed the clutch on his bike. We've limped our way on to Istanbul where we hope to get it replaced quite quickly! Thanks to Jeff, Archie L, and Malcolm, honorary mechanical support members for the trip!