Ottoman 10: Pirot to Sofia
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
—— special 2fer post… the ride spit today and Lisa covered the main group. see the section in bold in the middle of the post ——
There were two rides today. The morning riding team of Katharine, Jürgen, Cherie, Nels and Bob did a quick 20 mile peloton ride to just before the Serbia-Bulgaria border, then Lisa joined at a nice, clean gas station and we approached the crossing together. Here’s Lisa leading us to the border, and Katharine pointing the way.
The border crossing had the usual friendly Serbian sign wishing us a goodbye plus passport checks to get out of Serbia and into Bulgaria.
Here’s the mileage sign just into Bulgaria.
At this point we split into two groups. Bob followed the originally planned route, Bulgaria 8 into Sofia. Lisa, Katharine, Cherie and Nels and Jürgen preferred to ride through the mountains. Here’s the brief version of Bob’s ride followed by a Lisa version of the mountain ride.
The 8 into Sofia on a Tuesday morning, until you get close, is very lightly trafficked. It’s about 10 miles of two lane, 20 miles of four lane, and five miles of semi-chaos when you get into the Sofia traffic. All along the way, amazingly, the old cobblestone road goes along the nicely paved route 8. Here’s a shot of the highway next to the old cobblestone road, the cobblestone rode going through some fields (I rode it a bit).
Then the Sofia sign followed by two scenes from riding in.
This is a couple of guys driving a cart and two horses into the city.
This is how they get on and off the tram lines in Sofia. The tram just stops in the middle fo the road, and everyone scrambles through traffic.
I got to the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan, a nice place, about five hours before the others – enough time to buy cloths, shower, sleep and tour the city a bit. I took a picture of them driving into the parking lot, and waving to me as they disembarked.
This is what happened to the mountain riding group… Lisa wrote it up.
Upon crossing the border Bob took the main road and the rest of the group went north into mountains. We ascended nearly 4500 feet over the course of a long day through villages, abandoned coal mines and cool pine forests.
Lisa became a dedicated Garmin user this day. The combination of Garmin routing and Jurgen and Annie maps which had disparate roads and towns resulted in some innovative routes, surprising locations and stupendous downhill’s.
The first overlook made the ascent worth the effort but it was the descent that lasted forever that put big smiles on everyone’s faces – especially Katharine’s.
Annie became a gearshift expert by turning Babar around on narrow mountain roads where there was more at stake than a fender bender.
We “stumbled” upon an abandoned coal mine near Godech and two young girls from Sofia who offered excellent advise about where we were and where we were going.
Without having scoped out this route in advance we were unaware of the number of mountain passes we would cross but each one held surprises and always, eventually, a downhill. We came into Sofia on 16 following a river and all piled into the van for the final descent on the crumbly, busy road into Sofia – named for the Goddess of Wisdom. It was impossible to recreate the route on the Garmin because it would not allow passage on the road taken but the roads taken are highly recommend.
After they all regrouped, we did an elegant dinner in a restaurant overlooking Sofia, with our own piano player, some great wine, and pretty buildings (the national art gallery?) along the way as we walked home.
Bob 8/3/11 2:13p Over the Atlantic south of Iceland