Bike trip and camping on the riverside in Bulgaria
January 1, 1970
by Mila Milieva
She likes hats and I like to ride a bike. Why do I say that? Because I don’t know any other way to start the story about a random trip that will turn out to be one of the best trips in my entire life! Just a bike trip or the beginning of a series of amazing days with someone special? The most important thing to remember is to take your sun cream! Let’s start!
The city of Sofia
The city of Sofia is one of those cities where it is hard to find a decent destination for a long trip on a bike – big boulevards, tiny streets with dead ends…nervous drivers. So we took our sun hats and decided to go out of the capital in a search of a good place to camp and to create some adventures for our stories of course.
We were looking for calm, clean area near the river. It wasn’t easy to find anything like that because of the proud citizens that were making open-air parties on the so-called “bivak”. There were barbecues (mostly meatballs and kebabches, which are the traditional meat delicacies), traditional folk music and cars even inside the river’s water.
We walked around 1 km next to the river and we were not finding any place where we could eventually make a camp. At some point we got tired and hungry and sad…but we soon found out the beauty of the moment and we spend some time just enjoying everything around us. After this romantic break, we renewed our search and…
River Iskar and our camping spot
Finally, we found a spot between Samokov and Sofia that was perfect for us two and our little orange tent. Beautiful green grass and cold not so clean water. However, we were happy to call this place ours for the next 24 hours.
It is rare to find girls that ride bikes out of the cities in Bulgaria. It is even rarer to see these girls camping. However, we have done it a few times and I would say that it is rather not too dangerous.
The more difficult part of our adventure was to find a safe place that was not too crowded at the same time. If you look at the map you will notice that Bulgaria is a small country with many mountains and fairly long seaside. In the summer we like to breathe fresh air and if you are not a fan of wild nature, then most probably you will share your space with some other nature lovers.
The place we chose was on the river Iskar, which is the longest river in Bulgaria and as Wikipedia says its length is 368 km. We placed our tent on Riverside on the humble 1 meter and we even had a little space for the campfire. The truth is that it took us around 30 minutes to find a good place for camping and around 1 hour to clean the area from the trash some other nature lovers left after them.
Camping in Bulgaria
Another typical characteristic of camping in Bulgaria (with or without a bike) is that the majority of the spots are not in the best condition, but we are all used to it and we usually have an extra plastic bag in the backpack to collect the leftovers of the previous visitors.
Our camping spot
Anyway, our bittersweet emotions slowly transformed into pleasant rest and we opened the little bottles of rakia (traditional alcohol drink on the Balkans). We were enjoying the tranquility of the place as almost all of the other people left the area when the sun came down. We put our bottle of champagne (not a real champagne, of course, …just 1 euro sparkling white wine) in the cold river and we spend the night talking and watching the stars. We were prepared for a colder night, but the good conversation and the clearness of the sky warmed us enough to fall asleep at dawn.
In the morning we woke up with a green grass aroma around us and a children’s laugh. The new parties around the river were placed and our tranquility was gone. However, we managed to spend another 3-4 hours protecting our clean area, but the newcomers were many more than us, so we finally left the post and went back to the big city.
A piece of advice
Overall, it was a great experience and surely something that we won’t forget until the end of our life! There are a few tips that we would like to share with you if you decide to follow our example and go for an overnight trip with a bike in Bulgaria:
– Be careful where and how you ride your bike – try to be easily seen by the car drivers all the time, the drivers here are not used with bikers. Use your lights and signals and be always prepared to jump out of your bike. I don’t like to say it, but this is the ugly truth. Even having this in mind, bike riding is as fun as you know it and it will reward you with beautiful views, fresh air and tons of fun.
– Don’t forget to bring your bike tools – you never know what can happen on a trip in nature (if you don’t use them for your bike, you can always help somebody else.);
– Take a tent and a bug lotion – no need to explain why…right?
– If you don’t like crowds, go on weekday and chose a wilder place – there are a lot of non-explored destinations, just be brave and find the best for you, if you need recommendation, please let me know;
– Inform someone where are you going – I don’t want to scare you, but this is my advice for anyone that goes in nature;
– Sun cream! Don’t act like a child! Protect yourself!
What is the end of the story? We had hard time riding the bikes, it was in the middle of August, 30 and more degrees and it was one of the best days of my life!