Looking out of our hotel window in Vratsa before the thunderstorms. 

Ruth: September 19, 2016

Yesterday we cycled down to the Danube to a ferry to cross over to Bulgaria. Our final morning in Romania was hot, dry and rural. It was great to see the Danube again, but we were both glad that we made the decision to explore more of Northern Romania rather than stick to the Eurovelo route along the river. The cycle route is on a road that is a few kilometres from the river and the section we saw was pretty bleak compared to the wonderful places we visited in Romania. 

I always feel a little nervous when entering a new country, and with Bulgaria it was no different. In Bulgaria the language barrier is greater and with Cyrillic script – reading signs is almost impossible. My two greatest travel crutches, the Pocket Earth app and booking.com, also are much less useful in Bulgaria. Pocket Earth relies on open maps, and without individuals contributing local information the maps of this area are much less detailed. 

After crossing the ferry we made our way into the first town and sat down for a beer to get our bearings. Although they did not speak any English, the locals were eager to talk and help us to arrange accommodation at the Hotel Central next door. It is a tired Soviet style monstrosity with an advertisement featuring an exotic dancer right on the front. Not our first choice, but after being told at the only other option in town that the room had not been cleaned and even if we waited an hour there was no guarantee it would be, we headed back to the Hotel Central. As the only guests in the hotel that night, our host Emily gave us the biggest corner room.  Her friendly welcome made me feel very hopeful about travelling in Bulgaria.  We never saw any exotic dancers. 

The Hotel Central in Oryahovo
The next day we cycled to Vratsa, a popular small city near an amazing gorge, and booked into the best hotel in town to wait out the predicted thunderstorms. What a treat!  We ended up in a room with a panoramic view of the mountains and the town. Oh, and did I mention, there is a pool and spa? Needless to say we are spending an extra day here to wait out the rain and to enjoy our luxurious hotel. 

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