Gordon:  Years ago I was looking at a map of this part of the world and I was struck by the Rhodope mountains.  Here was a large sweep of rugged country with few roads and towns, separating Bulgaria and Greece.  It seemed like the kind of region that would have an end of the world feel, where old ways would continue to live.  Based on nothing more than this romantic notion, I have long wished to visit the Rhodopes.  With this in mind, I pencilled in a circuit in the Rhodopes as part of the arc of our trip in Bulgaria.  However, as this portion of our travels loomed, Ruth expressed some reservations.  “Will there be food and accommodation?  Are the roads paved?  Is there anything to see except rocks and forest?”  Fortunately, while we were in Plovdiv Ruth read an itinerary for a cycle tour in the Rhodopes run by a tour company.  The website spoke of the excellent cycling conditions and the fascinating sights, many of which we had not heard of.  Suddenly Ruth was enthusiastically on board with the idea of a week in the Rhodopes.  And so it came to pass that we cycled into the Rhodope mountains this morning.

Ruth: Today we left the flat, hot land around Plovdiv and headed into the Rhodope mountains. We took a short but high detour to visit Ansen’s Fortess. It was well worth the extra climb. The Ottomans destroyed much of the fortifications, but they left the lovely 13th century church standing. 

We ran into a trio of young Lebanese women on a tour from Sofia. They were taking so many pictures of themselves that the guide was warning them that they wouldn’t have enough time for Plovdiv. He also wished out loud that their cameras would run out of memory, but wasn’t very confident that would happen. The poor guy looked genuinely stressed out by the endless selfies.

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