By Brianna 28/September/16 Bulgaria
One month and 10 countries later, Burgas, Bulgaria was destined to be the final stop on the 'Europe' leg of our overland venture. It had been a fast-paced gallop across our home continent, leaving us no time to process how far we'd come, and the enormous distances we still had to cover over the next few months. With Turkey and The Caucasus waiting for us in the East, we had a couple of days to reflect on all that had happened so far...
Our 4 days in Bulgaria brought a lot of good wine, good company and a bit of a rest and recalculation for the upcoming month. It went a bit like this:
Sweaty, expensive border crossing, graffiti-spattered train, tropical rain, Veliko Tarnovo, Hostel Mostel, dinner with Kevin (our new travel guru), fortress climbing, cobbled streets, drinks with travel companions, night in the tent, Burgas, Anna's great apartment, day on Sozopol beach, celebrating our last day of leg 1 before boarding the overnight bus to Turkey.
35 unique and exhilarating days on the road had eased us nicely back into the travel lifestyle. We knew Europe would be fairly straight-forward to get around, as well as batter our very tight budgets, but it turned out to be the perfect stepping stone to prepare us for the challenges we were likely to face journeying across the less backpacker-friendly parts of Asia. Even though we weren't too far from home, we felt like we had a lot to take in before we could move on to Turkey and beyond. As we were discovering something new every day on the road, we decided to make a list to sum up our time on the road so far...
1 year of travel seems like long enough to go anywhere you want, but there are always budget & time restrictions you can't control.
2 humans travelling together can really benefit from AirBnB.
3 days is an attainable average length of stay in a country, when flashpacking through Europe.
4% of Game of Thrones is all you will manage to read, however, on this busy schedule!
5 kind hosts on AirBnB.
6 euros is what you can expect to pay for half pint in Paris, whereas €6 can get you a round of pints, vodka and more vodka for you and all your friends in Ukraine.
7 times we unsuccessfully tried to share biscuits with fellow travellers. Biscuits appear not to be as irresistible to those outside the UK.
8 hostels visited, the best by far being 'Hostel Mostel', Bulgaria.
9 comfortable nights in the tent (minus Cheddar's snoring).
10 kilometres walked through desolate streets of the Romania/Bulgaria border town of Ruse, only to find out that you can't walk across the border and a taxi will cost you the same as it would have from the bus station.
11 days passed until we caved and ate a pizza, which almost made up for the aches and pains from cycling to and from Vienna.
12 varieties of varyenky in Ukraine, the most unusual being dark chocolate and cherry (which was actually a pretty good dessert).
13 different cheeses taste tested by Cheddar.
14 occasions that Alex thought we were going to be arrested by the KGB in Transnistria.
15 varieties of pasta cooked on our camping stove.
16 kilograms lugged about from place to place in our large rucksacks.
17 kilometres cycled on Velib bikes around belle Paris.
18 days passed until we finally managed to buy still water instead of sparkling. We have no idea what happened here but, as always, we tend to blame Ukraine.
19 times we managed to get lost around cities, bus stations and forests before we discovered the delights of maps.me.
20 kilometres hiked in the Tatra mountains.
21 individual restaurants spotted selling the winning combo of burgers, pizza and sushi in Eastern Europe.
22 statues of angry, camp, moustached guys riding horses in city squares.
23 different beers and wines sampled.
24 Romanian lei to get us from Brasov to Bucharest.
25 days in advance the train to Odessa from Uzhhorod was reserved, which we discovered far too late.
26 th was the last day of our Europe leg, which we spent mentally preparing ourselves for Turkey and the month to follow in the Caucasus.
27 times Cheddar accused someone of being mouseist.
28 kilometre mark, the point at which Brianna realised cycling from Bratislava to Vienna was not as easy as it first appeared.
29 pictures of Alex mentally tagged as #swag.
30 days of sunshine. The rare and blessed occasion where Brits get to experience a whole month of summer.
31 times Alex asked 'What are we having for breakfast?'. In August.
32 times Brianna said 'I think we're drinking too much wine.'
33 letters learned of the Cyrillic alphabet, to help us decode all the Russian.
34 strange looks from members of the public as we tried to pose for photos with a mouse.
35 fabulous days on the road spent through Europe.
Well friends, that's it for Europe. We don't really know what the next months will have in store but there will definitely be more trains, more buses and maybe even some boats to spice it up a bit. After all, winter is coming, so we've got to keep chasing that sun East!