Some events and experiences have a one-in-a-million chance of happening. Some 600kms from Pirot, in the NW of Serbia, I checked into a small hotel, one of many in the city of Novi Sad. When the receptionist learned of my destination, she exclaimed: “Oh that’s interesting. A Dutchman stayed here a few weeks ago, and he was walking from Vienna to Istanbul. Maybe you’ll meet him”.
And guess what? I did…..
As I was relaxing after supper in a small hotel 30kms from the Bulgarian border, in walks Christian and (like most solitary travellers) he immediately engaged me in conversation.
“You look like a cyclist”, he said. When he eventually told me his destination, I said “I know about you already…..unless of course there are two of you!”. When I told him where and when I had heard about him, he (and I) was amazed. What are the chances of that happening?
He is doing a relatively new transcontinental trail (http://www.sultanstrail.com) which starts in Vienna, marking the most westerly point reached by the Ottomans as they expanded their empire west across Europe. At 30kms a day (a very good walking pace) he is taking 4 days to cover what I do in a day. I reckon his achievement and staying power are far more remarkable than mine, and it is always inspiring to meet such people. If you read this, Chris, “may the wind be ever at your back!”.
My route today was to take me across the border of the 6th country of my itinerary, Bulgaria
…and once again back into the hallowed environment of the European Union (though not everyone would agree with that).
As I went through passport control, I was quickly followed by another trekking cyclist
…who also happened to be called Frank, and he hailed from Perth in Australia. Two months into a six month journey, he told me he had simply walked away from his job as a town planner, finding out in his current simple travelling life style how long he can go without depending on a monthly salary.
We only shared 25kms on the road, because he was heading for Macedonia, but in that time we sorted out most if the problems of the world. I tell you, all leaders of state should be long distance cyclists…..we give ourselves time to think as we pedal the miles, and our simple life styles would be a credit to any environmentalist.
We parted company sharing thoughts on how people can extract themselves from the narrow corridors of their lives. I tell you we cyclists have got it all sorted…..
I am now in the capital city of Bulgaria
staying in a so-called campsite on the outskirts, and for £10 per night I was given this basic cabin (very basic)
but it provides a lock-up for my belongings while I am visiting the city tomorrow.
There is no doubt that the finishing post is in sight
and since I haven’t (yet) had to use any of the cushioning extra time I allowed for misadventure, illness or mechanicals, I can approach the final kms with a degree of relaxation, and the opportunity to make the odd diversion.
To finish…I passed this little canine beastie in Sofia, and it’s owner told me it was called Hercules……