Next morning where a little more chilly. There where a cold wind blowing from the east and cloudy. I put the liner back into my jacket for the first time since leaving Hungary and packed the tent. i where back on the bike before 0600 and heeding for the monument.
After 1 minute of riding i passed a hotel. And after two minutes i had passed 4 hotels. I did not know that when i pitched my tent. Apparently there where a skiing resort up here.
The monument sits on a mountain top 1441 meters above sea level and overlooking most of Bulgaria i would think. The views where spectacular. And the monument no less impressive.
I snapped a few pictures and walked around the monument. I had been told that the doors where barred but it was possible to access from the back of it. I did not find any entrance only two shafts going down into the basement and that did not tempt me to try to scale down there. So i walked up front again and just as i thought i wont be able to go in i noticed a little hole about 1,5 meter up on the wall. I peeked inside and someone must have known what he where doing. The hole was into the staircase and just inside was a stair landing.
I climbed in and explored the monument for a few minutes. Some of the granite and marble floor where robbed away. Im sure the stone is used somewhere else. And the mosaic on the walls had been damaged, souvenir hunters I'm sure. But there are still more then enough to see how spectacular it must have been.
The fabric that had once covered the benches are now rotting away and the roof is leaking all over and missing a lot of its copper sheets. When it was new there where 30 tons of copper sheets covering the roof.
The windows where all broken, but the view are still in place.
The basement was dark and even if i did have a flashlight with me i did not venture to far into the basement. Did not hear any dragons to slay, so there where no point in exploring the darkness.
Some years ago i played a computer game called Fallout. The game is about surviving in a post global nuclear war, world and entering this monument took me back to that game.
Buzludzha monument was build by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organized socialist movement. It was opened in 1981 and abandoned less then 10 years later, with the fall of the communist regime. It took 6000 workers 7 years to complete.
No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government or the communist party it looks like it will stand like this for years to come.
Buzludzha will for me always be the ultimate symbol of the fall of the communism. So much money spent, on something so useless and unwanted that more then 20 years later no one have found a use for it and no one will maintain it. I did read somewhere online that there is a communist meeting once a year her. So maybe some day someone will do something to stop the decay. Personally i think it should be kept as it is as a reminder for what happened in 1989.
Even a mug sits abandon on the decayed statues outside.
The road on towards the Turkish border where again great roads. Roads in Bulgaria in general are great roads, at least they where on my route. Good quality hard surface and always winding its way thru the terrain. A few villages where along the way, but mostly the road took me outside of them.
I reached the border before noon and this where the only border I had been nervous about. Knowing Turkey for previous travels, i knew they would cheek all papers intensely.
The crossing took about 1 hour and there where no big problems. Had to buy a visa(€15) and the guy checking my passport told me i had to drive on, buy the visa and then come back to him. Kinda silly way to do it. Would be better to have the visa sale outside the visa checkpoint. When the visa was cleared i went to customs, he only stamped my passport and waved me on. One last cheek of passport and bike paper later i where in Turkey.
I had to show my passport a total of 5 times at different checkpoints and bike registration papers and greencard 4 times.
Also the whether improved as i entered Turkey again and i removed the liner in my jacket again.
I never did see any sign telling me to buy a vignette so i carried on and in a few minutes i where on a motorway heeding for Istanbul. This was a motorway of good(boring) quality with 120 km/h speed limit. Like rest of eastern Europe it did not seem like anyone respected the speed limit.
Half a hour or so later i found myself at a toll boot. Fully automatic and nowhere to ask what to do. On the far side i could see a guy waving a red flag. I slowed down and stopped to figure out what to do. Then he started waving his flag like a madman so i drove over to him. The alarm sounded as i passed the tollbooth. And i explained to him i did not know what to do. Buy in Istanbul he told me and waved for me to cary on.
Two hours later after a boring motorway ride i found myself at another tollbooth. But this time there where a building beside it selling vignettes. Gave him €20 and he gave me a small sticker and waved it infront of my face. I put it on top of my tank bag under the clear plastic. Thought maybe that would work as it clearly where designed to be placed on a cars windshield. I drove thru the tollbooth and again the alarm sounded. Clearly that did not work. Next time i tried to open the tankbag and flip the sticker forward toward the cameras, again the alarm went of. The last time -when exiting Istanbul- i dug it out and waved it over my head like the guy i bought it from did. And that worked. But i did feel it was suicidal way to clear the tollbooth in dense traffic. maybe there will be some fines in the mail for me when i get back home.
I punched Hagia Sofia into my gps and it took me off the motorway and told me it was 8
km to my target. It did not tell me how bad traffic where, but i knew it would be bad.
The pictures do not show how insane the traffic is. It was like this or worse the whole time.
Others had warned me that no other city where like it. And they where right. It is a nightmare. There is cars everywhere and everyone is pushing his way forward for a spot in the line. If you wait you are stuck. It took me a while to get used to ride like a Turk but when i did things started to speed up. Riding like the locals meant; riding on sidewalks, wrong way in one way traffic streets, using the lane restricted to tram only and so on.
Even parked on the sidewalk. A few minutes after i parked a security guard came out from the bank i parked infront. I thought he would ask me to move, but no. He just wanted to ask where i where from and where i where going. Friendly guy.
It took me two hours to reach the old city. If i had walked i would have been there sooner. But then i could not have said that i have ridden my bike in Istanbul traffic. I guess its a achievement but not sure i would recommend it for anyone. And specially not with a heavy bike with panniers and stuff.
Walked around for a good hour and saw Hagia Sophia and The Blue Moske.
My plans for a nice dinner to celebrate reaching Istanbul was scraped and i had a bite to eat at McDonalds. Wanting to get out of the city and be able to ride a few hours closer to my final goal before it got dark. I wanted to reach Alanya the next day and there where 1000km left.
Istanbul sure where a busy city with loads of tourists. Even saw Americans there.
It took me another two hours to get out of Istanbul and to cross Bosporus strait. next time i will take the tram myself.
That was it. I had reached Asia on my Bike. I still had a day worth of riding but reaching Asia was a big thing for me.
I stayed on the motorway and pushed on until 2200. I then found a road side motel and got myself a room. Parked in front of a restaurant that was open 24/7 and they said they would keep an eye on it. Maybe the duck walking in front of the restaurant and the dog sleeping next to it would do so to. The room was a staggering 30 ytl (about €12) And it even had excellent wifi, so i could call my wife using Viber -free calls on net- and do another days ride report.
Tomorrow il reach my final destination and get annoyed with the duck