The Donau River separates the countries of Romania and Bulgaria. Somewhat surprisingly, there is only 1 bridge linking the 2 countries by road. This bridge, dutifully named the “Friendship Bridge” brought our Orient Express riders into the 7th country to be visited on this trip.
Our first destination in Bulgaria was the Ribarska Kobila campsite, situated in the vicinity of the town of Ruse… however, upon arriving at the campsite, the driver of the Tour vehicle met the campsite owner, named George. Mildly intoxicated, George was able to speak a few words of English to explain that this was indeed the Ribarska Kobila, he then pointed to a brownish field containing early communist era cabanas; the sense of gloom on the land evoked thoughts of abandonment, or at least of a place where time has ceased to be noticed. George’s assistant, who appeared sincere, kind and cross-eyed, led the driver around the campsite, while humming what could perhaps be a Bulgarian hymn, the morose sound melting into the air. With few words it was decided between driver, George, and the assistant that this was not such a place for camping any longer, but a place to sit quietly, descending into utter intoxication, with no plans or motives.
Of course, this reality hardly encapsulates the desires of the Orient Express cyclists. Hence a new first night’s destination in Bulgaria needed to be found. Descending further down the road beside the Ribarska Kobila, directly to the side of the Donau, was located what could only be described as an Oasis. The Lulaika Hotel. A land of swimming pools, the possibility for pinkish colored cocktails, and patios which stretch to the wild and unseeing river’s edge. This was to be our destination.
As the cyclists arrived they quickly transferred between the mode of a journeyer crossing a continent by bicycle, to the pose of the jet set; lacquered to their deck chairs sipping drinks, baking in the summer sun, hearing faintly the splash of scantily clad men and women in the pool; all the pleasures of relaxation eroding the pain of weary legs. The next day’s hard ride in the farthest recesses of their minds…
It’s difficult to assess the nature of people’s choices, or to decide on their merits. What is it that George and his assistant at the Ribarska Kobila ponder so deeply? Causing them, apparently, not to notice the capitalistic fervor of the Hotel Lulaika going on less than a kilometer down the road. Perhaps these humans, like us all, put down roots in ideas, and when the ideas collapse: the previous communist Bulgarian state in this case, they’re left with nothing but the soil and the wind. Regardless, we at TDA feel that it is lucky to come into contact with both sides of the economic equation; capitalistic success, and despondent questioning. The destination is often unknown.