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J148 - Saturday, March 13: Karnare - Kazanlak

77.81km – 10H33’
Altitude: 366m

This morning Bertrand and René overslept (Luckily Daniel arrived at 6:15); it was the fault of the alarm which did not go off.  The decks are hastily cleared for action because the breakfast they have to prepare is to be eaten in their room in 15 minutes…at 6:30.  They are ready on time.  There is beautiful sunshine which stays with us all day and Serge even takes off his long pants to run in shorts.  The wind, from the west, is favorable all day except that it is icy and the team has trouble getting warm.
My favorite « tank » gets a bath and is white again because it was filthy, to the point that you got dirty just opening the doors.  At a lovely fountain, Daniel scrubbed with a brush and I took care of the details with my small sponge.  It’s team work and we take off feeling lighter.  Since our arrival in Bulgaria we have always found a hotel to sleep in and in view of the weather it’s a good thing.  The prices are reasonable: a double room varies between 45 lev and 60 lev, i.e., 22€ to 30€.  Here, as in northern Greece, bathrooms do not have a proper shower; the drain is in the middle of the room, often near the toilet or the hand basin.  Sometimes, as in Sofia, where a double room cost 50 lev the telephone shower flex came out of the wall behind the door, in front of the hand basin and next to the toilet.  We could go to the toilet while we brushed our teeth and took our shower!  Very practical!  In any case, even if things aren’t perfect, every place have stayed has been clean and well maintained.
Today’s story :
•    For the second consecutive day, Serge has found a horse shoe.  So, on the 13th for good luck he wants the guys to go into a town and play the lottery. Question: does Bulgaria have a national lottery?
•    We have finely discovered the meaning of the triangular yellow road sign with a red border and a large black dot in the center.  We have been intrigued by this sign since we arrived.  Our supposition is confirmed by the guide book and now we know that it is a warning for a danger zone.  We will sleep more easily tonight!
The snow capped Balkan Mountain range is splendid and it remains in sight all day, as we advance toward Kazanlak, the “rose capital” of Bulgaria.  This city of 81,000 inhabitants marks the end of the stage and in this valley rose growing is a specialty.  It was introduced by the Turks in the 17th century and continues to this day.  In town you find all the rose-based products: honey, jam, cream, oil, soap, perfume…
At Kazanlak, there is a Thracian tomb which was discovered in 1944.  It dates back to 300-400 BC and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.  The Thracians occupied the territory which is Bulgaria today in 1,300 BC.  These people painted, as can be seen on the dome of the tomb, but did not write.  We know of their existence thanks to Roman and Greek writing found in archeological excavations.

Coming back to today in the year 2010, and more precisely this 13th of March, Serge is happy at the end of his stage because he made up the time lost in Sofia and finally passes the bar of an average of 71.9km per day.  Something tells me that his objective is to reach 72 km/day, and as the days go by, the average is lost in the number of days, hence the difficulty to move the decimals, in one direction or another!  To close this long log, at the end of the stage, the team sees a wedding where there is a farandole (an open chain dance).  Serge arrives too late; otherwise he could have danced with the young bride and groom.  Weddings take place on Saturday, like they do in France, but here there is a lot of dancing and mingling with the guests, even foreigners.
Lastly, the photos we take of people on the road are not taken on the sly (Andean tradition says that if you take someone’s picture you steal his soul and I haven’t forgotten that.  Besides, it’s really a question of respect).  We always ask permission and the Bulgarians never give us any trouble.
Serge, who doesn’t forget things, played the lottery this evening because it’s March 13th!

Town : Kazanlak

GPS : N 42.36555° E 025.25393°