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J149 - Sunday, March 14: Kazanlak - Kilifarevo

78.81km – 10H46’
Altitude : 239m
We went over the lowest pass of the Balkan mountain range since we left Sofia, i.e. 711 meters.
This morning’s program: beautiful sunshine and a cool breeze at the foot of the Stara Planina (Balkan range).  At km 35 Serge leaves his preferred road, the N6.  At the north/south junction we are surprised to see a colony of storks: spring is here and more and more the trees are full of “martenitsas” in the form of red and white dolls, pompons or bracelets.  This tradition brings happiness and health.
There are trucks on the road on Sunday, 9 out of 10 of which are Turkish and heading toward the pass.  The mountains are shrouded in mist and it’s cold.  The descent begins toward Veliko Tarnovo, which we will cross tomorrow.
After leaving Sofia, in a rural environment, we have encountered carts pulled by small horses.  This means of transportation is used by the peasants and the Rom people.  The Rom community is very visible in Eastern Europe and since leaving Greece we have seen a lot of Rom villages, which are recognizable due to their flimsy houses.  I will talk to you more about the Rom community when we go through Romania; since it is there that it is unofficially the first minority of that country.
The Bulgarian currency, the lev (lion in Bulgarian), was indexed to the Deutsche Mark in 1999 and thus the new lev was adopted that same year on a base of 1,000 times the old lev (rather like our old and new francs).  According to economists, Bulgaria should be ready to adopt the euro in 2012.  I don’t know if it will be a good thing for the population, some of whom already live sparingly.
Serge’s knee is still painful but his morale is high.  He is suffering in silence.
Tonight we are sleeping 200 meters from the Kilifarevo monastery, which gives me the opportunity to talk about the many religious buildings in Bulgaria.  We have not been far from two major monasteries: Rila, the biggest and best preserved is the most heavily visited tourist site in the country (it is a Unesco World Heritage Site) and the day before yesterday we were 50 km from the Troyan monastery.  Monasteries are usually located in the mountains and surrounded by woods.  It is the case of Kilifarevo, which isn’t visible from the road.  The monasteries were places of refuge during the Ottoman occupation and it is where the Bulgarian culture has been preserved.
Serge is tired this evening but he is happy.  As soon as he arrives he has only one thought:  go to bed, so at 7:30 he is in the sack.  He didn’t have a winning lottery ticket…all that is left is have sweet dreams.

Town : Kilifarevo

GPS : N 42.57134° E 025.37216°