Completing the Romanian leg of the run on the shores of the River Danube, it took just a ten minute ferry crossing to reach Bulgaria.
Instantly I spotted a major change, the alphabet here was Cyrillic (aka cryptic!) the same lettering used in the Russian language that I’d seen throughout both Belarus and the Ukraine.
The other startling difference which took a few hours to confirm was the presence of far fewer stray dogs than in Romania, which was a pleasant surprise, being that Bulgaria is a known trouble spot.
Bulgaria was short but sweet, the smoothest and fastest running so far, and the first week that I clocked over 230 miles in seven days – my aim being 210 miles per week.
Not to say the running in Romania was easy, far from it, as it’s the first country where I hit real mountain sized climbs. Hours at a time of constant uphill running, and unlike cycling, there’s no reward for climbing by coasting back down – it’s just as demanding descending.
The truth is I find mountainous terrain the most inspiring environment to run through; even though it’s physically much more taxing I can’t help but grin and run faster!
I also realised I’d come a long, long way south since the arctic circle, as although January is still firmly ‘winter’ it was so warm in comparison that the shorts came back out for the first time in months which I’m sure bemused all and probably scared a few of the locals! Running across mountains generates a lot of heat, especially when pushing 50 per cent of your body weight in front of you!
I received a fantastic welcome on my first night in Bulgaria, like their Romanian neighbours, people here showed a genuine interest in what I was doing. I ate dinner at a restaurant and within minutes of arriving the landlord handed me a beer, it was from a local to welcome me to their country.
I ate two dinners that evening but at the end of the night the landlord wouldn’t let me pay! I was also taken in by two of his friends who had an outhouse which they offered me for the night – always a welcome treat when camping rough on the road.
The biggest mountains were saved for my last days in Bulgaria; to reach the border with Turkey I had a lot of seriously big hills!