Danube Bike Tour – Second Post

Coffee Time in Bulgaria

“Please come and visit my beautiful city” Mr Bulgarian border policeman pleaded. Actually it’s totally off route but you can’t turn down an offer like that too easily. So the bikes turned left and led us into Silistra, where the Soviet era buildings slowly crumble but give my first real life insight into town planning Soviet style. I am instantly back at college and still failing to remember what I had been taught but still the hairs on my neck were dancing with excitement. This was what the trip was all about we both agreed.

Silistra, Bulgaria, from the Danube

Since leaving we have said if opportunities like this arise again we will forgo moving on in exchange for experience. We head back into Romania after double coffee and Cross the mighty river for the first time by ferry. She is magnificent in her scale, you can see why the Roman Empire did not cross.

J reminds me where the boat is

we then continue on a largely uninspiring route with way to many vehicles travelling way to quick for my pace. But we are starting to absorb the surroundings and the culture. Decaying concrete and huge state buildings abound though a totally separate feel from Silistra.

immense State buildings of a bygone age

The local disco

We eat amazing barbecued street food and reward ourselves with a truly delicious cold beer before setting up camp early for a little r&r. The frogs contend with the crickets contend with the birds until the sun sets and all bar the crickets descend into silence. I listen, something I rarely seem to have time to do.

As I ready for sleep I realise for each day cycling I really need one for photography and another for writing. I will need to simplify. But isn’t that why I am here?

Day 3

Largely uneventful day focused around moving forward. long straight roads. Big lorries on fast roads together with a BIG sun and nagging headwind made for a long 70 odd miles. Not my best performance I truth, but I did eat all my tea (except for the bit of pizza I’ve saved for lunch tomorrow. We are in town (hugely impressive Soviet architecture) so staying in a pensione.. with a shower. What an amazing invention. For everyone!!!

Danube Bike Tour

No Going Back…

It would be a shame if our bikes didn’t meet us at the other end wouldn’t it”, he quipped. My brother can be very amusing at times. I’ve got the luxury of this extraordinary wit for the next 5 weeks as we find ourselves watching two bike boxes and 4 panniers containing our lives pass through the oversized luggage hole into the belly of Luton airport. How ironic the wouldn’t fit through the doorway to “Outsized Baggage. Next stop Constanta, Romania on the Black Sea. We hope. For us all!

Meet brother James.

With the flight this is not quite a zero footprint project (no carbon footprint) but we planted 500 trees on our small holding 2 weeks ago to in part compensate for this (note to self – find routes not requiring a plane flight moving forward ). I remain feeling guilty however though am hoping the next 5 weeks of cycling as we navigate the waters of the Danube and who knows where else to at least be a low impact exploration. We’re camping (mostly) and peddling what we think will be 1500-2500 miles depending on how fit we are and how good the pubs are.

Constanta International. The bus drive from the plane to the door lasted almost 17 seconds.

Aside from putting up with my brothers wit the trip will also form part of my immersive photography project series exploring issues surrounding the beauty of the natural world and man’s interactions therein (see website if interested). I will seek to respond to what I see, feel, hear, smell and taste though the primary focus will likely be issues surrounding climate change following our recently completed ENERGISE residency. As with such projects I do not know where this will lead me in the coming weeks but land use, transport, waste, energy together with life on the river and culture are concepts floating around as we pass through up to 10 different European Countries on the venture.

I will hopefully post to this site with updates as to our progress and failings, adventures and explorations. If you are interested I following us I will link posts to Facebook but you can also go to the Blog page of our website (www.leemingpaterson.com) and sign up to receive automated emails if you prefer. You can even interact with the blog and comment on our thoughts and musings as we go which would be even more fun.


Away by 9am following a huge breakfast and some fettling of the bikes which were unboxed rapidly post landing as the light faded to night and the security guard wanted away for his tea (we were the last people to leave Constanta International that night – by some margin I think I heard him say in Romanian dialect). We’re on quiet smooth country roads within minutes and the previous days (weeks?) anticipative prep stress immediately evaporated – as did the water as the heat built. This was it. Only 1500-2000 miles to go, depending on the quality of the beer (we have to be in Montpellier in S France by 29 June or we are in even bigger trouble).

Heading Out

As I now lie in my tent in a small glade back from the road with my ears filled with birdsong and the smell of spring I can but help thinking “where’s the hotel”? (Actually I don’t, but that seemed funnier.). I do think that whilst my Italian is dreadful my Romanian is, bar from my brothers, worst than you could possibly imagine. We are as twins on this, despite him being 2.5 years older than me). But we learn rapidly from Google translate and in no time have a 4 cheese pizza ordered ( pizza Quattro Stagioni in Romanian) and a beer each (Doue Heineken – the 2 is pronounced by sticking two fingers in the air).

Testimony to our Romanian language skills – we ordered food! And beer 😉

Oh, in case you were worried, or slightly disturbed, or thought that was how he really looks, we have a rule of “only silly photos” when on tour (I have to say this as it makes him feel better)

He isn’t really this stupid – or colour coordinated! *ps is that a sagging sheet he is stood by?

If you read my last trip blog you will be delighted to hear it was a lovely day with sun and everything. Only one mechanical but J is really very good at this stuff and we were off again within minutes. But the day really revolved around passing through a scene of peasant agrarian culture in a state of crumble towards the new world. Horse and traps overtaken by huge 4×4 BMW’s . Two people driving a horse and plough by a huge green monster tractor. Gardens beautiful but entirely of vegetables by immense fields of wheat, barley and sunflowers. Goats with their shepherds snoring under a lazy tree. Kids chasing us on their bikes up the hill (ok, maybe chasing is the wrong word – creaming might be better). Smiles and waves from folk who have little but themselves to offer.

Did I mention pizza, beer and tomato salad cost £4.

We are some 65 miles in. Can’t wait until tomorrow.