Leaving the town I notice my front tyre becoming very squishy. Puncture number three. I wheel my bike off the road into a field. While lying it on it's side the tyres slip in the damp grass. The oily manky front chainring makes some nice dirty holes in my shin. First blood to the bike.
With inflated tyre I return to the tarmac. I follow the EuroVelo signs and as a reach a succession of switchbacks at the base of a hill a toothless old man flags me down. Sun weathered features, tatty wool sweater and eyes that glow like embers, he has a soothing contentness. Living alone on the hill side I wonder how he fills his time. Perhaps he doesn't feel the need to do so. He instructs me that there is a flatter route if I head back to town. He's trying very hard to make me understand so I don't have the heart to continue on up the shorter more elevated route. At the expense of half an hour I take his suggested course. And it is indeed much flatter. Through the rain I see the Bulgarian boarder looming. I almost stumble when the stone faced boarder guard asked for “Paper of residency”. I reply in like with stone faced diplomacy. It would be and ultimate fail to have boarder issues while still in Europe. At this stage, passport stamps and boarder crossings retain their novelty value. I hope this remains the case. I don't think the excitement of entering a new country will wear off. But moving East I will be wading through thicker and thicker bureaucratic sludge, which could well test my patience.
As soon as I am through I feel the difference. At least, I think I do. I'm not sure how much of that is down to prejudices back home and those collected on the way. Mafia, corruption, thieving gypsies and poverty spin through my head as I ride. The poverty is evident. I see plenty of gypsy communities, though right now, they don't appear to be thieving. Hmmmm. I really hope I can shake off my preconceptions. Knowing full well I'll get much more from my time here if I do so. I continue to see many street dogs as per Southern Serbia. I conclude it's the one's that don't bark that you need to worry about. If the first sound I hear is the snap of teeth at my heels diffusing the situation takes a little more care. And “Mr Barky” just likes to make a noise – much less of a concern.
I make a late camp near to the town of Lom. Set just off the road on the hill side, I have a great view of the river and the Romanian plains beyond. After a little exploring I discover I'm not as far from civilization as first thought. A phone conversation with my friend Mongy is done at whisper volume. I put up the tent and eat once the inky black decends.