Interview of Polly Marinova, Co-owner of MotoCamp Bulgaria
Interviewer- What’s your background, how long have you been riding bikes, and what were some of your most memorable trips around the world?
My name is Polly and I am Bulgarian, from a town not far from the MotoCamp. I’ve been riding bikes since I was 16, so already 31 years! I have always been fascinated with fast bikes and I am a big fan of MotoGP and Isle of Man TT. Last year I even started marshaling for the IOM TT, and of course I loved it and am planning to do it again. When I am not working in the summer in the MotoCamp, I work mostly with motorcycles in the US. selling vintage motorcycles and parts, wrenching and participating in many events and races all over the USA. I completed my full circle around the northern hemisphere in 2014 and I am dreaming to go south, but due to a small happy change in my life I will have to wait till 2024 winter. I am a support rider with my favorite Triumph Scrambler for the biggest cross-country vintage race called Motorcycle Cannonball, where we help 100 very slow and dangerous bikes to cross the USA coast to coast on the back roads, safe in 15 days. J It is a challenge, and it is hard work, but I love it and this year in September will me my 5th. I prefer to fix bikes instead of people, but shit happens.
I started working for Accident Scene Management in January 2022 and am a Certified Road Guardian.I carry my trauma pack pretty much everywhere, as the first minutes are the most important in case of an accident. I started long distance riding in 2007 after I met Doug Wothke, or RTW Doug, in 2006 on his first round the world trip (he has done 4 RTW trips and keeps riding every summer 6 months since 2004) in a bike rally in Bulgaria. He was riding a 1948 Indian Chief around the world, and I was on a shiny Yamaha R6, a weekend fun rider. I was surprised at first of his motorcycle choice – old, leaking oil, in my eyes very unreliable bike, and second – you can go all the way around the world on a bike!? This is like even more than 300 km?!
Famous Ivo, the guy that takes care of everybody, helps with tires, oils and parts, insurance, and pretty much everything, joined our team from the very beginning. He abandoned his IT career in a big factory and became part owner of the MotoCamp. He is a passionate traveler and takes any free minute to go explore an exotic country, but unfortunately is also very busy with work. He is the heart of the MotoCamp, the big smile you will see first when you visit.
Interviewer- How did the Moto Camp idea come about and when did you start it? What made you choose Bulgaria?
So, Doug finished his trip in the autumn of 2006 and came back for Christmas to visit, and I guess liked it and decided he would like to purchase a big farm house/property to keep his toys and to meet with his friends. My dad was the Mayor of this small village in the middle of Bulgaria and helped us buy the first property in May 2007, and Doug came up with our name MotoCamp. He was already a popular adv rider, writing for magazines and ADV rider website and HU, so many bikers decided to come check out what is he up to this time buying a property in Bulgaria?!
The property was in really bad shape – 200 years old with stone houses and barns abandoned for many years, and never had electricity and water connection. We worked so hard, and keep working hard build it and improve it. I guess if I knew how hard it was going to be, I would never have started this project. But I was young, unexperienced, stupid and very ambitious. My education is in computers and mathematics, so I pretty much did not have a clue what I was doing, but decided to provide whatever I needed on the road – clean comfortable accommodation, like-minded people to communicate with, some cold drinks and simple food, wi-fi, secure parking, motorcycle maintenance, even a small pool to share with your friends after a hot day ride. A big fluffy dog called Harley and 2 fat cats to cuddle … anything that helps somebody’s trip to be fun and not hard work.
I guess this approach worked. We do not have a 5-star hotel, and we are not planning to have one, but we have so much more. We are not the best by far, but we keep improving and we accept ideas and advice as we go. We often have time and money limits with the improvements, but we are getting there. Starting this year, we would like to offer a chance for travelers that need a break from the road to join our small hard-working team, as we need help and we also would like to ride our bikes some in the summer.
Interviewer- What’s the motorcycling community in Bulgaria like?
Motorcycles were not really popular in Bulgaria until around 2010 and later. We don’t have the old motorcycle culture of USA, UK, Germany… We have a Bulgarian produced motorcycle called Balkan, but being in the eastern block that got put to a halt and never developed. When I started riding we had clubs and small riding groups, and we pretty much had people riding old Russian bikes or cheap old Japanese cruisers (even nowadays they call them choppers, I guess dreaming to be like Easy rider) and shiny sport bikes. Nowadays the motorcycle community is growing so fast, and so many people buy new adventure bikes and travel long distance and write about their trips, it is amazing.
Interviewer- How many travelers do you usually host per year, on average?
We open officially on the 1st of May and stay open (officially) till mid-November, but actually we are never really closed. We always have somebody in the MotoCamp and never leave people on the street. We are a bit limited bed wise – 3 guest houses with the total of 18 beds, plus we have a caravan for two, but our campsite is fairly big and gets full only when we have an event. Every year we host a Horizons Unlimited mini meeting that usually brings around 120 travelers. On an average summer day we have around 20 people every day, sometime more, sometimes less. We host more than 1000 travelers every summer, many of them are repeat, coming back to their second home. Drop the heavy luggage and just rest or ride and explore around.
Interviewer- What are your tips for riders traveling Europe and Bulgaria these days?
=> Ah, first of all – free your mind, be ready to accept the different cultures. Europe is very small (comparing to Canada, USA, Australia…). Some of the countries are like the same size of a big city in the US. No, you may not be able to get ranch for your salad in the restaurant, but just relax, and prepare to try the local food. Experience, learn and respect the local’s life style and history.
=> Ride safe and obey the laws, especially speed limit, and be aware that the driving styles are very different than in your country. You can ruin a beautiful adventure in the blink of an eye.
=> Ask yourself, why are you doing this trip – is it for the adventure and to learn and see? Or is it just a race or miles counting trip.
=> Always check what documents you need at least 2 months in advance – visa’s, insurance, motorcycle documents, etc. Europe is a very dynamic changing place, and unfortunately it seems to me that our leaders can care less for the normal people and are trying to make our travels more and more difficult with all kinds of fees and requirements.
=> Communicate with the locals, try to learn a few main words in the local language and keep smiling. The locals have the best ideas of what to visit and experience.