A Travellerspoint blog

Bulgaria

Relaxation before our night bus to Istanbul

Veliko Tarnovo


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We arrived back from Sofia at lunchtime, so since we didn't have to be at the bus station until 20.00 for our night bus to Istanbul, that meant we had a nice long break to relax and get our stuff together for our Turkish travels in the next two weeks.

The first couple of hours were spent having tea, coffee and some snacks on the terrace with F, R and her brother G, who had arrived back in VT yesterday. The sun was shining and it was just so idyllic, sitting there with grape-laden vines above us, and a spectacular view in front of us. Apparently the grapes will become fully ripe in August - just after I've gone! Oh well.

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Late afternoon, Dave and I decided to go out for a meal at Stratilat Café - the last proper meal we'd have until we arrived in Istanbul the next day. A salad for Dave and tarator and rice pudding for me. More lovely views - you get one at every turn in Veliko Tarnovo - from the balcony.

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After our meal we made sure we were well stocked with drinks and snacks for the long journey. I have some kashkavalki and other cheesy rolls for us, plus some fruit mentos and one or two other things. On our return, we rested again for a bit and then packed. Passports - check, electronic Turkey visa confirmation print-outs - check, cameras - check... So excited about Istanbul!

Posted by 3Traveller 10:04 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged buses dave bulgaria veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Thracian treasure, wonderful pizza

Sofia


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After resting a while in our room after our Mount Vitosha excursion, we headed out to the Archaeological Museum, because Dave hadn't been before at all and I hadn't been since October so I wanted to see if a) the wonderful Thracian treasure troves were still there and b) if the temporary exhibition had changed. We went there via the amazing pizza place and also the Rotonda Church of St George.
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It was very interesting for me to get another look at everything, and Dave was impressed by the Thracian treasure in particular. At first we thought the Thracian treasure room was closed off, but then we realised that although the door was closed, people were actually still allowed in. I couldn't get over how amazing a lot of the craftsmanship was. The burial masks, helmets, jewellery, drinking horns, wreaths of almost paper-thin gold leaves... just absolutely stunning.

The temporary exhibition room now had an interesting exhibition of the finds from a Roman Thracian villa. It included two of the finest pieces of Roman glassware ever found (according to the blurb - they did indeed look very fine), plus an assortment of other things; an extraordinarily well preserved and engraved helmet, a stone with a carving of a Thracian Horseman, some coins, metal tools and other household objects.

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We headed back to the main part of the hostel then, though we looked into the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral on the way. The scaffolding that had been along the whole of one wall ever since I first saw it (last October) has been taken down now, so the results of the fresco cleaning that had been going on there could clearly be seen.

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Back at the hostel we played some games of pool and had our free dinner before returning to our room.

We've got an early start tomorrow - our bus to Veliko Tarnovo leaves at 09.00 - so I'd better be off now for a relatively early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged museum cathedral hostel dave sofia bulgaria orthodox_church roman_remains Comments (0)

Mount Vitosha

Mount Vitosha


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This morning Dave and I did something I'd been wanting to do since I first got to Bulgaria; we took a cable car up Mount Vitosha, the mountain overlooking Sofia. The cable car trip alone was worth the 10 leva it cost for a return ticket, because it was the longest I've ever been on and we were surrounded by beautiful forested slopes most of the time. Needless to say, the view of Sofia laid out before us in the distance was a grand sight as well; it reminded me of our view of Quito from the top of Pichincha Volcano.

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The cable car didn't take us all the way to the top of any of the peaks (there were at least three peaks of the mountains), but where it dropped us off was lovely, so we didn't feel the need to continue further - we just fancied a lovely stroll around, rather than an extremely strenuous hike in the manner of our Ben Nevis and Cotopaxi Volcano ascents.

Unfortunately, after only five minutes in one direction a man came sprinting past us at full pelt; after we'd continued for five minutes further we saw why. A man was lying on the ground, unconscious, with a small group of people around him trying to bring him to. We really hoped that he'd just fainted (maybe due to the altitude), or maybe tripped over and knocked himself out, rather than anything worse. He was right by the edge of the path ahead of us. As we got closer, we looked back and saw two Bulgarian paramedics come running up the path through the wood, so we got out of the way sharpish. There was clearly nothing we could personally do to help, so we continued, hoping though that the man would be OK.

The scenery was beautiful, with lots of large flattish rocks in piles, rhododendrons, bushes with very fluffy, cotton-like seed clumps, what looked like very large and fleshy-looking thistles and the occasional grove of pine or fir trees.

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The trail was well signposted. After about twenty minutes we reached a plateau of long-grassed heath, with more groves of trees further down the slope on our right hand side and a very high ridge/ peak on our left.

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We looked round for a bit before heading back the way we'd come. The man at the side of the path had now disappeared.

Once we got back to where the cable car had landed, we set off on a trail in the other direction. We had even better views from here than on the other one.

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The sun was still shining and it wasn't very windy at all considering we were very high up a mountain. On our return from there it was now lunchtime, so we stopped at a café and in Bulgarian I ordered us kyufte, kebapche, shopska salad and some chips for us to share, before we took the cable car back down again.

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Posted by 3Traveller 11:27 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains dave bulgaria butterflies bulgarian_cuisine mount_vitosha Comments (0)

Dave arrives - ready for 3 weeks of adventure!

Sofia


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Yesterday I returned to Sofia and checked into my old favourite, Hostel Mostel. The journey from Skopje went smoothly and the border crossing was quicker than on the way in.

Taken on my walk to the hostel;

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Once I'd checked in, I walked down the road to another old favourite - a particular pizza kiosk/ café I know of round the corner from Boulevard Vitosha and the Court of Justice - for a late lunch. After that I just relaxed for a few hours at the hostel, before having their free dinner of pasta, sauce and salad. I met up with 'R' and her brother for a bit before going to bed - I was in a dorm room that night, but after Dave arrived today we moved into a private double.

This morning, before Dave arrived, I took 'R' and her brother to the Monument to the Soviet Army. After looking round it for a bit I left them to explore further, because I needed to get the bus to airport.

Once Dave and I had checked into our double room, we didn't do all that much for the rest of the day. He had had to get up very early to go to the airport, so he was now knackered and needed a rest.

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We did go out for a walk with his DSLR camera, however; we revisited the wonderful pizza place and Dave got a few shots of the Court of Justice and Boulevard Vitosha.

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This pizza place makes all their pizzas by hand; we saw a woman getting freshly-made dough out of a huge tub and then rolling it out into a massive circle. I've seldom seen such massive pizzas before. Every now and then she'd get delicious-looking, well loaded pizzas out of the oven, cut it into slices and transfer them into the glass cases from where customers can take their pick.

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In the evening we played some pool, had our free dinner and saw 'R' and her brother again. Tomorrow we've decided to go to Mount Vitosha, the mountain that provides a picturesque backdrop to Sofia.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:48 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged airport hostel dave sofia bulgaria boulevard_vitosha soviet_monument Comments (0)

Money-changing in Sofia


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A short time in Sofia to change buses - a much smoother process than I was expecting. I'd heard that I might have to get my ticket to Skopje from Serdika bus station, rather than the central one; my only previous experience of Serdika being my unsuccessful attempt to find a bus to Koprivshtitsa back in April, I thought it might turn out to be a lot of hassle to find one to Skopje. As it turned out, however, I managed to get a ticket for the next bus to Skopje from the central bus station very quickly and easily.

I had a bit of time to kill, so I tried to change some leva into Macedonian denari. No such luck, so I decided to walk along to Serdika bus station after all, just to find another bureau de change. Luckily I managed to find one quickly and got my hands on some denari for the first time. It looked quite exotic to me, very colourful. The name is evocative of the Roman denarii, too - after all, Macedonia did used to be in the Roman Empire...

Posted by 3Traveller 06:57 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged buses sofia bulgaria Comments (0)

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