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Long wait in Varna

Burgas, Varna and Veliko Tarnovo


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As soon as we'd had breakfast at the hotel in Burgas, we took a taxi to the west bus station.

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We arrived at 10.30 and noticed that the next bus directly to Veliko Tarnovo wasn't until 13.30, so we decided just to get the next bus to Varna instead. I knew that about 20 buses a day go from Varna to VT, so hopefully we could just hop on one of them soon after and then arrive back in VT early.

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That wasn't to be, unfortunately - our bus arrived in Varna OK, between 13.00 and 14.00, but the next ETAP bus wasn't until 17.30! We were too knackered to go into the city centre to kill time, so we just looked round the Grand Mall Varna instead, which is right next to the bus station. We looked round, had some food and played a lot of 10-card rummy. It was very similar to shopping malls everywhere, though suspended from the ceiling were some beautiful decorations made from multicoloured paper.

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We didn't get back to Veliko Tarnovo until 9 pm last night, so before we went to bed and conked out we didn't do anything apart from have a hot drink with 'F' and 'R'.

Posted by 3Traveller 12:46 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged coast buses dave bulgaria burgas varna veliko_tarnovo black_sea Comments (0)

Burgas: Ethnographical museum and Happy Bar & Grill

Burgas


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On our return to Burgas we made a beeline for the wonderful-looking ice cream shop I mentioned in a previous blog entry, but unfortunately it was closed. It was only about 3pm, but it had started raining, so maybe that was why it wasn't open.

The archaeological museum was also closed, due to painting work, so we set off to the ethnographical museum instead. This was set inside a small historic house; on the ground floor the living room was decorated and furnished like it would have been when it was built in the 19th century.

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There were also some examples of very intricately worked and engraved metal jewellery - my favourite was the large pendant with a face in it - coloured cloth from a village near Burgas and a facsimile of an old photo of female traditional folk-singers from the local region.

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Upstairs there was traditional female and male dress from various local villages; this included working clothes from Bulgarian immigrants to Asia Minor, wedding clothes and special clothes for Easter, St Lazar's Day (the day before Palm Sunday, this has various traditions attached to it), Midsummer's Day and other specific days. I liked the costume for male Christmas carol singers as well.

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We left when the museum closed at five o'clock. We relaxed at the hostel until it was time for dinner, which we had at a Bulgarian chain restaurant called 'Happy Bar & Grill'. This chain hasn't appeared in Veliko Tarnovo yet. It had a very modern interior, with one large TV screen showing a match from the Madrid Masters tennis tournament and two smaller ones showing 'TV's Funniest Videos'.

They had several menus, including the main menu, a sushi menu and a strawberry menu! From the latter we ordered a strawberry & banana smoothie to share. Dave was ecstatic when he saw edamame beans with salt in the main menu, so we had some of that to share as an appetiser, along with a piece of salmon sashimi each from the sushi menu. For our mains, we shared a stuffed grilled courgette and green salad, and had something separate each as well. I had steak and potato wedges and Dave had salmon and trout with grilled vegetables. We had just enough room for dessert, so I had some créme brulée and Dave had a blueberry waffle. A veritable feast, and the whole lot for the equivalent of £25!

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When we stepped outside we saw that it had stopped raining, so we walked to the seafront again. There's a park by the seafront and we were very taken with the giant model of a tropical fish which stood by the entrance. On our bus journeys out of town today and yesterday we had noticed more of these fish - I think they were connected to a National Geographic convention going on somewhere in Burgas around this time.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:38 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged coast museum dave bulgaria burgas black_sea traditional_customs Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Old Nessebar

Nessebar


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Our day trip today was to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Nessebar, which lies half an hour away by bus from Burgas on a tiny peninsula joined to the mainland by a narrow man-made isthmus. It is stuffed full of historic ruins and buildings, including Ancient Greek ruins, early Christian and medieval churches and fine wooden houses built in the coastal version of the Bulgarian National Revival style.

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We wandered around for a long time, enjoying the sunshine, architecture, cobbled streets and the white and light blue fishing boats in the harbour. Swallows flitted from building to building; a cockerel crowed down to us from someone's bedroom window.

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We came across lots and lots of old churches; some in ruins, some not ruined but locked and some neither ruined nor locked. Most of them had a distinctive green ceramic pattern running in a line across the archways above the doors and windows. The big ruined church of Sveta Sofia was impressive, as was the smaller church of Christ Pantocrator, which is now a small art gallery. I went in and looked round an interesting exhibition of facsimiles of historic maps of Bulgaria, the Balkans and the Black Sea coast (focussing on Nessebar).

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The church of Sveti Stefan, which was last up, had a spectacular interior. For once I was allowed to take photos (though still without flash), so I took full advantage. The frescoes were amazing.

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By the time I came out of Sveti Stefan, the sunshine had disappeared. We walked back to the old town walls, looked at the bus times and realised we didn't have time to go into the Archaeology Museum - a shame. As we looked out over the bay, we saw clouds and rain envelop Sunny Beach and then sweep towards us... The downpour hit us suddenly, with thunder, lightning and an absolute deluge of rain. I managed to get a good photo of a lightning strike, before running for the cover of the bus shelter.

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Before too long the bus came to take us back to Burgas.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:42 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art birds coast beach old dave bulgaria black_sea orthodox_church nessebar unesco_world_heritage_site extreme_weather Comments (0)

Fine dining in Burgas

Burgas


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Edit from January 2019: Restaurant Rose is still going strong!

After we arrived back from our lovely outing to Sozopol, we topped the day off with a fine dining experience. This was definitely a notch above where we usually eat when we go out for dinner, but with even fine dining in Bulgaria costing the same as an inexpensive restaurant in the UK, we thought why not?

Our destination was a place round the corner called Restaurant Rose. Usually in Bulgaria (and Ecuador), dishes just come out when they're ready; apart from desserts, courses aren't adhered to. This has never been a problem for me at all, but it did mean that when our starters here came before the main courses, it felt like a novelty! We both had soup - Dave had chicken, I had cream of spinach with crumbled goat's cheese. Both were extremely tasty.

Our mains were just as delicious. My pappardelle pasta with mushrooms and cheese sauce was amazing - the mushrooms in particular were absolutely divine, so incredibly flavoursome and juicy my mouth still waters when I think about them! Dave had a chicken fillet with hazelnut quinoa, cucumber and a white sauce that he raved about.

For pudding we had intended to have a chocolate ice cream from the ice cream shop opposite, but while we were still inside the restaurant we saw it close its shutters. This was a shame, because it had pictures of a Mr Whippy- type of soft ice cream made up of normal and chocolate ice cream swirled in together. I was particularly keen to try it. I suppose it was for the best that it had closed, though, seeing as we were a bit too full for it really after our mains. To help our digestions a bit, we walked to the seafront and back after leaving the restaurant.

Dave saved the day for us back at the guesthouse. We were lying in bed with both the main light and a lamp on, but the lamp was out of our viewpoint. Suddenly Dave said he could smell burning! It turned out that the lamp, which had no lampshade round the bulb, had tipped over and started burning the front cover of my paperback. If left longer, the book may well have started smouldering, or even gone up in flames! Well done Dave!

Photo taken from our balcony earlier;

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Posted by 3Traveller 05:59 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged coast hotel dave bulgaria burgas black_sea Comments (0)

Sozopol: Gem on the Black Sea coast

Sozopol


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Day trip to the historic town of Sozopol today.

For our free breakfast we had to walk down the road for 30 seconds to Hotel Fors, which is in partnership with our guesthouse. We took our pick from the buffet of cucumber, salami, scrambled eggs, frankfurter pieces, boiled eggs, mini croissants, cheese slices, slices of cake, jam, fruit juice and hot drinks; then we headed straight off to the south bus station. I had been told that all buses to coastal destinations leave from here. It was only five minutes' walk. Once we got there, however, a large construction site was where the station should have been. Ah. I suddenly realised why the bus had taken us to a different bus station yesterday. Just to confirm my suspicion, in Bulgarian I asked the lady at the nearby ferry service hut where we should get the bus to Sozopol. "Avtogara Zapad" she said. That's the west bus station. Suspicions confirmed!

A short taxi ride later we arrived at the west bus station. The driver asked us if we wanted to pay him 30 leva to take us to Sozopol - no thank you was the answer, as I happened to know that a bus ticket there only costs 4.50! At the station, first of all the lady at the ticket desk helpfully said we had to pay the driver, not her; then the kindly lady at the snack kiosk gave me a short impromptu lesson on the exact pronunciation of the Bulgarian word for a specific type of flattened chocolate doughnut! We finally boarded the bus ten minutes before it set off.

We arrived in Sozopol thirty to forty minutes later and immediately began walking around. It was a beautiful day. We saw fascinating old wooden buildings, of a type neither Dave or I had seen before, and lots of old stone buildings with terracotta tiled roofs. We passed at least two street stalls selling fig jam, but neither of us bought any.

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After a lovely wander around the cobbled streets, we came across a place I had heard about and was keen to visit; the church of Sveta Bogoroditsa. Like all churches built during the Ottoman period, it was wasn't allowed to be higher than a mosque, so it was built partly below ground level; when we entered the purple flower-filled courtyard we had to go down some steps to reach the entrance.

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It was small but wonderful inside. Nearly everything was wooden! Even the pillars were made of wood; I could still see the marks of the plane. The ceiling was wooden and the iconostasis and pulpit were made of fantastically carved, darker wood. I loved the contrast between the darkness of the wood and the vivid colours of the icons. I bought and lit a candle before leaving. Unfortunately there was no chance of taking any photos of the interior because the woman at the candle/ icon card stall inside the church would have seen me.

From there we walked on to Sveti Georgi church; today is the Bulgarian St George's Day, a big deal in Bulgaria, so I thought there might be something special going on there in celebration. It was lunchtime, however, and I noticed a sign saying that it didn't re-open until 2pm, so we went off to search out some lunch instead.

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Lunch was at an Italian restaurant. The pizza was simple but absolutely fantastic - mine was definitely one of the best I've ever had. We also shared a tasty tuna salad and some garlic bread.

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By the time we finished lunch it was past two o'clock, so after buying postcards, we headed back to Sveti Georgi. This church was built in the 19th century, so although there was a lovely picture of St George & the Dragon over the entrance, the interior looked newer than that of Sveta Bogoroditsa, and wasn't quite as atmospheric. I didn't notice any signs of celebrations apart from some tulips which had been placed in front of a big icon of St George. The other icons didn't have them.

Next to the church of Sveti Georgi were the remains of another church. Not much left now though apart from a few arches and wall foundations.

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The beach was our next destination. It was very pleasant, with a great view of the Old Town of Sozopol on the headland on our left. Like in Varna, the sea was very clear but also very cold! Dave swam but I just paddled. I went beachcombing but didn't see much apart from purple and white mussel shells.

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From the beach we wandered back to the Old Town, where we were due to catch the 17.30 bus back to Burgas. We had a little bit of time to kill until then, so we walked over to a shop with an ice cream cabinet outside the front with jars of fig jam on top. Dave almost bought a jar but then backed out. An ice cream kept me going until the bus arrived.

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Posted by 3Traveller 04:43 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art coast beach buses dave bulgarian bulgaria icons sozopol black_sea orthodox_church Comments (0)

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