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Entries about buses

Back to Sofia - Dave arrives for Christmas

Sofia


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Dave arrived today at Sofia Airport, but not until 23.50 so I had quite a few hours to myself in Sofia before then. My bus journey from Veliko Tarnovo was uneventful and I arrived at Hostel Mostel mid-afternoon.

On my walk from the bus station to the hostel I suddenly heard lots of very loud twittering and chirping on my right hand side; I turned round and saw a bushy tree the same height as me, filled with sparrows! I stepped up right next to them and none of them flinched or flew away. It reminded me of when Mum visited in October and said that the sparrows reminded her of how common they used to be in London forty or fifty years ago.

It looked like a really good place - before I was taken to my room I had time to send a quick email on one of the free computers and take note of the free pool table! The private rooms were in a separate building three minutes away from the main hostel; the room was excellent and I
liked the common room and kitchen.

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Shortly afterwards I went out to do some shopping. I admired the clearest view of the mountains yet, walked to the fruit & vegetable market to look for brussel sprouts (unsuccessfully - I've heard they they only appear on sale in Bulgaria for a couple of days per year), visited one or two shops and when my legs got tired I sat down in Sveta Nedelya Cathedral for a bit. There was a service going on; a group of people were standing in the middle, flanked by six poinsettia arrangements. Choral music filled the cathedral, but I couldn't see any choir anywhere so I assumed that was through a sound system. I bought and lit a beeswax candle for Dad.

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On my walk around Sofia I noticed several streetsellers selling branches of fir tree, branches from another type of tree (which I think it traditionally brought inside the house at Christmas in Bulgaria) and other branches which had ribbons, stringed popcorn, (I think) sheep's wool, and other decorations attached. I think this last type of branch are traditionally carried by children as they go carol singing from house to house from midnight on Christmas morning onwards.

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I got a free dinner at eight o'clock - pasta with tomato sauce and salad. As I was eating, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation two guys sitting near me were having. I listened, puzzled, because it sounded similar to Spanish but also different. I was just pondering whether to ask them where they were from, when another girl walked up to them and asked 'de dondé eres?' (Where are you from? in Spanish). They replied 'Chile!'. I nearly laughed - when I was in Ecuador, every time I asked the students which Spanish accents they liked the most and least, they always said that they found Chileans very difficult to understand. Now I can see why! It sounded very different to Ecuadorian Spanish.

I took the bus to the airport terminal late at night, at quarter past eleven. Somehow I ended up getting a free journey, because although I checked with the driver if it was going to the airport or not he never asked me for the fare (like the girl at the hostel reception said he would) and there were no conductors or machines to give money to. On the way there I saw other people get on and then get off again later without having paid anyone anything, but the driver never said anything, so I just got off at the terminal and hoped for the best.

It was amazing to see Dave again, as you can imagine. Thankfully the OK-Supertrans taxi service desk was still open, so we took one of their taxis to the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 05:15 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains market airport spanish cathedral christmas hostel buses dad sofia bulgaria mum orthodox_church traditional_customs Comments (0)

Lunch in the countryside

Veliko Tarnovo and Mindya


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I left the hostel early and walked through near-empty streets to the main bus station. I left too early to get my free breakfast at the hostel, so I had a kashkavalka instead. I had to get a ticket to Veliko Tarnovo from a different bus company than usual, because the one I wanted would have left far too late, so I arrived at a different bus station that usual in VT.

I'd only been back in Veliko Tarnovo for an hour or so before I went out again, this time with a group of colleagues to the village of Mindya. We'd been invited to lunch by our colleague and her partner. They absolutely plied us with delicious food, and lots of chat, laughter and alcohol were had! We stayed until late evening; I had to leave a little earlier than the others because I had a Google video chat date with Dave.

Posted by 3Traveller 01:06 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged buses dave sofia bulgaria veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine mindya Comments (0)

Sofia: Thracian treasure troves & delectable cakes

Sofia


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We left VT on the 09.20 bus to Sofia. There was still quite a lot of snow around, despite the thaw of the last few days. The journey was uneventful, though at one point we did see a shepherd driving a small flock of sheep and goats along quite close to the side of the road. No 6-hour journey this time, thank goodness!

We arrived in Sofia at midday. We walked to our hotel; on our way down Boulevard Vitosha, we were drawn into a cake shop by the fantastic display in the window. Different types of baklava, khaifa, florentines, things that looked like truffles with various toppings, little meringues, syrupy things, fingers of what I think was fudge, biscuits, cupcakes and so on. We bought a florentine, a slice of chocolatey thing and two 'tolumbi', exactly like the syrupy things we'd got at the deli in VT but longer.

Once we had checked into Hotel Niky we rested for a bit before heading out again at 4pm.

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We went to the Archaeology Museum and it was wonderful. There was a prehistoric room, complete with teeth from mammoths and cave bears and some zoomorphic and anthromorphic pottery (which reminded me a bit of Ecuador) amongst other things; a room full of amazing finds from Thracian treasure troves, including several very finely beaten gold burial masks and one more solid looking one, a silver drinking horn, gold jewellery and gold and bronze helmets and breastplates; several icons, including a really beautiful one of St George & the dragon; a room of very early Medieval arms and armour and stone slabs with some of the earliest examples of Cyrillic inscriptions carved into them; and the ground floor, full of Ancient Greek and Roman votive stolae, pillars and statues.

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After that we decided to walk straight to the restaurant I had in mind, rather than go back to the hotel first. On the way there we walked through a Metro underpass where we saw some archaeological remains and a tiny ancient church. We also went into Sveta Nedelya Cathedral for a look round. It was very atmospheric and colourful inside, with painted walls, icons and lots of light. There were several small circular stands with sand inside to put candles in. To one side of the iconostasis at the front of the church, there was a finely carved, raised wooden box; I stepped up to see inside it and saw a shiny metal statue of a saint lying inside it, with a painted wooden icon covering the head. There were lots of flowers on and around the box. Several people came up and bowed to it. As I stood there a priest came out from a door next to the box and started speaking in a very low voice to a couple in front of him - I thought that maybe he was giving them confession.

Mum and I bought a beeswax candle each, lit them and put them in one of the candle stands. Then we left for the restaurant. For dinner we shared bread with a mixture of salt and paprika and an appetiser platter for a starter. For our main courses I had a 'drunken rabbit' and Mum had lamb stew; after that I had a baked apple and Mum had a decaf coffee. This restaurant was pretty touristy but there were Bulgarian groups there too. Its menu consisted of recipes taken from every monastery in Bulgaria and consisted of a great many funny English mistakes.

Back at the hotel we watched an episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are' before going to bed.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:14 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow hotel museum cathedral buses sofia bulgaria mum icons orthodox_church roman_remains bulgarian_cuisine boulevard_vitosha Comments (0)

Mum's here in VT

Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo


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I woke up from one of the best night's sleep I've ever had. The stairways at this place were pretty dingy, but the bedroom (and especially the mattress) was nice. I had a pretty basic breakfast in the basement, took a shower, checked out at what I thought was 11.30 (leaving my rucksack to pick up later) and went out for my first walk around Sofia.

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My aim was to find the hotel where Mum and I would be staying the following Thursday night. I passed by a copper-domed cathedral, intending to have a look inside if I had enough time after finding the hotel. Then I walked down Boulevard Vitosha, one of the main streets. There were remnants of snow around, but it didn't look as if it had snowed nearly as much as it had in VT. I could see snowcapped mountains in the distance. After walking down Bld. Vitosha for quite a while and then along a side street I found the hotel, Hotel Niky.

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By the time I had walked back again, there was no time to go inside the cathedral, because it was time to pick up my rucksack and get a taxi to the airport! As soon as I got there I realised that I had arrived an hour too early... I hadn't realised that the clocks went back in Bulgaria! Oh well.... time passed quite quickly just waiting for Mum's arrival.

Once she had arrived we did what I'd done when I arrived in September; took a taxi to the main bus station and then the bus to VT. This time the journey was the standard time, though the woman I got the tickets from didn't understand me when I tried asking if the bus was direct, so throughout most of the journey I wasn't 100% certain if our route was the direct one or not. We talked loads on the journey, plus did a crossword together. She also told me some very sad, medical family news :-(

It was dark once we arrived in VT, but it wasn't that late, only about 18.30. There was still loads of snow around. I showed her the flat and she rested for a bit while I nipped to the shop to get one or two things. Once I got back we went out to a restaurant down the road for some dinner. This place, Malkia Inter, is rather eccentrically decorated with a fish tank, icons, several types of musical instrument, souvenirs from different countries and lots more. I had one of my favourites, chicken kavarma (chicken and vegetable stew in a clay pot), and Mum had the pork version.

When we got back the flat was freezing but I couldn't get the air conditioning to turn into the heater mode. Eventually it did start working, however. It turned out that because it was the first time I'd tried using it as a heater, it just took a while for the air blowing out to become warm.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:35 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow airport cathedral hostel buses sofia bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine boulevard_vitosha Comments (0)

SNOW!!! - Long journey to Sofia though!

Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia


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Next week is half term for many schools in the UK; with that in mind, Mum is coming to visit for a few days and arrives at Sofia Airport tomorrow. I went to Sofia today so I could stay the night and not have to travel on the day itself.

I had my usual one-to-one FCE class from 9.30 to 11.30 am, arriving at 9 to do a bit of marking first. It was raining slightly as I walked to work, but half an hour into the lesson I noticed that it had started snowing! I thought to myself that it wouldn't settle, because of the rain earlier, but after another half hour I noticed that a lot of snow had already settled! It was the first time I'd seen snow first hand since February or March 2013, so I was excited.

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I went back to the flat straight after work, sorted a few things out and set off for the little ETAP bus station. The snow had got even deeper by then. The first step I took onto the road, I slipped and fell onto my back - I had my rucksack on though, so I was OK. I arrived at the bus station to the news that the Sofia bus was delayed due to the unexpected snow and they weren't selling tickets yet because they didn't know how long it would take to get there. It arrived an hour and a quarter later and the journey itself took six hours instead of the three hours and twenty minutes it should have taken. This was because it went via Pleven, a city to the north-west of Veliko Tarnovo, instead of the normal route.

The six hours didn't feel that long, however, because I spent a lot of time looking out of the window at the scenery. It was still snowing. I realised on this journey that it was probably the first time I had seen whole forests of snow-laden coniferous trees stretching into the distance and definitely the first time I'd seen snow-laden deciduous trees with their leaves still on. When we passed by fields, quite often I couldn't tell where the fields ended and the sky began.

I arrived in Sofia at about 10 pm and got ripped off a treat by the taxi driver, who took me on a much more roundabout route than needed. I made a mental note just to walk in the future. I arrived at Hostel Lavele, letting myself in with the key that had been left for me. I had been upgraded from a 4 bed dorm to a twin room for some reason! I'd bought a hot dog and some chocolate at one of our stops on the journey, so I had that for dinner.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:51 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow hostel buses sofia bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo english_teaching extreme_weather Comments (0)

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