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Entries about extreme weather

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)

Another scorching day for April

Veliko Tarnovo


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I was teaching all morning today from 9am-1pm, so while I was away Kate and Andrew took the opportunity to look round Tsarevets Fortress. It was another very hot and sunny day and from all accounts they had a really good time, looking round nearly every part of the fortress and taking plenty of photos.

I met up with them for lunch on the balcony of Stratilat Café, the place where Emma, Kate and I had lunch on our birthday back in January. It has a great view of a section of VT and swallows periodically flew around us to nests under the eaves of the building. This café lies on the craftsmen's street and before I arrived, the others had enjoyed window-shopping. Kate enjoyed watching the coppersmith at work with his tools and fire outside his workshop.

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I didn't need to be back at work until 4pm, so we got to spend some more time together after lunch. First of all we walked over to the fruit and vegetable market in order to buy some veg for dinner, buying a bun much like a kozunak (Easter Bun) on our way. It's always interesting poking around this market and today was no exception; Kate especially enjoyed looking round the stalls, which sell not only fresh fruit, veg and herbs but also produce such as honey, eggs, nuts and suchlike.

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After I had got some courgettes, spring onions, aubergines and long, thin red peppers, we popped into a supermarket where Kate bought a 2-litre carton of apricot juice for herself and a big bottle of beer mixed with grapefruit juice for Andrew. We then had a 10-minute sit down in Mother Bulgaria Square before splitting ways; I had to get back to work.

While I was at work, Kate and Andrew relaxed back at my flat until the evening, when they went for an evening stroll to an area of VT they had seen from the fortress earlier - the historic Asenov quarter next to the River Yantra. Apparently it was light when they set off but dark when they got back - in the dusk they saw bats flying around and swooping under the bridge as they crossed it.

Dinner preparations continued later on, once I arrived back. In the middle of these preparations we saw a Tsarevets Sound & Light Show from my windows; no soundtrack, but we could hear the bells. To go with the vegetable sauce we had the sautéed potatoes and scrambled egg left over from dinner the night before, cooked together, plus a couple of boiled duck eggs each. We rounded the meal and day off nicely with the kozunak-like bun.

Posted by 3Traveller 05:12 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges market sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo fortifications tsarevets_fortress river_yantra mother_bulgaria_square extreme_weather Comments (0)

Happy birthday!

Veliko Tarnovo


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After a lie-in and breakfast, we had a really lovely video chat with Mum. During the chat we opened our presents to each other and from Mum - amongst other things, I got some fascinating-looking books which I can't wait to read; Alexander von Humboldt's 'Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Region of the New Continent', a Folio Society copy of Francisco Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán's 'The Happy Captive', a Hakluyt Society's copy of 'Pieter van den Broeke's Journal of Voyages to Cape Verde, Guinea and Angola, 1605 - 1612', Oliver Rackham's 'The History of the Countryside', Richard Cohen's 'By the Sword' and last but certainly not least, 'Wild Planet', a book of amazing photographs celebrating Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

After that we went out for a walk. The sun was out, but it was due to cloud over later. To make the most of the sun, I took Emma and Kate onto the terrace...

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...and then down Gurko Street;

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Then we popped into my workplace so they could have a look inside it (and print off their boarding cards for their return flight) and walked down the main street, Stefan Stambolov.

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We were all quite hungry by now, so I took them to a café on the craftsmen's street for some lunch. For pudding I had rice pudding and Emma and Kate shared a Diet Frumenty; they'd wanted to try this ever since I'd had it at Christmas.

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Then we did some shopping. My main present to them was something each from the craftsmen's street, within a certain budget. Emma chose an icon of St George and the Dragon and Kate chose some colourful, beautifully painted and glazed cups. I bought myself a sugar pot with two handles, which was also vividly coloured and beautifully painted and glazed. We also stopped at a tiny secondhand bookshop, where Emma bought some books but Kate and I didn't. Nearby the bookshop we found a slightly random giant chair!

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Once we got back to the flat, 'F' came round with a surprise chocolate birthday cake she'd made for us! How lovely of her. We cut it there and then, each having a slice of it with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.

At 5 o'clock I had a Google Video chat with Dave. While I was speaking to him I opened the parcel he'd sent; a box filled with a mixture of books, fancy shampoo, my universal plug adaptor that he'd fixed and an IOU for a hot air balloon trip with him! (This was also from his parents - thank you so much!) To go on a hot air balloon trip is a dream I've had ever since I can first remember.

After a little rest, Emma, Kate and I went out for dinner at Han Hadji Nikoli. We all ended up ordering the same things; tarator to start and then chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in prosciutto, with vegetables and a baked potato with garlic butter and rosemary. We were all too full for dessert!

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From Melodie Bar we all went on to Lino Bar, which has pool tables and electronic darts; the pool tables were all booked up until late, so some of us played darts while others sat down and had more drinks. The last bar we went to was Sammy's, next door. Here I just had a hot chocolate. When we left here the heavens had opened; it was pouring with rain. Instead of getting a taxi, however, we walked/ ran from roof shelter to roof shelter, avoiding the streams of water coming off the roofs or out of pipes, until we reached the flat.

Posted by 3Traveller 22:57 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged parties sisters dave cocktails bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo han_hadji_nikoli gurko_street extreme_weather birthday_celebration Comments (2)

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)

Whale-watching and Isla de la Plata

Isla de la Plata and Puerto Lopez


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Day trip to Isla de la Plata, but before we arrived there we did some humpback whale watching! It's a bit of a cliché, but they are so majestic. We loved the way they rise right out of the water before plunging down again. We saw lots of spray coming from their blowholes, too, and once when I and two others had moved to the front of the boat, two or three of them appeared right in front of us very close to the boat. It was exhilarating seeing creatures so large so near.

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Once we arrived at Isla de la Plata we split up into two groups; one went on a long walk and the other one did a slightly shorter one. It was extremely hot and sunny and I'd forgotten my hat, so I went for the slightly shorter one.

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I was really happy already, because of the amazing humpback whales, but then my day got even better because I saw lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds (or Great Frigatebirds - not sure which of the two they were, but both types have red pouches beneath their beaks that inflate like balloons) perched in bushes. I'd always wanted to see them and they were the one type of bird I didn't manage to see on the Galápagos Islands which I had really wanted to. We were able to get so close to them, I managed to get some good photos.

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We also saw lots of blue-footed boobies and some pelicans. The boobies were just standing on the ground beneath bushes. They were extremely tame; not tame because they have got used to humans, but tame in that they haven't learned to fear us.

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With one pair that we saw, the male demonstrated part their courtship display - he lifted his feet up and down and then picked up a stick to present to the female as a nest material. Isla de la Plata isn't nicknamed a 'Poor Man's Galápagos Island' for nothing! The other group also saw some red-footed boobies.

Once we got back to the landing point, we got back on the boat for some lunch - a cheese roll, a tuna roll and some pineapple and watermelon slices - before going round the coast of the island for a bit to do some snorkelling. While having lunch we saw three green sea turtles around the boat.

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Unfortunately there weren't any in the snorkelling place, but we still got to see lots of fish. We got into the water straight off the end of the boat, not from a beach.

After changing clothes back in Puerto Lopez, we went back to the same restaurant where we'd had lunch the day before. This time, as I had promised myself, I had the fish with peanut sauce, which was just as delicious as I'd hoped. I'd raved about the lobster so much to everyone the day before that this evening one or two of the others tried some of their own. They also thought it was amazing.

We moved on to a beach bar on the sand after dinner and had a few drinks. I had a couple more of the Coco Loco cocktails.

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Eventually, pretty late, we headed to bed. On the way, I noticed something I remembered seeing in Montañita at the staff Christmas party; hundreds of little birds perched all along the telephone wires along and across the street.

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Posted by 3Traveller 02:44 Archived in Ecuador Tagged birds night turtles pelicans coast beach ecuador puerto_lópez explorations blue_footed_boobies frigatebirds ecuadorian_cuisine tropical_fish whale-watching isla_de_la_plata extreme_weather Comments (0)

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