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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)

Roman baths and the Varna Gold Treasure

Varna and Burgas


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Our bus to Burgas didn't leave until 15.00, so we had all morning and early afternoon to explore Varna further. Our destinations were the Roman thermae (public baths) and the Archaeological Museum.

After breakfast we checked out and put our rucksacks in the hostel's luggage storage before heading out to the thermae.

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These ruins are expansive and well preserved; enough of the walls survive for the layout of the different rooms to be seen clearly - the changing rooms, frigidarium (cold pool), tepidarium (warm pool), caldarium (hot pool)...

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...an amazing hypocaust and the toilet area (down a level and in a cloistered area).

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Our experience was heightened even more by the sunshine, lush greenery and flowering bushes. We were also the only people there the entire time!

From there we walked on to the Archaeology Museum, via some lunch and a lovely small park containing fountains, a flower market and lots of purple-blossomed trees.

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The museum was very interesting and we had enough time to look round all of it at a leisurely pace. We saw the famous Varna gold treasure (possibly the oldest worked gold in the world), very early Christian crosses, Thracian and Roman artifacts and statues, a large mosaic from the Episcopal Temple of Odessos (Roman Varna), the skeleton of a Copper Age 10/12-year-old child, some wonderful vividly coloured icons (some very old) and weapons and pottery from the Stone, Copper and Bronze Ages.

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Back at Yo-Ho Hostel their printer wasn't working, so instead of printing out a street map of the route from the bus station to our guesthouse in Burgas, I drew it on a piece of paper. We took a taxi from there to the private bus station, where we got straight onto a minibus to Burgas. The woman at the ticket desk had told me we had to pay the driver, not her, so we did so before we got on. 14 leva each for a two-and-a-half-hour journey - not bad!

We saw some incredibly green, lush, hilly scenery in the first half of the journey, with occasional views of the sea. Every now and then we passed through a small village with leafy vines growing on frames over the pavements and in people's front gardens. Once we had passed the unlovely town of Sunny Beach, the landscape flattened out into fields.

On arrival in Burgas we had some problems getting to the guesthouse. They'd said that they were only five minutes' walk from the bus station, but we couldn't find them anywhere - and the roads didn't tally at all with the ones on my drawn map. One of them had the same or very similar name. We wandered around for a while before giving up and getting a taxi. It was only once I'd got my hands on a free Burgas city map from the guesthouse reception that I realised what the problem had been - we'd arrived at a different bus station to the one on my map. My guidebook had said that all arrivals from and departures to coastal destinations are at the south bus station, but we'd arrived at the west one, quite a way out from the city centre! Oh well - we'd got there in the end and were settled into our guesthouse, which was a very clean, modern one, like a hotel.

We had dinner at a pizza restaurant round the corner; I had tarator and we shared a pizza and some mozzarella balls. Fireworks went off as we waited for our food to arrive, but we couldn't see them, only hear the bangs!

Posted by 3Traveller 03:40 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged coast market museum hostel buses dave burgas varna black_sea roman_remains bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Varna: Maritime Capital of Bulgaria

Varna


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On our return from Pobiti Kamani at about half past one, we spent the rest of the day exploring in the sunshine. First impressions were of a very pleasant city, filled with colourful buildings, flower stalls, leafy trees, pink blossom and the unmistakeable smell of sea air.

The taxi dropped us off by the cathedral - I nearly went inside, but then realised I only had a short-sleeved top on, so I decided to come back later, or tomorrow, instead. We walked through a flower market along one side of the cathedral, past a couple of antiques stalls round the front and then through a fruit, vegetable & flower market lining the pavement of the street in front of our hostel.

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After dropping off the postcards and fridge magnets we'd bought at Pobiti Kamani, putting on our flipflops and picking up a towel, we headed off to explore the city. We knew that the museums and the big Roman Thermae would be closed, as they are every Monday, so we just headed to the beach, via the old town. The first thing we did was stop at a pizza counter for a late lunch; then we stopped at a supermarket to buy drinks to share and an apple for me. We walked along, admiring the colourful stucco architecture as we went, until we reached the main road that passes by the docks.

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We carried on until we reached the beach, but on the way there we passed by some smaller Roman baths of which we could view everything from the pavement. The road was on our right and the baths remains were on our left.

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We both paddled in the sea, but due to the sheer bone-chilling cold of it, neither of us swam. That was the coldest sea I'd ever been in, including the sea in New Zealand! The water was very clear and looked very inviting - shame it wasn't September or early October really, as I've been reliably told by people who have visited it then that the sea is very warm at that time of year; like bath water, apparently!

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After staying on the beach for a while, we moved on to the park a bit further along. Primorski Park is right next to the beach and was lovely to stroll around.

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We passed by the Naval Museum - it had lots of mine casings and warship equipment clearly on display in their garden. We could see it all through the fence.

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A little bit later on we passed a building with sculpting going on behind fences outside. First we saw a man sculpting a tree trunk with a chainsaw; then round the corner we saw two or three men with facemasks on, sculpting massive blocks of marble. They were surrounded by piles of offcuttings. Both the tree truck and the marble sculptures hadn't got to the stage where any shape or pattern was recognisable, but it was still interesting to watch for a while.

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On our walk back to the hostel we stopped at a sweetcorn stall for a cup each of sweetcorn mixed with butter, salt and grated parmesan cheese - delicious!

We finished the day with some dinner at the place we'd been recommended last night and then some internet time back at the hostel.

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Posted by 3Traveller 02:39 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art coast beach market hostel dave bulgaria varna black_sea roman_remains Comments (0)

Blast from the past!

Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo and Varna


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Most of today was taken up with travel.

As ever, breakfast at Hostel Mostel was excellent. We had just enough time to take full advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet before we had to get the taxi to the bus station for our bus at 9 am.

The journey to Veliko Tarnovo was uneventful. We arrived at 12.20 and since our bus to Varna wasn't until 4 o'clock, we had a decent amount of time to relax at my flat. We packed rucksacks, showered, rested and nipped out to buy some drinks and snacks for our next leg of the journey.

Veliko Tarnovo is almost in the exact centre between Sofia and Varna, so our journey to Varna was also about three and a half hours. The first half of the journey was very picturesque, full of streams, rivers and forested hills and mountains; the second half was pleasant but much flatter, full of arable farmland.

We arrived at the central bus station after dark and spurned the taxis, seeing as we were within walking distance of Yo-Ho Hostel. On the way there we stopped at a petrol station to get another drink - and what should I find in the drinks cabinet but some bottles of Fiji Water! Bottled in Viti Levu, Fiji. I recognised it straight away from mine and Dave's Fiji visit in 2009. Of all the places to come across it again...

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Finding the hostel took slightly longer than we expected, but we managed it in the end. At check-in the lovely staff at reception recommended a particular restaurant to us for dinner, but by the time we'd got to our room and had sat down for a bit, we were too knackered to bother going out. We just finished our snacks from the journey instead.

Posted by 3Traveller 23:57 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains coast hostel buses dave sofia varna veliko_tarnovo black_sea Comments (0)

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