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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)

Sofia tomorrow

Veliko Tarnovo


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Kate and Andrew went on a wonderful day trip today to the rock church of Ivanovo, the rock monastery of Basarbovo, Cherven medieval fortress, Nicopolis ad Istrum and Preobrazhenski Monastery, but I was at work all day and didn't get back until late. I had been to all of them except for the latter before, I suppose!

After we arrived back from Arbanasi yesterday I had to go back to work for 3pm, but Kate and Andrew went to Sarafkina Kushta, the ethnographical house museum on Gurko Street. Kate also revisited the craftsmen's street to buy herself a dish from the coppersmith.

That evening we went to Piccolo restaurant for dinner. I had never been there before, and after the dud meals we had there, I'm highly unlikely ever to return. Kate's in particular was very disappointing. She'd ordered carp because she'd never had it before, but it arrived in greasy battered chunks with lots of bones still in, and her 'steamed vegetables' were just lukewarm frozen mixed veg with tough peas. Took forever to arrive, too. We had been planning to go for cocktails before going round to 'F's at 9:30pm, but didn't have time thanks to dinner taking so long. We had a lovely time at 'F's though; 'R' went round too and we had a great time together.

Up at the crack of dawn tomorrow for our bus journey to Sofia!

Posted by 3Traveller 10:36 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo house_museum 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)

More visitors arrive!

Dragizhevo and Veliko Tarnovo


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A very, very hot day today in Dragizhevo, a village not far from Veliko Tarnovo which holds a car boot sale once a month between April and September/ October. A few of us went; I bought several things - half a dozen duck eggs, a book and one or two things I hadn't seen since I was last in the UK - garlic naan breads, a can of Dr Pepper and a tin of condensed milk. I also had a sausage & egg roll from the café. I would have liked to have stuck around for longer in order to look round the village, but I had visitors arriving in a couple of hours and I still needed to finish my preparations...

No sooner does one sister depart from Bulgaria, than the other one arrives :-) An hour or two after I got back from Dragizheno, Kate and Andrew arrived in VT from Varna, where they had been for a couple of days after a day or two in Plovdiv.

Almost as soon as they walked through the door we had a lovely Google Video chat conversation with Mum. After that we went up on the terrace, where my colleague 'R' was hosting a late birthday tea. We had a great time, with great company, food and weather. There was quite a group of us there. The food included homemade bean dip, fresh corn bread, potato salad and feta-like white Bulgarian cheese, then two birthday cakes for pudding - one of them a carrot cake. During the tea party we had an added point of interest in that a wedding party went past on the road behind the terrace - at first we didn't know what was going on because all we could hear was lots of car horns blaring, but then someone said that it might be a wedding party, so we dashed to the side of the terrace to have a look. We just managed to catch sight of a car driving along with balloons attached to the back, with a couple of other cars following along behind. (Credit to Kate for most of the following photos)

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Around 5ish I took Kate and Andrew on a wander through the main part of VT, including the craftmen's street and an amazing look-out point from the side of one of VT's hills.

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Our main destination was Assen's Monument, the massive sword-shaped monument on a raised area at a loop of the river Yantra, which flows through the small valleys between the hills. The bridge was interesting - I don't think I've mentioned this in previous entries, but there are yellow painted outlines of human figures in funny positions on the ground. On our way back Andrew couldn't resist the temptation of having his photo taken while lying in one!

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Our walk round the monument was enjoyable, with wonderful views plus an added bonus for me and Kate because we saw a wild snake on some rocks above the river!

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We returned to my flat via Gurko Street. As with much of VT, it was picturesque, particularly as some of the trees are in blossom.

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After relaxing for a while we went out for a late dinner at Shtastlivetsa - we all had tarator and mains; Andrew had kebapche (flattened meatballs), I had some special scrambled eggs and Kate had what claimed to be 'oriental salad' but didn't actually seem different to a normal one. She said it was tasty, though. We had garlicky sauteed potatoes and grilled vegetables on the side.

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We were so stuffed by the end we had to ask for a doggy bag to take away most of the potatoes and some of the scrambled egg.

Posted by 3Traveller 02:41 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges sisters snakes bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street assen_monument Comments (0)

Bulgarian Orthodox Easter Sunday

Veliko Tarnovo


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The first excursion we went on today was to the fruit and veg market; I needed to buy some vegetables for dinner and I knew Emma was curious to see it anyway. She kept an eye out for quinces to take back to Mum, but there weren't any. Lots of salad vegetables, courgettes and peppers available. Only about half the stalls or less were occupied, but it was enough to give them a good idea of what it's like normally.

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We had to stop off at a bakery on the way home for a Bulgarian Easter essential - Kozunak, which is basically a huge fat sugary bun a bit like an oversized, puffy, round and not so tightly wound Chelsea bun. We bought an absolutely huge one to share later.

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When we got home Emma and Mark hung out some laundry they'd put in earlier, while I got lunch ready. We had mozzarella, roasted red peppers from a jar, pesto, snezhanka (essentially a more solid version of tarator, make with strained yoghurt), a long string of preserved sausages, bread, and cheese triangles. We ate out on the terrace since the weather was gorgeous.

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Next, we headed out to craftmen's street. Emma had a hankering for a cowbell, so she bought a small one from the same shop I'd bought her St George and the Dragon icon from on our birthday. Mark bought a couple of colourful finely woven table runners - one for him and Emma and the other for his family - and a pair of dangly leaf-like copper earrings for Emma from the coppersmith's workshop.

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After we'd made our purchases, we stopped off at Stratilat Café for pudding. Emma and I had Bulgarian rice pudding (which, by the way, isn't served hot like it usually is in the UK, but cold - it's beautifully creamy and sweet), and Mark had a decadent looking slice of banana and chocolate pie. Emma also had a strawberry milkshake and I had a frappé.

After a brief stop-off at the flat to dump their purchases and take in some laundry, we wandered down to Tsarevets Fortress.

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I'd been there three times before, so while Emma and Mark went up to the Patriarchate Tower first, I walked round to Baldwin's Tower, the part I hadn't seen before.

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When I met back up with the others, lower down the hill from the Patriarchate Tower, they raved about the views they'd got of the whole town and beyond, not just from the top of the tower but at every turn on the way up as well. After that we continued to the overhanging Executioner's Rock, where photos had to be taken of us standing, and climbed along the outside walls before finally making our rather sun-burnt way back into town.

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Emma and I went home while Mark made a detour back to the craftmen's street to buy a couple of very colourful painted glass bottles that had taken their fancy earlier.

'F' came round for dinner in the evening. The others chatted and drank hot drinks while I made a chicken and vegetable sauce, then while that finished cooking, I went down to the plaza with Emma and Mark for the sound and light show at Tsarevets. This happens on a regular basis, but usually the soundtrack is reserved for paying guests only (excepting the bells). Today though, since it was Easter Day, the mayor had paid for it to be available for everyone. Great timing for Emma and Mark! I've seen the show plenty of times, but not with the soundtrack until today. It lasted about 20 minutes and was extremely dramatic. It tells the history of Veliko Tarnovo, which evidently involved a lot of bloodshed and gunfire, judging by the wails on the soundtrack and the large amounts of red light and sudden flashes.

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After going back for dinner, we went round to 'F's to attack the Easter Bun and some wonderful chocolate brownies that she had made. We stayed there for a long time just eating and chatting, before reluctantly going back so that Emma and Mark could pack for their trip to Varna in the morning.

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Posted by 3Traveller 23:41 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged market sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo explorations fortifications tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine easter_celebrations Comments (0)

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