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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)

Birthday visitors!

Veliko Tarnovo


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After I finished work today, at 19.45, I immediately walked to ETAP bus station to collect some visitors. My sisters Emma and Kate were here for the weekend so we could celebrate our 30th birthday together!

When I got there they had got off the bus five minutes before. I took them round the corner to Tempo Pizza straight away for some dinner; over tarator, vegetable pizza and some tomato, mozzarella, pesto and proscuitto salad they told me about what they'd got up to in Sofia before they took the bus to VT. They'd tried kashkavalki for the first time after spotting them in a bakery window and recognising them from a photo of mine I'd taken before Christmas, looked round Sveta Nedelya Cathedral and found one of the cake shops I'd raved about!

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By the time our food arrived I had come into possession of a little stuffed white bear, courtesy of a scratchcard that came with my bottle of Coke Zero. The tarator came first - I insisted that they try it, because I know that usually when I absolutely love something, there's a good chance that they will too. I was proved correct!

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We walked from the restaurant to my flat, stopping at one of the lookout points on the way for them to take a picture or two.

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Before we went to bed we went next door to have some hot chocolate and a chat with 'F'.

Birthday tomorrow... :-)

Posted by 3Traveller 22:42 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Bulgarian Chinese food

Veliko Tarnovo


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Edit from January 2019: Although I stupidly forgot to note down the name of the Chinese restaurant at the time, I remember it was near Lidl - having looked at Google Maps, I think it could have been Hua Zhou, just off of Bld. Bulgaria.

The cold weather has finally properly hit us at times this week; it's been a mixture though. Today is the warmest day so far this year, at about 15 degrees, but most of the week has been very cold (although still sunny). Once in the morning it was -8 degrees, on another morning it was about -13! There was a bit of snow around for most of the week, but the weather today has finished it off. Apparently the sunny weather will continue all next week, except for tomorrow when there'll be more snow.

I took these photos of the view from my terrace, Gurko Street, the Assen Monument and the River Yantra the other day;

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On Friday we had a staff meal at a really nice restaurant in town called Shtastlivetsa ('The Lucky Man'). I'd eaten there once before, but back in September at an outside table, so I hadn't been downstairs before. I've forgotten the name of what I had, but it was roasted vegetables like aubergine, courgette and onion on a very thin base of filo pastry. I had Turkish ice cream for pudding, which was an interesting texture - a mixture between normal ice cream texture and a slight stretchiness, like mozzarella but more solid.

To keep on the theme of food, last night I went to a Chinese restaurant for the first time in Bulgaria. I went with 'R', 'F' and a couple of friends of hers I hadn't met before. I hadn't known there even were any Chinese restaurants in VT before then, but apparently there are two or three, in the outskirts rather than the centre. The food was very similar to British Chinese food, except for a simple but delicious salad containing sesame seeds. They also had veal, something I've never seen at a Chinese restaurant in the UK, instead of beef. For pudding I had 'fried ice cream' - ice cream fried very quickly in batter. Only a little bit of it had melted. It was delicious, but very filling! It came with a colourful paper peacock on a wooden stick. Its tail spreads out like a fan.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:40 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow bulgaria veliko_tarnovo tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine river_yantra gurko_street assen_monument Comments (0)

Return to Bulgaria

London Gatwick Airport, Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo


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Another set of goodbyes, a smooth train journey to Gatwick in the middle of the night and a long, sleepless few hours in the terminal waiting area before I could go through security and bag checks. In comparison to my journey through here in September, at least this time I only had hand luggage so avoided the potentially long queues at check-in and could go straight through to bag x-ray and then duty-free. No grumpy x-ray staff this time.

I managed to doze off for a while on the plane but still felt very sleep-deprived on arrival in Sofia. The taxi journey to the central bus station was uneventful and this time I had no problems getting a ticket for the next bus to Veliko Tarnovo. I dozed some more on the bus. There was snow around in Sofia and this continued all the way into Veliko Tarnovo.

I've met the new teacher, who is living in the flat above mine. She seems really nice. Term starts tomorrow!

Posted by 3Traveller 14:39 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow trains airport buses sofia bulgaria veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

Boxing Day

Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia Airport


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We spent most of the day in Veliko Tarnovo, lying in, eating Christmas dinner leftovers for lunch and doing some shopping. I bought myself a lovely real leather handbag and a beautiful, colourful handpainted icon of St George & the Dragon. The latter was something I'd been thinking of buying for myself ever since I arrived in Bulgaria (St George is popular here, so his image often appears in icons). The shop was small, but still managed to have two sections; both were filled with antiques, but the smaller one also had lots of icons on the walls. While I looked at the icons, Dave inspected the antiques and bought a fancy wooden box - he originally looked at another box but it turned out to belong to the owner and was the only one not to actually be on sale!

We took the 5pm bus to Sofia without any problems. I'd bought our tickets in the morning, just in case the buses got booked up (I've never done this in Bulgaria until now, but I didn't want to risk the chance of missing our flight due to not being able to get a bus to Sofia at all). After I'd done that, we both sampled some hot chocolate from the Italian hot drink vending machine in the street in front of the ETAP bus station. These machines are spread out throughout Veliko Tarnovo; the drinks names are in Bulgarian but the instructions are in Italian. The hot chocolate was only 50 stotinki (20p) each and was quite small, but delicious.

At Sofia bus station I hoped the OK-Supertrans taxi desk would be open, but although it was only 8.30pm, it was closed. The opening hours listed there and in my guidebook claimed that it remained open until 10pm. I was hesitant to catch a taxi from outside the station without having gone through the taxi desk, because the only time I'd done that before I'd got royally ripped off, but now it looked like we had no choice. To guard against being ripped off I got Dave to take a photo of their listed rates. Maybe the driver we ended up with had seen us do this (or maybe he was just nice and honest), because as it turned out we didn't get ripped off at all.

It was snowing in Sofia. Inside Sofia Airport it was lovely and warm though and for the first few hours of our wait we were almost the only people in the whole terminal apart from two security staff. Our flight wasn't until 5.30am. We took turns to wander around (Dave went outside and took some pictures of the snow), we played another long game of 10-card rummy and I read part of a biography of Captain Cook on my Kindle. Dave tried to sleep but failed because lying across the seats was too uncomfortable.

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Posted by 3Traveller 09:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow airport christmas buses dave sofia bulgaria icons veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

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