Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Drynovo, Tryavna
21.09.2007 25 °C
Travelling into Bulgaria on the bus from Skopje i had an immediate sense of relief at leaving Skopje. I got chatting to an Aussie guy called Paul on the bus and we were both heading the same direction so decided to team up together in Sofia at least. We got off the bus and because it was about 10pm decided to get a taxi to the hostel and i then experienced being ripped off for the second time in two days!! taxi drivers near bus or train stations....stear clear of them!!
After checking in and getting settled at the hostel we went out for some food and had a quick walk around Sofia at night and all we basically saw was people gorging on mcdonalds and prostitutes. So basically first impressions werent all that great, but after waking up the following morning we decided to follow the map and went for a proper walk around the city and discovered hidden away amongst the high-rises a quite pretty city, lots of interesting little churches, statues, monuments and some great parks! I'm not really gonna write a lot about Sofia because its not really the key part of Bulgaria to be honest. The next stop on my list (Paul was still with me for the first day) was Plovdiv, which is a town right in the middle of Bulgaria (those with good sporting memories might remember Bolton conquering Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the UEFA Cup a couple of years ago....i remember it, it was the only game i left early, remember it mum?!!). I stayed in a really great hostel there called Hikers Hostel. After having a look around we discovered a really pretty old city with lots of colourful old buildings and the old town positioned between a network of hills. I stayed here for 2 more days and even walked up a couple of the hills when i had done everything in the basin of the town. I was really pleased i decided to visit Plovdiv as its a wonderful little town and even has a cool ampitheatre that u can wander round.
After Plovdiv i met a Canadian girl in the hostel who was getting the same bus as me but she was going to Tryavna not Veliko Tarnovo, so we set off to get the bus together. Unfortunatly upon arrival at the bus station she found out the bus wasnt stopping in Tryavna so she came along with me to Veliko. Her name was Jeri and we got on really well and would spend the next few days together and had a lot of fun. Veliko Tarnovo was a place i had never really heard of to be honest until about a week before i planned my route but im now unbelievably glad i went there. It is a gorgeous little town sent on the S-bend of a river, with loads of old buildings, a huge castle, the coolest church ever, mountains surrounding it on all sides and loads of cute little villages on the hillside. It was probably amongst my 2 or 3 favourite places so far in the whole trip.
There were a few things that worried me though, first off me and jeri noticed an estate agent and had a nosy in the window (as u do) and both stood their in shock for about 10mins.....all the houses were under 30,000 euros (thats about 17,000 pounds!).....granted they werent in Veliko but in the villages just outside, but even so!!! The second thing was possibly the most bizzarre thing i have done on my travels, we were wandering around a church in a little village called Arbanaisi and decided to pop in, we opened the squeaky door only to walk into the very start of an orthodox christening! As the door was really really noisy we couldnt sneak out, so we had to linger at the back of the hall and watch a little girl of about 4 getting baptised! We ended up taking pictures for the family who's kid it was (so both parents and godparents could be in all the pics) and generally helping out in tiny bits and at the end we were rewarded with some nice bread!!
We then went to Tryavna (where Jeri was originally trying to get in the first place) and spent half a day there, which was fun. Before we decided to hitch-hike the last 15miles or so to the Drynovo monestary.....alas what both of us didnt know was that it was up hill and a very rarely used road! we ended up walking about 3 miles before we got picked up by a man in a carpet van who could take us to the town of drynovo which was about 2 miles short of the monestary, after taking this lift, we almost immediatly got picked up again by 2 men in a lada who would take us to the monestary aslong as we would talk like posh english people too them......deal! The monestary itself was gorgeous, as it was in a fantastic location surrounded by mountains and cliffs, with caves u could go exploring in, a river running right past and a forest surrounding it on all other sides. It was really mind-blowing! After taking in the sights for an hour or two and then getting something to eat we wandered back to the main road and after trying unsuccesfully for about 15mins to get a lift we eventually got offered a lift by some old guy in a comedy old soviet car whos name i cant even remember. However he could only take us back to Drynovo (couple of miles) and the fee was 2 cigarrette's (neither of us smoked, but we bought one pack between us as we understood this was the normal currency....plus they r only 1 euro for a pack of 20!). After getting back to Drynovo we encountered a real problem as we couldnt get a lift for about 45mins, but just as we were about to give up and a get a bus back the last 40miles or so a random guy and girl pulled up and said they could take us all the way to Veliko Tarnovo as they were heading to Varna anyway. We snapped up this offer and got back to our hostel both exhausted after the days travels.
The next day i moved onto Romania while Jeri moved onto Varna on the black sea coast.
Bulgaria was probably my second favourite country so far as it had lots of everything, but i think it will have been reinforced by the really good company i met in both Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo