Bulgaria

Trip Start Mar 28, 2010
1
19
33
Trip End Jun 25, 2010


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Flag of Bulgaria  , Varna,
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crossing into Bulgaria the border guards decided they wanted to search our car – until they opened our boot and saw much effort that was going to be. Across the border all of the shops were closed and we couldn't figure out where we were supposed to buy a vignette (road tax) so we drove on to Sofia. Arriving in central Sofia we parked up and went for a walk around the city then found some wifi and booked a room for the night. It took us a while to find the place we had booked as the hotel had no sign and then no sooner had we got into the room than a lightning strike knocked out all the power in the building so we went out to find some bread and tzatziki for dinner.

In the morning we finally found a petrol station that would sell us a vignette and then 5 minutes later passed a police checkpoint where they were checking them – lucky! The previous night we took stock of how much time we had before Sail Croatia on the 22nd and how many more places we want to go beforehand – it seems we are destined to be doing a lot more big days of driving. We had wanted to go to Plovdiv but decided to skip it in favour of Veliko Tārnovo a student town in the middle of the country. The town is set in some steep hills and has a big fortress dominating one end of town. We had a look around the fortress and town, got some quick lunch then headed back out of town to the Dryanovo Monastery. The monastery was pretty cool, with roofs made with big slabs of stone overlapped like slates and had miniature horses wandering around it – making it very difficult to drag Sophie away so that we could see the amazing Bacho Kiro cave that is just behind the monastery. The cave is a massive 4km deep and they have found evidence of people living the cave as long ago as 40,000 BC, as well as cave bears that were over 3m tall that they had to compete with. It was a scorching hot day so we were overjoyed to find the cave temperature is a constant 12 degrees year round.

We would have liked to spend a night in the area but we had to get back on the road and keep going – next stop Varna on the Black Sea. We found ourselves a really cheap room in a 2 star hotel at the Golden Sands beach resort. Being spring the resort was pretty much a ghost town and there were definitely more people working than enjoying themselves but we still really liked the place. The resort must have about 50 large hotels and at least 100 glitzy bars (even an Eiffel tower one) as well as shops and casinos in a tiny area and in summer it must be something else. The beach is golden sand (wouldn’t of guessed from the resort name) and it is huge with literally thousands of umbrellas and deck chairs all along it. Most of the bars near the waterfront have pools around them and we would definitely have loved to spend a few days here. The water was warmer than it was in the Mediterranean and the beach was one of the nicest we have seen on this trip so we went for a swim in the morning before getting back on the road.

There are almost as many police checkpoints in Bulgaria as there are in Albania and we got stopped twice within an hour of leaving Varna. The Bulgarian motorways were another interesting experience, driving at 130 km/h is nothing new for us now, but every now and again the road surface would without warning become potholed beyond belief. The first time we came to a bad section we thought driver of the car in front of us was having a heart attack the way he was swerving at high speed, but seconds later we also saw the foot deep craters waiting to crumple our car. The best surface was on the shoulder so for the most part everyone drove on the shoulder only venturing onto the road to overtake. On more minor roads potholes were less of a danger because we were going slower but we instead had to contend with hundreds of horses and carts moving along slowly at the edge of the road.

We eventually got to the Danube and crossed a giant bridge into Romania.
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