Published: October 3rd 2011September 30th 2011
Day 146 Back on the road-into Bulgaria!
With work finished and Bongo cleaned and recharged. Alison met me from the airport. We wasted no time and headed North across the border into Bulgaria. For the first time we had border guards looking inside, not once, but three times! I heard later that cigarette smuggling is a big thing from Turkey and Greece into Bulgaria, and seeing that Bulgarian still like to light up its hardly surprising.
With a grid reference punched into the Satnav it took us to co-ordinance where we thought there should be a campsite- where from nowhere this man on a quad bike beckoned us to follow him further up a dingy lane that then opened up onto a small pleasant clearing with small chalet huts. We had seen this before in Montenegro and this type of campsite was popular in Communist countries-sort of like mini Holiday Camps. Unfortunately like others we had been to it was designed for hundreds (although by the one Turkish toilet per sex you wouldn’t believe it!) and apart from a couple of occupied huts we were the only one’s there except loads of cats and a couple of dogs. One thing
you don’t see every day though, was our distant neighbour laid back in his saddle riding a horse onto site at full canter, looking like Taras Bulba, I tell you I was impressed.
Next morning we drove over the mountains to Plovdiv an old roman settlement, and a place where if you look through the back streets, you can still see remnants of Roman antiquity just strewn about. Here we visited a really impressive Amphitheatre that could hold 7000 which sits on the hill of Old Plovdiv.
As we continued our journey north and with light fading, and faint hope of finding a campsite we decided to take up in a hotel. When approaching the hotel it seemed at first deserted and not inviting, even when we entered the lobby it was like a scene out of ‘the Shining ‘= a massive hotel, but nobody there, until somebody poked there head out of reception. I swear if you imagine a large hotel we must have been the only ones there. We did make full use of the facilities though, swimming pool, shower. We decided to celebrate our first Wedding anniversary here and thought a quiet meal might be good, unfortunately
a proud new father had partly hired the room for a knees up! So we had a noisy meal instead...
Moving on, we passed another set of Bulgarian Mountains, the Platenia it was certainly a lovely drive, and passed an impressive memorial at Shipka commemorating victory over the Russians in the late 19th Century. In the valley s it was mainly agriculture with many hand intensive farms and families joining in the work.
Our next overnight stop was at Veliko Tarnova once the capital of Bulgaria, the satnav directed us to a campsite site and since it was in the back of beyond was convinced the facilities were going to be as poor as many as the ex communists site we have stayed. We drove in not only was it a lovely site overlooking a natural valley, with pool lovely shower, bar etc. but when we said hello to the owner, you could have knocked us down with a feather when w realised she was British and had opened the campsite in the last two years. Terrific!
Money goes a long way in Bulgaria, food, drink and cabs are cheap and with that we got a cab into town. Veliko
Tarnova is an amazing town in that it was built around a Medieval fortress on the edge of a spectacular gorge.
Bulgaria is not a rich country with many people scraping a living, but we have enjoyed our stay with its beautiful and interesting countryside.
There are more photos below