Belgrade, Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria

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July 12th 2017
Published: July 14th 2017
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Belgrade to Sofia

July 11 Tuesday

Got up at 5:30 to reorganize my items to fit the new fan in the large blue bag. Had a nice breakfast and then we left the hotel at 8 to head for Sophia, Bulgaria.

The trip to Nis, our rest stop for lunch, was uneventful. Small towns, farmlands, and an occasional factory. The homes that we passed ranged from slightly dilapidated to nice well manufactured homes. Some had large balconies along the second floor. We did pass a cemetery or two for the first time.

Niš is the third largest city of Serbia and the administrative center of the Nišava District in southern Serbia. According to the 2011 census, the urban area of Niš has population of 187,544, while the administrative area has a population of 260,237 inhabitants. It is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and Europe, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West. It was founded by the Scordisci in 279 BC, after an invasion of the Balkans. The city was among several taken in the Roman conquest in 75 BC; the Romans built the Via Militaris in the 1st century, with Naissus being one of its key towns; it is also the birthplace of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor and the founder of Constantinople, and Constantius III and Justin I. It is home to one of the oldest churches in Serbia, dating to the 4th century, located in the suburb of Mediana. Niš is one of the most important industrial centers in Serbia, a center of electronics industry, industry of mechanical engineering, textile and tobacco industry. Constantine the Great Airport is its international airport. In 2013 the city was host to the celebration of 1700 years of Constantine's Edict of Milan.

We arrived in Nis. We are definitely seeing the real Serbia. Lots of depressing buildings, trash, graffiti, and beggars. Howard, Ann, and I went to the old fortress to look around. We split off when I went into the souvenir shop. I had to get rid of my Serbian dinars before crossing the border so I bought a few more items

for friends. Still had more so I turned in some to a money exchanger and got five Euros back. The rest of the dinars I spent in the McDonalds. As we reached the edge of the city we came to the burial site and home of Constantine. It was in front of the traffic circle so Luigi drove around the circle 3 times so we all could get pictures.

We then headed down a two lane highway to reach the border. We passed many small towns that were poor looking. As far as the terrain, we follow the river for quite a while. Sometimes the river was clear and sometimes it had trash in the trash bags in it. We also went through a mountain pass where we were pretty close to the edge of a small drop off. We came out of the pass, but we still have mountains to the east of us. It's slow going because they are creating a larger highway but it's not open yet.

On a sidenote, I found out about the four day boat cruise that I had opted not to take on the advice of my travel advisor. She had told me that the cruise was very basic and had no air conditioning. Come to find out that it does have air-conditioning and it's a pretty nice cruise ship. So Scott is trying to see if I can get onto the ship with the rest of the people. If not, it will just be me and two other women not going on the four day cruise. I will make my own plans then for visiting around Athens, but it would be nice to be able to do the cruise.

The border crossing was pretty normal. It only took us about 30 minutes to get from Serbia's border to Bulgaria border. Once again as we travel on the road many of the buildings were old, lack of air conditioning, trash thrown everywhere, and many people selling fruits and vegetables.

YES!!! THANK YOU LORD!!! They still have room on the cruise ship!!! I'll be visiting 4 historical islands of Greece and Turkey!!!! Happy happy happy!

We gained an extra time when we entered Bulgaria. We got to the hotel Anel about five and at 5:45 about half of us took a walking tour of old Sofia. While we were waiting for the others to arrive for the walking tour everybody was talking about their rooms. Apparently married couples and those that are traveling with a companion got really large rooms some with kitchenettes, dining rooms, and spa tubs. I didn't get anything like that. Total bummer!

Sofia is the capital of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria. It’s in the west of the country, below Vitosha Mountain. The city’s landmarks reflect more than 2,000 years of history, including Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Soviet occupation. Medieval Boyana Church has 13th-century frescoes. Built by the Romans in the 4th century, St. George Rotunda Church has medieval and Ottoman decoration dating to the 10th century.

The walking tour was very informative. If I had not gone on the walking tour I would not know that Sophia has some wonderful historical buildings. Outside of old town Sofia it is pretty much looking like it did during the communist regime. In the downtown area there were Roman excavations but most of it was re-created to show people what it would look like. We saw many churches of different religions, governmental buildings, and the city park. We walked along Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard, with its unusual yellow brick road (a wedding gift to a late 19th-century Bulgarian prince). These were not painted red bricks but actually yellow bricks a now closed mining facility in Hungary. It was a really nice walk to see many parts of old Sofia.

Dinner was at 8 o'clock and instead of it being on the ground level of the hotel, it was actually up on the fifth level. The dining room was beautifully decorated with art work against dark paneling. As far as the meal went....really bad. We got a small bottle of water per person. When I wanted more water, I asked for a larger bottle. I got the large bottle plus a bill for €2!! Didn't know it would cost me money for more water and I didn't bring my wallet. Anne paid it for me. The salad was cut tomatoes and cucumbers covered with lots of cheese. The main course came out of pork or beef (the vote is still tied) covered in a brown sauce with really good green beans and buttered potatoes. I didn't know that the mail was pre-ordered or I would've said no beef. I asked one of the waiters if I could change the meat to chicken and he said no problem. A few minutes later the woman who brought me the large bottle of water then came back with another waiter to translate and basically said I would have to pay for the chicken if I wanted it. I declined. After the main course a nice cake was brought out for dessert. At least that was very tasty. I informed my tour director that from now on to put down on future meals no red meat. Apparently when we eat our dinners if it's at the hotel, it's a set meal, unless it is a buffet. When we eat out then we have our choice. I left the dining hall before everyone else was done and went back to my room to start getting ready for the night. Since I'm by the elevators I heard a commotion outside my door of my fellow traveling companions laughing and talking loudly. I opened up my door an offer to them down view of my little hovel of the room compared to theirs. Then Chris and Anne showed me their large room next door which had a couch and three different tables to use as well as a HP laptop to use for free. Then Cameron and Charne showed us their luxury suite. Upon entering their door you're in a foyer which then leads off into three different rooms; the spa bathroom, the living room with kitchenette and dining room table, and a super large bedroom with a gigantic king size bed. I understand that I'm a single traveler, but I did have to pay extra to be a single traveler. It would've been nice if I had gotten something similar. Oh well, at least the room is very cold and the AC works.

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