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Published: July 10th 2012
This is what happens when you park for too long in the wrong place.
Sunday 8th July 2012
We're off again! After an early breakfast we took the second taxi of this trip to the bus station where we boarded the 0800 bus to Veliko Tarnovo. The main attraction for this town is a castle and the Old Town area and the helpful tourist information office in Ruse said this was not to be missed.
Two hours later we arrived at the VT bus station and after retrieving our baggage we turned to see the only taxi there driving off. Undeterred ,we set off in the direction of town, intending to wave a taxi down when we saw one. Luckily one came before we had walked too far, we were walking in the opposite direction!
The Arena Tarnovo Hotel advertises itself as being close to the centre of town. It is, except it is the centre of the new town, and about 3 kms from the old. As it was 3 hours before check in time we expected to leave our things behind and go exploring, but the cheerful lass at the desk told us to go to the dining room and have a coffee and some breakfast “on the house”,
Set on the top of the hill in the fortress
the room would be ready in 15 minutes.
The 'room' ended up being a huge 2 roomed suite, nothing fancy but clean. As the advertised rate also includes half board and they give you a complimentary taxi ride to the fort, we decided that a little distance could be tolerated.
It being Sunday, the shops nearby were closed except for a few cafes, but as we got closer to the centre there was a little more activity. A couple of tourist buses were in, their passengers joining the locals on the streets and cafes.
The Tourist Office provided us with a map, some brochures, and indicated where we should go nearby.
This turned out to be a street running parallel to the main street, lined with craft and souvenir shops. Here we were invited in to one and before we knew it we had a cup of apple tea in our hands. We realised how close we were to Turkey, as this happened frequently when we were there. They took no offence when we didn't buy anything, just wished us a happy day.
We did buy a couple of trinkets for our granddaughters at one
The entrance to the main fortress
before returning to the main street and walking back towards where we are staying. It was lunchtime by then so we stopped at an alfresco cafe joining many people there. Here, we enjoyed the local Shopska Salad made from tomatoes, cucumber, onion, capsicum, black olives, a little chilli and fetta cheese. Delicious, especially in the heat (35 degrees), washed down with dark beer for Rags and Judy trying, and enjoying, a 'fusion' beer. This is made from beer and grape juice. This, and the lemon beer, are two drinks Rags will try his hand at when brewing at home.
By the time we returned to the hotel we were ready for a cold shower, after which a restful afternoon followed. Once again our sleep hadn't been the best last night prior to us moving on.
Dinner was at the hotel, this included in the price of the room. We sat outside on the patio as it had cooled down by then, (about 2000) and both of us enjoyed our two complimentary drinks . They are very keen to get the business as they are a little out of town. The chicken and pork salad together with a carrot
and beetroot salad sated our hunger. Rags tried a few more different local rakis, the prices they charge making him feel like a kid in a toy shop!
Monday 9th July 2012
Rags might pass on raki for a while, he was rather dry in the mouth this morning! Breakfast was as most have been here in Bulgaria, not our preferred, but still acceptable. Rags did get a good cappuccino though, all he needs now is to learn how to ask them to serve it hot!
We took advantage of the hotel's offer of a free taxi ride to Tsarevets, the ruins of the main fort which existed in the 12 -14th centuries when Tarnovgrad was the medieval capital of Bulgaria. We were dropped off several hundred metres away from the entrance as the road is being rebuilt, using cobblestones. The fortress is entered along a walled ridge leading to several arched gates guarding the entrance. Much of the ruins have been partially restored, the paths all in original cobblestone. At its peek the fortress was densely populated with hundreds of dwellings, over 20 churches and 4 monasteries. Set on a hill as it was
The Patriarchal Church of Ascencian
This is the shortened name of the church in the fortress
with steep cliffs topped with walls it wasn't hard to imagine that this fort was never conquered.
Now all that remains are the foundations of the many buildings, except for one monastery which has been restored and stands at the peak of the hill overlooking the modern town. The temperature was already rising, even though it was only 1000, and we paused and reflected on how it might have looked and how people lived all those hundred of years ago. This contemplating took place as we had a drink of water, in a shady spot, overlooking Execution Rock. This rock jutted out over a cliff, the river a long way down. No surviving that fall!
Much of the central part of town is built on the top and sides of a high ridge overlooking the Yantra River which winds through the mountains. On the arm visible from the town is built an art gallery and a large statue of 4 horsemen depicting different Bulgarian Tsars. To get to this spot easily, most people cross the river over a pedestrian bridge near the centre of town. As we were approaching from another side we decided on a short-cut. After
a scramble alongside the river on a muddy track where we both got stung by nettles, walking across a railway bridge, through a traffic tunnel and a dirt path through thick shrub we reached it.
Needless to say, we returned to the centre of the city via the pedestrian bridge and as the path took us past the Information office we dropped in to find out how to get to Varna on Wednesday. We simply had to go around the corner to the little ticketing office near the Eta Hotel, buy our tickets and be there at 0915 on the day. Simple!
With that done we retraced some of our steps, intending to have lunch at the same place as yesterday. Thirst overtook us before we got there, so a stop at a cafe overlooking the valley from where we had just climbed was an apt place to quench it with a lemon beer.
Lunch of salad and a dish of 'mishmash' (fried tomato, herbs and a scrambled eggs mix) with a cold drink in the airconditioned part of the cafe had us revived enough to not catch a taxi, but to walk back to our hotel
We crossed this on our "short cut".
It was only about 2kms but we went a different way to previously, and came in from above the hotel. This did give us an opportunity to see the arena the hotel is attached to. It looks derelict from the outside, but once inside you see the lush green soccer grounds with new seating under the covered areas. This explained the fit young men staying at the hotel, they were here for training.
The airconditioned room was our haven for the afternoon, we planned to do this tomorrow as well, go out in the morning whilst it is relatively cool, and take it easy after that.
Tuesday 10th July 2012
We took a taxi to the village of Arbanassi about 4kms out of town on the crest of a mountain overlooking the city and the fort of Tsarevets where we were yesterday. We found the village to be very quiet, with few people on sight and only a car or two moving around. The map we had was not very detailed nor was the tourist board in the square where we were dropped off but as it was still cool as we set off
The 4 Tsars of Bulgaria
down the main street.
Rags didn't think that we were going in the direction we thought we were, this confirmed when we used our little-used compass. The correct direction was what appeared to be a cobbled laneway between the houses, these all appearing to be owned by richer owners. All the homes were bordered by stone walls with large doored entrances overlooked by security lights. This was confirmed when a security car came up behind us and we were looked over by the occupant before he continued.
The rest of the time in the village was spent walking through it enjoying the shaded roads and the cool breeze which was blowing. In spots we had views all over Veliko Tarnova lying far below us. By the time we felt like a break and something to drink it was nearly 1130 but as we weren't hungry we waited at the bus stop with a cold green tea in hand, waiting for either a taxi or bus, whichever came first. A taxi did come into the square, we called it, but before we knew what was happening a local young 'lady' had jumped in and the taxi was off.
Monument and Art Gallery
We came in from the riverbank level, walked out on the pedestrian bridge
Ten minutes before the bus was due a taxi did arrive and he took us into the central part of town. Not only was he a good driver, he also used his meter, and to our surprise, gave us both a lolly to suck on the way. He was given a tip when we paid!
Lunch was at the same place we have had lunch for the past 2 days, the Shtastlivetsa restaurant. Here, we sat inside again, but in a room overlooking the Assen Monument we went to yesterday, and the river far below.We did walk back to the hotel, neither of us really feeling we had to taxi everywhere, and it helped burn up some of the delicious pizza we had for lunch.
Dinner was at the hotel after we spent the afternoon as we have in the past. Luckily it was pleasant outside as the dining area was full of Russian children having a party of some sort, their parents taking refuge in the garden area.
Here we had our drinks and meal, afterwards having a talk with the two friendly receptionists, one coming off his 12 hour shift, the other starting hers.
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