Archive for ‘Bulgaria’  

Bulgaria, Romania : Bucharest Blockage

Thursday, 8th May 2008

Best laid plans.. well, we never made it to Brasov yesterday as we had hoped after all. After having breakfast in Velico, we got a short taxi to the train station and were 30mins early for the 11:10 train to Bucharest.

We soon heard that the train was delayed and that it would only arrive at noon. Noon came and went and we eventually left at 12:30-ish. The train got to the next station fairly swiftly (about 8km further), but then stopped for what turned out to be a total of almost 4 hours. At this stage we began to doubt the possibility of going through to Brasov, but still had hope..

Turned out that we had been standing there without a engine and were waiting for a replacement the whole time. We got moving from there at about 16:00 and immediately the ticket inspectors came around to do the usual checks. We had been sitting (feet up) in the compartment by ourselves watching a movie when they came in shouting about the ‘damage’ we were causing to the seats..

They insisted we paid a ‘shtraf’ fine of what we could make out to be ~ 16 euro each. In addition they also started runting about the fact that we had only our inter-rail passes but no seat reservations (dispite the fact that we were 2 of about 7 people on the entire carriage!) and demanded more money.

Needless to say we just acted dumb and told them we had no money on us, while Marizanne was frantically wiping the dust marks off the already-filthy seats. After a few minutes they realised they weren’t getting what they wanted and then just suddenly left, never to be seen again.. Both our train-trips into, and out of Bulgaria have turned out to be relatively unique experiences.

After all this fun we were still about 100 km from the border and more waiting followed while we cantered through the countryside.

We arrived at the border crossing at about 20:00 and waited some more.. and so on..

Long story short, we finally pulled into Bucharest station at 22:30 – the original arrival time being 17:09. We travelled less than 200km yesterday in a total of 10 hours – a day well spent :)

More dramas ensued as we walked the streets of Bucharest searching for our chosen hostel (trusting the Lonenly Planet’s splendid map-work) until we gave up and took a taxi 4 blocks further, finally arriving at 00:30 at the Butterfly Villa Hostel.

We’re aiming to get the 13:00 train from Bucharest to Brasov (2 hour trip), and hope to get there before tomorrow..

The Lonely Planet has really been our Bible on this trip, but it has to be said that some of the maps tend to leave one in the lurch when you most need it.

PS: Juan & Marli, thanks again for the European LP, it has carried us well through Western Europe.

PPS: Nilf & Feebil, thanks again for the cereal bars, the last two saved us during our long train trip yesterday.

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We met Corina (from Cluj Napoca in Romania) in the McDonald’s at the Bucharest train station. She had just arrived back from a trip to Egypt and had plenty of stories to share. Corina is also aiming to go to Oz at some point, so we might meet up again then!

Bulgaria : Veliko Tar”NO”va

Wednesday, 7th May 2008

Photos of Velico here

The Lonely Planet calls Veliko Tarnova one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.. we beg to differ..

The Hostel Mostel in Sofia made reservations for us at their sister property in Veliko and they were actually waiting for us at the train station yesterday afternoon – 5 star service we’re not used to! It was about 16:00 when we started walking around the streets (well, there is only 1 main street) and went up to the Fortress on the hill.

The whole time we were waiting for our impression of Veliko to improve, according to our expectations, but it never happened. Veliko Tarnova is a nice enough town, but it does not impress in any way and in hindsight is definately not worthy of a 1 night stop-over. This is all very strange because plenty of people have previously told us about Veliko being so lovely and the guidebooks absolutely rave about it. At least we are not the only ones thinking like this – everyone in our room last night felt the same way.

Again, Hostel Mostel was great – it is an old house (built in the 1800’s) newly renovated and the people are very friendly and helpful and we got another free dinner last night.

We were planning on staying in Bucharest tonight, but have decided to try and go straight through to Brasov and skip the apparently unattractive and boring capital of Romania (this is actually according to other travellers and not the Lonely Planet). Let’s hope the train connections all work out.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Bulgaria : Soaked in Sofia

Monday, 5th May 2008

Photos of Sofia here

We’ve had perhaps the most relaxing day so far on our trip.. and have loved it!

We got up mid-morning and, after breakfast, headed into town to start exploring. The first stop was the Lady’s Market just up the road from us. It’s a street market with loads of clothes, food and odds & ends. Everywhere so far we’ve been looking for a really small hotplate and/or a boiling element to boil water in a cup. We finally found exactly what we’ve been looking for at this market and bought both today. Now we can finally enjoy a cup of tea and even cook some pasta whenever we want.

We also bought a whole lot of fruit and veg for dinner tonight and had to come back to the hostel to drop everything off. Just as we stepped inside it started pouring down and kept going until late afternoon. We ended up chilling in front of the hostel’s plasma screen (!!) watching movies and spending some time uploading photos (see the latest additions to the Eastern European section).

At about 18:00 we decided to take another shot at sightseeing and did about 1 hour round trip of the town before the rain started coming down again. But luckily when we got back we were just in time for dinner and a beer (included in the price). This is definately one of the best hostels we’ve stayed at (Hostel Mostel).

Planning on catching the 9:50 train to Velico Ternova tomorrow morning – we just hope the weather is a bit better then.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Bulgaria, Montenegro : Sofia at last

Sunday, 4th May 2008

It has been 26 hours since our last post and since that time we have been travelling solidly.

We got on the 16:50 bus from Kotor that got us to Bar (still in Montenegro) at 19:30. We had time for dinner at a nice little restaurant opposite the train station in Bar before we boarded the overnight train back to Belgrade; this time we had beds on the train (3 bunk beds on each side of the compartment).

The train was 2 hours late and we only got to Belgrade at 8am. Our next train left Belgrade at 08:40 to Sofia (10 hour trip!). At one stage we shared the compartment with 2 very strange old ladies smuggling cigarettes across the Bulgarian border (hiding the cartons everywhere – from a specially made jacket with hidden pockets to socks and underwear!). The one even bribed the controller because she didn’t have a ticket for the train. It was very obviously not their first time doing it and all this made for a very interesting trip into Bulgaria.

We found a very nice hostel, Hostel Mostel (no, that is the real name) and we even got some free pasta and a beer when we arrived. At this stage we are planning on staying 2 nights in Sofia and then heading to Veliko Tarnovo, but it all depends on how exciting the city turns out to be tomorrow.