We arrive in the afternoon. We move through the train station doors and we decide to take the main road underpass. Most locals don’t do this and we find the descent dangerous: damaged, broken and missing stones form and don’t form many steps. The underpass is meant to have shops but it’s almost completely empty aside from a bridge club with half a dozen players and a hairdresser with two customers. The stairs leading out are equally as bad.
The walk to the hostel is over terrible footpaths. Square tiles try to blend with hexagons and the ground ripples like the ocean. This is one of the defining characteristics of Bulgaria: shoddy pavement.
Ruse gave us our first taste of Bulgaria. Great summer weather and diverse not-meat-based food. Neither of which we had seen of in a while.
Also they had this tombstone of a man with a fantastic moustache. The kind you could wind up and he would be able to fly.
Bulgarians have a big sit out in the park and drink beer culture. It’s very social and the perfect way to spend the last daylight hours of a summer day. As far as big cities go, it’s very relaxed with interesting architecture, layers of history and a great selection of cafés and über-hip bars. The kind of place Dylan Moran would describe as "A really exclusive place called Umlaut. You probably haven't heard of it. Well, it's not actually called Umlaut, it's just two dots over a U which isn't there.”.
There was a place that burnt down once and is now a charred skeleton without power and lit by candles. They get around the safety requirements by calling it a private club and not a public bar. There was a basement bar. There was an apartment where each room was themed in a different graffiti style.
Sofia felt a lot like Melbourne and we felt comfortable here.
We were in and out over two scorching summer days. Plovdiv is a small town and the second biggest in Bulgaria. We took the Free Plovdiv tour. Our guide, spoke without punctuation and hustled us through all the sites, possibly because it was unbearable to stand in the sun. One of the other participants was a Japanese man who has decided that two and a half weeks out of Japan is enough and he was heading home.
The star attraction is the amphitheatre and is still used for performances today. I looks like it would be a wonderful place to take in a summer concert. I’m not sure whether rock and roll or Bulgarian thrash metal is played here. There are still a few roman statues and pillars that might now survive the power chords.
On Veliko Tarnovo
VT, as it’s called, is wrapped around the bend in a river and rises up the steep bank. This results in a beautiful city of narrow streets and old buildings. The place is geared towards tourists with shops sporting such great signs as “Sorry we’re open” and others say “30 metres to Some Shop” and arrow that points to a visible sign saying “15 metres to Some Shop”.
“The bell is ringing!” comes a cry from the common area in the hostel.
“When they ring the bell that means the light show is about to start”.
So Jess and I race up to Tsarvets fortress and watch the light show. It’s fifteen minutes of lights turning off and on through out the fortress and a few lasers shooting into the night sky. It’s not quite as impressive as the Mariana Towers in Singapore and it lacked an epic backing soundtrack. I mean there was a Backstreet Boys song coming from a café some distance behind us but it’s not quite the same thing.
The lights flicker on and off and cycle through a variety of colours and it’s generally a very pretty show.
The black sea. We touched our toes in it and the decided to go to Istanbul. On the way back to our hotel and our final night in Bulgaria we bought some ice cream. They sell it by the gram here and the owner managed to get half a kilo of ice cream onto each cone. It set us back $15 AUD and cost me my ice cream eating credentials. Jess was a star though and managed to finish hers and the rest of mine.
So long Bulgaria.