A bus to the capital..

Trip Start Jan 12, 2008
Trip End Mar 19, 2009

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Vilekio Tarnavo - A beautiful stop in Bulgaria
Our first overnight train trip has finally arrived.  This will be interesting.  We left got to the station and boarded the train.  We had paid for a four birth cabin but there were 6 beds (two triple bunks).   We were allocated the top bunks so that was even worse!  After getting no-where with the staff about the misallocation, the train was on its way!  We were shacked up with two middle aged Romanian ladies whom were great.  They even made our beds...  We were in bed within an hour of leaving.  Next stop, border crossings.
Bang, bang!  A rapping on the door, suggested we were coming to the border.  3am... To our horror we had to get off the train.  We hurried to the door and were one of the first off.  On our way to the office, a lady from the train was screaming (think she was attacked or mugged) and the cops were off.  That was a little unsettling...  We then headed to the office and lined up.  Bill got stamped in and then the guy started going nuts to someone on the phone.  I just stood there and smiled stupidly the whole time.  Eventually he came around opened my passport and stamped it.  Back on the train and then to sleep.
After what seemed like an eternity (I slept) there was another rap on the door.  This time they got on the train.  There were torches in faces and some yawning and trying to look some like your photo and then off to sleep again.  Rapping again, this time police, more torches.  Rapping again, customs, didn't care about Bill or I but accepted a 10 Euro bribe from the two Romanian ladies after some tooing and throwing that we had no idea about...  We were off again!  Rapping, ticket check, for gods sake!!  The whole saga took a good 2 hours.
Around 7am, we got a little stressed.  We were under in the impression that we were arriving at our stop around then...  No-one else was getting off there as the train was heading to Bucharest in Romania.  We figured the ticket guy would tell us when so we went back to sleep for a few hours.  We got up about 9.30am, sorted ourselves and waited.  We started trying to decipher the acrylic alphabet as well to see where we were but to no avail.  None of the staff spoke a word of English... Eventually after a load of stress, the lady in our cabin asking the conductor, having varying answers, we vowed always to check the timetable before boarding a train and were offloaded at 12:50pm in Veliko Tárnovo. 
Exhausted we faffed a little and then got a taxi into the town.  We got a room fairly easily in a ladies house.  Homestays are a tradition in Eastern Europe and it helps out the locals.  It had a great view of the town and the river.  Heading straight out we headed down through the old town and on to the fort.  We trudged around it in the heat and found it to be quite uninteresting but I guess its hard to enjoy everything.  There were some stunning views of the town from there though.  We were truly knackered from the train trip and lack of sleep so went back to our room for a quick nap. We woke the next morning at 8am.
Sofia - the Bulgarian Capital
That day we were heading to the Capital of Bulgaria, Sofia.  We got to the bus station and the next bus leaving was the only one with room (damn weekends) so we booked the bus and had a last walk around the town.  On the bus, we arrived in Sofia 3 hours later.  We jumped a taxi into town and he had no idea so we ended up god knows were.  Eventually, with a little luck and intuition we found where we were.  That day, half of Scotland it seemed were venturing back from Macidonia (World Cup Qualifier) to get there cheap flights home.  With a few full hostels passing us over, ones not even there anymore, we stumbled on a stream of places, just down the road from the bloody bus station! 
The rest of the day we took in the sights.  Sofia is not the prettiest but has some nice places.  We took in the train station only to find we would have to wait to the next day to book our train reservation... From there, we headed into town and saw all the cathedrals, mosques etc. etc.   One of special mention is the Sveta Petka Cathedral with its absolute amasing architecture.  We walked as long as our legs could carry and then headed to an outdoor bar in the main park and had a few brewskys.  The outdoor bars were lovely, but toilet facilities being a port-a-loo are just not the nicest...
Plov Div - a day trip

Having our overnight train booked for that night we decide to head to Plove Dic. The original plan was to get the train down but as the next one was two hours awaym we jumped on a bus. 2 hours later we were there. 1st stop was the train station where we checkd to times and booked out 5.30 train back to Sofia.

We headed into town and found a pretty unappealing square (soviet style) which lead to a more impressive main street into the heart of town. 1st stop was a restaurant called "Happy". Bill was obsessed as it seemed its the only place he ate at last time he was in Bulgaria. The meal was ok.abd bill "Happy".
I'll side track here and just say... A beer in these countries is actually cheaper than a 200ml coke. If that was the case as home in Australia we would all be reaving alcoholics!! So therefore we have to drink alcohol at most meals now to save money...

Anway, after lunch we head out to find Plov Div piece de resistance Another Bloody Old Town (ABOT). Western Europe = Churches; Eastern Europe = Old Towns... A nice quaint old town we stroll and then search out the Roman Theatre. A few wrong turns, we eventually find it and proceed to have a look (without paying). 5 minuates in we are yelled down by the security guard wo we walked past on the was in and are told we are not allowed in... WE thing he turned a bling eye to let us have a look so thanked him and leave. It was an impressive theatre by the way with much of the seating and stage and pillars still in tact.

It's gettin on by this time so we slowly edge back to the train station for our 5.30p, train back to Sofia. WE have 4 hours to get back to our overnight train to Belgrade. No stress! 2 hours in we start to stress a litlle...
The aircon now works (thank goodness) but the ticket lady gave us the weirdest look when she saw our tickets... Now we have stopped at a station and the driver, ticket lady and conductress have are all sitting round having a smoke!!! Passengers all seem calm... More are hopping on... Why aren't we moving???!!!!!!!!!!! We are meant to be in Sofia now, eating a quiet dinner....

Ok, so we figure with all the stops that we made that we are on a slower train. Staff are now rested and we are on our way. About and hour or so later we bite the bullet and Leonie finally heads to ask the ticket lady when we will arrive in Sofia. After some charades we find out we will arrive 10 minutes before our overnight train leaves - F&&K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We both loose it now..  Leonie cries and the next thing (its a female thing that we found works) you know the whole train is staring at us and worrying.. Someone translates for us and its all on! The ticket lady calls ahead to Sofia and gets our platform number for us and the conductor starts getting passengers on the train a while lot quicker...

The train pussk in 5 minutes early, our carriage friends with us luck with cheers and we run, shortly followed by a quck walk (we're by no means athletic at all)... Bills on Bags, Leonie's on finding the platform. Meet at the stairs!!!

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