The journey from Romania begins! (sobbing, crying, rolling on the floor) I love love love it here and don’t want to leave! But it’s time for a new city and a new country. On to Bulgaria!
The road to Bulgaria
To get to Bulgaria we first had to backtrack through Bucharest since that is the only road out of Western Romania. We also had to make a quick stop in the city center to pick up some lost bags. Our group members were thrilled that the airline finally found their things!
Just before leaving Romania, we stopped at a very nice gas station to spend the rest of our lei. Snack time! Then we buckled in for the long drive to the Danube river and Bulgarian border. We watched a documentary about the Ceaușescu family on the way. Wow were they bad guys.
Then finally, we crossed the mighty Danube river! Crossing over the border checkpoint was totally easy. That’s one of the perks of being on a tour bus, we don’t even have to get off the bus! We gave the guide our passports and he passed them to officials to look at. It took a minute but we got them back no sweat since both Romania and Bulgaria are EU countries.
I just felt bad for the trucks. Passenger vehicles go in the left lane which barely had any people in it, while trucks go in right lane and were not moving for miles. I’ve heard it takes hours for them to cross.
First Impressions of Bulgaria
Before I knew it, we were in another country and the signs were clear. While Romania did away with most of the communist-era architecture and rebuilt in their own style, Bulgaria has preserved much of their communist era architecture. Mainly, concrete blocks stacked on top of each other. Gives the place an older, “tired” feel according to our guide.
One thing I have noticed about Bulgaria is that there are tons of roses everywhere. There was a whole garden of them at the gas station we stopped at! Apparently most rose oil in the world is produced here, and since that requires a LOT of roses, they can be found throughout Bulgaria. It’s the rose of Damascus, specifically.
Arriving in medieval Veliko Tarnovo
Finally arriving at Veliko Tarnovo, the change is stark. The buildings here have a more classically European style, but everything is writing is in Cyrillic! Veliko Tarnovo was once a medieval metropolis that was 50,000 bigger than London and Paris at that time.
Tons of public terraces feature Byzantine-looking murals and provide views over the valley, rivers, and mountains in Bulgaria. We explored the streets and did get turned around a few times since it’s hard to tell which are public paths and which lead to private homes.
Returning for dinner, we were treated to a view of the old fortress form our hotels terrace. Restaurant and bar terraces are a huge draw here since Veliko Tarnovo is built on a mountain, and you’ll have no problem finding one yourself.
For dinner I enjoyed another delicious Shopska salad (this time the Bulgarian way!), beef stew in a lovely ceramic bowl, and ice cream with biscuits. Don’t worry, we’re still drinking our way through the Balkans too! Red house wine and a delightful Cabernet Suavignon provided a fabulous introduction to the region.
My sister and I walked to the city government building a little before sun set, then it was bedtime before another big day of exploring Bulgaria.