Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Veliko Tarnovo--A Pleasant Surprise

We left Romania after breakfast this morning and proceeded with something like the opposite of haste to cross the border into Bulgaria. First, we missed an important turn for a toll bridge, which put us right smack dab in the truck-only area. This was seriously frowned on by the truckers, and the next thing we knew, there was a man at our window, yelling at us in a language we couldn't even begin to understand, and indicating that we needed to move ourselves with all speed to the car area. This we accomplished, along with several others who had made the same mistake, by driving backwards about 200 feet, through heavy stand-still truck traffic, until we could exit into the car area. Finally, we made it to the toll booth and paid our fee, before continuing at a snail's pace to cross the bridge, which spanned the Danube River. Once on the bridge, we realized one lane was closed for construction and the two-way traffic was taking turns using the one lane in a somewhat unorganized fashion. It may have just been the heat or the fact that we were all hungry for lunch, but it honestly wasn't the most relaxing time we've ever had.

Once across the bridge, it was time to hand over the passports and figure out if we needed to purchase a vignette (a country-specific toll tag). The sign at the border crossing said you only needed one if you were a commercial vehicle moving agricultural goods, but just past the passport control offices, we saw plenty of vignette venders, as we have seen in other countries where we did need one. This made us feel a little unsure, so we stopped and bought one, just in case. The thing cost 6 Euros, and Jeff had two 5 Euro bills in his pocket. However, when he pulled out the second one, it tore, and the clerk would not take it. He came back to the car, frustrated, but we fortunately had a few Euros in the cup holder, left over from a previous bathroom stop, and we were able to get the tag and move on.

Starting to relax a bit after all the adventures of the morning, we started to look for a place to get some cash and grab a bite to eat. Our car has a built-in GPS, which we rely on for everything, but it couldn't come up with any choices for banks or ATMs within 300 kilometers. We were in a decent sized town, so we knew there must be something, and relying on our own wits and powers of observation, we did find one within just a few minutes. Lunch was not so easy to come by. The GPS was no help there either, so we just drove along in the direction we needed to go, passing closed restaurants or unsavory looking ones, until we finally found a friendly looking little dive that was actually open. There was a serious language barrier, but through pointing and gestures, we were able to order some food, which was actually quite good. While we were eating, a man suddenly starting washing our car, without so much as a word to us. We were unsure whether he wanted to be paid or if this was part of the service of the place, and we had no way to find out. So, after we finished eating and the brave souls amongst us used the hole-in-the-floor, which passed for a toilet, we tipped the man and went on our way.

Our destination for the night would have been a welcome sight, no matter what, after all the previous events of the day, but it is a lovely city, built in layers upon a hill, truly a pleasant surprise. Honestly, Bulgaria was never even on my radar of places to visit, and I may not have even been really sure where it was located before we started planning this trip. And, even then, we really only thought of it as a means to an end, a place to stop enroute to Greece. But, Veliko Tarnovo is beautiful and full of history, and we had the best meal we've had on our whole trip at a restaurant  overlooking the Yantra River. What a pleasant surprise and a happy turn of fate that we ended up here!

Our apartment is at the top of the city.
This is the view from the balcony.

Shortly after we arrived, this rainbow appeared in the sky.
It seemed like a good sign.

We walked the hundreds of steps down from our apartment to the city center.
(And, then we walked back up again after diner, while a light rain fell.)

The amazing view from the restaurant, overlooking the Yantra River

There will be lounging at the dinner table when one side of seats is a sofa.

"Biscuit Cake" for dessert. Oh my!


  1. Lovely place and what views! Sorry you had a trying trip there--I expect it won't be the last time you have those kinds of issues--but you got there safe which is the main thing! Love to all!

  2. You're right, it probably won't be our our last challenge, but the story without at least one or two plot twists isn't a very interesting one! :) We have felt unsure, at times, but never unsafe! Love you!


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