Bulgaria                               2016, August

August-2nd.-2016 Malaga-Sofia

We finally took off. We were fifteen minutes late. Before embarking I bought a bottle of water with the mouth-piece like the bottle of a cyclist, that's to say, with that white small plastic valve which when it is elevated opens a small hole through which water is ejected after pressing the bottle. This led to a funny situation that was about becoming an embarrassing experience. Sitting on my seat in the plane waiting for taking off I tried to open the bottle for the first time, I removed that small valve so strong that a jet of water was pulled up from the plastic container which got the wall/ceiling of the plane completely wet. For my luck this geyser was vertical, no water fell down in other direction and thus no side-effects in other passengers. Once in the air, the flight took about three hours and half as usual. My two princesses the big one and the small one with our friend Stefan, who took us to his home to sleep there, were waiting for me in "arrivals".

Flying to Sofia

August 03rd.-2016 Sofia-Yambol

We woke up at the flat of our friends Stefan and Irena (best lady of our wedding) to our entire disposal for both of them were working . We had breakfast there and, against all predictions, the weather in Sofia was quite acceptable. Once we were done we left our friends' apartment and we left our luggage at the insurance office where Stefan worked to pick it up before taking the bus to Yambol, Mariana's hometown, about three and a half hours far by bus using the highway. Then we took a tram and met another friend of ours, Petar, with who we strolled Sofia for a long time, finishing in a park where Marta played for a long while. It was nearly 13:30, and the second date with a couple of lawyers old friends of ours, Starimira and Deian was close. They made all the legal arrangements for our wedding in Sofia. We had lunch in a centric Italian restaurant in front of their house called ''Il Teatro" where I enjoyed an exquisite risotto. Once we finished our lunch, Deian drove us with his car to pick up our luggage. For it was still early, we sat in a bar by Stefan's office called "Cafe Carraro", and we made time before calling a taxi to the bus station. Our bus left at 15:30 and we punctually made to Yambol. After four hours, a fifteen minutes break included, we reached our destination, and Hristo, the owner of the Ford Focus we had rented the last three years to drive all over Bulgaria, took us with his taxi to Mariana's home. A good dinner and a shower were waiting for us, and later on a deserved rest after a non-stop day.

Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral

Inside view of the Central Bus Station in Sofia

August 04th.-2016 Yambol

After my first breakfast in Yambol at about 08:30 we went out to look for a place to rent a car with which sightsee Bulgaria. Hristo, the owner of the Ford Focus combi we had rented the last three years, sold it and I didn't like very much the car he offered, a Fiat Brava: a small car and not powerful enough for the Bulgarian roads. Once at the garage of the rentacar we found that our options were not too many: a Renault Clio, a BMW 318 combi and a Citroen C-4. After studying every car for several minutes y chose the Citroen; I would have chosen the BMW, but its interior was too wore down and spoiled; the Renault was too small, so I had no other choice left: the Citroen which, by the way it was quite well preserved both inside and outside. It costed about 35 Ievs a day, 18 €, a very reasonable price. Once we chose the car and agreed that we should pick it up the following day around noon, we made to the centre of Yambol to buy some small things. We had an appointment with Kremena and Anton in a restaurant around. He was a school and firm mate of Mariana and he was trainer of the Bulgarian national team of computing. When our lunch was over we went to an exchange bureau to change levs. We tried to change that very morning but the place was too crowded, so, as it was close from where we were, we did this basic task. Then we saw Kremena and her smal son off. Anton had to leave some minutes before because he had to work. We returned home by bus and then we went to Technopolis, a kind of a Bulgarian Mediamarkt where we took Martha's tablet to be repaired for it was not able to charge properly. Once there we bought a phone holder for our car which we should use as a GPS when travelling all over Bulgaria in our rented car. Then we went to my father in law Dimo's orchard where we took some real tomatoes which we ate for dinner.

C-4 with which we drove more than 1500 kilómetres around Bulgaria

Renovated Centre of Yambol

August 05th. 2016 Yambol-Kosovo

We went to pick up the rented car we verbally agreed the previous day after breakfast, the Citroen C-4. We filled up the reservoir and we made to Asenovgrad where we stopped for lunch before resuming our way to Kosovo. We ate in a restaurant called Omonia 91. Then we continued to our small village where we should sleep that night. We were all day on alert because of a piece of news about a landslide along the road we were driving: the road to Kosovo was steep and with rocky walls at both sides of the road. Finally they turned out to be controlled bursts of rocks to elevate the safety level of the road. We reached our village and we faced problems finding a place to park for everything was too narrow and the road was in awful conditions. The owner's son received us speaking a more than acceptable Spanish; not in vane they had lived in Venezuela for several years. The village was located in an area with high slopes and the access to everything was not easy; even our Iugagge was lifted up to our apartment with a service lift pretending to be a kind of funicular. "Kosovski Kushti" or "Houses in Kosovo" were three. Ours was called Elinovskata house. The village had a permanent population of seven inhabitants, a real comfort for those who love peace and quietness. We ordered our dinner which lately was sent up with the service lift; in the meantime, while our meal was in progress, we strolled the village centre where we could see "the" bar and "the" school which was out of order. Once our ramble was over we returned to our "Elinovska House" where we picked up our dinner from the service lift; we were previously warned that our order was ready via SMS. We had our exquisite dinner in a terrace with Biliana, Ivan an their two children and we had a pleasant evening event until late hours of the night.

Service lift at the rural house in Kosovo

Rural house where we spent a week-end (Kosovo)

August 06th.-2016 Kosovo-Yambol-Ustrem

The sun rose in Kosovo strong and shiny. We went down to the restaurant to have breakfast, included in the price. We ate with the other family and we saw them off till the following year, though we left an open door to meet before, either in Spain or anywhere in Europe. We used our favourite service-lift to bring our luggage down. The day before a small mishap happened with our rented car: some caws passed by our car so close that they scratched a door and the back part of it, no paint was lost though; we had to compulsory comment this to the owner. In our return using the same road, we saw the queues that we missed the day before, luckily not in our direction; about five kilometres of cars, the same distance than the radio was forecasting twenty four hours ago. The return to Yambol took about three hours and when we had driven for about an hour and a half, a breakdown red light showed up in our car's dashboard. We stopped at a petrol station and we called the owner of the car to tell him about this red light. He told us to check the oil-level and it was normal. Then we realized that the frontal display of the car's Hifi showed that the piece not working properly was the antipollution filter which was a bit dirty. Once in Yambol we met the owner's car to tell him about the flashing red light. They thought that the problem was not serious. So they thought about the scratches; regarding to the filter that had to be changed, they would do it on Monday morning, in half an hour. We had lunch at Mariana's, we rested for an hour and we made to Ustrem, the home town of Mariana's grandfather. We reached our destination in an hour. They had been working on his house and it had improved a lot for my surprise. We had dinner to the open air and then we decided to take a night walk around the village, with hardly no light. The simple fact of watching the sky riddled with stars was a real spectacle; with no luminic contamination, a crowd of stars could be seen, invisible in an iluminated city. We finished our walk in about an hour and I enjoyed it from the beginning to the very end.

Breakfast at the restaurant of "Kosovski Kushti"

Night walk in Ustrem

August 07th.-2016 Ustrem-Yambol

The day in Ustrem pointed to be of complete relax and so it was. We had banichki for breakfast, a kind of pancake filled with cheese and spread with butter at the outside. Some minutes later we drove for twenty minutes to a four stars hotel called Galina Palace, by the road to Ustrem. It was crowded with Ucranians for, as per gossips of the people around, these guys belonged to the army involved in some Middle East - Far East conflict, and sent to these kind of resorts as a kind of reward at their return. I had half a litre of Zagorka Retro in this place, one of the best beers of Bulgaria. Yes, I said half a litre, you cannot find a smaller beer in Bulgaria. We had lunch in Ustrem and I faced, as I said before, a relaxing afternoon, like a two hours siesta. Finally we had to see Ustrem, Mariana's grandfather and  aunt off. Once back in Yambol we had dinner and I waited for the Olimpic basketball match Spain vs Croatia at 12:00 AM spanish time, 01:00 AM Bulgarian time.

Hotel "Galina Palace" reception

August 08th.-2016 Yambol-Silistra

Sad morning in Yambol after the basketball defeat of Spain vs Croatia. I fell asleep at about 03:30 AM watching the match and I had to wake up again at 09:00 to take the car to the rentacar office to try to mend the breakdown flashing light. So we did and we were done in an hour. For it was still early when we returned I slept for some more time to be up and ready to drive about 300 kilometres along secondary Bulgarian roads, 268 to be accurate. The state of these roads depends on the area of Bulgaria; there are parts where big holes were usually found and other areas where big straights and plain and comfortable grounds were present for many kilometres. All the roads, unless in this route, had only a lane in each direction, for which if you run into a big truck in your direction you have to wait for the right moment to take over, a long straight with good visibility and driving a vehicle powerful enough. As a matter of fact, the accident rate in Bulgaria is quite high and the frontal deadly crashes use to be very frequent. We left Yambol at about 15:00. After driving for two hours we did a break to the right side of the road in the same place where we stopped the last time we visited Silistra. We stayed there for about half an hour regaining strength with cold drinks. After that we resumed our trip at about 19:30. Silistra is located at the very border with Romania, being the Danube river the natural frontier between these two countries in such a way that when you are at the bank of the river in Silistra watching the bank at the other side, you are really watching Romania.

 

We arrived in the city and the wife of my brother in law, Iskra, and her daughter were waiting for us at their apartment. We had dinner and Mariana and I went for a night walk around the city centre; I really felt like walking after so many hours driving. Once we returned we went directly to bed: too many kilometres in a day...

Silistra city centre

In the same picture Bulgaria, Danube river and Rumanía at the bottom

August 09th.-2016 Silistra

We had breakfast at the apartment at about 09:00 Bulgarian time. Then we strolled again the Danube banks but to the daylight this time. A three hours walk. We decided to buy food to take away at a self-service called "Bulgaria". After eating the delicious meal served in this place, it was siesta time; though it was not common in Bulgaria, you felt like sleeping for a while after a copious meal, to such an extent that I slept for two hours and a half. Iskra's parents, the wife of my brother in law, invited us to a barbecue in a small village called "Babuk" where they have a brand new country house 25 minutes far from Silistra by car. We had to drive my brother in law's Skoda Octavia for there was not room enough in our rented Citroen C-4 for all of us. Everything was in order until we arrived in Babuk; when we tried to remove the contact key, surprisingly we couldn't get it out. We tried to remove it by all means but it was completely blocked. It had something to do with the alarm which didn't work properly for some reason. We left the car parked at the door of the country house in Babuk and we started enjoying our barbecue prepared by the parents of Iskra: fried peppers, tomato and cucumber salad, chops and "kebabchetas" among other food could be found on the table, besides wine and beer. Once dinner was over they showed us the whole house still nearly with no forniture and with a flawless finish designed by the owner. We decided to return to Silistra late in the night and, for we had to leave Ivan's car in the village, Iskra's father helped us in our return using his car. We were back in our apartment after 25 minutes.

Monument dedicated to the fallen for freedom, centre of Silistra

Central Square of Silistra

August 10th.-2016 Silistra

We had breakfast in our flat as usual. Marta had a small and persistent spot in her nose, and we decided to go to a dermatologist, usual doctor of Iskra's doughter. You could have the opinion of an expert for 20 levs, about 10 €. She prescribed Marta a cream, and we had to return to her consult within two days, that time for free. We went to a chemist to buy our medicines, and then Mariana, Iskra and I went again for a walk around Silistra. After an hour's walk we returned to our flat to have lunch the rest of the barbecue of the previous day in Babuk. Then a copious meal and a long siesta as accostumed these days. When I woke up I surfed the internet for a while and I discovered a very curious and useful page similar to google-maps where you can trace your route city after city and linking it later on to your desired web site. You can see the result at the top of this page. Late in the afternoon-evening we went to have dinner to a restaurant called "The Acacies", fifteen minutes on foot from our flat. Very good meal and very good ambient, both things difficult to find in such a small city. We finished our dinner and returned home along the dark streets of Silistra. The following day promised to be hectic for we intended to go to Ruse, another Bulgarian border city with the Danube as natural border between Bulgaria and Romania too.

Restaurant "The Acacies"

Silistra Etnographic Museum

August 11th.-2016 Silistra-Ruse

We had breakfast at Iskra's that as usual with our mind in our trip to Ruse that day and visiting a couple of monasteries embeded in the rock of the mountain. One of them was the Basarvobo monastery and the other one was the Ivanovo monastery, being the latter a Unesco World Heritage Site. Once we reached the first one, it took us one hour visiting it. We had to climb up a stone stairway. Three great caves in the rock were used to venerate the orthodox catholic religion; frescoes of different saints and figures related to this religion could be found in these caves. A common practice of the believers visiting this place was offering coins in such a way that walking in these cubicles without stepping on some coins was really hard. We bought a couple of magnets for the fridge as souvenirs and we made to the second monastery, the Ivanovo monastery. We decided to follow the GPS instructions this time but it turned out to be a wrong choice: the device led us to a track in awful conditions, so we returned using the same way. This time the GPS chose a normal and correct road. We left our car at the parking of the monastery and we had to climb up for ten minutes to reach it. As previously commented, this sanctuary is an Unesco World Heritage Site. The valleys and the views that could be seen at the surroundings of the monastery were simply astonishing. Later on we made to Ruse, a beautiful city at the banks of the Danube like Silistra. We had lunch in a restaurant called "Kralska Zakuska" in a covered terrace surrounded with ventilators for it was terribly hot. Once our lunch was over we strolled for a while the city center, where we saw very interesting buildings like the "Opera", the "Theatre" and the old comunist party headquarters. We continued our walk and we reached the Danube river, majestic, with Romania at the other side. Ruse is an astonishing city very similar to other european cities of the XVIII and XIX century; not in vane it has always been called "Little Vienna". We had to see Ruse off and return to Silistra; we did this route in about two hours including a stop to refuel our Citroen. We had dinner at Iskra's flat and then we went to sleep in our bedchambers.

Basarovo monastery embedded in the rocks

Inside of the Ivanovo Monastery, Unesco World Heritage Site

Bulgaria, the Danube and Rumanía at the bottom, from Ruse this time

August 12th.-2016 Silistra-Yambol

The sun raised in Silistra and we had to do our second visit to the dermatologist. So we did, and the doctor found that everything was in order with Marta's skin. We said good bye to Iskra and we started our for hours route to Yambol. The weather was very unpleasant, it had rained all night along and the temperature was ten degrees colder than the day before. Rain would be still present, that day and the following. We stopped to have lunch in a restaurant called "Rusky Tsar". Once we had lunch we resumed our trip to Yambol, with non-stop rain and low temperature. We finally reached our destination at about 18:30 Bulgarian time in a windy, rainy and winter-like day. I still had time for a long siesta, driving for so many kilometres knocked me down. After a shower we assisted to the anual familiar appointment, dinner at the restaurant of the "Capri" hotel where we had previously held this familiar event. I had a conversation with the husband of Mariana's cousin, Viden, electronic engineer who had his own computer support firm in the centre of Yambol, and his brother. I found this chat very interesting for they had managed to assemble with their own means a 3D printer, to print 3D objects from a digital file. We finished our meal and we decided to meet again the day after to see their creation.

Family meeting at the restaurant of the hotel "Capri"

Agustina, Marta and Rali

August 13th.-2016 Yambol-Sliven

The sun appeared in Yambol with less cloudy but still with low temperature. We had breakfast at Mariana's and took her aunt from Stara Zagora to the railways station for she had to go back to her city; she travelled to Yambol just for the familiar meeting we had the previous day. When we were done at the railway station we made to the centre of Yambol where Viden was waiting for us in his office with some objects printed with the 3D printer assembled by themselves. Absolute perfection, even the smallest detail was revealed by this ingenious device. We saw Viden off and we drove to Sliven where Ivan, María and Ogi, their son as old as Marta, were waiting for us. Sliven is a city half an hour far driving from Yambol where we should spend that weekend in a small hotel called "Sveti Konstantin". There was a swimming-pool at our disposal but the temperature was so low that you didn't feel like getting into the water. We reached the hotel in the afternoon, dropped our luggage and Maria, Mariana and I strolled along Sliven; Ivan, in the meantime, stayed at the hotel with the two kids. We entered in a commercial centre called "S" Mall. We had a coffee and baclava in a terrace with very nice views of the city and Stara Planina, the mountains close to Sliven. Then Mariana and Maria entered a bookshop and I had a walk around the city centre for about an hour on my own. We returned to the hotel for dinner. We ate in a terrace close to the swimming-pool, and, we stayed out until late in the night eating and drinking. Every family went to our bedchambers with our stomachs full and happy faces due to some bottles of Shumensko beer and some glasses of rakia.

 

I decided to stay awake to be able to watch the olimpic basketball match Spain vs. Lithuania, good decision because Spain finally improved substantially its level, reminding to the Spain of previous years in international competitions: we finished the match 50 points up, 109-59, great match...

Hotel "Sveti Konstantín"

Shopping Centre "S Mall" in Sliven

August 14th.-2016 Sliven-Yambol

Sunday morning in Sliven, the weather was warmer and gentler than the previous day. We had breakfast at the hotel and after this we agreed to go to Karandila, the part of Stara Planina mountains at the Northern part of Sliven. We took a chairlift for that purpose which took us to a big TV antenna on top of the highest part of this area. We reached this point after going up for twenty minutes. Just in front this antenna and rising up many meters from the sea level a couple of metalic decks hanged over a cliff from which parapents used to take off. Karandila, as it was supposed to be on a Sunday morning, was crowded, with people ready to spend the day in touch with nature. We heard about an oven which made a hot, huge and good bread by chance. We walked down searching for this oven for about half an hour and, we finally managed to find it. As expected, there was a long queue waiting to buy this exquisite bread. After waiting for ten minutes someone came out to tell that the bread was over and we had to wait one hour for the next batch; we decided to leave for we did not want to wait. The previous comfortable walk down became a tedious walk up. This climb took us forty five minutes this time and we did it along a paved road instead walking across the country. Cars passed by very fast and we had to take special care of our two children for the verge was ridiculously tiny. It was time to take the chairlift down to Sliven. I had to put on my jacket going up, but it was warmer when we returned, the temperature increased progressively as the morning drew on. We had lunch at the hotel and we saw Ivan, Maria and Ogi off; we would meet in Sofia two days later though, before flying to Spain. We were in Yambol after driving for half an hour and returned the car with which we made more than 1500 kilometres over Bulgaria. We should use my father in law's car, a Ford Fiesta, the couple of days left in Bulgaria. The rentacar office decided to keep the 50 € deposit for the scratches made by the cows in Kosovo; a bit excessive for there was no paint loss and the small damages made could be fixed with polish; anyway we signed a contract stating that we should pay for all the hypothetic damages to the car. We had dinner at Mariana's and we went to bed ready for the next day, our last day in Yambol.

Chairlift from Sliven to Karandila

Decks from where parapents jump

TV tower in Karandila

August 15th.-2016 Yambol

That day was our last day in Yambol as stated previously. Mariana woke up a bit earlier and bought the tickets to go to Sofia; she met a friend of hers in the city centre as well. The day was quiet with no other different activity, but spending our last hours of our holidays with the family. We chose the best pictures of those fifteen days and printed them out for Mariana's parents. We returned home for lunch and then a long siesta: we had to be fresh to face a long trip by bus and by plane. We picked up Mariana's mother from job when we woke up and we made to Bakadzhika where we had been going for a drink the last three or four years the last day of our holidays, to the hotel Complex "Yambolen". We ordered our drinks and we went to our accostumed terrace. We stayed there for a short time: the wind was unpleasant and cold. After driving for twenty five minutes we were home again for dinner and to prepare our luggage. It was a transition day arranging our return journey.

Monument in Bakadzhika, near the hotel complex "Yambolen"

August 16th.-2016 Yambol-Sofia

We woke up early, at about 06:00; daylight is usually present at that early stage of the day in Bulgaria. The bus to Sofia left at 07:00, we only had time to take a quick shower, to have breakfast and to call a taxi which should take us to the bus stop. We arrived there in time and we reached Sofia at about 10:45. Time passed fast on the road listening to music and taking notes for this chronicle, and, why not, some sleeping nods from time to time. We had nearly crossed the country from East to West. Once the "Dichoni" bus arrived at the "Central Bus Station", we were picked up by Petar and his car where we left our luggage in. Marta and Mariana went to see a museum in the city centre and Petar and I went to the Sofia Town Hall for he had to do some paperwork there. Then we entered the Aleksander Nevsky cathedral where we stayed for a while speaking about this astonishing building.

It was lunch time and we met María, Ivan and Ogi in a restaurant called "Edison" close to where they lived. Then, after lunch, we had to say good-bye to Ogi and family, probably until October in Spain. So, the time of flying to Spain approached and thus seeing Bulgaria off. Petar kindly took us to the Terminal 1 in the airport of Sofia. We saw him off as well showing our gratitude for the great favour he made us, and then we checked in our two big bags. Both checking in and passing through the security control were quite fast, unlike crossing the border which took us a bit longer.

Sofia town-hall

View from the plane before taking off to Málaga