Tag Archives: belogradchik

Belogradchik, Bulgaria – V.1.5

I had originally  made an “out-of-chronological-order” post about my trip to Belogradchik, which you can find here.

I loved it there so much that I could not wait to do it in chronological order.  But there is some information I would like to add, specifically about getting there and back.

When I was researching this, I found out there was a bus.  But the information was really lacking and completely conflicting.  Now that I have been there, I can help.

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At the Sofia bus station, I was told by the information desk that the only bus company that runs to Belogradchik is named Montana.  The internet says there is a second company, I know nothing about this.

The bus leaves at 16:00.  It runs seven days a week, even though some sites on the internet say it does not run on Sundays (I took it on a Sunday).

The Montana ticket window opens late on Sundays since they do not have any early buses going anywhere. I believe it opens at 11:30.  I could not read the Cyrillic sign announcing this, so I spent a few hours trying to not have a nervous breakdown in front of the window, while wondering if it was ever going to open.

The bus was mostly empty.  The seats were fancy and very comfortable.  The air conditioning worked perfectly. We made a couple of stops where we picked up people who were just standing in the road, with no bus signs anywhere.  We also had to stop for a herd of sheep crossing the road.

Here is the only clear picture I have of the scenery outside the window:

bus view sofia to belogradchik

Belogradchik was the place I was the absolute most excited for on this trip.  As we got closer and the rock formations came into sight, I wanted to scream.

Going back to Sofia from Belogradchik:  I confirmed at the Montana ticket window that the only bus they have running back leaves at 6:00 am.   The internet again, has a bunch of other information.  I don’t know anything about anything else first  hand.

I did not want to leave at 6:00 am because it meant I would need to spend two nights there in order to see the Fortress. I did not want to spend two nights in Belogradchik (side effect of having a full time job and needing to see everything RIGHT NOW as you are doing this only on vacation time).

So I decided to take the train back to Sofia.  Advice: do not take the train back to Sofia.

The internet advises you to take the train from Vidin.  There is a bus between Belogradchik and Vidin.  I think this is terrible advice.  Take the train from Oreshets.  It is on the Vidin line, but closer to Sofia than Vidin, so less time on the train.  I took a cab, it was shared with two other people (that the cab driver picked up at the bus station, after leaving me in the cab by myself for about fifteen minutes with no explanation).  It cost me 4 lev, which seemed about right since I had read it was 11.  So he must have charged each person 4.

The train ride is very long.  I believe it was about 4.5 hours (the bus is only 2.5 hours)  There is no air conditioning, it was hot and the train was PACKED.  We also made some random stop for about half an hour, where everyone except me seemed to understand they could get off the train and get some fresh air.

I will never take a train in Bulgaria again.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to post 3298473 pictures of Belodgradchik (even though you may have clicked the original link in the first paragraph of this post, which has lot of pictures in it) because BELOGRADCHIK DAMMIT.

This little guy followed me for a long time, barking at me.  I asked him if he was going to bite my ankles.  He then ran and got some backup in the form of a HUGE dog that was really mad that I insulted the little ankle biter.  I wish I had Huge Dog’s picture.  But he was HUGE and MAD.

little dog

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Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria: The Time I Almost Got Murdered by a Bee.

I am going to be going out of chronological order with this one but I am just dying to post about it.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a bus from Sofia to Belogradchik.  I got picked up at the bus station by the owner of the guest house I was staying at (Drakite Guest House).  For a whopping $19 usd, I had a very nice room with private balcony and a shower so big that you could take every shower I have had to so far on this trip and fit them all inside.

This morning I am up so early go to see the fortress.  I cannot wait.  I pause to take a morning photo from my balcony.

morning balcony view, belogradchik, bulgaria

Then off I go.  To get to the fortress is a very strenuous walk uphill.  Up many hills. But the walk features GOATS!!

GOATS!  Belogradchik, Bulgaria

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I make it to the entrance and it is only 7:45.  Good, I have fifteen minutes to recover.  8:00 comes.  No sign of life.  I Google and find out it opens at 9:00 DAMMIT I AM HERE TOO EARLY.

fortress closed, Belogradchik, Bulgaria

I take some pictures around the entrance.

Belogradchik, Bulgariabelogradchik, bulgaria

I wonder if this is really Belogradchik’s post office?

Belogradchik, Bulgaria post office

Then I go return to sitting and waiting.  The next thing I know, a cat comes out of nowhere and starts rubbing all over me.  I hate cats.  Get OFF me.  It will not leave me alone.

cat Belogradchik, Bulgaria

Then the bees come.  BEES.  I am so scared of bees.  I have never been stung so the anticipation of what it would feel like has grown so big over the years.  As an added bonus: when I was very  young, I saw my sister take a drink from a can of soda that had a bee floating at the opening.  She swallowed the bee, it stung the back of her throat.  Her throat completely swells up and off to the hospital she goes.  I am still traumatized by this.  To make it even worse, after telling this story for literally three decades, someone points out the obvious to me.  That she probably was allergic to bees and went into anaphylactic shock.  Since she is my sister, I probably have the same bee allergy.  WHY WOULD YOU TELL ME THIS.  I am so scared of bees and you tell me THIS?

So now I am up here an hour early with a cat and some bees.  The bees will never go away.  I try and be nice to the cat (which really just amounts to me no longer telling it to go away) thinking maybe it will kill the bees.  It doesn’t.  It just keeps purring all over me.  Yuck.  More bees come, more freak outs.  No matter what I do, I cannot escape these stupid bees that keep flying all over me.   I am FREAKING OUT at this point.  If there are cameras up by the entrance, then there is video of me looking completely insane battling these elements.

Then I look down and see this:

CIMG0967

Clearly it is a Rorschach of a headless woman.  Is this a sign?  Am I doing to die up here from anaphylactic shock?  The next thing I know, THIS appears:

CIMG0968

It just sits there, staring at me.  For a good ten minutes.  Just sitting and staring.  I am so going to die up here oh my god.

FINALLY people start showing up. I feel better knowing that there is someone around to call 911 (or whatever the number is in Bulgaria) should I lose my head, go into anaphylactic shock, or get my eyes gouged out by a black cat.

At 9:01, the ticket booth isn’t open yet.  But this is Bulgaria, where the people are the nicest people on planet earth.  I am told by someone who works at the booth next to the ticket booth that I can go in and then just pay when I am done.  Honor system.

I walk in and take the same picture every person who has ever been here has taken.

Belogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, Bulgaria

While hiking to the top, it worked well for me to spend every moment gripped with fear that I was going to fall and die.  I was so focused on that, that I didn’t even really feel the physical part.  When I actually got to the top, I was surprised that I was there already.

At the halfway point, you have to choose to continue up stone steps that are all uneven and scary as fuck.  Or you can choose the metal steps, which seem too narrow.  I pick the metal steps. As I walk up to them, the four workers that had been sitting there say something to me.  I don’t understand Bulgarian. I point to the steps and do sort of sign language asking if it is okay for me to go up.  I get two head nods and two head back-and-forths.  You know, because in Bulgaria, they move their heads up and down for no, and then right to left for yes.  But to make it more confusing, Bulgarians will also change and do it the “correct” way for foreigners.  So when I ask if it is okay for me to go up and I get the different reactions, I still don’t know the answer.  I just turned and went back to walk up and this time, no one said anything.

Once at the top, I took 832473298467329874 pictures and admired the insane beauty of the world.  I had so looking forward to being RIGHT HERE and now I am. It was just completely exhilarating.

Here is a small fraction of those pictures.

Belogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik, Bulgaria

Afterwards, I took a train back to Sofia.  I got to use my first squat toilet in the train station.  It was quite the exciting day.

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2013 European Extravaganza Itinerary!!!!

So after close to two months, I have FINALLY cemented the itinerary for my next trip.  This one was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Being that I’m going to be in countries that don’t have useful train service,  and bus schedules that are impossible to find online, it was so hard to plan.

For example, I could not figure “Okay I need this amount of time so let me see when the bus leaves……” because I can’t find any information on the bus other than finding someone’s blog from 2009 where they barely mention having taken that bus…..

I also wanted to cry after I worked out the first leg of my trip and then realized that the night I had planned to take an overnight ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik was the one night of the week that the ferry simply does not run.

But as of right now, my itinerary should be:

Brussels – Paris via Eurostar

Paris – Naples via flight.  Naples will feature a side trip to Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius and Capri

Naples – Rome/Vatican City

Rome – Sarajevo via flight. There were two flight options for this, one had a long layover in Belgrade. I wanted to book this one, so I could spend ten hours in Belgrade.  But that schedule was only available through a third party website that Google tells me is unreliable.  The airlines own website never offered this option.  So now I’m just in Belgrade for 3.5 hours.

Sarajevo – Mostar, with a side trip to Dubrovnik

Mostar to Nis (this will be an annoying travel day for sure)

Nis – Sofia with a side trip to Belogradchik and another one to Rila Monastery

Sofia – Veliko Tarnovo with a stopover in Plovdiv

Veliko Tarnovo – Istanbul

Istanbul – home

Although my trips are way more hectic than the average Europe vacationer can stand, they start off even more crazy.  Then once I get deep into reading travel guides and looking at specific train schedules, I end up having to adjust down in order to see everything I want to see.  For this trip I have already cut out Switzerland, due to me deciding that while in Italy, I want to spend a day at Capri.  This cut out my night in Bern.

I had also wanted to visit Chamonix-Mont Blanc, but after reading a guide book, I realized it would be better to visit in a month that is not May, so that more lifts would be open and I could see more.  So that’s on the back burner for now.

This is the second trip where I am spending a lot of time in Italy, which was never on my “must see” list.  It just works out that it’s convenient along the way.  Once I started looking into it, it just seemed a shame to pass by so many things without stopping.  So once again, I have a bunch of time in a country I never had on my list of “places I need to see before I die”.  It works like that.  It’s all part of the planning process.  You never know where you are going to end up once you start working out the minute details of your itinerary.

I keep a diary of my travels.  For my last trip, I went to Target to buy a fresh book to write in.  I was so excited to find one with the leaning tower of Pisa on it, since I was going to be in Pisa.  How cool would it be to take a picture of my diary in front of its front cover in real life???  That was one of the top highlights of my trip, as you can tell by the picture on top of this page!

I also fell in love with Florence.  I never in my life had any desire to go to Florence. It just worked out to be along my route so I went.  I’m so glad I went and got to stare lovingly at the Ponte Vecchio.

When you start to get deeper into booking, you will find that any mental plans you had before you started really planning, can easily turn into the exact opposite of what you thought you were going to be doing.  For me this is exactly what happens and I have fallen in love with everything I have done, even if it wasn’t on my life long “to do” list.

Now I get to spend the next 77 days formulating more specific itineraries for each place I’m visiting. The more I do this, the more I realize just how ignorant I am to everything that planet earth has to offer.  I love learning and more importantly, I love seeing everything I’ve learned about.