Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria – Where My Worst Travel Fear Was Realized

Today I woke up in Sofia, Bulgaria and attempted to go to the bus station.  At first I could not find the tram station.  Then I got on a tram going in the wrong direction . Of course I did.  I finally got to the bus stop, bought a ticket and I was on my way.

Before arriving, I was all kinds of confused about the bus station in Veliko Tarnovo.  It appears there are two bus stations, the South bus station (Yug) and the West bus station (Zapad).  I was never sure which bus station I would be getting out at prior to getting there.  When we arrived in Veliko Tarnovo, I wasn’t even sure we were in Veliko Tarnovo since there were no signs.

It turned out that my bus didn’t drop us off at either bus station.  Instead, we were dropped off at Hotel Etar, which is used as a bus stop for only one bus company (Etap.)  I didn’t even know this stop existed at all.  Note, this is way more of a convenient stop than either bus station.

At the time I got off the bus, I was so confused about where the hell we were since nothing matched the map I had.  Rather than deal with it, I took a cab to my hotel.  It cost me $4 BG which is about $3 US.  The driver even tried to give me change from a $5.

Veliko Tarnovo is shaped like a horse shoe.  At the very bottom is the main bus station.  Up a bit is the bus stop I was let off at.  From here, you continue around the horse shoe.  Once you are at the top, you can see the Tsarevets Fortress.

Here is a map.  On the bottom left is the main bus station.  Up the horse shoe, you see the Hotel Etar bus stop (only used by the bus company Etap)  I still have no freaking clue where the West bus station is.

http://www.hostelmostel.com/wp-content/themes/default/images/VelikoTarnovoMap.gif

Hotel “”Etara” is actually named “Etar”  Either that, or the “A” fell off the sign.

I got to my hotel and checked in.  Have I ever mentioned how Bulgarians are the nicest people on the entire planet?  Well they are.  The woman checking me in didn’t seem to speak English, and I don’t speak Bulgarian.  We mimed our way through the conversation and we both had a laugh when we ended up playing “who’s on first” with her trying to give me the wifi password.

She brought me up to my room and showed me which remote was for the television and which was for the air conditioner.  From there I was all set.

I splurged on my hotel room.   I normally like staying near whatever transit I am leaving from.  I get lost a LOT and I don’t want to have to worry about missing a bus or train.  But for this leg, I had no idea where the bus station I was leaving from was.  So I instead, opted to pay more for a room with a private balcony overlooking the Fortress.  Look how pretty!

tsarevets fortress view from balcony

As an added bonus, the wifi extended to the balcony. Score!

This is a night view.  I promise that before my next epic trip, I will be investing in a better camera.

balcony night view

It took me at least three full minutes to notice the shower in my bathroom.  I was seconds away from going downstairs to ask if the shower was shared and outside my room.

shower

Today was a lazy day.  I walked around the town and took some pictures.  Below the Fortress is a quaint little bridge and the Holy Forty Martyrs Church.  I, idiot, originally thought it was named “Holy Forty Marty’s Church”.  You know, as if some guy named Marty opened a church in his name on his 40th birthday.

Yes, they let me travel the world by myself.

view of veliko tarnovo bulgaria from hotel balconypark near bridge veliko tarnovo bulgariaHoly Forty Martyrs church Veliko Tarnovo, bulgariatsarevets fortress, veliko turnovo, bulgariaWhen you get to the bottom of the hill below the Fortress, you can either walk back up or take a bus.   The bus is is (or back in May was) .70 BG, which is about $.50 US.  What you do is once you enter the bus, walk past the driver and go sit down (or stand or whatever you choose).  Someone will come to you to get your payment.   You do not pay when boarding.

On some nights, there is a sound and light show at the Tsarevets Fortress.  The schedule isn’t a set schedule so it is impossible to find.  There is a phone hotline however, so you can ask your hotel to call for you.

I tried taking pictures, but the ones on this website do it way more justice than my camera ever could.

http://www.velikoturnovo.info/en/sound-and-light/

I don’t really have much planned for my time here.  I really wanted to be in Plovdiv today.  But I thought that with all the high speed flashpacking I was doing on this trip, I would welcome some down time.  Well I was wrong.   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed sitting on my balcony with a liter of San Benedetto Peach Iced Tea, getting work done while watching the light show at the Fortress down below.  But I kind of wish I would have seen Plovdiv as well.

So maybe now you are wondering what the hell my worst travel fear was.  If so, you missed it.  That’s okay, I did too.

A few months after this trip, I had a friend contact me asking for advice on backpacking Europe.  He was concerned about the language barrier.  I assured him it will be okay.  Hotel workers know that when you walk in with a bag, you are looking to stay there.  They know the drill. Then I started to tell my anecdotal story of the nice woman in Veliko Tarnovo and how we mimed our way though.  That’s when it hit me.  I am such a jackass. For SO LONG I had put off going to Europe because I was scared of so many things.  One big thing I was absolutely terrified of was that I would have problems because I do not understand any language other than English.   Then when I am in Europe, and this stupid fear reveals itself to me, I didn’t even recognize it because it was such a non issue.

Lesson learned:  Do not let stupid things keep you from living  your life to the fullest.

7 thoughts on “Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria – Where My Worst Travel Fear Was Realized

  1. Beirut to Jupiter (@BeirutToJupiter)

    Veliko Turnovo has a lot of hidden gems. I was fortunate enough to stay in a great hostel for about six weeks there with Bulgarian owners who spoke English fairly well, so we got to know a bit more about the city than average tourists. I remember that same feeling coming from Sofia to Turnovo and getting dropped off at the Etar Hotel. I was starving and had to use the restroom and went in the first place that looked like it was friendly to tourists. It was in the police station building, I think, or city hall or some sort of government office. There were Bulgarian Army recruitment posters everywhere. That was my introduction to the city. I spent about two months in Bulgaria and never got to Plovdiv either.

    I wrote about my days there here: http://frombeiruttojupiter.blogspot.com/search/label/Veliko%20Turnovo

    Reply
    1. jenniferjennifer Post author

      Wow, two months in Bulgaria! That must have been heaven. Sixty days of being surrounded by the nicest people on planet earth.

      I will be checking out your blog!

      Reply
  2. Pingback: The New York Times on Sofia: One of the city’s best-kept secrets is its homegrown shopping scene | ~WithLoveFromBG~

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