Bulgaria Part 1

 

After a long time in Greece with rising temperatures we both felt like we needed a change. Driving around and hiking in the heat is not that much fun for us… We decided to give Workaway another try and this time we got lucky. We found a lovely family with a cool project in central Bulgaria. On our way to them we did a very nice hike through the Melnik pyramids and at another stop we admired the impressive Rila monastery.

Melnik pyramids
Rila monastery

At the Workaway we had such a good time with Neil, Vania and their son Kai that we ended up staying for 2 months. Our main task was to build a fence around their property right next to a lake. The work was fun with varying tasks and we learned a lot.

drilling holes for the fence poles

In our free time we had lots of fun with our hosts. We went to the thermal pools together and drove up the mountains to pick berries. Through their friends in the village we got a very good insight into Bulgarian rural life – an experience we wouldn’t have had as a “regular” traveler without staying with locals for a longer time.
Neil also took the time and patience to teach us paragliding at the nearby hill. This was of course one of our highlights on the trip so far! The feeling of flying with a wing for the first time is absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much Neil for your patience with us 🙂

the training hill

We left their place in mid-September. This was a good time for us to start travelling around the country again because school holidays were over and the temperatures started to get acceptable again 🙂 Actually the nights got cold pretty quick and one month later we already had frozen windows in the morning.

We started to explore central and eastern Bulgaria. We followed the good weather and were always hoping for intense autumn colors. We found some from time to time but to be honest autumn came much later than we expected. Nevertheless, we had a good time. We loved the region along the Arda river where we had beautiful weather and some fog in the morning, which is always nice for photography 🙂

Anevksoto kale fortress
a rather seldom picture of the two of us 😉

Another thing we liked about Bulgaria is that in many places it feels like journey through time back to Soviet times. Many gigantic brutal concrete monuments exist in the country and most of them are still intact.

Buzludzha Monument

Don’t ask us why but before we came to Bulgaria we somehow always thought of it as a rather flat country. We couldn’t have been more wrong… there are mountains which go up to 2900m. Before winter was going to hit the higher mountains we still wanted to do some hiking in the Rila mountains. We had two very nice hiking days there – one on very famous Rila 7 Lakes hike and another one close by.

Rila mountains

Afterwards we continued to the mountains north of Sofia. We had no expectations of this area but there was a very nice valley and some impressive rock formations.
During our stay near Belogradchik we met the first other long-term overlanders since a long time (you can follow Sonja’s und Thorsten’s trip here). We connected really quickly and had a good time together.
Ironically we met the first people as soon as it got really cold outside (plus shade from the rocks) so when we were socializing we were always wrapped in blankets and wore everything we could find 😉

sunrise above the clouds
waiting for the sunrise in Belogradchik

At that point our second battery was slowly dying (again). As from then on the mornings were really cold and as we wanted to be able to run our auxiliary heating we needed to get a replacement battery. For that we drove a detour to Sofia to get a deep cycle solar battery. As the shop was close to the cathedral we did a short stop there as well. Apart from that we avoided the city again. Covid-19 numbers were rising again and we just wanted to get back into nature.

So far we had a wonderful time in Bulgaria and we think the country is underrated. We are still in Bulgaria. As winter is approaching we rented a house together with friends which we use as a base and from where we do trips when the weather is nice.

This is the first blog post about part of our time in Bulgaria – a second one will follow later 🙂

 

NOTES & ANECDOTES

 

In Bulgarian bakeries you mainly get savory snacks like pizza slices or filled rolls. But no good bread. If we want to buy decent bread we unfortunately have to go to Lidl or Kaufland…

To our very surprise it took us 15 months before we lost the first lens cap. In Bulgaria it finally happened – we lost one at Edgar’s bucket-list-location “Buzludzha”

It can’t be a coincidence that there is only a one letter difference between “Voda” (water) and Vodka… 😉

sorry to say but in Bulgaria we have experienced the worst customer service so far. That is not to say that it’s all terrible – some shops offer really good customer services. The number just isn’t very high.

in Bulgaria the head gesture for “yes” or “no” is almost the opposite to Central Europe. If a Bulgarian wants to gesture a “yes” he or she will tilt the head to the left and to the right which at first looks like a head shake. If they gesture a “No” they tilt the head up and back.

when Bulgarians talk to each other it sounds as if they are arguing or fighting.

as you need a vignette on almost every normal road you are practically forced to buy one. Motorways are also included in the vignette. Because of this we drove on motorways more often than we usually do.

outside of the UK we never saw as many right-hand drive cars in Europe. In Bulgaria used cars from the UK are currently the cheapest.

Bulgaria is a good country to get repairs done on our Volkswagen T4. It is still very common here. As a result spare parts are widely available.

we really like it that most traffic light have a countdown 

in the evening or during the nights we often heard jackals howl and sometimes also a wolf

 

 

NUMBERS

 

the first part of our Bulgaria blog post covers approximately 3 months in Bulgaria

Exchange rate (16.07.2020): 1 Euro = 1,95LEV (Bulgarian Leva)

we slept all nights in our car – 2 months at the Workaway and the rest in the wild

average diesel price was 0,84€ – our cheapest so far

we spent 7 Euro per person per day. Naturally we spent less money than usual while staying at the Workaway. The daily costs do not include fixed costs like car insurance + taxes and travel health insurance.

we went to a mechanic 5 times. Once again we benefitted from the cheap labor costs and had some (overdue) maintenance done

road condition: ranging from 5 to 8 (out of 10 points); from good tarmac to rather bad roads with large potholes.

driving style / manners: respectful, friendly driving and mostly mild overtaking. If only they wouldn’t get so close to our car when overtaking…