to Veliko Tarnovo
Tout with room
Walk around town
It was a sad day for us, we have to leave Shumen! We have enjoyed our stay, and it is a credit to Tourist Info that we have remained here. Plus the fact that we got some good cheep accommodation, All in all it has been a great place to visit!
Our next destination is Veliko Tarnovo, the site of the second Bulgarian empire’s capital. Having seen the capitals, well, the remains and ruins of the capitals, we are looking forward to this.
Going to the the bus station, we got our tickets. Having learnt it is safer to get tickets in the Station rather than on the bus itself. Then we just had to hang around and wait for it. V. Tarnovo is not that far from Shumen, if you can drive on the main roads at a decent speed. The buses however do all the small winding roads. They provide good views of the countryside, but take forever to go anywhere. I think our top speed has dropped from about 50km and hour to around 30! The city is up in the mountains, and the scenery is stunning. Between deep valleys and over ridges. The occasional town popping up in the distance. There are a few that we would have liked to stop and look at, but without a car…
Crossing a deep river, we took a massive concrete clover construction to enter into the city. These roads have not been built with buses in mind though, as you cannot directly enter the bus station from here. It had to drive a bit further then do a three point turn before heading back to the entrance.
We were at an edge of the city, and had no idea where we were in relation to anything, as the bus stations are always in the middle of nowhere. Deciding to walk up the hill and see what we could see. There were a couple of places with signs for rooms out, but on knocking there was no answer. Each one had a phone number, but we have no phone. Payphones in the country cost a fortune of about $1 per 20 seconds, so even if we called one of them, it would end up costing the same as a hotel. Maybe not, we did pass a hotel. Needless to say, we would not be staying there.
As we were walking along with our bags, a man approached us and asked if we needed a place to stay as he has a small cheap boarding house. This would be perfect. The only problem was that it is a drive away. This is fine to get there, but you never get a lift back at the end of your stay. Still, we decided to check it out.
It was not too far from the old town centre, and about 10 minutes walk from new town. We could only drive part of the way as the government is redoing the piping in the street, and it has been closed off. Although slightly annoying for us dragging our bags over the rough cobblestones and navigating the treacherous terrain of holes and piles of rubble, it is a good thing, as there are sighs of development happening. The people here should be happy when it is finished!
The place we are staying has a trip advisor sticker on the window, and we start to worry. They are always overpriced and not so good. We have the same opinion of this web portal as UNESCO! The room was small, poky, and if you did not watch yourself you would end up with headaches from hitting your head on the sloping roof. It has a great view though! Built over 4 or 5 levels, the entrance is on the second floor. The terrain is quite steep, and the one house below us does not block the view out over the river, a large monument and the new city. Not a good place, but at least it is here. We book in for a few nights, then set out to explore town. It turns out that the street we are on is one of the oldest streets in the city, with one building dating back to the 14th century. No one lives there now, and if nothing is done soon, it will only be good for a vacant plot. Other buildings are done in the Bulgarian Renaissance style, and with the steepness of the terrain, you can see one or two stories on the lower side, but on the upper the buildings tower above you. Finding some steps we started climbing. It is steep. There is a reason there are no fat people in Bulgaria, especially if they have to walk these paths every day.
Finding the main street of old town, we were impressed that there was more infrastructure development going on here. The road was being resurfaced, the footpaths being fixed and similar. However for one of the most touristy cities in the country we were amazed by the amounts of empty shop fronts. This place has the feel of a city struggling to stay alive. There is a fair amount of graffiti around as well. This in most cases is a bad sign, but there was not much tagging. Most of it was artworks. Well thought out and painted. Even the junction boxes along the roads are unique.
The sides of the old buildings (where it used to be attached to another building) have been decorated as well. A few terraces around offering similar views to our hostel and tourist shops. Old poky antique places that have everything on offer from the last thousand years to hand painted plates.
Working our way back to where old town ends and new town starts is tourist information. We had been very close when we were picked up by our host. Stopping in, we got some information on the region and a map of town. This would be handy. We saw signs up for some events and asked about them. Apparently there is a folk music festival starting today that we can check out.
It would not start for a while, so we found a nice place for a quiet drink, then did another long walk around. This took us to the monument on the island we had seen.
This was the founders Bulgaria. Depicted as four horsemen. An overbearing monument that up close towers above you,but seen from the hillside is a lot smaller. The island was quite large, with a big hill on it, so we decided to go up this. It was a long climb up over 400 steps (Not too bad compared to Shumen’s 1400) to a parkland on top. There is a hotel here that could be confused with an old folks home, and a defunct restaurant. The building is crumbling away and the top floor has fallen through to the centre. An apparent hang out zone for young people with some fantastic graffiti.
We just had to make our way back down. There was the easy way – going back the way we had come. The harder way – Following the road to wherever it goes. And then there is Andrew’s way. Find a dirt path and see what happens. Even if it does lead to an almost vertical descent! It was interesting scrambling around the side of the hill, just hoping that at the bottom there would be another path leading somewhere, so we would not have to go back up. It did. There is a university here, with all the student accommodation. A nice quiet out of the way place. Apparently buses to go past, but we decided to walk back. Crossing a small bridge to the base of the overpowering fortress walls. Going between these and the river, we made our way back to familiar territory. By now it was getting dark and time to go to the concert.
The event had a large stage, and we found ourselves a seat on the grass. There is nothing like free entertainment. The music was not just traditional Bulgarian folk, but music from around the world.
Chilli, Hawaii, Argentina and Brazil. Some of these performances were magnificent. All different costumes and musics. We were entranced for a lot of it. The only sad point was that the local musicians were second last for the night, and when Brazil came out afterwards, a lot of people got up and left. I feel a bit sad for those people on stage watching everyone leave. The biggest loss though was for the locals. These guys and girls were magnificent! It was the best performance of the night!
Now it was time to head back to our crappy accommodation, and hope we were tired enough to sleep. It did not help when Anna stabbed herself on one of the springs, and the mosquitoes invaded with entire flights doing blood sucking runs on your legs, arms and any other exposed part of the body. We would only stay here tonight, and try to find a better place tomorrow. We had seen plenty of choices around, so it shouldn’t be too hard.