Taxi’s, Trains and Buses
We wanted to go out to the big Communist monument on top of Buzludza Peak. We knew where it was as we had seen it from the bus yesterday, and you can even catch glimpses of it in town. We just did not know how to get there!
Tourist information was open today, so after leaving our bags at the hotel, we made our way over. I am sure the girl here was trying to be helpful, it just took a while until we could get the point across. Eventually we used the computer to show her a picture of where we wanted to go. There is no bus. Not surprising as everyone here wants to forget the communist past, but there are no villages nearby either. The closest is about 17km away from it at the bottom of the hill. This is a slight problem, as we do not feel up to doing a 34km round trip.
We talked about other options, we could get a taxi, but have an inherent distrust of taxi drivers, or we could rent a car. Going back to the hotel (tourist info couldn’t help with the car rental) we asked. It was 20 euro with an extra 5 euro foreigner tax, plus insurance, fuel etc. So we bit the bullet and asked a taxi driver how much it would be. He quoted us about 25lev each way. This sounded reasonable, so we took it.
The guy spoke no English, but was pretty cool. He took us through town rather than around, so we got to see a bit more of it, then out past all the Thracian tombs to the start of the climb, then zigzagging up the hill. Much better than being in a bus! Towards the top we were stunned by the amount of hotels up here. There were at least four, then a camp ground and a few nice places where others had pitched tents. Past this and above the tree line we got some good views of the massive UFO styled monument. It is huge, and there is a tall tower behind it. Our driver told us it is about 50m high, and this is most likely true.
At the top we pulled off, and got out for a look around. Some of the graffiti had been cleaned up and repainted, but the text to the sides is still in pretty bad condition. You can see from the outside where parts of the roof has collapsed, and the concrete structure is now acting as a swimming pool, with small cracks releasing steady drips of water. We knew we could not get in the front doors, and these are covered with big steel grill doors, but had found online that you could go around the corner and climb through a broken window to get in. Being prepared for once, we had charged the torch, and were ready to see the old mosaics inside. Unfortunately for us, there had been a Socialist Party meeting up here two days ago, and they had repaired this entrance, and we could not get in! 5 minutes with a crowbar would fix this problem, but we were not that well prepared! Two weeks ago would have been fine, and we would probably be able to enter again in two weeks time, just not today!
Walking around, watching the swallows swoop and dive above and through the building, and seeing the fantastic views on offer would have to do us. Still, check out the pics we have stolen of inside from online!
Back down the hill and to town. The total bill was just over 40lev, but we rounded it to fifty, as this is what he quoted us, and he was pretty good. He had joined us on the walk with his camera as well! It would have been better if we could communicate without sticks in the ground or charades, as I think he is a pretty good guy. That said, we will have to get over our prejudice.
Picking up our bags we wandered down to the railway station to catch a train to Plovdiv as we are a bit sick of being right in the back of cramped mini buses. There was a train in about 10 minutes. This is fairly rare for us, as we hardly ever have such good timing.
The woman at the counter was helpful, and we got our tickets. The train was only a few minutes late, and as it pulled into the station, we asked one of the station people if it was the right one. Apparently it wasn’t. Our luck could not have been that good. There was only one small catch. As this train started pulling out of the station the guy worked out that it was the train we wanted, and we had missed it! This was not good. He took our tickets and disappeared for a while. We started to worry about this, and when we were called over to the ticket office, our helpful woman was annoyed we were not on the train. We thought it only natural to confirm that it was the right train, as it could have been a different one that was on time, but no, it was our fault, even though the guy had said it was not the right one. He had said something about it to the woman, and seemed to have confused our destination. Not sure how, and we think he was just being a prick. The next train wasn’t for hours, so we got our money back and went to the bus station (It was a hassle arguing over the 10% they wanted to charge us, but as far as we were concerned it was their fault). There was a bus to Plovdiv, but it left about half an hour after the next train, and we were not going back there! We hung out in a bar drinking bad Bulgarian wine (at least it was cheep) playing cards until the bus arrived.
Again we were stuck cramped in the back of the bus, and were sore and tired when we arrived. Then another bus to the city centre as these stations are never anywhere near anything interesting. Walking around a bit to find a hotel. Then out to look around town.
There is a good feel to the city, but again, most of the money has only been spent on a couple of streets, and very quickly you can see what town is really like.
There was some live music going on, and we passed sections of the old Roman hippodrome before finding it at the end of the main street. Some good heavy metal music that was being enjoyed by all different age groups from Babies to Great Grandparents. Then we headed over to the Roman Amphitheatre that is still in use today. Well, specifically tonight, as there was an even bigger crowd here watching traditional Bulgarian dancing. There were troops from all over the country performing, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching it, even if we had arrived a bit late.
Still, it was a good evening, and most of the day was good (Just that idiot from the station putting a dampener on it). Plovdiv should be an interesting town, and we are looking forward to seeing the rest of it tomorrow.