Bus to Kardzhali
Leaving Plovdiv, we caught a taxi to the bus station that Tourist info had told us to go to. Our trust in taxi drivers got a bit diminished when the bill came to about 7 Lev for a 2 lev trip!
It was just a pity that we had been sent to the wrong bus station. It is a bit confusing in Bulgaria as every town has multiple bus stations, but we made it there, and got our tickets to Kardzhali. There are a few old monuments, megaliths and hills around that we want to check out. The bus ride was fairly boring, past wilting sunflowers that are in need of being harvested, and up into the hills.
On arriving in Kardzhali, as usual there was nothing at the station. We took pot luck and started walking in the direction we though the town centre was in.
As it happened we walked up the right street and came across tourist Info. Stopping in, we asked about accommodation, and found out that it is an expensive town. We did get them to call one of the places we had found on Bgstay (accommodation website), but for some reason the price was double the amount that they had listed online. A bit confusing for us to say the least.
We then wanted information about the Thracian megalith Perperikon that we wanted to see.
The quick response was “you cannot go.” Apparently there is no way to see it without a car. It is 20km away. Asking about buses, they told us there was one bus a day that goes past it to a remote village and could get dropped off there, but there was no way for us to get back, and Bulgaria does not seem to be that big on hitching. Or we could rent a taxi.
Getting information out of these guys was worse than pulling teeth. The answer every time was “You cannot go.” The nice rock formations out of town? : “You cannot go.” The lakes? : “You cannot go.” “You cannot go anywhere if you don’t have a car!” …
On asking about other things in the area they did a great job of convincing us to move on and not stay in the town, so we walked back to the bus station and caught the next bus going in the direction we wanted to. My idea on Tourist info is to sell the region and get you to stay around longer than you had planned, and not leave on the day you arrived!! Apparently I have it wrong, and their job is to convince you that the area is just not worth it, as the prices are too high, and you cannot see anything without a car anyway.
So due to the above,we ended up taking a mini bus to Ardino. This is a small town up in the hills. The bus was packed, and very old. To go forward after it stopped the driver had to throw it into reverse for a few meters before going forward just to keep the engine running, but we made it after only one hill start along the way. It brought back memories of Moroccan buses, with the amount of people crammed inside (there was even four people in the front two seats!). This trip wound its way further up into the hills, until reaching its destination.
Ardino is nothing special, it is a small fairly ugly town on first impressions. The hotel is over priced (but cheaper than the city), and the buildings are squat communist style houses. However the people are friendly and we learnt a little about Bulgarian wine. Apparently Bulgaria is supposed to have good wines, but so far the ones we have had, have all been a lot worse than the Romanian ones (to the extent that you have to mix it 50/50 with juice to even consider drinking it!). The secret is not to drink white wine. The reds are passable though. I would not say good, but at least you can drink them. OK, I admit that we are drinking the very cheap stuff, and if you want to pay for it, there are probably very good white Bulgarian wines.
So that’s about it for the day, and we can only hope that tomorrow is better!