A year into the trip I’ll share some statistics about what we’ve been spending our money on. Brett, the nerd that he is, has kept track of every yen, somani, kroner, hryvnia and lei that we’ve spent. Not only that but he’s broken down our spending into various categories – accommodation, transport, food, sightseeing, visas, communication and misc. It seems like a lot of work but actually the data he’s put together is really interesting. When we were feeling a little low on cash it was good to know how long we could sustain our lifestyle given the reserves we had left. Besides, it’s just good to know where the money goes. I’ll give a quick summary of costs in this post - I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested read on…
Archive for the ‘Bulgaria’ Category
Seeing as I put the effort into selecting 20 photos to present at Pecha Kucha in Muenster I might as well share them with anyone reading my blog – I’m looking at you Nan! It wasn’t easy to select only 20 photos from the past 61 weeks of travel. A quick count says I’ve taken just over 11,000 since the start of 2010 alone, and I don’t want to admit how many I’ve taken in total over this trip. Let’s just assume it was many more than 20. So below are what I think are some of the best photos I’ve taken this trip, though some of them were chosen more for the story than the artistic side of things.
Seeing as we’ve been on the road for a year, I feel it’s time to write about some of the highlights. Some of these were written about when they happened, but some are little things that didn’t necessarily register as worthy of a mention at the time. In no particular order:
This week has been uncharacteristically lazy. We’ve spent quite a few days lazing about in hotel rooms, sleeping late and not achieving much at all. It’s been really nice! Sometimes you need those days and we haven’t taken many yet this trip, the weather has been so fantastic and there’s been so much to see that we haven’t slowed down. When we got to Nesebar the weather had changed to winter and to be honest there wasn’t much to see once we’d done the short wander around the small old town. The isthmus that the old town is on was almost deserted in the winter season, pretty much all the churches, shops, restaurants and even Tourist Information were closed. All that remained of the summer tan-seeking throng was a few chilly postcard sellers, construction workers preparing for next year’s rush and a taxi driver who was so desperate for business that he promised to take us anywhere we wanted to go for bus fare prices. We ended up paying him a bit more than bus fare price for the trip to Varna (1.5 hours) and he was the most excited and happy taxi driver I think I’ve ever met. Our measly 30 leva (USD25) fare won’t go far toward the 1,000 leva he pays monthly to rent the car but it’ll help.
Varna is also on the coast but being a big city (3rd largest in Bulgaria) most sun seekers head to one of the smaller resorts nearby (when they come in summer). We got in on a Saturday and the next bus up to Odessa, Ukraine, wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon. Once we’d wandered the beachfront, been to the cathedral, seen the Roman baths and wandered the streets a bit we spent the rest of the time hanging out and doing mundane life stuff like laundry, catching up on emails and watching lots of interesting shows on the History Channel. Did you know that in WW2 homing pigeons were actually a really important means of communication for both the Allies and the Axis? So important that both sides trained peregrine falcons to take out enemy pigeons. The British actually trained their falcons to retrieve the Nazi pigeons instead of just killing them, with messages and markings intact, thereby enabling them to plant double agent pigeons behind Nazi lines. When the Nazis released these devious birds they returned to their roosts in the UK carrying important enemy intelligence. The things you learn when you can’t be bothered to leave the hotel room…
From Smolyan we headed north, passing back through Plovdiv and on to Ivan Vazovo village. There Brett had his first Couchsurfing experience as we stayed with a couple and their two children. Atanas is a retired jet pilot who tries to balance holistic living and new age philosophies with an obvious fascination with all things gadget-like and the management of his company, Extreme Bulgaria. We spent an interesting few days being shown around the area, walking, cycling and exploring some of the historical sites. Nearby Hisar has been famous since Roman times for its 22 mineral springs; a 5m high, 3m thick wall was built around the town to protect it from invaders. We also went to Starossel, an ancient Thracian shrine from the late 5th to early 4th century BC. You know something happened a long time ago when they count dates backwards. A keyhole entry led to a rectangular corridor then another doorway to a perfectly circular 5.3m diameter domed chamber (the largest ever discovered). The carving on the doorways was as crisp as if it was carved yesterday and traces of the 7,000 year old paint were still visible.
On our second day with Atanas he took us water tasting. We tried water from a few different springs and compared the taste. They were quite different. People in Bulgaria take bottles to the many springs in each town and fill up their supply of drinking water for the house. We filled six 10L bottles and took them back to the house. In a field nearby was a hot spring where we went to wash one night. It was a small concrete room with what looked like a fire hydrant in the middle. Apparently there used to be some kind of piping but Atanas said it’d been stolen by the gypsies. He didn’t have many good things to say about the gypsies, one of the reasons they’d moved to that particular village was that there weren’t any gypsies (well there was one old lady but she was OK). We squatted next to the gushing pipe and washed then headed outside to get dressed by the light of the moon.