Veliko Turnovo

23 09 2010

Veliko Turnovo (aka Veliko Tarnovo). First real (new) stop on our returning home trip. Starting off in Istanbul we caught the overnight train up into Bulgaria and onwards to Veliko Turnovo, at one point the Bulgarian Capital.

The trip was eventful. Fun and games with the train conductor trying to assign us a shared birth cabin rather than the private 2 berth we paid for. Still, with the train mostly empty all worked out. Having eaten before embarking, we anticipated some sleep before arriving into Bulgaria. What wasn’t anticipated was the 1am wake up call to get off the train and visit immigration and customs. From the Turkish. Pyjamas and all we clambered out into the snow (lots of snow and still snowing), down onto the tracks, back up onto the next platform and into a queue of, well, us. A quick stamp and all done.

The conductor had other ideas. Feeling like he had done us a favour by giving us a private cabin, I found 30 Euro’s thrust into my hand and a request for duty free cigarettes. 4 cartons it was. Turns out that as an conductor he’s not allowed to buy duty free at the border, so he gets passengers to do it for him. My new best friend 🙂

The Bulgarian customs and immigration was much more civilised. They came onto the train allowing us to stay warm. They had computers and seemed surprised to find and Australian on board. Didn’t quite know what to do with the passport. 5 mins and all done.

Unfortunately we were cold. Very cold. As in middle of winter with no train heating cold. They stuffed something up while changing engines, and we ended up wearing all the clothes we could find.

Arriving into Veliko was magical. Rustic, clean fresh snow everywhere. And out ride nowhere to be found. Staying with the absolutely fantastic Hostel Mostel (very very highly recommended to all), they provide a lift from the station. Unfortunatly being low season there was only one girl working so she advised us to take a taxi. Easier said than done. A local “archeologist” took pity on us and in return for us paying his way got us into a taxi and moving. Still, we arrived and were made to feel more than welcome.

Veliko is a town built on a river. Not just any river but an amazing bend on the Yantra River.

Veliko Tarnovo

Its an old communist city used as a resort of sorts. Check out the hotel (middle of picture) for a great example of amazing communist archetecture. Its a massive image so load it up and look around.

Veliko Turnovo Panorama

One of the highlights of any visit to Veliko is the old fortress of Tsarevets.

Tsarevets Panorama

To enter you need to cross a bridge guarded by 3 gates and the famous Lion of Tsarevets.

Welcome to Tsarevets
Lion of Tsarevets

The church on top was somewhat of a surprise. Rebuilt by the communists in 1986 (from memory) it was decorated in a modern abstract communist method. Quite a shock. Due to the snow we were the only ones there (except for the lady working there) so had the place to our selves. Lots of interesting pics.

Ascension of Christ, The Patriarch Church
Ascension of Christ, The Patriarch Church
Ascension of Christ, The Patriarch Church
Ascension of Christ, The Patriarch Church
Ascension of Christ, The Patriarch Church
Ascension of Christ, The Patriarch Church

Other really cool stuff in Veliko includes the Monument of the Assens, a memorial to Bulgarian kings made of a giant sword and 4 horsemen.

Monument of the Assens

A bridge crosses from the hotel to the monument, Stambolov’s Bridge.

Stambolov’s Bridge

Crossing the River

The Dark River

Other fun sights we found, an old woman shovelling snow next to the war memorial using a shovel made from an old sign.

Sign of the Times

And some cool graffiti down near the hostel.

Red Head Graffiti

Overall an amazing place. Highly recommended to visit. Amazing food, friendly people and cheap cheap cheap.

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1 week, 4 countries

9 03 2010

You know, when you travel it’s hard to keep things like blogs updated. However all the walking and doing stuff tends to lead to exhaustion and demotivation with blogs.

So, where are we and what are we doing? Let’s work backwards from now covering the past week.

2 hours ago we arrived in Veliko Tarnovo by train. Where? Basically it’s central Bulgaria. We took the overnight train from istanbul which leads up into Bucharest, but decided to head on to Bucharest in a few days time. The trip itself was a bit odd. Getting woken at 3 am to jump off the train for immigration was odd. The fresh snow on the ground was nice but sooooo cold at 3am. A bit of time getting a passport stamp leaving turkey then onto the duty free store to buy the conductor 2 cartons of cigarettes. He isn’t. Allowed to buy them himself but since he was nice and helpful and I was not exactly awake I agreed.

Next was the Bulgarian immigration. At least this time they did this on the train. Still it was an hour or so after the Turkish version. All finished at about 4.30am. About the time the train heaters stopped working. It was snowing out and felt cold enough in for the same.

Awaking about 10am from a fitfull sleep I was given a large brandy by the guy in the cabin next to us, and a horrendous instant coffee by the conductor. Arriving in Veliko Tarnovo our promised lift didn’t materialize, but a quick call to the hostel and we were in a cab.

Before Veliko Tarnovo we spent 3 nights in Istanbul. Wonderful city. Possibly my favourite out of all those I’ve visited. Nowhere else is there that much mindblowingly cool stuff to see and do. The blue mosque, the hagia sofya, hippodrome, bosporus etc. Added to that, we caught up with ex-taebaekian Rebecca who is living and working in Istanbul. It was so nice to just relax for a few days and not have to do all of the touristy stuff as we did most things while we were here last time around. That’s not to say we sat in the hotel and watched tv. Anything but. Rebecca took us out to a few places that were much more local. Local to the point of getting stuck in hours of traffic. Of well, it was great fun.

Before Istanbul we spent a few days in Frankfurt. Why did we fly all the way to frankfurt and then back to Istanbul? Simple. We used frequent flyer points for the tickets and Asiana don’t fly to Istanbul.

Frankfurt was a bit odd. It felt like quite a large city except seemed to be lacking big city people numbers. It was a fun place but isn’t a massive tourist city.

Hopefully soon I’ll have a bit of time to go thru the pics so far and post a few of them up.