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.....from Germany into Romania and Bulgaria

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Well it was an early start, up by 6 a.m. and had the Carthago Chic T47 in the workshop by 7 a.m., by 7:30 a.m. we were on the bus into Ravensburg, where as in reality we could have sat in the reception for an hour and a half instead of having to cool our heels in the city until all the shops opened.

I found an Internet cafe and managed to download about 600 emails with about 580 of them spam.  Sent off the newsletter, answer a few e-mails being the first time on line for 20 days, wandered around some of the shops, found a bookshop that had an English section and bought a couple of English paperbacks, had lunch and headed back to the workshop to wait in reception for the rewiring to be finished.

At about four o'clock they finished the total rewiring with the report that now all the batteries were charging where as before, with the way they were wired we only working with the one battery, and not only that the wiring that was used was underweight so consequently there was too much resistance and the whole electrical system and they at Carthago could not understand how anybody could have done such a thing and not discovered it with all of the problems I've been having.

They tell me the Carthago Chic T47 will work fine now, the voltage is only sitting at 13.98 V where as I would like to have a up over 14 volts but the important thing is that it keeps charging the batteries and that the refrigerator works from the generator while we are driving, the only thing that all solve the question is to get back on the Road again with our fingers crossed.

We were ready to get on the way to Innsbruck and when we left the service centre the sky clouded over with a very black, it started blowing with lots of rain which changed to heavy hail and we had to drive with the light on and windscreen wipers on full blast and it got so bad we pulled over into a parking area for about 30 minutes and then headed back to the Carthago parking lot we will stay for the night.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It was certainly some storm last night, we saw evidence all day-to-day, lots of leaves over many of the roads, some of the hail had not melting away in areas that it had been piled up, we saw a large number of trees that had been removed the roads by the time we saw them so was a good thing staying put for the night.

We were going to Innsbruck last night because it was a easy distance to travel and we have not looked at travel further on, so this morning we just followed the GPS and when we crossed over the border into Austria after going through a 7km tunnel I put our Hungarian destination into two of the GPS is that had Hungarian maps and neither showed us an option of going through Innsbruck so working on the principle that the GPS knows best we turned around and went back through the 7 km tunnel to Germany and drove around the outskirts of Munich towards the Czech Republic and then on down towards Passau stopping on the way at near Landsberg am Lech where a new block of shops which included a Media Mart, OBI hardware, large supermarket and several other shops which impressed me enough to record its location in “my favourites” on the Tom Tom in case I am ever in this direction again.

Around five o'clock we pulled over on to a parking area and looked for some overnight campings and the four that we looked at were all useless and Luda saw a large car park as we were driving towards one of the useless ones and we stopped there on the way back and hopefully will spend the night here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Well the car park was peaceful enough last night, up bright and early, when on our way back to the main road through the country lanes and we were soon across the border into Austria, made short work of crossing Austria to Hungary, bought another motorway vignette to cross Hungary by motorways for four days at €7.

We found the bypass to Budapest very easy this time and drove the 72 km round the city with ease although in a couple of years time it will be a breeze.

Drove on South to our spot beside the motorway near the village of “Ludas” and ploted on our Romanian GPS the remainder of our trip back to we're we were on May 12th and we have 235 km to go and 16 days to make up.

We left the every part of Germany reasonably cold and overcast skies and since we have been in Hungary for all of six hours we have had beautifully fine weather.  Next thing you all know will be talking about how hot and miserable as it is.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Well we finished the 235 km drive to the Romanian border, and as that was a minor border crossing the roads were not all that brilliant so probably took us longer than the same distance in a good crossing.

Finally we were back at the point we left on the 12th of May and in that time we have travelled an extra 5282 km and used approx running an extra €730 worth of diesel, not extremely impressive track record for an expensive new Carthago Chic 47!

However we carried our interrupted tour of Romania heading towards Sapânta the town that was made famous by the Merry Gravestones, these are Wooden and the headstones which celebrates the persons live with a picture of themselves carved in the wood and some lines of poetry about their life, all of course in Romanian so I did not have to pretend to be an intellectual and understand the poetry.  This is developed into quite a tourist attraction with a continual stream of tourist buses making their stop at this town and we noticed that the church was undergoing a total makeover which makes one think that the picturesque graveyard is good news for the church.

We drove through a reasonably new village that had, what looked like houses that had been built and the last five years, all massive big constructions, most three storeys high, on small lots so that they almost touched each other, and all extremely expensive, they had to be at least 300 of these houses along probably a 5 km piece of main highway, in a town called Certeze, we could see no rhyme or reason why so many of these expensive houses were built in this out of the way spot, near the Romanian border with the Ukraine, unless of course that was the secret and the Ukrainian mafia have established their holiday homes across the border.

We carried on towards our next destination, until we stopped for the evening and parked in the car park of a bread and breakfast establishment for the princely sum of 30 lei which I worked represented about €9 which is not exactly cheap.

The electrical system is working well, touch wood, for the first time with this Carthago Chic T47 we have 13 volts which shows somebody has fixed something.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Today started off overcast and gradually deteriorated until this afternoon it was raining.  The roads wind through one village after another village all almost untouched by time, most of the houses are Wooden logs squared and stacked on top of each other crossing at corners, the real log cabin type of construction that was dressed wood instead of rough wood.

The normal means of transport this horse and wagon and we see whole families in this type of transport go into the field or returning home.  The villagers revolve around agriculture and if the grass is to be cut for hay then it is done with a scythe, raked up with a rake, and then manhandled, or woman handled with the pitchfork either on to a horse-drawn wagon or into small haystacks in the field.

Vegetables do not get the impersonal mechanical treatment but the personal hoeing of the weeds and all of the other personal treatment that was displayed to the villagers gardens in our country a hundred years ago.

So I gess a big treat for a teenage boy is to be able to drive the horse and wagon with a load of hay!

This all is of course at one end of the spectrum and we do see reasonably modern car's often on the villages, and of course satellite television is not uncommon so whilst the people in these villages live a life of early last century the latest in the 21st century is being beamed into their homes on a daily basis, so I would guess that life in these villages is possibly going to last until the current generation departs this world if in actual fact it can last that length of time and this will of course depend on the economy of this country.

This whole area that we are in is heavily into wood working and it is not uncommon to see a new church built and the style of yesterday, out of Wood, with wooden shingles and occasionally wooden nails of the construction process being used is old enough.  Woodcarving is an art that is alive and well here, and this is shown in the ornate gateway's and church construction.

We spoke to daily to the wife of a Romanian Orthodox priest and once we had established the type church he was domiciled at we then realised that the Romanian Orthodox construction was more simular to the Catholic than to the Russian Orthodox, so with 85% of the population Orthodox, and the Orthodox churches looking similar to the Catholic and is very hard to separate the two structures to know what we are looking at, should it happened to be important.

Like every poor country, every village has a church and it is usually the grandest building of the village which of course with the religious upbringing of yesteryear was the believe that people, commonly had.

The people and the villagers are very friendly, probably untouched so far by tourists, Luda is getting smiles when she points cameras at people and they always endeavour to strike up a conversation or at the least leave her with a hug. (I hope that was just the ladies).

My last trip to Romania I went away with the thought that there was a lot of wood harvesting being carried out and currently we are parked opposite restaurant on what appears to be a main road somewhere and with had probably a dozen wood trucks loaded to the brim going past.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It was bitterly cold this morning and once we got on the Road and saw the mountains with a covering of snow we understood.  Our first stop was Borsa and then it was on into the Carpathian mountains winding our way slowly up the hill and into the snowline, which got more and more impressive each 100 m we climbed until we reached the summit at 1417 m where the snow was at least 20 cm deep off from the snowfall last night.

It was rather delightful and very photogenic, fortunately with very little traffic so we were able to stop often to capture some other photos that we leave the New Zealand winter for!  It was just the way it should be nice easy driving and not cold enough for the roads to turn to ice so that will be enough snow for the trip, thank you very much.

At the bottom of the hills we came to a small town called Sibau, and between there and Mestecanis there were some rather beautiful houses totally different to what we had seen on our travels to date through this country and probably of a higher quality than the average house we have been seeing and when we reached Sadova was a beautifully ornate church overlooking the town and we did our best to get a location to photograph it.

Then it was back into the mountains, this time with no snow, filling up with diesel at one of the small towns we went through and we finally stopped for the night at Vatra Moldovitei where we are camped in their parking area which is alongside some cabins they rent out and is costing us 20 lei for the night with electricity and the ability to fill up with water in the morning.  One interesting feature of this restaurant camping ground is the cats and dogs they have wandering about along with two large rabbits that have the freedom to wander amongst the cats and dogs.

As we have been driving to our destination today we have observed a lot of people dressed, on their way to church, the dress for the church appears to be black, but the ladies appear to be able to wear high heels shoes if they wish, but they all had the heads covered with coloured scarves but with black backgrounds.

Every small village there is a church, sometimes more than one, one that was memorable was beautifully carved and it had a large murals across the width of the church depicting heaven and hell to emphasise to the flock the choices that was awaiting them.

We are very much in a wood harvesting area with large logs being transported and waiting for collection everywhere we drive, most of the houses of course and made out of Wood, and we are noticing a lot of woodcarving happening throughout the whole area.

As I dictate this letter Luda is outside photographing the rabbits and they are so tame she can get with arm's-length of them and they aren't not at all disturbed.

Monday, June 01, 2009
We decided to catch up with our washing before we left this morning so again the Chinese made, washer with spin drier was put and to good use.

Back on the Road towards Sucevita, we are still and the Carpathian mountains in the Transilvania region of Romania.  We were again winding up and down the hills from 700 m in the region we stayed last night to as high as 1050 m going through the mountains.

At Sucevita we visited a woman's monastery that was built in the 16th century, of the Orthodox faith, and the out side of the building was covered in paintings I assumed Saints and the religious people.  The inside of course was also covered with similar paintings.  It looked very familiar to me and I thought I'd seen something similar before.

Moving on towards Siret we moved from the mountains and the forests to the farming area where we saw complete families working on the land with hand tools.  I'm not too sure how much longer the manual labour will be commonplace as I had noticed a lot of automated equipment on display as we travel so automation is slowly moving into Transylvania be it possibly it may take three generations before it is noticed.

We stopped briefly at Suceava a busy city whose traffic is little bit chaotic so after finding a monastery within the city limits we gave up when we had to do a 10 km detour to see a Castle that was a kilometre of away from the monastery that we were facing the wrong way saw we got back on the Road towards Câmpulung Moldovenesc some hundred kilometres away.

We carried on driving through open farmland and coming into the village of Gura Humorului we saw a sign towards another monastery, called the Voronet monastery, very similar to the one that looked familiar to me that this one was older, and one that I visited five years before, was slightly smaller and the paintings on the outside in quite back and quite bad condition, the inside paintings of course protected from the weather almost as good as new.

The local car that is manufactured here is a Dacia, the model that is most frequently seen in is like an old Renault so it would appear that the Romanian government bought the dies etc of an obsolete model and made this the National car somewhat similar to the Lada and Russia being a old Fiat.

Now the Romania is going through its perestroika (in English this word means reconstruction) I note that the Dacia car now has the Renault name on the new streamlined models.

We saw on the outskirts of the city a site that would see and very few places in the world, five young guys waiting to be collected all with scythe’s, folded of course for travelling, obviously going out to cut a field of hay.  I wonder at the reaction of a group of Western youths given the same implements and told of their day's work!

We saw a picture the today of a mixture of the 19th, 20th and 21st century.  There were three men with the horse and carts which represented the 19th century, the 20th-century was represented by pneumatic tyres on their wheels, and the 21st century was represented by the chainsaw that they were using to slice up a large log to carry home on their 19th-century transport.

We pitched our tent (as one may say) in a parking area in this village of the monastery had hoped for a quite night.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

We were greeted with light drizzle most of the day as we wound our way through the farming countryside still in the Carpathian mountains and most of the time and elevation of over 900 m and occasionally climbing up to 1250 m.

Highway 17 or E 58 wind its way through villages, with one village starting where the last village finishes, and the Road is undergoing massive reconstruction.  I can't start to think what it must have been like before they started because the roadworks that they are working on are massive.

The first village we went through was Frasin, followed by Câmpulung Moldovenesc, and then at Sadova we completed a circle that took first up as far as the Ukrainian border and just a few kilometres from Moldova.

The rain and the Road construction carried on through Lacobeni, Vatra Dornei, and Tiha Bârgaului and then when we got to the major city of Bistrita we managed to find ourselves a bypass which took us round the city along with every truck in creation or that is the way it seemed and we finally found a petrol station with a large car park on Highway 15A near the city of Teaca where we settled in for the night after buying 41 L of diesel.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

For a change we started off with blue skies and fine weather so carried on our way across Romanian and the Carpathian mountains through the small city of Reghin, and the slightly larger city of Târgu Mures and then the bigger city of Dracula fame, Sighisoara, with the Dracula Castle in the centre of the city, a city that needed regenerating both in the roads and the buildings.

And then it was on our way further south stopping briefly at Saschiz to photograph a world Heritage building in the form of a rather beautiful church, I remember last time I was here how strange it all looked with these old houses that had had very little maintenance and the whole village looking very old with this new model highway sweeping past the church with all the Mercedes and BMWs roaring past.

Little further south at the village of Crit we photographed another beautiful church and then a little bit further south we saw an old ruined Castle had the village of Rupea and we circled around through the narrow streets until we found a good view of the ruins and that was back on to the main Road where possibly we got the best view just before we got back onto highway E 60.

Near the village of Hoghiz with the large car park that used to be part of a restaurant and petrol station which look just right for the evening perfectly with the local constabulary parked at the entrance occasionally stopping vehicles.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Today we decided to drive into Brasov and find a camping ground by entering the GPS coordinates and driving straight to it, wonderful in theory, we missed a turning and drove on until we found a petrol station that we could turn around in, and then we saw a campground, but was not the one we are looking for so we drove on following the GPS down some rather obscure roads until we arrived at a unsealed Road with new houses, and no campground.  So was an easy process to wander backwards to find the campground we did see, which turned out to be the correct one and either their GPS coordinates were off, or we keyed it in wrong.

So we got a taxi into the centre of the city wandered around the scenic sites which in my opinion were not that interesting, and then we caught a taxi back to the campsite all for the princely sum of 20 lei each way.

When we were planning this trip our friend Hank suggested we joined a Dutch group there was going to do a similar trip through Romania and Bulgaria, we said fine, and Hank made further enquiries, but no, English-speaking people, were not invited.

Of course who did we see at the camp site but 20 or so caravans and motor homes all bearing Dutch numberplates and all with a group travel sticker on-board along with their name on each motorhome.

The following day though all off into the city together and analysing the possibility of travelling with them when we consider that it did not exactly bring raptures on as we have got used off travelling at our own leisure, at our own pace, stopping when we want to stop which does not exactly work out successfully with group travel.

Talking to a couple that were part of the group it seems that the attraction for them is travelling in a group and not having to make decisions, and having everything planned.  Well to each his own!

Friday, June 05, 2009

We found a couple of castles on our way to our next destination so we first of all headed towards Râsnov and saw a tremendously large Castle up on the hill which we decided to photograph on the way back and then onto our primary destination of Bran where they had a major Castle which seemed to be the bread ticket for the whole village is that seemed to be the major activity undertaken.  There was a very large marketplace aimed at the tourist on the way to the gates to the Castle, it made a beautiful photograph but we decided not to go in as I am afraid to say that there is just so much varietys and Castle layout are possible so we did not feel like looking at layout number 34 or 15.  So was back towards the large Castle on the hill which we photographed from a distance because with all the trees around it the closer you got the less you would see.


See map of tour to date

to top right....


It was back over the hill on the way to Sinaia, the Road with up to 1050 m in elevation and of course was quite windy but the second time over it made it simpler.  We eventually arrived at Sinaia and joined the rows of tourist buses and police cars all here because of a large monastery, which we did not know where it was, and that even if we did probably would not be able to park so we gave the monastery as a bad job, and probably not worthwhile photographing, so headed back on the Road towards Bucharest, a very busy road, we missed the turn off at Ploiesti and ended up going through that city until we saw the signposts towards Buzau which we took in spite of the GPS warning us to go straight on, although once round the corner it soon agreed with our route.

It was getting close to four o'clock and we thought we should make stopped for the evening so it was the old process of finding a campground or parking spot, with the former being very thin on the ground who is usually the latter and after driving in a 20 Kilometres Circle we found a large concrete area next to the railway line which and spite of the frequency of trains up to 9 o'clock ended up being quite a good choice.  As far as we can tell it is near the city/ village of Albesti-Paleologu if that means anything at all.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Back on the road this morning heading towards Buzau and dealing with the Romanian kamikaze drivers.  Romania is 85% of the Romanian Orthodox faith, and talking to two Mormon boys that I met a little bit earlier on the tour they were commenting that it is hard to convert people from the Orthodox church because if you are born into the church you do not leave it.  What's this got to do with the kamikaze drivers?  I think it must be this strong, strong faith that somebody is looking out over them as when they pass in no passing areas, and swerve back in with millimetres to spare from the oncoming traffic, somebody must be looking out for them!

We drove on to Braila which is on one bank of the Danube river, and anyway across the river in this country is by ferry, (50 lei) we thought for a moment this could not be the case but sure enough it was, I guess and a couple years time with Romania in the EEC will see a large Bridge across this large river.

Driving on towards our eventual destination of Tulcea it was interesting to note the very large Lake on the right-hand side of the road for which I would guess the Danube is responsible, it does allow for a lot of watersport and we saw several parking areas for access to this Lake and we decided to stay the night and one near the city of Macin however if the water rises 10 m over night we may have problems in this location. 

Let us run that by you again, we’re worried about the water rising, well the police just stopped by and told us it was not safe to stay here because of the bad element in the village.

So I put my glass with vodka and Coke into the fridge and we started carrying on towards our destination of today and then we came to a side road that led out to a old monastery and some Forest so we decided to turn down that, onto one of the worst roads I have been on in my life, it we had an average speed of 10 K. per hour I'd be surprised, Luda was rather pleased that now we had a worse Road than what we experienced and Russia.

So was on past where the monastery should have been, through the village, past the hundreds of beehives we found along the side of the road and in little clearings throughout the Forest.  This quite a little enterprise on in beekeeping in this area and they seem to have a large trailer they can be pulled behind a truck with all of the beehives mounted on to this trailer (the trailer is the size of a good-sized truck) and then they have dozens of other hives they scattered around the little clearing, is in actual fact surprising to a layman just where the bees would get all the pollen that they need, but evidently that is not problem based on the numbers of hives we're been seeing today.

We eventually found a little bit of a parking area and parked underneath a old tree which has Luda concerned with some of the branches that looked like they are well past their fall to the ground date at 7:30 p.m. in the evening this is about as far as I am going, closest village is Hamcearca if that is of interest to you.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

So this morning it was back on the Road, the extremely bad Road to Tulcea where there was an old Moslem mosque the Luda wanted photograph so we carried on over  the plains all the steppes of Romania with lot of grapevines and large crops of wheat and barley.  We arrived at the city on the mouth of the Danube and the mosque was a little bit of a washout so was on to a campground just north of Constanta and of course anybody with any brains thinks, large city + seaside = large crowds of people, and the equation was right on particularly for a Sunday so we drove around a campground, found no place that we would place our Carthago Chic T47, in fact we found no other motorhomes, a few caravans but basically tents and cars everywhere.  So in spite of of the being our first Internet possibility for about 10 days we bypassed that and programmed the GPS for Mangalia.

Then hundred metres down the road we came to a Tollgate and it was 3 lei to drive through this part of the Road towards the city, I said what happens if I turn round, he said it will cost you 3 lei, so I paid the large sum and left him with the comment that he should say “welcome to Romania” and so drove through the tour section of about 5 km and carried on our way South until we saw a sign for a monastery and decided to have a look at that, so it took us to the edge of the black sea and we found a dirt track that led down to the sea and so are camped there about 20 m above the sea and just hope the finedust does not go everywhere.

As we wander through Romania the one thing that we notice is the lack of toilets and any of the rest areas on any of the roads or motorways.  This was brought home today when we came upon a bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and we saw women emerging from a wheat field on the right-hand side of the bus and the men with their backs to the bus on the left-hand side of the road.  This is a toilet stop East European style.

Monday, June 08, 2009

We left our camping spot beside the Black Sea, last evening Romanian woman married to a German stopped by to talk to us, she told us they had the same model of motorhome as we did, we had noticed it as we drove in, and told us that there were plenty of camping grounds on the other side of Constanta and then we could plug it into electricity and have plenty of water.  We explained to her that we carried our own water and that we had electricity, and we preferred to be by ourselves rather than with hundreds of other people.

On reflection it made us realise why we had not seen very many European motorhomes travelling through Romania it is because of the lack of campgrounds where they can plug into electricity and have unlimited water, should they wish it.

As we leave Romania we realised that we spent most of our time travelling through the villages with 45% of the population live.  The other 55% who live in cities we have seen very little of our past from when we drive through the city's and see what is commonplace right throughout Europe the massive blocks of apartments that the people call home, it is a far cry from what we expect in New Zealand, to have a house on a piece of land and not have neighbours either side of your walls and above and below.  It is interesting the expectations that people have where as the people in Europe expects live in an apartment and accept that as the norm we would cringe at it.

Having travelled through so much through the villages you start to realise just how different their life is to that of the city.  In the village the whole family works in the fields, in fact the family rely on each other for their labour to plant and harvest the crops, and seeing very young children involved in this is obvious that they learned this whilst they walk and talk.

There of course is nothing like nightclubs or discos for the young people so life carries on quite unchanged to what was a hundred years ago.  In the village was often only the one Road was sealed all the rest were either dirt or a combination of stones and potholes and that was the norm.  It was obvious that the church still played an important part in people's lives, and while one can logically say all of these points equalled a better way of living I am afraid to say I am too material to step back in time and join the Romanians.

This morning we left and carried on our route towards Mangalia which was a massive port, obviously one of many all round the Black Sea and then it was on to the border town of  Vama Veche were passed out of Romania …..

…..and into Bulgaria without any problems buying two weeks of motorway vignette’s and then it was on the way towards Tyulenovo, Obrochishte, and then we stopped to see the Stone Forest at Aksakovo then on North to Devnya, and then Shumen and we stopped about 15 km north of this city on what we think was a commune and we parked in amongst a lot of trees, listening to the motorway traffic off to one side and watching the farmer drive backwards and forwards in one of those massive tractors.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It was a peaceful night in amongst the trees, was recorded on the location for next time we come past this area, we then drove on recently deserted roads through the areas of Gara Khitrino, Kliment, and Isperikh where we reprogrammed the GPS for our next destination and then we had a slight problem getting out at this town has most of the roads were not on the GPS and we kept on wandering off the path for eventually we made it to the burial mounds of the Thracian Kings, only to find that they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, which if we have read our guide book we would have known. 

So was back on the Road again through the villages of Ludogortsi, Razgrad, where we stopped at a tyre repair establishment and filled up with water once they understood what we wanted.  Then it was onto  Blagoevo, and Popovo and the large difference we noticed between Romania and Bulgaria at this early stage is the lack of traffic on the Road and that most of the villages are situated off the main Road.  We have also noticed a lack of churches to date, they do not appear to be in every village like Romania, and there is quite a number of Moslems mosques which is a direct result I would guess of the Turkish occupation of Constantinople and the spread of that faith around the coast of the black sea.

Near the village of Voditsa we came across a piece of open land with one weeping willow tree beside a freshwater spring that had been harnessed and made into a fresh water supply for travellers and a drinking trough for the goats and the sheep that are grazed on this piece of land.  We pulled my Carthago Chic 47 in beside the willow tree, and with these supply of fresh water available did our washing. 

Several people arrived in their car as to collect drinking water, one Romanian tried communicating with me about his car which was a East German Trabant, probably one of the worst cars ever made, and he laid his hand on a lovingly, and told me it was a German car, and then started showing me the magnificent motor, as I recall a two cylinder two-stroke, and the thing that I noticed was it had an ignition coil for each cylinder.

The GPS I bought a Romania has been very good and I think the travels through Romania and Bulgaria would have been much more difficult without it, but we have been most grateful for the map that I bought of each country with a scale of 1 cm equals 2 km.  It has allowed us to plan which city will follow which on our route around the country and I'm not sure how else we would have been I would do it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

So this morning it was back on the trail through Sushitsa and then onto Veliko Turnovo where we saw a large ruined castle and three monastery's that this city is associated with.  It was then onto Dryanovo, Gabrovo and into the hills and up over a bypass and elevation that was over 1.3 km and of course at the top there was a large Soviet style Memorial and a very large observation, perhaps restaurant, if there had been access.  It was perched on the top of a mountain and about 1.4 km elevation, there were no signs on how to get there, we did observe a dirt track running up through the grass almost to the top but they did not seem to be the way to arrive for dinner with me in my tux and Luda in an evening dress and high heels shoes.  So we gave that a pass and can tell you on down the hill, or I should say mountain to the next location at Kazanluk which was the starting location for a tour around the burial chambers of some of the Thracian Kings.

We did find one of the burial chambers but you are only allowed inside for three minutes and they wouldn't actual fact referring you to visit the replica that they have built close by.  We decided no for that and decided to drive back towards Shipka tomorrow to see if we could find the other eight or nine were in the area.

Bulgaria is substantially different to Romania in so much that we hardly see any cars on the road in fact I would go as far to say that we would see more cars on the road in the South island then we have seen so far and Bulgaria.  Now take in to account that Bulgaria has 73 people per square kilometre and New Zealand has 15 it is obvious that this empty road syndrome is only a temporary measure and when they car occupancy get up to the rest of Eastern Europe is not can be such a pleasure driving on the roads, when I talk of pleasure I talk of the few good roads we have seen, and not the top speed 10KPH roads and that are scattered through the country.

We found one of the very few ACSI approved campsites in Bulgaria, in fact the 2009 directory does not list Bulgaria at all so was quite a surprise to find one with their Stricker up.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

So this morning it was back towards Shipka, we stopped at the first sign for the burial mound and when we got to the site we found the telephone number, which I guess it we wanted to look through it we were meant to telephone them, so we left that one and on to the next one towards the city.  We did little bit of a side trip into the city to look at the golden domed Orthodox Church up on the hill and we discovered it was a Russian Orthodox presented to the people of the city in 1945 in appreciation for something, I guess from World War II.

Down the hill to another burial mound which this time was open and receiving money, it was only discovered or opened in 2004 but there was a story on the wall in English and were able to walk into the burial chamber through a passageway lined with Perspex and well lit, but this one had no paintings at any valuables that had been there of course were well and truly gone, they want an extra fee for photography but we could not really see the merit in photographing an empty tomb, in this location!

So we flagged away the other tombs and headed towards something more recent a 17th-century monastery in the village of Troyan, so again was back into the mountains, really zigzag Road through the mountains to an elevation of 1.5 km and of course at the top of this hill was a very large arch there was built in 1945 and again it was basically inaccessible but were was the designed these gigantic memorials in 1945 certainly had no shortage of work and there seems to be to scenes for these monuments, if people are involved, the first one is the invincibility of the Soviet soldier, or the brilliance of the Soviet worker.

Again the bad condition of some of the secondary roads, and the lack of traffic on the roads was again obvious and you can't help feeling that certainly in this part of the country that is under populated or underutilised.

We seem to have some sort of computer problem, currently my one has got faulty  mouse with the left click and Luda's has basically given up the ghost.

We reached the Troyan monastery and was one that allows no photography whatsoever, and was rather beautiful inside without any real photos for sale of the monastery, the church was so dark I have loved to have seen what I digital photo were brought out with a high ISO but another day.

We decided to spend the night in the monastery car park and a very dark black clouds which had been hanging over us for the last 30 minutes had decided to give us a little bit of moisture.

Friday, June 12, 2009 and

Another stop for the day was Lovech where we saw the covered Bridge that went across the river similar to the one in Florence, and we inspected the rules of the Castle on the top of the hill from the distance.

Then it was on to the Glozhene monastery, once we had found the turn off which was only signposted from the opposite way that we were travelling so we went along the road the wrong way for 10 or 12 km and then turn round and found the signpost which pointed 7 km into the hills.  So we drove along this road that slowly got narrower until we were brushing the sides of the bush with each side of the Carthago Chic 47 and I just kept my fingers crossed no one was coming towards me.

The monastery was really worked was seeing, perched on the edge of a cliff which from the top balcony gave a wonderful panorama view over the whole valley area in many directions.  As we were leaving a young monk appeared out of one of the rooms dressed in a black monks habit with a long staff, he was just going to join a group of Germans and is stopped and spoke to us briefly in good English, he would have been interesting to speak to a little bit longer as he had been in this monastery for 13 years, but perhaps next time.

Fortunately there were other visitors there, and as luck would have it many of them were leaving at about the time we were ready to go, so I snuck in behind that with the theory that one car coming towards us has more incentive to back up with two large vehicles coming towards them.  Fortunately only one small car came towards us at one of the spots that the Road was slightly wider so we both sneaked past with no problems.

Then it was onto the A2 towards Sofia and we left the first the motorway with been on for days when was time to turn off towards  Botevgrad on E79 and we stayed on that until all Rebarkovo when we were on to Highway 16.  This highway is the scenic route through the Iskur gorge and it takes is past magnificent outcrops of rock that were created by the river carving its way through the limestone over centuries, and the route takes you past several monastery's and other dramatic scenery.

We stopped for the night on a Soviet style bus stop that was now out of use and hoped that the sound of the cars and the trains do not disturb us too much.  On the other side of the river there appears to be a disused mine of some sort, at some stage it was obviously very large with the size of the railway junction that there is at this location.

As we wander through Bulgaria you can't help noticing all of the old factory buildings that are decaying which gives a little bit of an insight into the social changes that this country has gone through in the last 20 years.

One also get a little bit of an insight into the automotive usage and availability by the number of car wreckers that you see is you drive through the country, as cars become available on the local market and their prices moved down in price, parts for common cars from car wreckers reach a point where the car is not worth while repairing and both the wrecked car and the car to be repaired are only worth scrap metal so car wreckers disappeared from the scene a little bit like the buggy whip makers.

Again today we were driving through rolling hills with most of the villages off the main Road, and the occasional village that we went through a church was not obvious like was in Romania.  The guidebook does mention that Bulgaria was controlled by the Moslems the several centuries and the Christian church was driven up into the hills which is where we have to go to have a look at these startling monastery's which could be the reason we see very little down on the flat.

It is an interesting experience driving a German motorhome with German registration, and inspite of the New Zealand flag's, a Kiwi with the words New Zealand on each door, we continually get Germans coming up to us wanting to speak to us in German and not being out understand that we are not German because after all we have a German numberplate on our car.  I tried to explain to them that I'm not a very good swimmer and it is a little bit far to swim towing a motorhome behind me, but I think my story does not translate into German comedy.  So I guess we will continue speaking English very slowly whenever we are approached by some be speaking what we guess is German.

Just like in Russia, there are a large number of police on the Road, stopping people in apparent random, and I'm just looking at one car been done over by the police and they appear to be looking in every part of the car but I guess that is normal for this country. I note that the result lot of paper being filled in saw his obviously he is being charged was some sort of infringement! It is apparent a lot better than it used to be, as we note the police control stations that are at either side of every village which had to be up to sneak past on the good old days.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our first stop on the tour today was 12 km up a side road to the Sedemte Prestola monastery and then it was on to try and find the Katina Pyramids, we finally found a local who hopped in his Niva and lead us down a rough bumpy road to their location.  Evidently they were originally mounds of dirt that looked a little bit like Pyramids but grass, weeds and things have worn them down to almost nothing, which is probably the reason why there was no sign closed pointing the direction towards them, which is less than we learned if there is no signpost, forget the tourist books description.

We noticed more cars on the road today, perhaps it is because it is a Saturday and everybody is out, we're noticing a large number of East German Trabants along with one or two other obscure Russian cars and of course large number of Lada's, but to balance the budget we did see a late model Ferrari going in the opposite way to us.

Now it was time to wind our way into the city of Sofia hoping we would find a camping ground, the European guide does not handle Bulgaria so we just hoped there was an enterprising owner of a campground there was sharp enough to put signs up round the city, but there was too much of a hope, so we went on one side of the city, through the city and out the other side onto the E 79 heading towards Rila about 100 km away.  After we reached the second turn off on the motorway after leaving the city we took it and was heading towards a village called Bosnek and just before we got to that were found a roadgoing off on the right-hand side down to the small river with a large flat parking area will have settled in for the night. GPS  N42.29905 E23.9720

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