Monday, 23 September 2013

Backpacking in Bulgaria

So after our epic trip down the Danube and saying goodbye to Knu, we couldn't convince ourselves to simply get on a train and go exploring, so we did what any sane person who'd just sent their canoe home would do. We walked. We packed up our things are walked straight out of Ruse (where the barge had left us) and we headed inland towards the Rock Monastery of Ivanovo. We started off late the first day and we were happy to cover around 10km, getting us well outside the city to a nice campsite in the hills. We quickly realized that we should have sent more things back on the barge to Germany because our pack backs were simply too big for any realistic chance of long distance hiking. We set off again the next day, plodding happily down the windy roads, this time with thumbs out to see if anyone would pick us up. As we've found so often on this journey, helpful people are never that far away and so after only an hour or so of plodding along in the morning sun we got picked up by a local, who dropped us the remaining 10km or so to the Ivanovo rock monastery. This region boasts a few hundred caves that were inhabited by monks since the 12th century, but the main tourist attraction is the small monastery that was carved into the rock and which has a quite impressive rendition of the last supper that predates Da Vinci's by nearly 200 years. 

There we got chatting to a couple who dropped us to the local town, which turned out to be what a one-horse-town looks like after the horse dies. We picked up a few supplies and a little deflated from finding out that many of the towns in the region, not to mention the scenery, was less than inspiring. It turned out the Russians used Bulgaria as a bread basket turning what I'm sure was a beautiful landscape into endless corn fields. And so, we started looking for a place to camp and resolved ourselves to getting the train the next day to somewhere a little more scenic, when the same man who gave us our first lift of the day, stopped for a coffee in the same shop as us. Once again, he was quick to help and flagged down a friend of his who would be able to take us out of the miserable town and a bit further up the road to the old capital, Veliko Turnovo, which by all accounts was a beautiful city. The best thing though was that the mans friend was driving a tractor with a big trailer attached, and so, waving goodbye (again) we jumped in with a scattering of sunflower seeds for a very bumpy trip up the road, where once again, we found a perfect campsite, complete with fruit trees, perfectly ripened and just for us. 

The next day, plodding again, we got really lucky, and were picked up by a very nice English couple, Dave and Lina, who were going to Ruse but had gotten lost looking for the rock monastery when they came across us. After telling them a bit about our trip so far, they decided to take us under their wings and offered that if we wanted to tag alone for the day and stay in their house that night, they'd drop us to Veliko T. the next day. So, after 3 days hiking and hitch hiking, we ended up back in Ruse!! But it couldnt have worked out better. We'd a fantastic time with Dave and Lina , going back and forth a few hundred km, staying at their rural country house and hanging out with them in their local Mosquito Bar, which was blissfully free of mosquitos, and did incredibly good food, all served in a random what's the rush manner, but to a quality that made it worth the wait. Finally landing in Veliko, they gave us a guided tour of the city and headed off. After all that, we were sure our hitch hiking experience couldn't get any better, so after a few days in the very cosy Hostel Mostel, we took the train the 230km to Varna and the Black Sea (which only cost ~8euro each!), from where we traveled North looking for a a tiny village called Tylenovo, which was famous only for its cliff diving and climbing. Perfect!!!

We got a local bus to a small town called Shabla, from where it was a 6km cross country hike to a Tylenovo. Their we lived the hermits life there for a week, enjoying being settled in one place for the longest time since Budapest, and the solitude and beauty of the surroundings. The only minor problem was that we shared the water with quiet a lot of jellyfish, which added a little back of extra excitement to the climbing! :) 

After the week, we headed back to Varna, where we are now. Tomorrow we leave Europe, going by bus to Istanbul, and most likely on again to Antalya. We'll be flying from Istanbul to Germany at the end of October for the christening of Andrea's niece, so we have a month to explore Turkey, hopefully do lots of hiking, some climbing and maybe even sailing, then back to Germany for a week of parties and kaffee und kuchen. We'll let you know how it all goes! 
Colin & Andrea

The lion in Ruse, breaking the bonds of slavery

This national park is described as an oasis in the brochures. Its an accurate description, because it's incredibly small and surrounded by corn fields. We tried to walk their "eco trail" but were beaten after an hour by chest high nettles.

The last supper fresco in Ivanovo...not bad!

This was as good as the trail got, and it got a lot worse!

Our chauffeur

: )

Dave and Lina

One small corner of their beautiful back yard

Lena and Andrea collecting walnuts...something we've done a lot of since then!

The Hopnitza waterfall

The valley leading to Veliko Ternovo

A funny old painting, basically explaining what to expect in life. It doesn't go past 70 years old!

The old bridge in Veliko

Anyone who's traveled eastern Europe will know the strange obsession with bad techno music, but I've never seen a fortress lit up with lasers before. They do this every night!!!!

A sad history

Chillout spot in the Hostel Mostel

On the train!!!

In Varna

From Shabla to Tyulenovo...just fields

We would've tried hitching a lift but she was going to wrong way...and I dont think the donkey would've had us!

In Tyulenovo

Our view in the morning :)

We made another new friend!

He was a stray, but had a home with us for the week

Some tasty figs that Andrea collected

...and some walnuts!

That's where we washed the dishes!

A fun place to boulder...just be careful of the jellyfish if you fall!!!

Unfortuntely these guys were never far off

...its just a shame we couldn't eat them!!!

Andrea looking very unimpressed with the divers

Me showing them the water wasnt as cold as they liked to pretend!

Trying out the camera underwater!


  1. Wow you guys have been busy! I have a feeling the bouldering above jellyfish thing was in a James Bond film at some point. Love the pic of Andrea looking out to see at Tylenovo. Did whoever name the Black Sea ever bother going there?
    You say you couldn't eat the jellyfish. I get the feeling it wasn't for want of trying. It didn't look like they have a Dunnes Stores around there. I missed your last update because we were in Spain, in Fuengirola, and believe it or not the ground floor of our hotel was a Dunnes Stores. That was a slightly less adventurous trip than yours. Good luck in Turkey!

  2. As always... really nice!

    Hey, I am really impressed how brave Andrea was! Freezing water AND jellyfish?!?! I would have never got into there! xD

    The next set of adventures, Turkish version, you tell us here! See you soon, buddy!