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From Melnik to the Rhodopi Mountains via Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Cheap living!

Sunday 20th June

Woke up with a slight hangover to a car park with a coach load of tourists and some stalls set up. We decided to head off back into the village of Melnik to take a look around. It was a lovely place with old Bulgarian buildings and a backdrop of sand hills.



The place is renowned for it’s wine, so we headed up the hill to a wine tasting cellar that was 250 years old and was a manmade cave for storing wine. We arrived and were poured two large glasses of white! So it seems it was more like a bar than a tasting. The bloke wasn’t amazingly helpful and said as we didn’t speak Bulgarian he wasn’t speaking to us! So he stood watching over us leaning against the barrels, I’m sure he was drunk. After a few tries I eventually got him speaking and we found out it is the red and not white wine that the place is famous for and is supposed to be the non hangover stuff of legend. We bought a bottle of white and headed back down the hill into the village.



The village is full of shops selling red and white wine in plastic bottles of varying sizes, so before we left we bought 1.5l of red for about £3. Later we discovered we should of bought a lot more red as it was lovely, light, potent and seemed indeed to be hangover free. We continued our journey to the Rila mountains and to Rila Monastery where there was a campsite. There are not many proper campsites in Bulgaria, as most like this are a small patch of land behind small wooden bungalows. Still there was a great view up to the peaks of the mountains and we settled for the rest of the day in the rain, with the aim of heading to the monastery tomorrow. Seems like ever since we bought this fan/tiny air conditioner it’s been raining!


Monday 21st June

Headed off and to the Monastery, a Unesco world heritage site, this was a lovely place and free to go around. It is an Orthodox place and is still a place of residents to many monks. It is very colourful and well worth the look round.





We also bumped into the Dutch motorhomer that was also staying at the campsite last night. After we then headed further up the mountain to have a short walk in the woods.




We then continued our journey and headed for the ski resort of Borovets to find somewhere to free park for the night. It seemed to be a very busy small ski resort with plenty of hotels bars and restaurants. No doubt packed full in the winter, now though it was very empty. The road up the small mountain was laden with many potholes, we had found already that driving in Bulgaria is never fast as there are constant potholes to avoid! We found ourselves a spot and settled for the evening. A few times we had the local police drive up and slow down and take a look at us, but they never even got out of their cars let alone spoke to us, so we assumed we were fine where we were.


Tuesday 22nd June

Decided to head to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city that has an old roman amphitheatre. Driving into the city wasn’t the best fun as we there are no signs pointing to anything and if there were any they were in Cyrillic anyway! We eventually found a small car park, but then didn’t really know where in relation we were to the old town! After a walk about we stumbled into a huge main square that happened to have a tourist information office. Where we bumped into our fellow Dutch traveller we had seen in Rila, we would bump into him several more times during the course of the day. With a city map in hand we headed off to the old quarter and the amphitheatre. Now Bulgarian countryside is lovely but we were finding the larger towns and now the city weren’t very pleasant on the eye. They had in-between newer concrete buildings, some old buildings that no one probably could afford or be bothered to keep up repairs, but mainly it was a lot of concrete. No doubt from the communist times, although this too obviously never had any repairs done. So the overall impression of places was a bit grim, but hey this is Bulgaria. Trying to find the amphitheatre, we were absconded by what seemed a friendly guy who said he would show us. Well we walked straight into that, he took us down some streets pointing out obvious historical buildings (I say obvious as they all had plaques telling us just that!) before leading us where we wanted to go. All the time we didn’t really need him and said, but at the end he pulled out a letter with a sob story and asked for some money. We gave him very little and off he went to try his luck on some other unsuspecting people.



After a quick look at the theatre and old town we headed back to the motorhome and off towards a campsite near the Greek and Turkish borders.

The campsite was called Sakar hills and we headed there in the hope of watching the next England game the following day! Also we needed to get some washing done and some internet research for what we were to do next, as we didn’t know whether to cross over to Turkey and Istanbul. The family and son running the campsite were lovely and very friendly, although not football fans. Also we met a Dutch couple that were travelling around in their role as certified campsite inspectors for ACSI. They had been to Turkey a few times and said we should go. Also the family running the campsite said Istanbul is a must and Turkey. To top it all a young English couple also staying at the campsite had just come from Istanbul and told us too we should go. It all sounded great and it would be similar to Morocco, we had wanted to head into Turkey anyway. We needed to think about it though, as our finances would dictate whether it would be possible or not. In the end we decided no, as it would cost in fuel and staying there, as well as the visa’s costing €15 each. We would come back to do Turkey another time, as in the back of our mind we were thinking of our next adventure being in a 4x4 maybe across Asia! As the visas were for 3 months there didn’t seem a point of paying out that much for a few days in Istanbul. Besides there were still plenty more countries left to see in Europe, problem was we were so tantalisingly close to Turkey!

Wednesday 23rd June

Got on top of the washing and a lot of internet use! As well as managing just about to see our first England game of the world cup. I say just as we had to try and find a live stream of the game on the internet, which we finally managed to do a bit before half time and then most of the time the stream kept failing! Still we got to watch a bit, although were having about as much luck with the games as England themselves!

The family here had been talking about the ups and downs of living in Bulgaria, as the countryside was beautiful and the houses amazingly cheap! I was beginning to think maybe I could live here, especially after looking at some property sites on the net! I could get an old house that needed work with some land for less or around £10,000 and then living here was very cheap. All seemed a good idea brewing in my mind! Still needed to check out a lot more of the country and see what the coast was like. Also I’ve always fancied a place by itself, but most Bulgarian houses are in villages or Hamlets. Apparently it goes back to the communist times, that way everyone could always be kept an eye on! Still just an idea and no harm in looking.

Thursday 24th June[b]

Decided to head back on ourselves and off to the Rhodopi mountains as it was supposed to be nice. We set off and drove through some lovely countryside. In the flatter areas there was more agricultural including many fields of sunflowers, staring at the sun.


We then took a few wrong turns as a lot of the road signs are in Cyrillic! So ended up taking a very long way around the mountain region. All very nice but we weren’t really finding many places to park up. On the way back round after a day of driving, I decided it would be better to take the even smaller roads and see more of the countryside and hopefully it would be easier to find somewhere to park. As soon as we did we hit some beautiful tree covered rolling mountains. We found a spot to park just outside a town called Gradishte, over looking the mountains.


Posted by marklorna 04:50 Archived in Bulgaria

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