05.04.2012 - 26.04.2012 23 °C
Welcome to Bulgaria! Not somewhere we intended to stop, but then plans are made to broken aren't they? We were headed straight for Turkey from Bucharest, Romania, when we found out that Turkey is doing massive rail works so there is absolutely no rail link into the country, nor out of Istanbul, for 2 years. 2 years! Doesn't seem like the best planning to me, but I'm hardly a Town Planner, just a traveller, who notes that it is rather disruptive. So instead of taking the rather gruelling option of getting off the train at 1am to be shuttled onto a bus for the last 6 hours of the journey, we got off in Veliko Tranovo. Where it is sunny, mostly friendly, moutainous and lush. Thanks Turkey.
2 and a half weeks in and it is slowly slowly starting to feel like a 'big trip'. At first, it just felt like a nice wee jaunt around western Europe visiting friends - which is precisely what it was. We were gratefully fed up on their generous hospitality - much cheese and wine, comfortable beds and no need to wear jandals in the shower. And then, after a night train from Munich to Budapest, we were out on our own.
The beauty of the slow incremental pace of overland travel has been apparent from the start. The small changes you notice as you inch from one nation to the next. The Dutch have massive windows, and hardly ever draw their curtains, particularly noticeable travelling through towns by train at night. The Germans have very strict train attendants who like to enforce rules which have no good purpose, Hungarian train attendants on the other hand have been rather jovial. The difference in the extent of development between Budapest and Bucharest, both ex-communist for the same amount of time, was interesting. Budapest clearly has put more energy and money into restoring their beautiful old buildings, although you only need to go one or two streets back off the main roads to start to see the crumbling old facades. Bucharest seems to be developing at a much slower and haphazard pace. In one street you will see a delapidated old building falling down, a glass fronted office high rise, a restored old villa, and my favourites, old crumbling building for the top few floors - broken windows and abandoned - nicely done up shop front on the ground floor. Bucharest also seemed to be the city of stolen electricity - countless wires coming off every power pole, some dangerously swinging low or dangling on the ground.
I had a wee panic while in Germany, that we had set off too early and it would be cold and wet for months. That we didn't have enough warm clothes. But, just yesterday we posted our winter coats home! Horay! The further East we go, the warmer it gets. So warm in fact, that yesterday we took the day off from sightseeing to laze around, catch up on some reading, and drink a beer in the sunshine. We're on holiday!
Off to Istanbul tonight. On the night bus. Not exactly going to be a fun journey, but that's what ear plugs and eye masks are for. And when we get there we can feast on baklava, cacjik and other delicious turkish delights.
Hope all is well with you. xxx Chris and Dan.