West to East Micronesia China Mongolia Russia Baltic Region Visegrad Region Balkan Penninsula East to West Ancient Civilizations Straddling the Straight Southern Africa Eastern Africa Ethiopia United Arab Emirates South Asia Crossing Photo Album Trip Logistics Itinerary Transport Logs Route Maps About Us
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
National Theater, Sofia, Bulgaria
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 7,385,367 Area: 110,910 km2 Gov't: Parliamentary Democracy Religion: 82.6% Bulgarian Orthodox, 12.2% Muslim, View Map
National Theater, Sofia, Bulgaria, November 13, 2003  

Bulgarian Flag BULGARIA


November 12. BRASOV - SOFIA  Our train was scheduled to leave from Brasov at 5:52 in the morning.  We had a cab pick us up in plenty of time but when we arrived at the station we learned that our train was going to be an hour late.  Fortunately a cafe in the train station was open.  The train station was a grim place and this was a grim bar cafe but it was a place to keep warm and sit while we waited.  Some of the people in the bar looked more like they were left over from the night before rather than getting ready to head off somewhere. With our train leaving late we were a bit worried that we could miss our connecting train in Bucharest if the train continued to be so slow but the modern express train that picked us up in Brasov made up its hour of lost time and we arrived in Bucharest around 9:20.

We hung out in the Gregory's sandwich chain inside the train station to kill time between trains.  A peculiar looking man a the table across from us drew a sketch of Rob.  He gave it to us but naturally he was hoping for some money so we gave in.  Lesley and I went out in search of an Internet cafe somewhere in or around the station but nothing turned up.  We didn't know if the hostel had our booking and was going to meet us at the train station as they advertised so we just had to hope for the best. There were some mini markets in the station so we stocked on food for the long train ride to Sofia.  

When it got close to time for our train to leave we kept looking at the schedule board to find out which platform it was going to depart from but nothing showed up.  Not that it was the first time we'd had a late train in Romania but usually something came up on the departures board.  Finally Rob asked at the information booth and was told that the train was already there and was leaving on time. For some reason it just never got put on the board!  With fifteen minutes to spare we found the train and jumped aboard.

It was a rattletrap train with long bench seats on either side of the cabin.  Our cabin was filled with a group of men which turned out to be the replacement staff for the engine.  The train had come from Budapest so it had already been running for many hours.  For some reason there were no first class cabins so we were in the regular class.  Considering that it really wasn't very bad.  We had seen some of the regular class seats on other trains in Romania and they had looked more like cattle cars than for people.        

The border between demarcation between Romania and Bulgaria was the Danube River which was on its way to Varna on the Black Sea.  Varna also featured in Bram Stoker's novel as the point at which the count turned off of his sea route and took the river to get back to his castle in Transylvania and escape his death.  Shortly after crossing the Danube the train stopped and the border guards got on board.  It actually stopped at a station which was unusual.  They usually got on before the station so they could check everyone out before letting them off of the train.  That wasn't they only thing different about this border check.  Instead of collecting our passports and taking them away for processing a border guard just radioed our names and passport numbers in and when we received verification he gave us the entry stamp.

The Bulgarian countryside was a rival to Romania.  It was beautiful soft green pastureland and rolling hills.  The sunset from the train was a  highlight of our journey.  But, once the sun went down, we struggled with climate control for the rest of the trip.  It had already been annoying us since the seats didn't heat evenly and if you were unlucky enough to be sitting on the hot part you were soon sweating.  There was a lever near the window that looked like it controlled the heat but it didn't seem to work and the seat got hot whenever the attendant turned it on.  Once the engineers left the cabin we had room to stretch out but it went from being too hot to too cold in constant cycles.  We tried changing cabins at one point but it only helped a little.  We all managed to sleep some but after leaving Brasov at 7am we didn't pull into Sofia until 10:20pm.   We were greatly relieved to see the owner of Hostel Mostel waiting for us when we arrived.  

It turned out to be a great hostel run by an enthusiastic young couple.  It hadn't been open very long but they had a central location right off of the main thoroughfare in downtown Sofia.  They had painted it in bright green and had flowers on the tables.  The double room was full but the two dorm rooms weren't very big.  We were in the smaller one with three bunks and all but on bed was full.  They provided two computers for free Internet access and the bathrooms were really clean.  The guy who had picked us up from the station made sure we had a map of the city and he sat me down to go over the main sights to see. 

SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24