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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
Republic of Bulgaria covers an area of 110.994 square kilometres, and it is an Unitary parliamentary republic. The population is around 7.200.000 citizens, of which 61% are Christians, 31% have no religion and 8% are Muslims.
The currency is Lev (BGN) worth 3,80 Danish Krone and €0,512. The GDP is US$50.446 billion.

The climate is a pleasant  temperate-continental, dominated by the mountains.
The interaction of climatic, hydrological, geological and topographical conditions have produced a relatively wide variety of plant and animal species.  Nearly 35 per cent of its land area consists of forests where some of the oldest trees in the world, such as Baikushev's Pine and the Granit Oak are found.
Among the mammals are the European jackal (Canis aureus moreotica), Wildcat (Felis silvestris), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), Golden jackal (Canis aureus), Brown bear (Ursus arctos), Eurasian badger (Meles meles), European otter (Lutra lutra), quite some deer, Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) and some bats.
Bulgaria is home to about 170 species of vascular plants found nowhere else. These include the tulips (Tulipa urumoffii), and (Tulipa rhodopea), Pirin Poppy (Papaver degenii), a baby’s breath (Gypsophila tekirae).

DIARY
I enters from Serbia, and the passport control and customs are dealt with fast, and then I just have to buy a vignette for the car. The first part of the country I meet, is forest covered mountains. Then a highland with gentle, grass covered limestone hills. In the valleys, huge fields with sunflowers, barley, wheat and corn take up the flat parts. Here don't seem to be any farms though.

A few small towns look serious Soviet-like, then I reach Sofia, and the first horse wagons appears. Seems strange among the real fashionable buildings along the highway.
I stop at the VW garage in town, but they want to do their own analyse (probably €100), before they will order any spare parts. I might get it back after the weekend. Thanks for nothing.

I find the botanical garden of Sofia. I get away with paying in Euros. It is the first ever, where there are extensive glasshouses, and no outside collections at all. It is truly an old-school collection; hand written nametags on everything, and roughly sorted by families and habitat. Here are quite some caudiciforms and other interesting plants, and besides from their Oxalis, everything is well weeded and clean.

Some of the bigger plants are in vine barrow-like containers, while most others are in plastic pots. Here are a bromeliad-, orchid-, cacti-, sporeplant- and other houses along with mixed collections. I see it all, and then head on. Next sight is 200 kilometres away, and I do a few stops.

The limestone hills have some fascinating plants, and it is a perfect sunny day. I get to some low mountains, covered in mainly pine on the southern side, and beech on the northern side. Here are hardly any houses, but I pass through a few larger villages, where time have stopped 50 years ago. Firewood is piled up in front of many houses.

The road is being renovated, and is in a real bad stand most of the way. Patches of the asphalt have been grinded up, leaving square pot holes.
I find a tortoise on the road, walking in the middle.  I can't stand that, and give it a lift to the side, hoping it is the right side.

I stop at a rock-wall over a nice meadow, and do a bit of walking. Then I leave the "big" road, and medially pass a stork's nest with three chicks. I am close to Belogradchik Skali, and the first amassing rock-formations turns up along the road.

They are a bit hard to photo due to the many trees along the road. I find a gravel road, and see if it leads into the area. It does, but it is partly rained away, and causes some worries. I see a few rock formations, but have to watch the road carefully. I end up in Belogradchik - at a set of stairs. Back the same way I came. I huge bug lands on the car, and seem to fancy it. Well, they have the same size and colour... 

I reach the little town of Belogradchik, and head to my pre-booked hotel - or not. I can't find it, and skip it for now. First sight besides from the truly amazing rock formations, is the Kaleto Forrtess. It is actually just some walls around a perfect natural fortification.

I do a lot of walking and climbing in and around the rocks, and I almost have it to  my self. The entire area reminds me of Willy E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Here are an endless number of motives, and plants and animals on top of that. But it is getting late, and I head back down to town.

I just can't find the hotel. I have an address and even two set of coordinates. Neither are leading to a hotel. Some locals are really trying to help, and I get up to six people helping at one time. One of the directions I get lead to a big nice restaurant, and I figure I can use their Wi-Fi and get something to eat at the same time. A real nice vegetarian pasta, but no hotel.

I find another one, a bit down the street, and despite I have pre-paid the other one, I am not going to waste more time looking for it. I have way too much work to do, and it is getting way too late. I get a nice room with a balcony, but no working Wi-Fy. Sofia with BG, Belogradchik with town, Kaleto Forrtess and Skali.

21/6. I'm up early, but I have to finish yesterdays work, and get a late start anyway. It is a long drive to the first sight (350 km, 6,5 H), and passing through Belogradchik Skali at first, don't make is any faster!

The first 100 kilometres soon turn into highway, although here are still some horse wagons. In a mater of fact: I have now seen more horse wagons in Bulgaria, then in the rest of Europe! In one village, the goads are jumping around, probably on their way out to the fields.

I pass a village for each 25 kilometres or so, and a typical Soviet era monument each 100. The roads are lined with flowers, Cikorie; Cichorium intybus one of the more numerous. Here are a few lakes, but all seem to be artificial, with a dam in one end. Never the less, they do look pretty.

What I haven't expected was a few oilpumps. Well, more pumps than cows, but that don't say much. The fields are huge, and contain sunflower, beans, wheat, barley and a few other crops. The barley are being harvested by now. It is just so odd to see all these fields, and not a single farm.

I reach a big crack in the else so smooth hills. It is a river which have worked its way through the limestone, and it create some real nice nature in Rusenski Lom Nature Park. I do a big loop through it, and see a lot of the blue metallic damselflies and the green metallic May Bugs. I have seen a few before, and again, the Smaragd Lizards eludes me. Here are a few plants I haven't seen before.

The trail reach a high plateau with a great view over the gorge. A bit further on, some a line of small caves leads to the carved-out Ivanovo Rock Monastery. It was made in the 12-13. century, and the paintings on walls and sealing are pretty intact. I get a guided tour in the 30 square meters, and shown The Last Supper (150 years older than Michelangelo's), Jordan riding his lion and alike: Highlights from the New Testament.

The next sight is just 100 kilometres away, again through farmland and nature. I pass a railroad which for once have a train: Endless German freight wagons.
I have seen a few signs pointing to an old bridge, but I forgot the name. I do find the bridge, and it is a real nice one. The new one is parallel, and also build in limestone. I cross by the old one, just for fun.

Here are a few stork's nests, and all with chicks. It is not really typical stork-land, as here are no swamps, and hardly any rivers. The limestone is sucking it all up, and it runs in sub terrain rivers for most.

I reach the old village of Arbansi, but is is just too renovated. Almost only hotels, although the facade is original enough. But the soul have gone. I do a walk around, but find nothing real interesting.
Well, can't win them all. I set the GPS for the nearby old town of Tryavna, just 50 kilometres away.

At first glance; Tryavna look just like any other Soviet era little town, and while I walk around the centre, it starts to rain. I find my hotel, whish is new, modern and cheep. They even have a restaurant, serving five different courses of vegetarian meals! The rain stops, but I rather get a look in the morning. I passes some real nice houses on the way to the hotel, and it might be worth taking a walk around here.
Rusenski Lom NP, Ivanovo Rock Monestery, Arbansi and Tryavna

22/6. I get to sleep a bit late, as I intend to use the receptionist's offer on breakfast. I get four French toasts, and start thinking about what I will have for lunch. I drive the short distance to the old part of Tryavna. It is a nice, lively but also small village in the larger town. The location next to the little river only add to the atmosphere.

My next sight is 75 kilometres away, but by small roads. They pass through some lovely landscape, with unspoiled nature, small villages and huge farmed areas in the flat valley. Most villages are with old bungalows, covered in vine. A few is added some Soviet blocks, and a single is real humble. It is made up by tiny brick-huts and others more improvised.

Here are horse wagons along the road, but the huge fields are harvested by big machines. Only a few small vegetable gardens are manually weeded.
I cross over some low mountains, which especially on the northern side, are covered in beech and oak trees.

Etar Ethnograpic Village Museum is small, laying in the deep shadow of the mountain, and I arrival with two busses. Well, the road was nice. The next target is Shipka Pass (1150 m), and it is yet another nice road. It is a steep drive up to the pass, and the forest opens up.

The huge meadows are covered in flowers, and I find so many orchids among all the other flowers. The pass is not really interesting, as here are no good view, just some desperate restaurants. A small road leads up to the Stoletov Peak, and that helps!

Besides from two large Soviet monuments, it is quite unspoiled. Here are great views down to several valleys and a distant town. Here are huge areas covered in flowers. Mainly different yellow ones, but also a lot of pink orchids. I walk around the peak, which, despite the altitude, is real warm. The highest sound is the quire from all the birds in the bushes way below.

From here, it is a 250 kilometre drive to next interesting sight. The first part is down by a real twisted road through the forest. Then some small roads for a long time. More farmland, nature and villages. I reach the highway, but not much changes. The villages disappears, and the bloody railing prevents me from taking pictures.

I have not seen many storks, but the lack of wetland explain it. Then, in one little swamp, I see around ten storks. The next swampy area have several hundreds - could be a thousand! I get a real good, sharp photo of the guardrail... And as they are on the other side, I rather not stop and cross the highway - but I would love to.

I turn off, and enters the coastal area. I see the sea real close several times, but think I'm heading for it at Ropotamo Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, it is at one of the big rivers, and despite I do some extensive walking in the area, I fail to find anything interesting. I have a camp lined up nearby, but it is only three (CET time, not local), and I head on.

Strandzha National Park should have the highest diversity, and I look forward to it. Unfortunately, the clouds are turning black, and the lightning is intense in front of me. A family of pigs crosses the road after having taken a long look at me. Guess they are not used to Lupos? Or people stopping for them?

I find a snake on the road, guess it is a Aesculapian snake; Zamenis longissimus. A bit further on, a huge Beech Longhorn Beetle; Morimus asper catch my attention. It is the female to the one that fancied the Lupo the other day. It is mainly forest, and besides from the shadow from the trees, it is getting real dark - except when the intense lightning lights up.

The the skies opens, and it is a torrential rain. I have to stop several times, as I can't see the road at all. When it opens up a bit, I see the road now is a 20-30 centimetre deep river. I spend the time looking for a place to sleep. A small town is the only option, and it have a singe hotel, it seems. But in on of the narrow roads? Well, I have to try.

I drive real slowly, and several times, I can really feel the force of the crossing rivers. I can't really see the town, but among small houses, I see a hotel sign. But no chance I get out of the car. It actually start to rain within the car. The passenger door have started leaking after the mountain tour.

I work with photos while I wait for the rain to stop. I wonder how these small villages cope with the amount of water they receive in these torrential rains? I finally get out of the car, and find a nice hotel behind the wall. But they don't have any room. I ask for another option, but then the boss calls. And then they do have room after all.

I have bought letish and pepper fruits, but save them for tomorrow, as I expect shops will be closed. Nice restaurant, but the potatoes with mayonnaise is just that, and the mixed salad is tomato and cucumber. Well, both dishes have a singe black olive. I try to order a pancake with honey and walnuts, but that is apparently not an option. Old Tryavna, Shipka Pass, Strandzha NP and Ropotamo NR.

23/6. I try the included breakfast once again, before I set course for Turkey. I am considering postpone the entry till after the 24. due to the election. However, I fail to find anything else to do. I just make sure I will be in the countryside on Sunday. I am only eight kilometres from the border, and it is a real nice drive. I will return to Bulgaria once again, after a tour around western Turkey.

I spend a week in Turkey.

30/6. The border crossing was almost as slow as last time, but now on the other side. Back from Turkey in the evening, I drive straight to the little hotel I used on the way out.
They recognises me, and I get away with paying in Euro. Dinner is some fried rice with vegetables and cheese.

1/7. I get a good long sleep for once, and is right in time for breakfast. Not the huge Turkish buffet, just some cheeses, jam, tomato and bread. The plan was the coastal road north, but the GPS acts up, and I spend a long time finding muddy fields, car-killing rocky trails and blind roads.

I try several times further up north, but every time the big road meet the beach, the area is stuffed with obese Russians, in way too little cloths. Huge hotels and little more. The road inland is just as little attractive, as it leads through the coastal hills, covered in forest. Well, that can look nice, but not when every car in the country is racing on the road.

Eventually, I make it to Varna, and turn left, inland. Varna it self is just another huge modern city. I get out to some huge, gentle hills, farmed with mainly sunflowers and corn. The few villages are real poor, the nature rich. At three, I finally reach a proper sight: Madara Fortress and the real special stone horseman.

Here are tourists, and I have to pay five Lev to get into the area. Not bad - except I only have three. A nice souvenir saleswoman sell me a little horseman and a two Lev coin. The horseman relief is on a huge, vertical limestone wall - and not as impressive as I had hoped. I bet the old farts, who have struggled up the stairs feel cheated as well.

But, I'm not that old, and I head for the Madara Fortress on the top of the mountain. It is a steep climb by some real worn-down steps. However, the views down to the valley are good, and here are a lot of nature. The top is flat, except from some bushes and grass with herbs.

Further out on this plateau, I finally find the remaining of the fortress. It look a bit strange, as it have been restored up to two or three metres. Look new, actually. The rest is gone; not a stone is remaining. Here are no soul, just some great views. I had somehow expected a bit more from a fortress, first mentioned, when the Turks too it in 1388.

I head back down, and find some real shiny green beetles. Several herbs are flowering, and as I look for them, I almost step on a Common Adder; Vipera berus, crossing the trail right in front of me. Beautiful animal, but gone way too fast.

My original plan was to go by into Romania and start with Constanta. However, it was just as a waypoint, and from here, there are a more direct route to Bucharest, and I have been driving enough for one day. It is a nice drive through farmland, mixed with a lot of nature and little settlement.

I reach the border at six, and the line seems endless. Actually, the police is trying to get it out of a round-about. Then it start to move, and I just have to pay €2 in some border-tax, and I'm out on the huge border-bridge. It is one huge parking-lot, but suddenly, it moves fast as well. I show my passport, and then I'm in Romania.
The Coast and Madara

Bulgaria is a beautiful country, and real cheep! I guess here are a lot more to see. I have driven 1601 kilometres and taken 830 photos. I have spend €154, where the hotels count for €61 and food and diesel each for €25. 

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