September 29th, 2022
Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the eastern flank of the Balkans, and is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. Sofia is the nation’s capital and largest city.
One of the earliest societies in the lands of modern-day Bulgaria was the Neolithic Karanovo culture, which dates back to 6,500 BC. In the 6th to 3rd century BC the region was a battleground for ancient Thracians, Persians, Celts and Macedonians; stability came when the Roman Empire conquered the region in AD 45. Around the 6th century, these former Roman territories were settled by the early Slavs. The Bulgars attacked and permanently invaded the Balkans in the late 7th century. They established Danubian Bulgaria, victoriously recognized by treaty in 681 AD by the Eastern Roman Empire. It dominated most of the Balkans and significantly influenced Slavic cultures by developing the Cyrillic script. The First Bulgarian Empire lasted until the early 11th century, when Byzantine emperor conquered and dismantled it. A successful Bulgarian revolt in 1185 established a Second Bulgarian Empire, which reached its apex from 1218–1241). After numerous exhausting wars and feudal strife, the empire disintegrated in 1396 and fell under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries.
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 resulted in the formation of the third and current Bulgarian state. Many ethnic Bulgarians were left outside the new nation’s borders, which stoked sentiments that led to several conflicts with its neighbours and alliances with Germany in both world wars. In 1946, Bulgaria came under the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc and became a socialist state. The ruling Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power after the revolutions of 1989 and allowed multiparty elections. Bulgaria then transitioned into a democracy and a market-based economy. Since adopting a democratic constitution in 1991, Bulgaria has been a unitary parliamentary republic composed of 28 provinces, with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralization.
Its economy is part of the European Single Market and is largely based on services, followed by industry—especially machine building and mining—and agriculture. Widespread corruption is a major socioeconomic issue; Bulgaria was ranked the most corrupt country in the EU in 2018. The country also faces a demographic crisis, with its population shrinking annually since around 1990; it currently numbers roughly seven million, down from a peak of nearly nine million in 1988. Bulgaria is a member of the EU, NATO and the Council of Europe.
After the downfall of the communist government, the old plain tricolour was reestablished on November 27, 1990. The white of the flag is said to stand for peace, love, and freedom, while green emphasizes the agricultural wealth of Bulgaria. Red is for the independence struggle and military courage.
Currency: The Lev – worth $0.48 USD and $0.68 CDN
Diesel: 3.22 LEV per litre which is $5.94 US per gallon
Beer: unspellable and unprouncable:
EU License Plate Letter: BG
(As mentioned in the previous post, we have decided to go to Turkey as it makes the most sense now and we hope to get several things done there. Since we have to go through Bulgaria to get there, we will just take a coastal route and after Turkey return here to visit more of the country enroute to a few other countries in this region.)
Crossing the border was a dual operation; one window said Romania the other Bulgaria. An officer came out and asked for our paperwork and passports (there was a car up at the windows and we were second in line), then asked to be let inside. He asked if we had any pets and after walking inside, checking the closet and the bathroom, he was done. The car was gone and we drove up to the Romanian window where we were waved a foot further head to the Bulgarian window. We were handed our documents and off we went. Took maybe 5 minutes tops.
In Bulgaria you need a vignette to drive on all national roads which we read yesterday and which Fran had already purchased so we were good to go. We’ve been asked for paperwork for Minou lately and what they want to see is not only the title, but proof of insurance. When Doug purchased our insurance he made sure all countries were covered and so far, we’ve been good.
At first glance, Bulgaria seems a little more affluent than Romania did; the homes don’t seem so old and the things don’t look quite so run down and seemed cleaner.
We drove along the coast seeing the Black Sea on and off and the land is pretty flat in this area. After stopping at the city of Varna at an ATM, we passed a few towns with “not of this world” names like Neptun, (yes there was no “e”), Jupiter, Saturn and Venus!
Then the road veered away from the sea some and got hilly. Our destination today was Bulgaria’s resort town: Nesebar where “Sunny Beach” is located. There are NO campgrounds along the beach here unfortunately, but there is a bar at the north end with a large dirt parking lot where others have stayed so that was our plan.
It’s not fancy or pretty but it is right on Paradise Beach – which connects to Sunny Beach and it’s free. To our surprise, there were people there, hotels were up and running although not with the hoards they are probably used to but the temps were in the mid 20’s C / high 70’s F, the sun was shining and there was a nice breeze.
We got parked, had brunch and then went for a walk to check out the beach and find a grocery store for a couple of things.
The beach is nice with good sand; it’s clean, the water is clear and there’s a few sections with sea grass (which we expect in high season gets cleaned up in front of the big hotels). Speaking of big hotels, there are several pretty posh looking ones with large pools and terraces and their own section of beach for guests only with chairs and umbrellas. There were several large jellyfish which had been washed on shore.
We walked about ten minutes enjoyed the nice beach and then walked in behind the hotels where we found a shop to buy some bananas and oranges before returning to Minou to change, grab our chairs and kindles to sit on the beach for a couple of hours.
There is a closed bar on one side of Paradise Beach where there are wooden decks so we set up there enjoying the view and the shade. At times the breeze got a little too cool and Fran sat in the sun and by 3 we returned to Minou to shower (neither of us went in the water although there were people swimming).
Then it was an early happy hour for which we went over to the one open bar to enjoy a beer by the sea.
The night was very quiet and a comfortable temperature. The morning had a nip in the air like fall can have but once the sun was up, it was very calm and warmed up quickly. The breeze came up in the early afternoon.
We both went for walks today; Doug on a mission to find a tennis ball to help with massaging his buttocks where’s he’s got pain (piriformis) and Fran just to enjoy a stroll along the water’s edge – her happy place!
Doug actually found the sort of beach umbrella we’ve been looking for and bought it and an auger. After brunch we spent a few hours right on the beach in the sand with our own shade instead of having to stay up away from the water’s edge under a tree. It was much enjoyable. By 3 the wind picked up even more and as the umbrella was moving a lot we decided to call it before it got broken. Our plan was to walk into the centre of the beach boardwalk tonight for dinner and some music we hope.
We walked about 2km down the beach street and had a pretty good hamburger outside a restaurant with a sea view:
We both felt satisfied and being the early to bed people that we are, we did not opt to stay until 9pm when the live tribute band was going to perform; it was just too bad as it was Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson tribute which we would have enjoyed but it was only 7 by the time we finished eating.
It was a bit warmer of a night tonight and it was not as quiet. By bedtime we could hear/feel the thump, thump, thump of a discotheque from some nearby club/hotel. We got to sleep but didn’t stay asleep. It went on till well past 3am!
Other than that terrible night’s sleep, we thoroughly enjoyed what we think might be our final summer weekend at a beach for a while. Life is good.
We left our lovely beach overnight spot around 9 and drove into the city of Nesebar, actually into what the sign said was “Ancient Nesebar” not just old town! There is not a lot to see but we thought, we’re here let’s check it out. Sunny beach is a long curved beach. We were staying just past the official end of it and the spit onto the island is at the other end – over ten kilometres/ six miles long – driving it was 13 km / xx miles from Paradise Beach.
Crossing the manmade isthmus you see this ancient windmill:
We got parked in a huge pay lot and walked around town. We walked along the concrete boardwalk around the outside of the “island” where we first saw the ruins of another old wind mill:
Then the ruins of a church:
As we rounded the tip, we moved inland a bit and walk through the town. It was interesting to see wooden buildings with stone first floors.
We saw an ancient fountain that still pours our fresh drinking water:
The Ruins of Saint Sophia church which was built in the 5th century and modified in both the 6th and 9 centuries:
and two more churches:
As we returned to the parking lot walking through the town at the entrance we came upon the ruins of the ancient fortifications from the Ottoman days:
We wanted to get power tonight and spend a last night in Bulgaria crossing the border into Turkiye tomorrow. We’ll grocery shop in the morning and hit the road.
We found a “camperspot” at the marina just before the city of Burgas where for 20 LEV (less than $10 USD), you can park for 24 hours, get power, water, Wi-Fi and have access to bathrooms but there are no showers. It’s right on the Black Sea and there’s a little beach nearby. The fellow at the gate spoke no English but we managed to understand each other, pay him and then have him show us where to park, where the power was and then he showed us a hose for water along the pier. A nice lady (who turned out to be an English teacher) then helped us with translation and we got settled. Doug wanted to check our solar system as the batteries are no longer charging up as much as they used to but that could be the shorter days we’re having now and/or the batteries themselves (one of which we know is older than the other). It all seemed fine – guess we just got too used to those long a$$ hours of daylight up in Norway!
We spent a quiet afternoon online enjoying the sea breeze as it got quite warm today. Doug checked out the nearby beach to see if we wanted to go over and sit there but it was not very nice and the shoreline was full of sea grass so not even pleasant to walk along.
Being parked at a port came with all the usual sights and sounds; boats and more boats although it was very quiet overnight, the sailors were up on the early side to begin what was probably the last warm weekend of summer here.
After doing our morning exercise, we showered, dumped and filled our fresh water and were on our way. We stopped in the city of Burgas to stock up on groceries at a large supermarket and found pretty much everything we wanted including bagged lettuce and broccoli. We’ve been struggling to find non alcoholic cider in the last few countries and again, found none.
Then we made our way to the Turkish border less than 100 km / 60 miles away. We could feel and see autumn in the air – trees turning and leaves falling around us.
First time we’ve seen a mileage sign to a border on this trip:
About 750 m / just a little under a half mile from reaching the border, we were stopped in our tracks with a line up! What?! It was 11:43 am. First time we’ve ever encountered that on this side of the Atlantic. Doug stayed with the vehicle while Fran walked up the road to see if she could see anything and/or find out how long this was all going to take. Most of the cars were Bulgarian plated, several Romanians and a sprinkling of others including a group of 3 Danish motorhomes.
Well, she counted just over 40 vehicles in front of us on her way back just to the booth where a woman in a yellow vest was waving vehicles onward. She asked that woman if she knew how long it was going to take and she said “from this point, (where she was standing) under an hour”! We still had to make it to where she was though and the line was creeping along in fits and spurts of maybe 4 car lengths when it moved at all. Oh well, there was nothing we could do other than be thankful there weren’t trucks in this line up too. After an hour and 50 minutes we made it to Bulgarian immigration to get stamped out of the country in less than five minutes.
Then we creeped even slower to reach the actual border with the Turkiye sign where we got stopped for quite a while.
We never did buy fuel in Bulgaria as we’d filled up in Romania and Doug researched the price in Turkiye and it’s cheaper so we hope to make it to the first stations there which are about 40 km / 30mi after the border.
We drove a total of 323 km / 200 mi along the Bulgarian coastline.
Fun Facts for Bulgaria will be in the blog post when we visit the rest of the country after our trip into Turkiye.