You really need a car to get around in this part of the world. I eventually returned my Eurailpass unused because there basically are no trains running in the Balkans. I walked across the border from Romania to Bulgaria, hoping to find a guy on the other side that would take me to civilization for a reasonable price and not leave my lifeless body in a ditch somewhere, even though he didn’t speak any English. Remarkably, I did, and soon I was in Varna at the bus station looking at my map and guide book trying to figure out where to go next. A college kid sat down next to me and suggested Veliko Tarnovo, and it turned out that the next bus was leaving soon, so I got on it.
I was somewhat relieved to see that Bulgaria is trying hard to join the Western world. Bulgaria is not a land of peasants and scammers. Bulgaria has fashion and industry. People seem to be working and pulling ahead. There are miles and miles of sunflowers, all with their heads turned in the same direction.
Veliko Tarnovo is a nice little town where no one speaks a word of English except the real-estate agents, who have been selling apartments and farms to the Brits in the past few years. Real Estate is booming as more Brits arrive and make the locals rich by paying 10,000 pounds for an apartment. Next year it will be twice that.
In Bulgaria, everyone over the age of 14 must smoke cigarettes. I was lucky they didn’t throw me in jail for not smoking. Even though smoking is not allowed on the buses, the driver of my bus to Sofia smoked five cigarettes in three hours, and the tour guide woman smoked two. Fortunately, no one else smoked on the bus. Sofia is a complete write-off. Can’t imagine why anyone would go there. But I think the Bulgarians might make it into the EU – I think they have the entrepreneurial drive and the social desire to go forward, not back. So far, so good – I had been spending most of my time in interesting tourist places, not in the big ugly cities. I took a bus to Skopje and found myself in the middle of Macedonia…