Monday 19th March
Woke up to another miserable, foggy, cold and wet day and travelled mostly with the demister on. Travelling along highway 6 was so much better today and soon we made short work of just over 100kms. Not too many pot holes to fall into. Scenery again of lush green valleys – such a shame the sun was not shining.
We have found the people here really great though very few speak any English.
Only a short 12 kms off the highway took us through the mountains to this wonderful village, though visibility was hampered by heavy fog and light rain.
Our campsite for tonight: Koprivshtitsa – GPS 42.6426N 24.3598E
The campsite is in the heart of the village and again we were the only ones there. The attendant at the boom gate wandered over as soon as we parked and relieved us of around $5 and then locked up her office and was not seen again for the rest of the day. Hardly worth her while I expect. No one else came in.
Spent a couple of hours waiting for the rain to stop and given our experience yesterday at the monastery decided to venture out and try to take some photos – fog or not. It was freezing outside so put on all the gear including hats and gloves and braved the elements.
First task was to find the tourist office which wasn’t easy as everything here is in written in Bulgarian. Their alphabet is even more difficult than the Greek alphabet but it was a joy walking through this UNESCO heritage town and eventually after asking a few people (using google translate) we found the tourist office.
Armed with a brochure, a map and tickets to go through 6 of the museum homes here – three only open today and the other three tomorrow, we set off in search of the first one. Quite a challenge as the English brochure we had did not have the Bulgarian translations so the names on the museums were totally different to what was on our brochure.
Such a wonderfully interesting afternoon walking through the cobble stoned streets and going through the museums. The fog lifted a little so did manage to take some photos but hope tomorrow will reward us with some finer weather.
It was bitterly cold outside so ventured back to Ziggy for a couple of warming vodkas. Light rain turned to sleet and then to snow for a short while and the temperature inside dropped considerably. Turned on the gas heater which remained on all night.
Tuesday 20th March
Woke up to a winter wonderland with snow quite a few inches deep. Must have snowed through most of the night. Just so beautiful outside and light snow still falling.
Back into the snow gear and went in search of the three remaining museums. So much prettier than yesterday with everything covered in snow.
They have nine months of winter here in this valley.
Captured this winter wonderland with lots of photos. There is just something so special seeing trees with their branches under the weight of snow and valleys and mountains blanketed in white.
Once down in the valleys, the snow was melting quickly and turned to slush with still lots of pockets of snow here there and everywhere.
Our campsite for tonight: Kazanlak – GPS 42.6261N 25.3976E
On our way towards Kazanlak it had stopped snowing and even had a couple of patches of blue sky though no sun. We saw the sign to the Valley of the Thracian Kings so took a detour. There are several tombs in the area and most are signposted.
In this valley (The Valley of the Thracian Kings) the town of Shipka has one of the most amazing monasteries consisting of two very different pieces of architecture joined together. The Monastery of Hram-Pametnik, has several gold domes which can be seen from miles away.
There is no cost to see the monastery, however they do ask for a small donation if you want to take photos. Such a great building and would strongly suggest a visit if in the area.
Only a few kms to the town of Kazanlak and our campsite for tonight is just at the bottom of a hill with about fifty steps to the Tomb of Kazanlak Thracian King. The original tomb is closed unless you are part of a group and have prearranged a tour, however they have built an exact replica a short distance away which you can inspect of a couple of LEV. Really interesting.
The campsite is a carpark which can take about 10 motorhomes and the same number of cars. Set out in search of a taverna but could not find one close by that was open. The carpark is quite busy until around 10pm but very quiet after that.
This town is also famous for its rose gardens and ruse museum. June is the rose festival month so is the best time to be here.
Wednesday 21st March
Were woken up by three lady workers who set about sweeping the carpark and picking up any rubbish. We watched as they created hand made brooms with the branches of fir trees by attaching these with rope to long wooden sticks – suspect this is how their forefathers made brooms. We have found the women doing similar jobs in all the villages and towns which are clean and free of rubbish and with very few stray dogs. Such a shame Greece does not do this as it is so full of rubbish and no one seems to care.
It was our intention to spend a couple of days in Veliko Tarnovo. Such an interesting city to drive through with the Citadel towering over this huge city. We drove through the Old Town and saw amazing cathedrals which were unbelievable and then spent the next three hours trying to find a place to stay.
Our ideal spot was totally torn apart with earthmoving equipment taking up most of the carpark. Think it was being renovated with new lighting towers in place and the rest being levelled to be ready for tourists in the summer months. We stopped for lunch here but were given the royal stare by the workers so moved on. Three other car parks were not suitable for motorhomes or were full.
Frustrated to say the least we moved toward a farm stay a few kms out of town. This took us off the main road and up a single land track for about 1.5kms. On arrival we found a car and trailer bogged at the entry with no way around it. The owner (a Brit) came out and told us it would take about an hour to tow the car out so we had no option but to reverse back the 1.5 kms over a snowy and muddy narrow winding track to the main road. My amazing driver made it look so easy. He said he had never had to reverse as far before, even in good conditions.
There are very few camping spots in all of Bulgaria and most particularly in the north.
Our campsite for tonight: Polski Trambesh – opposite police station.
It was not very late in the afternoon with nothing promising on the horizon. Drove through a few towns but could not find any place off this busy highway that was not muddy and slushy.
This is a small to medium sized town and off the highway so decided to stay here. Found a wide level street in town and settled down and people watched for some time. We certainly created a lot of local interest and we feel not too many motorhomes have passed through here.
Felt very safe being opposite the police station and had a very quiet night after around 11pm. Temperature had dropped by 12 degrees by bedtime so expected a cold overnight temp.
Thursday 22nd March
Again woke up to a winter wonderland with snow several inches thick outside. Overnight temperature was -1 with a maximum of 0 expected during the day. It was snowing again with heavy flurries.
Not long after we left town, conditions worsened and soon we were in blizzard conditions. The windscreen and wipers started to ice up even using the demister was not keeping up with the outside conditions.
We were happy to get off the highway and took a side road to see the Ivanovo rock churches. Passed a 4WD car bogged in snow on the side of the road with no one inside. The roads were icing up so we hoped we would not end up as he did.
Visibility was poor when we arrived at the churches so took a couple of photos and headed back to Ivanovo before we got stuck too. Filled up with fuel and gas and the attendant told us our next stop was ideal to spend the night.
Our campsite for tonight: Basarbobo Rock Monastery – 43.7659 25.9658
Only around 10kms from the rock churches, this place is just another one of those “must see” spots. The monastery is Literally carved into this incredibly unusual and spectacular mountain and rock formation. In front of this is a new and more modern monastery and church which is occupied by two monks.
The snow was falling quite heavily when we arrived in the carpark but took the time to enter the monastery gates and take photos of this amazing place.
Didn’t venture up the rock face today as weather conditions were woeful but remain optimistic about tomorrow.
Sat in Ziggy and watched the heavy snow flurries fill up the surrounding trees, monastery buildings and carpark – just so wonderful and serene.
Friday 23rd March
It must have snowed all night as outside was a sea of white, white and more white and the snow was still falling heavily. The snow was so thick in the carpark that the entrance was nowhere to be seen. The snow on Ziggy’s roof was at least 6 inches thick and totally blacked out the solar panels. We enjoyed the scenery whilst hoping that a snow plough would come along and clear the way for us.
The trip down the mountain and to the town of Ruse was really scary as the snow had turned to ice and visibility was poor.
Our campsite for tonight: Lidl, Ruse
Lidl came into view and we drove into the carpark and turned off the engine with a sigh of relief. With snow piled high on all sides of the road on all roads, there was no where else to park that wasn’t snowed in. Regardless of what happened now, we had our food chain at the doorstep and hoped no one would ask us to leave.
Lidl closed at around 9pm and didn’t hear a sound until 7.30am next morning.