My first stop in Bulgaria was Varna. Varna is a beachside town on the Black Sea which is well known for its nightlife. I, however, was staying in a small hostel in an outer suburb, half an hour from the centre by bus. It was so quiet and peaceful and the beach was not at all crowded. Having said that, the beach also wasn’t great, but the water was a wonderful temperature, absolutely perfect. A bit too much seaweed for my liking though.
Unfortunately, the next day, it was raining and a top of about 17 degrees. I spent most of the day talking on the phone to people I was missing and feeling generally miserable. Varna was definitely a low point in my travels, but the hostel had a sausage dog which made me happy. I decided to start looking for a Workaway at a hostel, somewhere I could unpack my bag and not have to move on for a couple of weeks. I wanted one by the beach, but unfortunately I think if you want to volunteer at a hostel in Greece or Croatia in July you have to organise it months in advance. I ended up finding one in Skopje, capital of Macedonia, which is no where near any beaches but I didn’t real care by that stage I just wanted to rest for a bit.
I decided to get out of depressing Varna and took the overnight sleeper train (my first time on a sleeper train!) to a city in the south called Plovdiv. Plovdiv was so nice and my hostel was so accommodating. I arrived at 6am from my overnight train and they happened to already have a spare bed and I was able to go to sleep for another few hours and then I was also able to have the free breakfast, even though I technically wasn’t supposed to check in until 2pm.
I spent most of the day working on my blog posts, catching up a bit. I also did my tax return and tried to deal with my flight to Nepal which I had booked weeks ago but I’d just been notified that the flight had been cancelled and Air India were not replying to my emails trying to fix it. I ended up putting money on my Skype account and calling them to get it sorted.
For lunch I went to this local place with one of the volunteers from the hostel where we had delicious soup for just $2 each. In the evening I joined the free walking tour which went all around the old town and ended at the Roman theatre. Plovdiv was once conquered by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and later became a Roman city. They have various Roman ruins around the city but the theatre is definitely the most impressive. It’s also a bit strange, because it’s actually a Greek theatre (half circle built on the side of a hill – the Romans had full circle amphitheatres instead) but it was built by the Romans. Interesting.
The next day I went with a Swiss girl from the hostel to see a monastery in the mountains and a hilltop fortress. We decided to hike from the monastery to the fortress, which took about 4 hours and caused many scratches on our arms and legs due to the path being mostly unused and very overgrown. We didn’t see another human the entire time, but we did see lots of lizards and birds and interesting insects.
When we got back to Plovdiv we had dinner at this super cheap kiosk which had kebabs for $3 or two giant pizza slices for $2. Yum.
Sofia was my next stop. It was an interesting city. It looks very nice and has a laid back atmosphere, but there isn’t really a lot to see and do and there it’s hard to find a clear ‘town centre’. Outside of Sofia there is some good hiking on the nearby mountain but I didn’t make it out there. I spent most of my time walking around the city and reading my book in the park, I enjoyed it.