Saturday, October 7, 2017

Veliko Tărnovo in the Rain

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday afternoon was sunny and 26 degrees. This morning we woke up to 5 degrees, grey skies and rain.

I was mistaken when I said our guest house was from the 1800s. I was told at breakfast that the 200 year old house was torn down in the 1990s and this replica was built in its place.

Our breakfast was all home made; fresh squeezed orange juice, blueberry crepes and a pastry filled with Bulgarian feta. Delicious.

The smell of wood smoke was in the air when we left Koprivshtitsa.

We had a three and a half hour drive through the Balkan mountains. There were supposed to be spectacular views. We wouldn’t know because at some points the clouds/fog was so thick, you could barely see a few feet in front of you.

Fortunately the cloud/fog lifted a bit because we were literally driving through numerous hairpin turns to circumnavigate our way to the top of the mountain. It was the same going down the mountain...except the fog was back. Challenging driving for John.

I saw a lone dog without a collar on the mountain. Apparently there are a lot of homeless dogs in Bulgaria. We saw a few in Sofia but heard them more at night. There was one in particular that I swear barked most of the night. He was quiet in the morning....probably lost his voice. We also saw a few in Koprivshtitsa.

It was still pouring rain when we arrived in Veliko Tărnovo which was the medieval  capital of Bulgaria. In true Scutt style, we refused to let the weather get in our way of touring. Although I didn’t have a rain jacket (it was lost at Oktoberfest), I at least had my red and white Canada umbrella.

We passed the impressive Mother Bulgaria War memorial before stopping into the tourist info centre where John got a map, but didn’t ask directions (because real men don’t ask directions) and then took us in the wrong direction before turning around and getting back on track. 

We walked along the main street and stopped to admire the gorgeous views of the Stambolov bridge which leads to an island dominated by the Assen Dynasty Monument and the Boris Denev Art Gallery.

We eventually made our way towards the Tsarvets fortress. Words cannot describe the dramatic beauty of the place which would have been even more breathtaking on a clear day.

We decided to rest, have lunch and warm up at a restaurant that served traditional Bulgarian food and was close to the entrance gate. John had chicken soup and hummus, Graham had potatoes and cheese (they never did bring his sausages) and I had a shipka salad and grilled pigs ears (which I found a little too gristly).

Then it was back into the elements. The ramparts and walls are all that remains of the medieval castle,  but the setting was gorgeous. We walked all the way to the top of the steep hill to the Ascension of Christ Patriarchal Church which offered a panorama of amazing views including the golden domed church of St Peter and St Paul, Bishops Bridge and numerous other stunning architectural landmarks.

Unfortunately by this point we were all sopping wet from head to toe and I may have been getting a bit crabby.

On our way back to our hotel, I stopped often in souvenir and cosmetic stores to warm up...and make a few purchases. We passed more monuments and walked through the picturesque Old Bazzar Street.

Our hotel is central, clean but very basic. I guess they assumed our son was younger because they did his bed up with Land Before Time bed sheets.

Once back at the hotel we attempted to dry our clothes with the hair dryer and just relaxed for awhile getting warmed up from the cold and wet day. For dinner we found a pizza place that was nearby- it was still pouring rain out and the forecast for tomorrow is the same 😩.

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