Taking the Long Way travel blog

Tsarevets Fortress

The fortress

Orthordox Church


Veliko Tarnovo

On the first train

Waiting at the deserted train station for the second train

Nothing like the train stations back home

Early morning arrival into Romania

so much for track safety, you climb over the tracks to get...

It was about a 3 hour drive west across Bulgaria to the medieval capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo. A cute little place with not a great deal to offer except sorbet ice cream every 2 feet. You couldn't escape if you tried. The ice cream is sold by weight so they just keep scooping into the cone/cup until you say stop then you pay whatever the ice cream weighs. Pretty good system which ensures you always get enough!

As far as sights go about all the town had to offer was the Tsaravets Fortress, built between the 5th and 12 centuries. There is usually a 40 minute light show every night after dark and now, due to the economic crisis, that has been reduced to every second night. As luck would have it I was there on an off night...

I stayed in a great little hostel and got a cheap room that even threw in free breakfast AND dinner. But even that wasn't enough to keep me there for more than a night and now that I have discovered I can get into Romania without a visa I am really keen to head there asap!

So I bought a train ticket to head from Veliko Tarnovo to Brasov in Romania. The first train was a local one for about 20 minutes to the international train station that looked like a train hadn't passed through there in the last 20 years and I were starting to worry when the train was about half an hour late (and this at 11pm) but it turned up eventually. The second train was a sleeper that I caught at midnight but the police at the station wouldn't let me get on the sleeper carriage I'd booked, so I had to climb on in the seated carriages and creep my way to the right carriage.

The train was a Russian one, on the way to Moscow, and my carriage had a Russian conductor who paraded around in stubbies and a singlet and spoke not a word of English. Needless to say I didn't precisely recognise his importance when I first got on and refused to hand over my ticket...

During the night I was quite worried that I might sleep through the border crossing and inadvertently become an illegal alien in Romania so kept waking up at regular intervals thinking I was at the border crossing so I would get up bleary eyed and walk to the carriage door with my passport, only to be instructed to go back (via hand gestures) by the crazy Russian.

In the end what happened was that at some point the train stopped and the Bulgarian official got on the train, knocked on my cabin door, I handed him my passport whilst I was still in bed then he stamped them and left. Then the Romanian immigration guy came on and did the same thing. I couldn't believe it; immigration in bed! Why do no other countries do this???

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