Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bulgarian Diary

Our tale begins on a bright sunny morning, the wynnies blink awake at 11am having just about recovered from the journey. Still relishing indoor plumbing and the electric kettle, everyone patiently queues for the shower followed by breakfast. John phones the builder Rado for an update on the house and is greeted with the news that everything is ready, excitement mounts at the prospect of finally being able to unload the trailer and spend the first ever night in our new home. The last time we were there was Easter 2010 and we were still having to use the Bulgarian toilet at the bottom of the garden.
Fond farewells abound and the parting of the Bevingtons and Wynnies after so much time together is, to be honest a bit opf a wrench and we set forward on the beginning of our new adventure feeling that we have left half our family behind.
An hour and a half later, we pull into Blagoevo and spot the neighbours, doing some building work. A small grey haired chap who we have not met before appears at the side of the car as we pull up brandishing the house keys and with the standard “Tooka” (here) bids us follow him. The first thing we spot is that the garden has developed into a rainforest with daisy like flowers covering it – at 6 ft these make it impossible to see the back gate or the barn. Undaunted we follow our guide to the front door, where he points to the floor, mutters something we don’t understand in rapid Bulgarian and then screeches “ne” when I attempt to walk into the kitchen. Clearly this is a meaning of the phrase house is ready” that we had not come across before and by a series of gestures we decern that the floors have only been varnished this morning and are not ready to be walked upon.
At this unexpected development it all becomes too much and the fact that we are so close but not able to go in is devastating. However, we take some hasty photographs from the dorrway and head into Strajitsa for something to eat at our favourite café and prepare for the long drive back to vishingrad for the night with the trailer still filled with furniture!!!!!
The following morning we wake, excited but still not convinced that this is it and convinced that we will turn up at the house and find ourselves confronted with a fresh coat of varnish.
We set off and arrive at lunchtime with our fingers crossed and unlock the door with some trepidatio0n – John bends down and places his hand on the floor and declares that the floor is dry and we all rush in with our rucksacs and enjoy standing in our little house for the first time.
Rado has excelled himself and the varnished floors look fantastic as well as the bathroom and kitchen which are simple but perfect and the white walls whichsuch a contrast to how it was last year. We hastily unpack the trailer and bring in the furniture and camp chairs then plug in the kettle and have our first cuppa in our home.
The grins on al four of us a reminiscent of a pack o Cheshire cats and Emily happily goes to inspect her den to make sure that it is still intact and the happily sets off to the villiage shop with Stelliana for pop and bread.
John set of for Suchitsa where Lisa’s Brother and his wife were storing the furniture we had bought off her and me and charlotte tried to organise the contents of the trailer into some sort of order.
Several hours later John arrived back with the news that he had got lost on the way. As we headed outside to remove the furniture from the trailer Bulgarians arrived from all directions to help and I stood by bewildered as piece after piece of furniture arrived through the doors in quick succession, each carried by a different neighbour and I ushered them into the relevant rooms.
Following this record breaking furniture removal we were informed that we had to follow them to sit at the little table outside Dacho and Yonka’s house and have rakia (Bulgarian homemade apricot brandy) and tomatoes and cheese.
Taking delivery of a bucket full of cucumbers and tomatoes fom our other neighbour Joanne and stopping briefly at the car to blow up the inflatable materesses (as we still did not have beds) we headed over to Dachos for a well earned biera, Rakia, tomatoes, cheese, salted pork, fried fish and biscuits.
Well fell into bed at midnight feeling that this is where the holiday had truly begun and that everything was alright with the world………………

Day 7 – Through the Carpathian mountains and Bulgaria at last

We all awake in good spirits knowing no matter how long the day is we will be in Bulgaria by bedtime. We pack up and set of for the Carpathian mountains and the most stunning scenery we have yet encountered. Tree filled mountains are all around us and rivers and lakes stream through these and create the most beautiful sights we have ever seen.
We stop in a small café for cold drinks in a tiny villiage and get chatting to a Romanian who had worked in England as a Taxi driver and spoke brilliant English – we pulled up the bongos next to a horse and cart and had a well earned rest in the shade.
Near Tea time we hit Bucharest – the capital of Romania and the worst driving experience of the trip bar none. The traffic is horrendous and whereas there appear to be two or three lanes of traffic everyone ignores these and just drives at high speed where ever they want. Driving in the inside lane is impossible because every few hundred metres people just stop their cars with no warning to have a chat to someone they know. The signs are terrible and we are soon going in the wrong direction. However we have now had such good practice at being lost that we realise sooner rather than later and pull over to as directions. We stop by a Romanian lady who speaks English and we cannot believe our luck – once we have undertaken a rather hairy u turn we are on the right track and at last leave Bucharest and the worst two hours driving experience of the trip.
All is the more simple as we head to the Bulgarian border and excitement builds as our goal is at last in sight – forgotten now is the endless stops to ask for directions, the boiling heat, the traffic jams and the long drives – as we pass over the bridge to Ruse in Bulgaria a huge cheer goes up and we issue a collective sigh of relief knowing that it has all been worth while !!!!!
Two hours later and we arrive in Vishingrad – it is now about 1am and the kids go straight to bed whereas we adults spend a couple of hours drinking tea and relishing the electric kettle, indoor toilets and the prospect of sleeping in a proper bed for the first time in a week. We go to bed when someone spots that it is 3.30am and we fall asleep with huge grins on our faces knowing we have a few weeks rest before we have to do it all again!!

Day 6 - into Transilvania!!!!

Set off early to cross into Romania – Quite disconcerting to see signs “bank of Transilvania” into Arad which is a huge undustrial area with loads of waggons and very slow moving traffic – waited about an hour for a train to cross the road by which time we were all boiling hot and eventually broke out into the countryside. The difference with Austria and Hungary is immediately apparent and Romania feels more like Bulgaria than anywhere we have yet visited. This is reassuring as we now get the feeling we are nearly there! Shiny Mercedes and BMW’s have been replaced by horses and carts and home made motorised carts made from trailers and a lawn mower on the front. Spend the next 5 hours travelling through lovely countryside and arrive late afternoon at the campsite which had been recommended to us in Hungary. It is in the middle of a villiage where the locals wave at us and shout greetings and when we arrive we find it is a field behind someones house.
The toilets are clean and the Dutch host speaks brilliant English, we set up camp and the kids go for a swim in the swimming pool and then play football with some German lads until well after dark. The other reminder that we are near Bulgaria is that the mosquitos are out in force and we are grateful for the dust sheets we brought from home which we use to cover our legs and therefore present less of a target!!

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Day 5 – Hungary or bust!!!
So, woke up at 7 and got ready – set off at 10 as the packing up is now like a smooth machine (ha ha)
The plan today is to get to Hungary and to the campsite near szeged which is near the border with Romania.
Dave was in the lead today and was convinced that we could get through this leg in one day without much trouble – have to say, not really convinced as the words “when we get into szeged we will remember where the campsite is” although that may be me being overly cynical.
Stopped for lunch at a service station in Austria, where despite the fact that they had a rather extensive menue they only seemed to be serving the daily special which was soup, green salad and something that looked like lumpy pasta and sauce mixed with pot noodle, but I am assured that it was nice – I, not convinced had yet another salami sandwich.
This is the point at which our luck ran out – Dave turned left into a different lane as the road split and John nearly hit the concrete centre of the road, then a large blue waggon nearly hit us – John swore loudly and me and Charlotte cowered into our seats – like if we got far enough away we wouldn’t crash.
After a similar close call, tempers were beginning to fray and the hour was getting late. As the sun sunk over the horizon we ended up in Budapest. Dave had mistakenly taken a left turn and we came to a stand still – stuck in a long line of traffic. As we sat in this jam, the realisation hit us one by one that this was no ordinary traffic jam – all the other cars were Hungarian, not only that but they were not even cars, they were vans driven by middle aged men or very butch women with moustaches. They were all staring at us and an inspection of the backs of the vans revealed that they were full of vegetables. After 15 minutes of this, John’s language hjad plumbed new depths, I was on the edge of a psychotic break and my diazepam was stuck in the back of the van buried under god knows what.
After a further 20 minutes we managed to extricate ourselves and ended up yet again at – yes, you guessed it – MacDonalds - I stomped of to be on my own, Dave went to speak to the staff to find a campsite and the kids, oblivious went to play on the slide.
After additional anti psychotics and strong coffees all round we ended up having a conference around our trailer, where we decided we would get to szeged tonight, or die in the attempt.
We reached the campsite at about midnight to be met by a nice man on a bike who showed us to our pitches - I at this point had had a bit too much “extra” medication and was wandering around in a daze – but Bev, being Mrs fix it, managed to procure us 2 chalets for the night and everyone collapsed into bed – one chalet for the boys and one for the girls
Was it just 24 hours ago that we were sitting around smugly congratulating ourselves on our progress and saying that we had got the knack of travelling – a day is a long time in politics and, as it turns out an even longer time in Hungary!!!!!!!!


Day 4 – In search of Austria (and bread)
Set off early(ish) after coco pops, for a long drive – weather getting warmer by the minute and we decided that we should have a 3 part plan today – we would either get to Regesburg, Passau, or Lintz in Austria as we are now seriously behind and need to make up the miles!!!!
Stopped for lunch at Burger King in Austria where the wasps ate half the chips, but the toilets were nice – always a bonus.
Got to Passau - still in Germany, near the border with Austria and decided to call it a day and find the campsite. We managed to find a supermarket which was exactly like Lidl and me and Dave did the shopping which was a mistake cos I nearly bought a toaster and we remembered the water, bread and beer, but forgot the butter.
After practicing our sign language skills on yet more patient germans we found the campsite which was (being german) very clean, very efficient and very nice. We had a pleasant evening and retired to bed thinking we had cracked this travelling lark and it was easy.


Day 3 – The day we discover that we can have fun after all
We didn’t wake up after our late night until 10am when a vey nice man fom the campsite came to knock on Bevs camper to tell her that we should not have parked where we had and that we needed to pay. Coffee, coco pops and toast with homemade jam signalled the beginning of the holiday proper and we decided that we just needed to take it easy, have a nice short(ish) day and find a nice campsite – we set off at 1pm in much better spirits and drove down through beautiful scenery over viaducts looking at mountains of trees and blue skies. By 5pm we had taken pot luck and left the motorway to find a campsite we had spotted on the map, near Frankfurt. We arrived (after driving around a field of allotments which we mistakenly thought was the site) at a fantastic site complete with electric points, a lake, sandy beach and hot showers and clean toilets – bliss. We had tea, the kids went swimming in the lake and we got a great nights sleep.


Day 2 – the day the adventure begins .
Up at 6am after a very cold night trying to keep warm whilst listening to the joy that is John’s snoring. After many cups of coffee, we eventually got packed up and ready to set off – Channel tunnel here we come……..Not! Our dear Betty the Bongo let us down with a completely flat battery. Half an hour of panic ensued with Bev phoning to change the Tunnel crossing, John phoning the AA – the panic stopped as suddenly as it had begun with a very nice man from the campsite arriving with a small tractor and industrial jump leads. Not an auspicious start, but things could only get better right? Wrong
On to the tunnel which was actually quite exciting whilst we were getting on and then 35 minutes of sheer boredom – cos u cannot actually see anything – arrived in Calais and started the long drive to the first campsite. On we went through France, Belgium, Holland and into Aachen – in Germany, ready for a nice sit down and some tea. Confident that we would be chilling out with a beer in half an hour, we got out the directions from the campsites website and proceeded. After about 2 hours of driving round, cursing, swearing and screwing the instructions into a ball we found salvation -…..McDonalds, two gleaming golden arches in our hour of need. We had our chicken burgers (which came with some strange sauercrout dressing and got directions in german from the very nice lady at the cake counter – 2 more hours later and several stops to ask people where the campsite was we arrived at long last at 11.15 in the pitch dark – only to discover that the only places left to park were on a stony car park so, by the lights of the two cars and much more swearing we eventually managed to pitch the tents by tying one end to the camper and the other end to the trailer we rolled into bed at 12.30am exhausted and wondering were we really doing this for fun?


Day 1 – Wynnies –
Set off from Sunny Whitworth at 10am knowing that this was likely to be the longest day as the traffic in jolly old England is always worse than anywhere else!! Everything went well until we hit the car park commonly known as the M25 where we spent a jolly 2 hours stuck in traffic. Eventually got to the campsite about 7pm and set up the tent.