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Southern Bulgaria

sunny 31 °C

Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, has been a highlight of my journey. One reason people don't like it is because the pavement blocks are all broken and loose. I think that adds to the charm, walking down the street, wobbling and clunking, past Versace and Dior.

My bus wasn't until mid-afternoon, so I visited some of the places I'd seen on the walking tour, but hadn't been into. First, I went to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It's much darker inside than the other churches and monasteries I've seen so far. The cathedral was built in honour of the Bulgarian, Roman, Russian, and other nationalities who died freeing Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire's 500 year stranglehold. I sat down for a while taking it all in, and was fascinated by the figureof a young woman with long dark hair, in a full length dress, holding a candle and praying in front of a chandelier of candles. She looked like she could have been a woman from 500 years ago, so serene and still, with her dress trailing behind her. Next, I called into the nearby St Sophia 4th century church, which the city is most likely named after. There was a wedding in progress and it was quite surreal to see the ceremony taking place in an ancient building, with tourists and worshippers coming and going. On the way back to my hotel, I visited the small Russian church, St Nicholas, where a christening was underway.

Back at my hotel, the excellent staff talked me into getting a taxi instead of a tram. I agreed, as it was only a few dollars more. However, I actually felt quite disappointed in myself, as I've really enjoyed navigating the local public transport systems and it's a great feeling of achievement when I make my way somewhere. I kind of felt like I'd cheated by taking a taxi.

My bus journey today was four hours, through more of Bulgaria's seemingly endless mountains. I had a good view of the peaks I'd visited yesterday.

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Traveling to Melnik

The further south we traveled, the more dry and brown the landscape became. My destination today, Melnik, is only 20km north of the border with Greece. The bus was a large modern coach, and the journey was pretty good. Once we reached Sandanski (Spartacus territory), before I had time to say “Hey, where's the big bus going?”, my bindle and I were bundled off and onto the Bulgarian equivalent of a Romanian mini bus. In fact, I think this might have been worse. As we jiggled and bumped along a rough country road, I imagined all the components in my laptop rearranging themselves, and I kept checking over the back seat to make sure my luggage hadn't fallen out completely. After staying in a brand new hotel, having a personal guide for a day, and living it up in general, I started to feel a bit miffed about the downward spiral my comfort level had taken. But, then I remembered the taxi and reminded myself that it's all part of the adventure.

Melnik is officially Bulgaria's smallest town. They say the main street is only a couple of hundred metres long, but that must be an exageration. It can't more than 150. Still, its very quaint, and at least I didn't have too far to walk to my hotel. It was fairly late by the time I arrived, so I checked in , and took a stroll around. There are a few souvenir shops and plenty of beautiful old houses to look at, but basically the only thing to do here is drink the famous local red wine and eat.

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The street in Melnik

Since I'm absolutely hopeless at doing nothing, I thought I'd cut my stay here short and leave again in the morning. However, the hotel proprietor is being so kind and bending over backwards to make my stay as nice as possible, that I haven't got the heart to leave early. He even asked a local woman over to translate, since he doesn't speak a word of English. She's given me some ideas of things to do tomorrow, and let's face it, there are worse places to be than eating dinner and drinking wine on the balcony of a traditional tavern in a tiny Bulgarian village, watching the warm summer evening air sparkle with fire flies.

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Dinner

Posted by Gotmybindle 09:33 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged sofia bulgaria melnick

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