Bulgaria was turning out to be a cheap country so I ended up staying 3 nights at Veliko’s Hostel Mostel-which also happens to be the best hostel this end of Europe, it has an almost cult status among backpackers in Eastern Europe. Given that its only 7 euros a night with free breakfast dinner and beer, it does kind of deserve it.
Veliko is a really beautiful city and all old and quaint looking set around a river in the hills. The main attraction is the fortress which sits on a hill and looks over the city. In the evening there is a light show which lights up the whole fortress which looks really cool and we saw a couple of times. You can go up into it to the church on the top which has the most strangest painting of all time. They are like comic book style religious paintings, very very different but I really liked them, it was cool to see something other than the usual Jesus and saints paintings. There is also lots of beautiful churches around in the town and lovely little streets, its just a very nice place
I managed to meet up with a great group of people there, a guy and girl from Holland, Tim and Annabell and Alex the french-Canadian and an Aussie guy, plus a whole lot of other very cool people which made the place great to hang out in. The shop next door sold 2L bottles of beer for about $2 so most nights we sat around drinking and talking the usual backpackers trash. As per usual everyone speaks lots of other languages and half the time I think people spoke English for my benefit! Even Tim and Annabel would speak english together! On the first day we hiked over to this monastery…actually I just ended up going along thinking it was just down the road, but turned out to be a 3 hour walk over hills. It was a bit harder than expected but not too bad and actually turned out to be a really nice walk through the trees. The monastery itself was really beautiful and set up in these hills. Not really any other people around apart from a strange old man who looked about 400 years old, I think he was a monk and he sat around with his walking stick looking a bit confused. Inside the monastery was being renovated and looked beautiful with amazing paintings all over the walls and ceiling. We had a look around and sat down to eat our snacks we had brought before heading back down the hill to the road where we managed to flag down a bus to take us back to town.
We ended up at a restaurant for a late lunch, amazing amounts of food for really really cheap. Its nice to be in a country where you can afford to sit around restaurants. The best part of Eastern Europe (or the worst) is the hilarious level of service from waitresses who seem to think that serving you is the biggest hassle of all time. This seems to happen most places, food is never brought out at the same time and any sort of questions (like “can we have another drink?”) seem to really annoy who ever is serving you, its kind of funny. One bar we went to we could hardly order drinks as the waitress just ignored us….hmmm. But its all just so cheap, the bar we went to one night was super flash with hundreds of cocktails all around $3. the other funny thing is how much all the girls dress up and almost all of them are wearing tiny miniskirts and high heels at all hours of the day. As I have headed further north in Eastern Europe it has only got more extreame as girls look like strippers by 9am.
The next day we went with a guy from the hostel in a car to a waterfall to go swimming, it was a bit out of town and after we drove the 20 minutes we then walked up through some very dodgy steps to come into this beautiful spot with a waterfall going into a pool of bright blue water where we could jump off rocks and swim all afternoon with pretty much no-one else around. The guy who drove is was a young student in Veliko and we had a really interesting conversation about Bulgaria and it developing (or not) with the EU and how the government is useless and essentually still controlled by communists. It was interesting and sad to hear how the younger generation want things to change but cant really becuase there are too many old people with traditional ideas. Bulgaria are probably the least developed of all the countries in the EU so it will be interesting to see how things change.
We headed back for another massive meal at the restaurant and sat around watching Olympics in the evening. I was making the move the next day along with Alex and Annabell who were heading up north while Tony had already gone to Istanbul and Tim had gone back home. I was going to go up to Romania and caught the very slow 7 hour train (which was delayed by 2 hours) with an american girl called Jess and an English guy, Sam. While we were all heading to different hostels in Bucharest I would meet up with Sam a couple of days later in Brasov. The train seemed to stop for long periods of time and go very slowly, but border control was simple and we eventually made it into Bucharest