Serbia has passed fairly quickly, including road pits and rather inaccessible natural parks. With an extra sprint we therefore directly passed to Bulgaria, and after only a handful of miles here we already were in Sofia!
This city surprised us immediately. Through its streets you can breathe tranquility, relaxation, cleanliness and liveliness: not bad for a capital of more than 2 million people! Here, too, an eastern atmosphere is very present, between mosques, ancient thermal hamams and typical food. The Orthodox churches add their essential charm among the palaces of the elegant old town and its avenues full of shops and clubs. The city is very organized with regard to road and paid parking, so for the first time during this trip we preferred to park the BunnyVan in the suburbs and rely on the efficient underground network for our journeys. It was a must to stop at the hot thermal water fountains to refresh ourselves and hope for some medical miracle…!
After Sofia we chose for a rather varied tour of Bulgaria. After the small spa experience in the capital we decided to head straight to Velingrad, the largest natural spa center in the country. In this mountain resort, dozens of hot springs supply an entire town among the mountains, and as unfortunately happens in other similar locations, hotels and private spas have monopolized the entire supply of thermal water.
Only after having insisted and questioned half the local population we finally managed to find one of the last two public baths still working. For the modest sum of € 1 we could therefore enjoy an absolutely authentic moment to enjoy their healing waters, among old men and children who stared at us with wide eyes! No surprise for us, after all it was now from the Bosnian border that we felt constantly watched as we were aliens (aboard a mini white spaceship)!!!
From Velingrad, along a delightful mountain railway that seemed to come straight out of a cartoon, we reached Plovdiv: the second most important city in Bulgaria, dotted with Roman ruins still in perfect condition and consistent traces of Ottoman rule. By chance, we happened in the middle of a large Street Food Festival, held in the main square of the city. Needless to say, for the umpteenth time we have helped raise our numbers on the scale at low cost!
At this point, after the long crossing of the Balkans, it was time to reach the sea again. The location on the Black Sea that we have chosen as a stop is Nesebăr. We found ourselves in front of a little wonder, almost a Venice of the East! The old town of Nesebăr stands on an island connected to the mainland by a single road, and has retained its original structure intact. Walking among the wooden houses and the windmills you can admire buildings and Orthodox churches from many historical periods: browse through the gallery to see all the photos!
The arrival of rain and clouds unfortunately has discouraged us from continuing this coastal tour, and therefore, also considering that now I was no longer in the skin with Istanbul being so close, we finally ventured to the Turkish border.
The excitement now skyrocketing, waiting for the fifteenth Turkish stamp on my passport !!!