I’m scanning the trips board where I was staying and see a bus trip to Bulgaria and it’s a three day trip. The way it works is I can use the service and they’ll coordinate the transportation and room or I can just hop on the bus. The price seemed reasonable and the trip looked like it had potential, so I grabbed a ticket. It left like 5 am on a Friday and the bus was packed but that happens some time. We drove south into Macedonia and stopped at a gas station-restaurant just south of the border where two highways meet. I believe the highway intersection was north of Kumanovo and we eventually got on the A2. When the bus pulled in we were told we had time to go in and grab a bite as we were waiting for another bus. I thought this was odd as we were already on a bus but it had something to do with the license plate on our bus and insurance in Bulgaria I was told. So, we went in and grabbed a drink and eventually the next bus showed up and we all hopped on considering it part of the experience.
We were on the road a few hours perhaps less when we arrived at the Macedonia-Bulgaria border and our guide told us the Bulgarians would just take a sampling of the passports as they were familiar with the bus and it would be a quick process. Oddly enough, the random sample included every American on board and a few of the others. But, at this point there was nothing I could do about it and figured there was some legitimate reason for it. About half an hour later our passports showed back up again and after our guide had a short conversation with the guard we were on our way. By this point we all needed a rest stop as there was no bathroom on the bus. The driver and guides apparently had been through this before and the bus pulled up outside a hotel. Having never been here we all got off and walked in figuring it was ok to use the facilities. The women at the counter looked pleased some potential patrons showed up and smiled as the bus load of us walked in. Their smiles faded a bit when they realized we only wanted to use the facilities but seemed reconciled to the fact they couldn’t stop us. I said hello anyhow as I passed and when finished we all sort of congregated outside the place and took pictures. This hotel was literally in the middle of nowhere and I have no idea why it was even built as I didn’t see a single thing that would draw tourists.
The Bulgarian coutryside is quite mountainous and the roads wind back and forth all the way to Sophia. It was an interesting trip as I sat and took pictures of the landscape as we made our way to the city. We arrived in Sophia and I immediately felt like I was in some soviet town as the buildings all had that feel. The buildings are gray concrete, imposing and lifeless. It was the style of building the soviets used as I recall seeing the same thing when I was in East Berlin in the 1980s when the Russians controlled it. Anyhow, we wound our way through the city and pulled up at our destination which was a hotel and casino. We all checked in, they kept our passports for some reason and once I was in my room I headed out as I’m not a gambler. The casino was quite active as I recall and had the look and feel of a typical gambling establishment.
Anyhow, more on Sophia here