Transect across Bulgaria

Bulgaria Travel Blog

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We reluctantly return to Burgas to catch the train

The first thing we learned about Macedonia was that you can't get there from Bulgaria very well. This meant riding the train all day across Bulgaria back to Sofia, taking another train all night up to Serbia, then back down to Skopje, Macedonia... only then we could start the 3 hour drive down to Ohrid. It was going to be more than 24 sleepless hours of traveling. At least the day train was a good transect across Bulgaria - Here are some shots out the window of the train.

We found out that most of Bulgaria is relatively flat with endless agricultural fields and dotted with industrial centers. There would be an hour of corn and sunflower fields serviced by donkey-drawn carts, like going back 100 years in time, then suddenly a town anchored by some massive communist era iron smelter or chemical factory or cement plant - all on a monumental scale, with high rise housing for the workers.

After ditching the giant packs, we take one last trip into town.
Some of these were still operating, but many were abandoned. I believe that a lot of the factories were Chinese, built back in the 60s and 70s so maybe the companies have moved back to China?

As we approached the Sofia end of the country, flat farmland gave way to rolling hills, and soon we were climbing a steep river gorge into the mountains. As we approached Boyovo, we were traveling along a rushing river flowing between pine covered limestone cliffs and hills. At least the air was cooler, and we stood in the hall of the train watching the countryside go by the window, like a wide-screen TV, with the cool breezes blowing on our faces in the still-hot train car.

Now that we had spent the day crossing Bulgaria by train, we got ready to spend the night on more trains.
Ok, ok, we'll get on the train! Taking the last possible train out to extend our stay...
The only rail connection to Macedonia from Sofia is through Nis Serbia, something to remember if traveling that direction. We bought tickets, ate some dinner on the tracks in Sofia, bought some beers and snacks with our last Bulgarian Leve bills, and climbed on the next train... There are no less than 4 sets of crowded and/or closed ticket windows on two level, none of which sell tickets to Nis...

I should mention that as always, this was all very difficult for foreigners. It takes lots of waiting in various lines and cryptically numbered windows, questioning grumpy, non-English speaking ticket ladies, and running around the big railway station studying Bulgarian language time schedules (remember, you can't even make out the city names unless you can decode the Cyrillic script), so leave some time to figure it out - we saw a lot of travelers wandering and waving their arms wildly at ticket ladies so I"m guessing that it's a common problem.
Pulling out of Burgas


My advice here is to locate the little store run by the national railroad - you'll recognize the symbol from the trains. There are a ton of "Information Counters" at the stations, but they're all just thinly disguised travel agencies that usually service only one bus company that has one route - like everywhere in the Balkans. The federal railroad office has some English/Serbian speaking workers who can sell you a ticket right there, for less. We were even able to book the next train from Nis to Skopija and pay all at once, something that we'd been unable to do at the regular counters in the country.

Once we located the right track we were rolling towards Macedonia! ...well, we were headed a hundred miles north and back around some mountains, but ultimately headed for Macedonia.


ames_corp says:
I like the idea of giving all these "high rise" block of apartments to the Chinese, although they are not Chinese ....

BTW, there is a bus running between Sofia and Skopje which is quite convenient.
Posted on: Aug 16, 2008
kristinasub says:
I suppose how was in Bulgaria ... i crossed that country in 2003. on my way to Turkey, to Kushadasi.I wanted to cross Dardanele and see Troia , so i decided to go by bus. Bulgaria was quite shock for me , so depressive with all those monuments from communist era abandoned in dry fields ... But, anyway, we need to see various things and places,as much as we can, only on that way we can see the differences of some things and to appreciate what we have :o)
Posted on: Aug 14, 2008
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We reluctantly return to Burgas to…
We reluctantly return to Burgas t…
After ditching the giant packs, we…
After ditching the giant packs, w…
Ok, ok, well get on the train!
T…
Ok, ok, we'll get on the train! …
Pulling out of Burgas
Pulling out of Burgas
Interesting combination of tanks a…
Interesting combination of tanks …
Endless sunflower fields
Endless sunflower fields
Much of the infrastructure seemed …
Much of the infrastructure seemed…
A chemical plant and power station
A chemical plant and power station
Zvonkas not impressed...
Im glu…
Zvonka's not impressed... I'm gl…
Harvest neatly bundled in the field
Harvest neatly bundled in the field
More storks have taken over this s…
More storks have taken over this …
Coming into another rail yard
Coming into another rail yard
Police inspect the train and some …
Police inspect the train and some…
Cattle in a mowed field - we saw t…
Cattle in a mowed field - we saw …
A graveyard in a little village
A graveyard in a little village
Z takes the camera away since Ive…
Z takes the camera away since I'v…
Most of my picture are... this.  T…
Most of my picture are... this. …
This is what most of central Bulga…
This is what most of central Bulg…
Yombol, in central Bulgaria
Yombol, in central Bulgaria
An old airbase with bunkers and ma…
An old airbase with bunkers and m…
We picked up more cars at each sta…
We picked up more cars at each st…
Half way there, but many hours to …
Half way there, but many hours to…
This town had low housing instead …
This town had low housing instead…
Kids hanging out with their dog
Kids hanging out with their dog
Sunflowers
Sunflowers
Massive cooling towers rise out of…
Massive cooling towers rise out o…
Hey, lets fix this thing while we…
Hey, let's fix this thing while w…
Towns are still decorated with g…
Towns are still "decorated" with …
High rise apartments on the outski…
High rise apartments on the outsk…
Train hub at Stara Zagora, a gray,…
Train hub at Stara Zagora, a gray…
A bunch of these guys banged on th…
A bunch of these guys banged on t…
Train buffs would love Bulgaria, I…
Train buffs would love Bulgaria, …
Huge gantries that once loaded lot…
Huge gantries that once loaded lo…
The train climbed into the mountai…
The train climbed into the mounta…
The tiny Belovo station
The tiny Belovo station
An interesting structure in the mo…
An interesting structure in the m…
Water must come roaring through he…
Water must come roaring through h…
Storks on the train power system
Storks on the train power system
Little villages nestled along the …
Little villages nestled along the…
A tiny hydroelectric drop to power…
A tiny hydroelectric drop to powe…
Higher into the mountains, its ge…
Higher into the mountains, it's g…
Watching the miles go by through t…
Watching the miles go by through …
Spanning a channel
Spanning a channel
Dense, high forest
Dense, high forest
Dinner - bread, red pepper spread,…
Dinner - bread, red pepper spread…
Looking a little tired, but happy,…
Looking a little tired, but happy…