May 24-27, 2002
We spent only three days in Bulgaria, all too little. In that time we did manage to see Pope John-Paul II as he made a visit and to learn how desperately poor some people are. Although Jan should have been able to use her Russian in Bulgaria, as the languages are very closely related, it was clear that the locals actively refused to speak Russian. Too many years under the Soviet boot. Who could blame them?
We were looking for a cheap hotel near the bus station when a man introduced himself and asked if we'd like to stay in his apartment. We accepted the offer to drive us there and check it out. It was near the center of the city and in general we liked it and stayed there two nights. We were within walking distance of the city center, had access to TV, the kitchen, and even a washing machine. Only later did we learn it had bed bugs. We itched for days.
We spent one full day getting to know Sofia, which we both found a pleasant city. Then we went on to the Romanian border and before crossing spent a night in Ruse, a small town with little of interest, and as with Sofia, overpriced hotels. Free enterprise hasn't yet generated a small B&B sector for the budget traveller. Or if it has, we didn't find it. But of course we were travelling without the benefit of a good guidebook.