Day 3: Koprinka to Byala

Feeling much refreshed, if a bit grubby, after our night wild camping beside the dam at Koprinka, we headed back along the main road to Kalofer for a meal with some people we’d met on Facebook; Amelia, Mick, Charlie and her daughter Gabby. We had a few hours to kill so we tried to buy some cigarettes; unsuccessfully, but we did manage to find a small supermarket where we bought our first proper food. We were pretty hungry by then!

We were starting to feel a bit more confident by this stage. We were trying to speak Bulgarian, and even if it was not getting us far, at least we were having a go. We’d managed to buy food, ask for directions and say hello to people, and we had managed to find places to sleep. All in all, it was going well 🙂

Kalofer is a lovely little town, nestled in a valley and surrounded by woodland. The most striking thing about Kalofer is the huge monument to Hristo Botev (Bulgarian language website), a Bulgarian national hero.

Monument to Hristo Botev at Kalofer
Monument to Hristo Botev at Kalofer

There was also a quaint little natural history museum, which we looked round while we waited for our friends. When they arrived we went for a meal at Bistro Panorama. Over the meal we chatted about life in Bulgaria; how some of the smaller villages are dying off, but also how much people enjoy living there.

After our delicious meal Julie and I set off to Veliko Turnovo, via the Shipka Pass, scene of a decisive battle for Bulgaria’s liberation from the Turkish Empire. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Veliko Tarnovo, and we were keen to find the campsite which was listed on the map. We spent a couple of hours driving around the location marked, and never did find a campsite except for one run-down hotel which did offer to let us camp for some extortionate price, which we declined! We ended up by some seedy looking bar in a back lane near the train station, where we foolishly stopped to look at the map. A very (overly!) friendly guy called Viktor came over to talk to us. He offered to take us to the campsite we were trying to find if we followed him in his car. Alarm bells really started to ring when his friend came over to tell us we had a light out on the car, and we really should get out and have a look. I quickly wound the windows up and we drove off at great speed. I think we were followed, so we drove off North, through Veliko Tarnovo and kept on going until we were well out of the city. There was nothing wrong with the lights on the car!

Somewhat shaken by our experience, we found a campsite marked on our map at Byala, some 50km north. We headed for that but still couldn’t find it. Tired and hungry, we found a truck stop and paid to sleep in the car there. We bought some beers and had a late picnic out of the back of the car before settling down for an uncomfortable night’s sleep. Definitely a low point in our trip.

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