We were really enjoying beautiful Turkey with its nice weather, great people, relaxed atmosphere and good food. And we really wanted to stay a bit longer than the 90 days that we were allowed. We thought it wouldn’t be a problem. We only wanted to travel a month or 2 longer, we weren’t going to live and work there. We have a good travel health insurance and could prove that we had enough financial means. So on the first of march we drove of to Alanya. Our first stop was the police station because of something we read online, but they send us on to immigration. When we got there there were other people waiting in line. After a while we spoke to somebody who worked there and he asked for our passports. A little while later he came back telling us to apply for an ikamet. But the ikamet is a Turkish residence permit. This felt wrong. There were some immigration advise agencies so we asked for advice. Well it turned out the ikamet really was the only way. You either leave after 90 days (you get a fine for everyday you stay too long) or apply for a residency permit. In order to apply for an ikamet however, we needed a rent agreement, a Turkish health insurance and a Turkish bank account! None of this applied to us as travellers. We thought about it but in the end it would all be to difficult. So we sadly decided we had to leave Turkey in 2 weeks time. We wanted to go to Georgia. But some internet research showed that although Georgia was open for tourism, the land borders where still closed. You could only enter Georgia through the air. Well Armenia then maybe? Well the land borders between Turkey and Armenia have been closed since 1993! due to the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Turkey has close relations with Azerbaijan so they shun Armenia. Greece, Azerbaijan and Iran were still in full lockdown. Iraq and Syria aren’t really on our wish list to visit and we guess those borders are closed, with or without covid… so the only option left to us was going back to Bulgaria. That really wasn’t our plan and since we started travelling and this was the first real setback due to covid (well if we don’t count the fact that we were really supposed to be in South America now) We decided to go to Bulgaria as fast as possible. If Georgia does open its land borders, we will still have some days left to drive through Turkey in to Georgia. So after getting a negative covid test in Istanbul we arrived in Bulgaria on the 4th of March. Where it was still winter :(( So in just 3 days time we went from sunny and 20-25°C with green nature to cold, wet and grey…
We decided to make the best of it and visit Burgas. A modern city where we did enjoy the supermarkets which are way better than those in Turkey, where shopping for food could be a challenge (so far this is the only thing we don’t miss about Turkey). We found a nice campsite not to far from the black sea and the weather was alright. A bit cold but sunny. We visited Sozopol with it’s original Bulgarian houses.
We also visited the stone forest near Petrov Dol. We were the only ones there and it was a bit eerie.
From there we drove on to visit the Bulgarian monument near Shumen. A huge concrete monument with an obvious communistic influence. It was covered in snow and very slippery but there were still about ten other tourists. So pretty crowded by our standards;)
We also visited Plovdiv which was a nice surprise. It’s town centre is big enough to spend an enjoyable few hours but is very cosy. There are several historic sites as well. After visiting the city we camped a few days in the area. The weather varied from being almost nice to rainy and cold.
We drove on in to the direction of Smolyan. We visited the “wonderful” bridges. Three huge naturally formed bridges. It was covered in at least 40cm of snow. But with some slipping and sliding we saw all three. We decide not to drive over the ancient road as road conditions were bad enough due to the snow.
I used to ski a lot when I was young(er 😉 and some internet research showed that we where close to one of Bulgaria’s biggest ski area’s; Pamporovo. So we camped in at least 20cm of snow and the next day we rented ski equipment and bought a lift pass. It was great skiing again.
At the end of the day we checked in to a nice hotel with a sauna, whirlpool, swimming pool and we had a room with a bath. Well we really enjoyed this luxury. Everything was dry and warm! We had wanted to go skiing the next day. But there was too much snowfall. Because of the weather we drove back to the black sea where it was warmer and dryer. After we camped there a few days we visited Veliko Tarnovo. For those of you who plan to do the same: don’t, and this is more than enough said about this town. The nearby Shipka pass however is worth a drive.
By now the weather in Pamporovo had improved, it had stopped snowing and now there was a snow cover of about a meter. For skiing this was a good thing. With cold but sunny weather predicted we drove back there because I really wanted to go skiing again. We arrived a day later than planned because the van started to make horrible noises, which soon became worse. After Kilian checked under the van he saw that the universal joint of the propeller shaft was badly damaged. If it would break it would probably smash in to the fuel tank. For those of you who have as much technical knowledge as I do: that’s really bad. As we were now in urgent need of a repair, we drove to the Mitsubishi garage in Tsartsovo, Plovdiv. Despite the fact that we didn’t arrive until 3 o’clock and we didn’t have an appointment, they quickly helped us anyway and did a good job. The snap rings were rusted, making it hard work to replace the universal joint, but they succeeded. At 17.30 we left the garage. Fortunately Kilian had packed a universal joint with the spare parts, so that sped things up nicely. The next day we had another great time skiing in Pamporovo.
We have only seen Bulgaria in winter so far, but is obviously a beautiful country. We have decide to stay here at least till the end of April, so we can see it in spring time. There are also some things to see and do that are not possible at the moment because the mountains are still covered in snow. This does mean dealing with the weather. The van was really made for outdoor living so it is not always easy. We do have a heating if necessary. And with some nice weather every now and then, the temperature on a rise, we manage, but spring can’t come soon enough!