By Douglas Williams
It’s got to the point where I find myself dreaming of escape and travel a lot. All this covid induced confinement, the stasis of 2020, makes one long to get away, as far away as possible but good sense makes traveling abroad almost impossible. Almost, but there is one option that is easy and safe and it’s practically on Bucharest’s doorstep and that’s Bulgaria.
A three and a half hour drive due south from Bucharest lies the beautiful and historic town of Veliko Tarnova and, for a long weekend, it makes for a cracking destination. Currently the border crossing could hardly be simpler or quicker and the road south has been and is being greatly improved such that it’s a very pleasant, easy drive across the epic, sprawling plains. Sensible speed traps and traffic police ensure a refreshing absence of the crazy driving commonly found on roads this side of the border.
For many centuries VT has been culturally, historically and politically important to Bulgaria and it’s one of our southern neighbour’s top tourist draw cards. Clinging onto the steep cliffs above the meandering Yantra River it’s also a very attractive town physically. It’s easy to see how its strategic importance came about being so eminently defendable.
There’s an abundance of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, pensions and hotels. We stayed in Hostel Gile which was convenient, comfortable, cost effective and spotless with the friendliest of hosts in Emil. We ate at Shtastliveca – top tip: phone in advance and book a table (+359 62600 656) with a view at this superb restaurant. And we drank in a bar called the Architect which had delicious, locally-brewed, craft beers – along the main drag and down a set of steps.
Climb up to the strangely haunting Patriarchal cathedral, wander about the lanes, go down a long flight of steps, get lost, find a restaurant, eat, drink… repeat.