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The long trip to Sofia

Home -> Europe -> Bulgaria -> Travelogue Bulgaria -> 11 to 13 May 2019

Saturday 11 May, the long trip to Sofia

It is 10 degrees Celsius and sunny when we leave Groningen on Saturday morning 11 May. Soon we enter Germany and after Osnabruck the landscape becomes hilly, for us always a sign that we are really on vacation. This year we are not going through the Czech Republic as in the past 2 years, but through Austria, mainly due to the bad roads, the many roadworks and the traffic jams that we regularly had in the Czech Republic, also outside the high season. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating and it starts to rain, becoming harder and only hours later, near Nuremberg, the sky clears. We had a short break to stretch our legs, but now it's time for a cup of coffee. When we get out of the car it turns out to be 17 degrees, nice enough to sit outside. After that we arrive fairly early at our hotel in Oberwiesenacker. we have only a small room and we have no view but it is only for 1 night. We do, however, decide to cancel our reservation for tomorrow night in Hungary and to continue on to Serbia. The travel time was not too bad for us today and we would like to have the border with Serbia behind us tomorrow, which makes a difference again when we drive to Sofia the next day.

Sunday 12 May 2019, Through Austria and Hungary to Serbia

Bad weather when driving through AustriaIt drizzles when we wake up on Sunday and it's 4 degrees! And when we drive into Austria it starts to rain harder and not much later we see little on the highway. Along the way we have to refuel and do that at a highway station, € 1,569 per liter (diesel). But the driveway to the highway is closed and we have to drive around 15 kilometers to get back on it and to our surprise we see a gas station after only 200 meters where the price is only € 1,224 per liter, a difference of 34.5 cents per liter. € 17 for a full tank! Those are things we actually know, but we didn't want to wander too far from the highway. But that had not been necessary at all, a les for next time.
In Hungary the sun finally starts to shineOnly a short distance after the Hungarian border, hours after our departure, it gets drier and when the sun comes out the temperature quickly rises to 18 degrees. Time for a longer stop. We still need a sweater, but we are happy that at least the sun is shining.
After that we have to cross through all of Hungary, first to Budapest and then to the south to the Serbian border beyond Szeged. Hungary is one of the few countries that we do not really like and we spend a few boring hours.
But we do enjoy ourselves by making a list of all the country plates that we encounter. During the entire trip we see cars from 34 different countries, from Portugal to Norway and even one from Kazakhstan.
There is a sign with Stau (traffic jam) on it in front of the border, so we are preparing for a long wait. But the Hungarians wave us right through and at the Serbian border there is exactly 1 car in front of us. The driver apparently has trouble finding his papers because it takes a full minute for him to give them to the customs officer.
Then he is quickly gone and we give our passports and the green card, we get a stamp and we may continue. In total we cross 2 borders stations within 4 minutes!
Concerning the green card (proof of your car insurance), we were happy to know from previous years that it should be really green. An electronic green card that you print yourself is not valid. Last year we luckily also had the green card of our previous car with us and we were allowed to continue even though the license plate number was incorrect. Also at the northern Macedonian border, a really green-colored green card is required.
Have a look at the bordercrossing on our YouTube channel or watch the video below:

We arrive in Vinski Dvor, a hotel in a vineyard The garden of Vinksi Dvor in the north of Serbia10 kilometers past the border and much earlier than we expected, we arrive at Vinski Dvor where it is sunny and 22 degrees. This will be the 4th time we stay here and we are always very satisfied with it. The prices are good and although the reviews on the internet about the food are sometimes less, we have always eaten well (except for breakfast) and so we do today. The locals also seem to like to come here, there are always people. The owner and the waiter greet us enthusiastically (in German, they speak almost no English), they recognise us as regular guests.
The garden of hotel Vinksi Dvor in the north of Serbia We have the purple room in Vinksi DvorShe asks if we want the same room, a very large one that is decorated in red, but we want something different, we say, and something smaller is no problem at all. We now get the predominantly purple room, number 11, with home-made paintings on the wall. After we have stored our luggage, we quickly go outside again because the weather is so nice. The hotel also has a vineyard and a beautifully landscaped garden that we walk through before we eat dinner.
Finally we can sit outside in a t-shirt, Vinksi DvorFor us this is a great place on our way to Greece, or Bulgaria as it is now, but not on the way back. We did that last year, but then the next day, after a few minutes, we were already in a long line before the border, not really a good start to the day. But the trip back lies far beyond us and we rather not think about it now, so first I settle down with a laptop and a book on the terrace of the hotel with an excellent cold Serbian beer.

Monday 13 May 2019, to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria

The only drawback of the rooms here are the thin curtains, it gets light very early. But we still have another travel day ahead and after breakfast (which is less good than dinner) we are quickly on our way to Belgrade and then to Niš. It is 16 degrees and cloudy so not as nice as we had hoped after last evening. At Niš we turn left and soon the highway ends and we drive through a deep gorge in the mountains. It is a beautiful winding road and we have purchased a dashcam especially for these types of roads. But we still have to get used to it because we don't have it on by default and now we will forget to turn it on quite often in the next few weeks. But you can see this video on our YouTube channel or watch it below:

The border with BulgariaAt the border there are only a few cars in front of us, but it takes a lot longer than yesterday to cross the EU border again. A surly lady looks at our papers for a long time and checks whether we are on an international investigation list. We understand that customs officers must be suspicious, but in Eastern Europe they often think that that means that you also have to be very moody. After fifteen minutes we are finally in Bulgaria, for the first time. A few years ago we had already made an attempt, but then we did not succeed.
It is not always clear to us what the speed limits are and sometimes a four-lane section suddenly shows a sign that the maximum speed is 50 km. We follow the other traffic, but that is not always wise given the many police checkpoints that we encounter. But we are lucky, cars that brake earlier than us are being stopped, but we are not. We better keep paying attention.
Our apartment is located somewhere in the east of the city and we blindly trust the navigation. But whether that is so smart to do? On the north side we enter a neighborhood where the roads are barely passable and it looks terribly poor and poorly maintained, a real slum. After many zigzags around the many pits, sometimes 30 centimeters deep, we arrive in the area where we need to be, Suhata Reka. You can watch a video of this on our YouTube channel or watch it below:

The street where our apartment in Sofia is located Bald, ugly buildings in SofiaIn our neighborhood the roads are also not really good, but less bad. And despite the gray, poorly maintained flats, this seems to be a good neighborhood. There are many new cars and people are dressed much better than what the buildings look like. The flats have letters, we are in Block D, number 177. Despite the strange detour through the slums, the navigation drops us off at the door. The key to the apartment is in a box in front of the front door that we can extract with a code.
Block D with our apartment on the first floor, Sofia We have a spacious apartment in SofiaToni's Apartment where we are is relatively large with two bedrooms and a living room with kitchen and only costs us € 72 for 3 nights. The only thing we miss is the heating because it is only 14 degrees outside. When we email about it, we hear that the central heating system in Bulgaria is turned off in the summer. With a small electric heater, we can at least make the living room comfortable. All in all a great and cheap place to explore Sofia. Nearby is a bus stop and a supermarket where we find out that Bulgaria is very cheap, daily necessities often cost less than half compared to the Netherlands.


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