Day 52: Veliko Tarnovo

My last destination in Eastern Europe!  I’m here in Veliko Tarnovo, the old medieval capital of Bulgaria (before it moved to Sofia in the 19th Century).  It’s in the green, forested mountains of the central north part of the country, and its setting is quite dramatic (and not dissimilar to Luxembourg City).  The pretty old town hugs the steep side of the river valley, and there is a massive fortress called "Tsarevets" atop a hill on a 270-degree bend in the river below.

It’s pretty chilled here and there’s not much to do apart from relax at the hostel, eat at one of the few restaurants in town, hike to a nearby monastery or find one of the waterfalls around the place.

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There’s a big event going on in town at the moment though: their annual International Culture Festival.  It’s big in Bulgaria apparently.  I went along with a group of guys from the hostel and I was pleasantly surprised to discover a pretty professional show.  The town had invited artistic groups from all over the world to perform on stage for about 15 minutes each.  The list of countries was pretty Eastern Europe centric (Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Georgia) but there were a couple of true surprises to be had.  The Egyptians put on a great performance, the Scots showed up with a Pipes & Drums band (and I found out the Bulgarians have their own kind of bagpipe…) and there was even a group from Colombia!  Now Adri you’ll have to validate whether they were really from Colombia or not, as they seemed more Panamanian to my rather untrained eye.  The guys wore white pants and shirts with red bandanas tied around their necks and wide Panama hats.  The women wore something akin to pink can-can dresses and the band over-used the pan pipes and the word "Colombiana!".  It was entertaining…

So I’m leaving here tomorrow and returning to Sofia for just one night, and I fly back to Zurich on Sunday.  I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone back there, chilling out by Zurichsee for a couple of days in the sun, and I’m planning a few hikes I’ve always wanted to do in the Alps nearby.  It’s been a good trip over the past 1 1/2 months but I’m a bit Europed out right now – looking forward to moving on somewhere completely different.  I’ve also had enough of dorm beds in hostels.

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