Stuck in Veliko Tarnovo

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For the past week we’ve been stuck in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria. Why? Because we can’t decide where to go next. Seriously, we’ve been here six nights … four nights longer than we were anticipating trying to decide where to go next. Our initial plans have fallen through and all of the alternatives are equally good, equally flawed.

I know, you’re probably sitting there thinking are they seriously complaining about having too options of where to spend the next few months in Eastern Europe? It does sound kind of ridiculous!

Our initial plan (well it’s really about Plan W but it’s “the plan” we’ve been sticking to for at least three weeks now without changing our minds) was to spend Christmas/New Years at a ski resort in the Balkans then make our way to Crete to rent an apartment for a month with friends.

A few days before Christmas things started to unravel. There is no snow … or at least not enough. The brief dumping just before Christmas put some snow on the mountains in Bulgaria but the forecast for the next two-three weeks is sunny days. We’ll have to do snow later in our trip and go to Crete earlier than we were anticipating. Plan X!

Then our friends realised that they wouldn’t be able to make it to Crete until mid January, leaving us with a decision: Spend a month in Crete but actually only two weeks of that with friends and the rest of the time running around a hotel that is closed expect for us in an empty resort town (sounding like the setting for a horror movie yet?) … or skip Crete altogether and find something else to do.

After what felt like a month of debating and going in circles we’ve decided to skip Crete. Plan Y it is! The problem is narrowing down Plan Y. Google Maps came out and ideas were thrown around. And around … and around.

That’s when things started to get a little silly. Or inspired if you ask Colin

Colin over Christmas lunch: “Lets go around the Black Sea. We’ll go the whole way. How cool is that. Eastern Turkey, Georgia, Russia …”

Tracy: “In winter? With no planning or knowledge of visas? The bus and train networks don’t work that well in summer from what I’ve heard, so winter?”

Colin: “But it’d be cool! …”

By this point I can pretty much anticipate Colin’s next words … “How about we buy a car like this and drive around the Black Sea …”

I think it’s safe to say Plan Z is not driving around the Black Sea in winter … at least not this trip!

So here we are in Veliko Tarnovo.

There are certainly worse places to be stuck.

Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen. Perched on the top of three hills with the Yantra river winding in between, it’s like a post card. I almost feel like I’m staring at one of those 1000 piece jig saw puzzles of some amazing European town rather than looking out a restaurant window.

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Colourful houses cascading down the hills and leaning over gorges surrounded by high peaks and walled fortresses. I could move here in a heartbeat. Quiet backstreets with no cars that the kids can wander along, small enough that you can walk everywhere. But large enough that there are heaps of restaurants and one small mall with a cinema.

Apparently in summer and spring it’s even more beautiful with vines growing over many of the houses and tree lined streets, and lots of nearby waterholes to swim in.

Once each of the three hills was surrounded by fortifications. Now the most extensive fortifications remain on Tsarevets. The ruins are huge. We didn’t really grasp how large they were until Christmas eve when the fortress was lit up by a sound and light show.

The kids had a lot of fun exploring them in the snow. Noah of course had to take the hard way up every at every turn – up the snowy hills rather than the paths.

Along the main street are some fantastic restaurants with full glass walls overlooking the city. The view is superb and the food is ludicrously good.

And cheap. Less than 2 euros for a pizza and 3 euros for a main course. We’ve eaten at Ego Restaurant four times this week. It’s hard not to be impressed by a restaurant with 180 degree views that serves the kids four scoops of ice cream for .60 euros. Or waffles with chocolate and baileys for me!

Yes there are worse places to be stuck.

The plan is to leave today … to where? We’re not sure yet. It’s time to flip a coin!

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