It’s been a while since I last wrote on here and lots has happened on our road trip to Bulgaria. Just as luck had it, a huge job came in for my side hustle – translating – the day we set off on our second leg of the trip to Bulgaria, meaning I have spent every single minute that we weren’t driving or sorting things on our house typing. Great news for the bank balance, not so great news when you’re looking forward to exploring your new house and getting stuck in.
On the first day of our second leg, we made our way to Nuremberg in Germany. The journey was uneventful and we arrived at the hotel in the early evening. Apart from having a diabolical parking situation (it took us over an hour to find a spot), the hotel was absolutely perfect. We were given a lovely room on the ground floor with our own direct access to the street when we announced we were travelling with a dog. A dog bowl, food, blanket and even poop bags were at the ready and Frunza was made exceedingly welcome. What a refreshing change to many other places. As a dog owners who love to go everywhere with our lovable mutt, we really appreciated this a lot! We will be calling again, that’s for sure!
After a hearty Bavarian breakfast, we went on our way, taking in a quick driving tour around the old walled city. Nuremberg looks beautiful, we’ll definitely stop over and have a better look one day when things get more enjoyable again and cafes and restaurants are actually opening properly. The drive to our next stop, Vienna, was again uneventful. Once again, no controls at the border, everything was open as usual. The hotel itself was nice and comfortable, although a bit weathered on the outside and the suburb of Vienna it was in was rather frazzled and tired looking. The only drama for the day was when I tried to draw cash out of a machine and the machine swallowed my card.
After a lot of phoning and getting nowhere, I was finally told by a local police officer that once a machine swallows a card, you can’t retrieve it any more. It will be destroyed. My bank in the UK confirmed this. So that’s something to keep in mind for the future. It’s quite a worrying idea. In the old days, somebody would always come and open the machine for you and you could get your card back. It’s security gone a bit too far, I think. When I got to the hotel, all was resolved, however. I realised that after a long day’s driving and being very tired, I had put an old out-of-date card into machine by accident. So all still ended well after all.
After this little hiccup we then went on to tackle Hungary, the wildcard on our trip. Hungary has completely closed its borders and only kept a transit corridor open for travellers. But entry is not guaranteed and they can insist on a medical test at the border if the border guards feel like it. So with a bit of trepidation, we set off on our way. The traffic queue at the border was about an hour, so not the worst it could be. When it was our turn, Frunza aired off at the border guard and we almost shrivelled up in our car, thinking that now we would surely be singled out. But the guard just made a sarcastic comment, laughed, and waved us on. He obviously didn’t fancy the carry-on with a big black dog snarling at him all the while. Thanks Frunza! Good girl!
With a huge yellow “Transit” sticker on the front of our windscreen, making us stand out like a sore thumb and easily spotted by the swarms of Hungarian police patrolling the motorway and all of its exits, we went on our way. The transit corridor was easy enough to drive and the rest areas we were permitted in were all pleasant enough. Then one more queue to get out at the Romanian border and we made it through the toughest part of our trip. That evening we ended up in a lovely hotel in Timisoara. Thanks to my trusty old Booking.com app, we were upgraded free of charge to an executive suite that was almost bigger than our house back in Seaham! It was just what the doctor had ordered after the tense drive through Hungary! Apart from the hotel not serving any food and us being a little short on supplies, we spent a totally enjoyable evening lounging about in what is probably the best hotel room we’ve ever stayed in (and we’ve stayed in many!).
It was a lovely thing to see Frunza enjoying herself in a posh executive suite of a posh hotel like a little queen in the very country we rescued her from when she was a pup. I got a little emotional seeing and hearing the stray dogs in the neighbourhood all night whilst our little one was safe and warm indoors. That could so easily have been her! And seeing these little lost souls makes you feel guilty for walking and driving past, but there is just no way you can save them all, especially when you’re on the road and travelling without knowing any local rescues. The stray dogs of Romania truly cast a shadow on this country!
The next day, we were reluctant to leave and almost gave in to the temptation to book in for another night. But we had our next stop arranged, so made our way through Romania on toward Bulgaria. Romania is a beautiful country with diverse sights. We drove through flat land and fields, quaint villages with locals selling their produce at the side of the road, steep and windy mountain roads that looked like straight out of Hansel and Gretel and finally along the beautiful Danube, a river every bit as impressive as is always shown in the travel brochures.
That night we stayed in some Romanian village in a private B&B. After driving all day, we got to the place to find it all locked up. After phoning the number provided in my booking, a woman reluctantly opened up just to promptly throw a major fit about Frunza. Even though I had clearly stated that we are travelling with a dig, and the B&B had been listed as pet-friendly, we were refused entry. After a long argument with the manager on the phone, I succeeded at getting our room that we had paid for but under the strictest instructions not to set one foot outside the door.
Rather cheesed off and without any food or water for the night, we bedded down. Our plans to go to a restaurant or find a takeaway were spoilt to the core. We left as early as possible the next morning without seeing anyone. Full of anticipation, we drove up to the Vidin bridge across the Danube, the border crossing into Bulgaria. We went through without any trouble at all and the very first thing we did on Bulgarian soil was to pull over in a service station and get a coffee and something to eat. Never has motorway food tasted so good after almost no food the previous day!
The last part of our trip was down pleasant country roads. Sure enough, Google Maps took us the “shortcut” instead of down the main roads to our house in Malorad. It was a beautiful drive, but the Bulgarian B-roads are notoriously unmaintained with potholes the size of sinkholes. So great caution is needed when driving those so you can avoid the deepest abysses and save your axles and tyres.
We arrived tired but happy at our lovely place and decided to unload the car straight away. The plan was to sort out one room for now to stay in as the rest of the house still needs renovating. So we arranged ourselves in the old living room, where we now sleep and live until the place is done. After a few hours’ work, we got all set up, bed was made, and kettle on. Sorted!
We sipped our first cup of coffee on our little veranda admiring the stunning view and the sheer size of our garden. After living in the shoeboxes that pass for houses in the UK most of our lives, having almost half an acre to frolic around in seems almost incomprehensible! The place felt so welcoming and warm, even in its empty state, that even Frunza went straight in and up on the bed. The vibe is just amazing. Everything feels just right about this ole house with its green door!
Absolutely shattered, but happy to the core to have made it through all the obstacles in the middle of a global crisis, we fell asleep that night, ready for the adventures to come.