After my amazing time in Romania (Blogpost: 25,000 Km Europe Road Trip Part 11: Romania) it was time for country number 12 : Bulgaria! I had a short visit planned to Bucharest and after my time in the capital I wanted to cross the border at Giurgiu-Rousse Friendship Bridge. I witnessed my first case of corruption with a custom officer, I awaited my judgement day by visiting the famous “Eyes of God” cave in the town of Lukovit and spend the night in the mountains of Sofia. Welcome to Bulgaria!
My first case of corruption with a custom officer
When crossing the border between Romania and Bulgaria, I took the well known Giurgiu-Rousse Friendship Bridge. This bridge connects the Romania with Bulgaria and you will need to pay a fee to cross, but also show proof you paid your taxes for using the Romanian roads (Rovinieta). Make sure you have a printed copy of your receipt for this one.
Once I arrived at the customs office, an officer mentoined we need to pay our fee for using the bridge. As I already was prepared, I looked up the fee cost on the internet and on the official website it stated it was € 6,-. I handed in my creditcard and he said;
“We do not accept creditcards. Cash only!”
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I asked: “How much is it?” It might have been mistake to ask this question as I should have just handed € 6,-. Before I realized what I asked, the officer said: “It is € 13,-”
After checking my wallet I noticed I did not have € 13,- in cash. I told him that on the website mentioned only € 6,- He said: “No, these are new prices and it is € 13,-.”
When I informed him I did not have cash with me and that I would need to find a cash machine or talk to his manager, he said the magic words: “How much do you have with you then?”
I said: “Just € 6,-, sir.” He gestured with his head “ok”, accepted the money and said to drive on. That was a clear case of a custom officer trying to sell a € 6,- ticket for € 13,- and the scam not working. Therefore, make sure you always have enough cash with you. Double check the cost and don’t be afraid to address that the information they are providing is not correct.
Judgement day. Visiting the “Eyes of God” cave in Bulgaria
The cave “Eyes of God” (also known as the cave of Prohodna) is located about 10 Km. outside of Lukovit and is still one of the hidden gems of Europe. The cave is easily accessible and has a small parking space right in front of the entrance.
After a short five minute walk you will see the beautiful eye shaped holes in the ceiling of the cave, which gives (with the light coming into the cave) the effect of to large eyes watching over you. If gives you the opportunity to make some stunning pictures! There is no entry fee for the parking or the cave.
"Clash of the Titans" Maybe one of my best photos so far. Yesterday I visited a remote cave which is called "The Eyes of God". This naturalwonder can be found just 10 km outside of Lukovit. The cave has eye-shaped holes on the top side which gives the impression that a higher power is watching you. Don't you just love mother nature? #cave #god #photography #bulgaria #eyesofgod
If you are an fanatic climber, they also offer 3 different rock climbing trails inside the cave. Please inform with the local tourist information office, regarding tour packages as the climbing should be done with a supervisor.
Sleeping in the mountains of Bulgaria
After the short stop in Lukovit, we drove towards Sofia. People mentioned these amazing small boutique family hotels that are based in in the mountains. Because of their unique location they provide you with a beautiful view over the skyline of the capital of Bulgaria: Sofia. I was definitely interested in staying in one of those!
We stayed at the Hotel Chairite, which was located in the Vitosha district. It offered a great an amazing view over the city and had their own restaurant. It was only a short 5 minute drive to the nearest supermarket and about 20 minutes to downtown Sofia.
Visiting Sofia on a Sunday afternoon
Visiting Sofia on a sunday afternoon was a very wise decision. The city is known for its heavy traffic during the weeks days. It was a good choice going on a Sunday as there was no traffic and easy parking. I just drove into the city centre without a care in the world. Finding a parking sport was easy and under 2 minutes I found one for free.
It was clear that heatwave "Lucifer" had arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria. Close to 40 degrees during the day, so when I saw this beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral a visit inside to cooldown was much needed. Stunning artwork inside and I believe the whole city had the same thought as the place was full of tourist trying to escape the heath and outside it looked like a scene from the movie "I am Legend" with Will Smith. #sofia #cathedral #alexandernevsky #bulgaria
If you really want to see impressive architecture there is only one building you should visit. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is orthodox church located in the center of Sofia. This impressive masterpiece can hold up to 10,000 people and is a stunning 45 meters high!