Discover Romania: Day 2 – Trip to Bulgaria
Romania is perhaps the farthest East of Europe that I’ve been to. I booked a private day tour to Bulgaria from Bucharest to see more of Eastern Europe. Our driver, Andrei picked us up bright and early at 7:30am to avoid the possible morning rush hour. PL and I quickly ran downstairs from our AirBnB to grab a pastry from Gustav Pastries before meeting with Andrei.
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The night before, Andrei reminded us to pack our passport. We were required to carry our passports as we were going to cross country lines. It took about 1.5 hours to reach the Romania/Bulgaria border. Andrei advised us that we went through the border quicker than usual. Traffic was mild.
Border control went by smoothly. There was one vehicle ahead of us. When it was our turn, we handed our passports to Andrei. He stepped out of the vehicle and communicated with the authorities at the window. We rolled down the windows so the authorities could see our faces. They took a glance and allowed us to pass through.
→ 7071 Basarbovo Bulgaria
Our first stop was to Andrei’s favorite monastery in Bulgaria named Basarbova. Majority of Romanians and Bulgarians are devout Roman Orthodox. Monasteries can be found throughout Romania and Bulgaria.
This particular monastery is on the side of a cliff. Andrei walked us up to the monastery. The view was spectacular. Andrei explained to us that the monastery is still active, however we were visiting the touristy side of it. We were the only visitors roaming the grounds. There was a priest in one of the rooms lighting candles. The priest took a minute out of his time, asked for our names and blessed each one of us in Bulgarian, including Andrei. He said that he never had that happen before. After a quick walk around Basarbova, we headed for Tsarevets fortress.
→ Tsar Asen Square, 5000 Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Parking around Tsarevets can be difficult. Andrei pulled over to a hotel to ask if there was parking nearby. They directed us to park down the hill in the residential area. We found parking easily. We walked up the hill, and Andrei left to purchase our tickets. It cost $6 LAV to enter into the fortress. The ticketing shop is located at the bottom of the pathway across the street to the left. There will be an agent at the entrance to verify your purchase.
Andrei pointed us to a map of the fortress. He explained that this fortress used to be one entire community, 7 towns. The walk around the fortress can be slippery. Some areas are made of cobble stones, and others are unpaved with loose rocks or muddy dirt. Sturdy shoes is recommended. Andrei took us around the area as we admired the view. Andrei took us here for one purpose: to visit a church with abstract art.
The art at this church reminded me a dark rendition of Picasso. Andrei shared a story with us about how priests did not want to bless the church because of the “demonic” pantings in the monastery. The paintings were definitely unique and not your typical church mural.
After exploring the fortress, we stopped over at Restaurant Ivan Asen for a quick bite to eat.
→ ul. “Kapitan Pavel Gramadov”, 5029 Arbanasi, Bulgaria
Our last stop was to Konstantsalieva House. The house is a museum that showcased what life in Bulgaria was like during the 17th century. The bedroom had one large bed where the entire family shared to keep warmth. Next to the door entrance is a coat trunk to allow the residents to grab a coat before heading out in the cold.
Being in Bulgaria felt like being toss back in time. Horses are still one of the primary source of transportation. We often saw horses tugging logs for various necessities. It’s fascinating to see that something like this still exists now.
Andrei took us back to Bucharest after the house. It felt like a long drive but we were home by 6pm. PL and I rested for a bit before heading out to explore the night life.
Where to Eat:
Breakfast: Gustav Pastries
→ Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu nr 7, București 030167, Romania
We went downstairs to Gustav Pastries on our way to meet up with Andrei. We could smell the aroma of the baked goods floating through our flat windows. It was hard to resist. Gustav served fresh baked goods and hot coffee for as little as $1.95 LEI to $4 LEI ($.45 to $.93 per pastry). The locals in line were helpful with assisting us with our choices and helping us pronounce the name of the goods. The pastries tasted as good as it smelled.
Lunch: Restaurant Ivan Asen – $41
→ pl. “Tsar Asen I” 5, 5000 g.k. Varusha – south, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
For lunch, we went to a Restaurant Ivan Asen which was located at the bottom of the fortress by the ticket shop. Andrei asked if they took card as Bulgaria had their own currency. Ivan Asen took Romanian LEI so we were able to pay in cash. The conversion rate was difficult that the server had to do the conversion rate for us.
For lunch, Andrei and I ordered the tagliatelle with chicken and bacon which was absolutely superb. We devoured our meal quickly. Patty ordered the mix veggie plate that was also delicious. We also split a greek salad but the best part of the meal was the garlic bread! I wish I ordered 2 of those! In total, we spent maybe $40 USD.
Dinner 1: Latin Pizza – $6.48
→ Bulevardul Ion C. Brătianu 34, București 030167, Romania
For dinner, we went to Latin Pizza. Andrei raved that it is THE BEST pizza in the world. The place served pizza by weight and cuts their slices in squares with scissors. The parlor had several delectable options. The parlor was packed. We were shoulder to shoulder. The verdict: it was okay. I had better pizza but its definitely a good drunk meal.
Dinner 2: Dristor Kabap
→ Șoseaua Olteniței 210, București, Romania
Right before heading home for the night, I ordered a late night meal at a kabob place called Dristor. Kabob is my go to meal whenever I am in Europe. I ordered the shawarma and was I glad that I did! That shawarma saved me from starving! This was perhaps my favorite meal while in Romania.
Nightlife in Bucharest:
Nightlife in Bucharest is unlike any place that I’ve been to. In Bucharest, it feels like there is no such thing as a regular bar where you sit and socialize. The bars here are clubs! Loud EDM type clubs with little dancing that happen to serve drinks.
→ Strada Lipscani 53, București 030167, Romania
Our first place was Gilda. The place had raved reviews for their various cocktails and shot options. While we enjoyed our mix of adult beverages, we wanted something more engaging. It was too relax for the night we were hoping to have.
→ Strada Smârdan 30, București 030167, Romania
Next, we decided to test out an outdoor club and bars. We sat down at a random open outdoor seating area that was called Bounce Club and Bar. The drink service was slow and the drinks were weak. The patio were filled with smokers and we were distracted by the music exploding from the surrounding venues. We thought the night would be a dud so we decided to head back.
Times Cocktail Bar
→ Intrarea Nicolae Șelari 1, București 030167, Romania
PL and I were walking for maybe 5 mins when a bouncer pulled us into a club. I just ordered my shawarma. PL looked at me and asked if I wanted to go in while she was being dragged in. I told her sure and she screamed, “Soda, your wrap!” PL just paid for my wrap and I am not about to throw it out so what did I do? I danced with my shawarma! PL and I had a blast at the club. We got our drinks quick. Bartenders were friendly. The music was on point. Everyone was singing and having a good ‘ol time. We partied until 4am and we even headed out one last time to grab a bedtime snack at Latin Pizza. Guess who has to hit the road in 4.5 hrs? No sleep for the party animals!