Bulgaria I: Stopping By MotoCamp On The Way Through

May 22-23, 2023

Crossing into Bulgaria, you can almost still feel the old communist ties. Many of the buildings still have that look and feel. As well they should; it’s only been a little over thirty years since Bulgaria abolished the Communist Party’s leading role in the country, and held its first multi-party elections. It’s clearly a country that is still working on capitalism. While it is an inexpensive place to live, it is one of the poorest countries in Europe.

As we headed north towards Sofia on backroads, we could see that the infrastructure was definitely in worse condition than Greece. The main roads were good, but as we got deeper into the countryside, potholes prevailed. At one point my phone was knocked loose from the X-mount it was held in (I had forgotten to put the rubber tether on it). Fortunately I had it plugged into the USB port to charge, and amazingly the charger cord stayed attached to the phone and caught the phone before it plunged to its’ death. I stopped and reeled it back in, put it back in the X-mount, and strapped the tether around it. I also decided to slow down and try a little harder to avoid the potholes.

The countryside in southern Bulgaria is green and pretty, but there isn’t a lot to look at along the route we took.

Our first night in Bulgaria was spent in Sapareva Banya, at the base of Rila mountain. This small town was known as Germania in Roman times, and today is mainly known for its’ mineral baths.

We stayed in a nice “cabin” at Camping Verila in Sapareva Banya. It was down a short dirt road, but just a five minute walk to town.

Besides the mineral baths, the other big attraction in town is this geyser. Yes, this is a geyser. It’s been re-imagined a bit, but still draws tourists to see it “erupt”. (Spoiler Alert: it’s no Old Faithful).

The following day we headed for MotoCamp Bulgaria, and due to a short time frame (ugh…schedules. I hate them), we were really just passing through Bulgaria to get to Romania, where we wanted to spend a few days before heading back to Bulgaria, at which time we would have a few more days to spend before storing the bike briefly and flying home.

We headed east, skirting south of Sofia and towards Idilevo, the home of MotoCamp Bulgaria. This place is relatively famous among motorcycle travelers in Europe as a great stopover and staging point for touring eastern Europe. Idilevo itself is, as MotoCamp describes it, a “town that time forgot”. With a total population of 100 residents, the population can double on a summer weekend when MotoCamp hosts a local Horizons Unlimited meeting.

Aerial view of a portion of MotoCamp Bulgaria.

Communist-era bar stools.

It’s a great place to spend some time, relax, do some bike maintenance, and meet other travelers. Located in between the towns of Sevlievo and Valiko Tarnovo, when it wasn’t raining we made a couple of trips into town for meals. Otherwise, there’s food, snacks, and drinks available at MotoCamp.

We spent just one night at MotoCamp, but we were coming back here in about a week. This allowed us to meet everyone and finalize some plans for our return trip.

The next morning, it was time for another border crossing, and Country Number 59. And that’s when our border crossing “comedy of errors” began…

Entering Romania: How to Screw Up an Easy Border Crossing (Twice!)

May 24, 2023

We were headed north into Romania for several days before making a U-turn and heading back to Bulgaria to park the bike for a short trip home. Leaving Bulgaria and crossing into Romania, we experienced Self-Inflicted Border Crossing Screw-up #1. But first a little background…

At most border crossings in Mexico, Central and South America and Africa, there is a separate Customs or “Aduana” area where you must import the bike into (and out of) the country. This requires you to park the bike, fish out the title or ownership papers, and enter the building. A little paperwork later, and you’re usually free to ride away. The most often-asked question by the Customs officers is “La placa?” or the plate number of the bike. After doing a number of crossings, one tends to memorize the license plate number so you can repeat it. Alternatively, I take a photo of the plate so I can just show it to them, since I can recite the number in Spanish well enough, but not so much in Swahili.

So back to Europe. In Europe, most non-EU borders do not have a separate Customs office. You approach the border crossing at a small booth that looks much like a toll booth, with the Border Officer seated in the booth. You hand him your passport, then, on request, the title of the motorcycle, and he stamps your passport, enters the information on the bike into a computer, and hands you everything back. One-stop shopping. Easy. You ride away from the booth of the country you are leaving and repeat the process at the booth for the country you are entering, which is usually a short distance away; sometimes across a river, or just across “no mans land”.

In eastern Europe, we started seeing shared “Double Toll Booths”. These look just like they sound… the booth is twice as long, with two windows, one after the other, separated by about two or three meters. The first window has a flag over it denoting the country you are leaving, and the second window has a flag over it denoting the country you are entering. Officers from both countries sit in the same booth, next to each other. You hand your passport to the first guy, he stamps it, hands it back, and you ride/waddle up a few feet to the second window and repeat the process to enter the new country.

Here’s a photo of the dual border crossing booth, this one between Romania and Bulgaria. Normally there are cars, not just people standing at the windows, which is usually an indication that something has gone terribly wrong and you should pick a different lane. Or it could just be that these are single-occupant drivers and the window is on the wrong side of the car (a problem motorcyclists never have). Photo courtesy of Mircea Moira/shutterstock.com

I think our first experience with this was leaving Albania and entering Greece. After stamping our passports, the officer asked for “the document for the moto”. I had done a poor job of planning ahead, and the title to the bike was still locked in the pannier with all of our other paperwork. So I asked Diana to get off the bike and dig it out. As she climbed off, the officer in the booth said “No No. Wait.” We looked at him confused. He stood up, picked up his mobile phone, walked out of the booth and took a photo of the bike’s license plate, and walked back into the booth. After entering the plate number into the computer system, he said “okay, you can go”.

I made a mental note to take a photo of the plate and try this method at the next border crossing.

Border Crossing Screw-up #1

So as we approached the border to leave Bulgaria and enter Romania, I pulled our passports out and my phone, and thumbed through the photos until I found the photo of the plate number.

After stamping our passports out of Bulgaria, the officer asked for the document for the motorcycle. I handed him my phone, expecting him to be impressed at how prepared I was. Instead, he looked at me and laughed. Then he showed the photo on my phone to the Romanian officer in the other half of the booth, who had a similar reaction.

I was confused and embarrassed. I felt sure that showing him a photo of the number plate would work. As he handed me the phone back, I was about to ask Diana to climb off and get the paperwork out of the pannier when she spoke first:
“Your finger hit the screen when you handed him the phone and it swiped the photo.”

I looked at the screen, and realized my mistake: I had handed the border officer a nice photo of Tupac ShaCorgi, the dog we had been sitting in Larissa.

Just a heads up: showing a Border Patrol officer a photo of your cute dog usually won’t get you into the country.

I quickly swiped back to the photo of the number plate and gently handed the phone back to the officer. He noted the number and handed me back my phone, all the while still joking the the Bulgarian officer about my trying to enter Romania with a photo of a dog. He entered the required information into his computer, then passed my phone to his Romanian counterpart, who did the same.

Duly noted: know what you are handing the officer before you hand it over. Things could go bad. (As in, see Self Inflicted Border Crossing Screw-up #2, coming soon.)

As we rode off into Romania, I swore I could still hear those two guys in the little booth laughing.

Little did I know that the next time wouldn’t be so funny. That story is coming in a couple of posts.

Romania: Transfagarasan Highway and Vlad the Impaler

May 24-25, 2023

This was our first time in Romania, and with only several days, we had a couple of “must see” items on our list.

First, we were headed to the Transfagarasan Highway. This road is very famous among motorcyclists and others who love scenic, twisty drives. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to do the entire 94 mile length of the road, as it was too early in the season and the road was still closed due to snow at the higher elevations. We stopped for our first night in Romania at Camping Arges, where we found a small cabin to rent for the night. I wasn’t aware when I decided to stay here that it was such a popular motorcycle campground, but as we rode up and saw the motorcycle sign on the side of the main home, we knew we had made the right choice.

Another rider at MotoCamp Bulgaria shared this photo with us, showing the north end of the Transfaragarasan Highway just a couple of days earlier. There was lots of conflicting information going around as to whether the Transfagarasan and Transalpina roads were open yet. This seemed like pretty solid confirmation, and the best info we had at the time.

It doesn’t seem to matter which country, or continent for that matter, these cabins have virtually identical layouts. Comfortable, especially on rainy nights.

One of the cats at Camping Arges looked nearly identical to Ike, our black male cat at home. We took it as a good sign.

As is the custom, we added a 2RTG sticker to the window at Camping Arges.

Due to the DN7C road (the Transfagarasan) still being closed, we were the only motorcycle guests when we arrived, and we had our choice of cabins (though they’re all the same). After unloading, I asked and was told by the owners that there was a small grocery store in town, about 400 meters up the road. So I jumped on the bike and made a quick trip to the store to find something to eat for dinner.

It took me a couple of tries to find the market; it was on the back side of a bar. I rode up to the bar and asked a few of the guys sitting at an outside table drinking where the market was. They clearly didn’t understand English, but it was also clear to them that I wasn’t there to drink with them. They pointed around the corner, and I found the entrance to the store.

As I walked into the tiny one-room store (about the size of a typical living room), the woman behind the counter watched as I wandered around. Finally, in somewhat broken but easily understandable English, she asked if I needed help.

“I’m looking for something to eat for dinner”, I said and at the same time spotted loaves of bread behind her. “I’ll take one of those”, as I pointed to the bread. “Do you have anything to put on the bread?”, I asked.

She walked over to a small deli counter, reached in and pulled out a small package of sliced ham. “I have this pig”, she offered.

“I’ll take it.”

Then she reached in again and pulled out a small wheel of cheese. “And this cheese”, she added.

“Good”, I said.

Then she looked me up and down and said “And that is enough”.

It was hard to keep my composure. I had never been told when to stop buying food before. I’m not sure if it was a compliment that I didn’t need more than she offered (“You are a fit man and this is plenty of food for you”), or if it was a somewhat sharp insult that I didn’t need more than she offered (“You could stand to eat less”). Either way, I heeded her advice, paid for the food, and returned to camp, laughing as I recounted the story to Diana.

Shortly after dinner, two more bikes pulled up: a BMW and a Ducati. Kris and Marek were from central Poland, and were headed to Turkey on a quick eleven day tour. We talked a bit about the Transfagarasan and Transaplina roads, and I showed them the closed gate photo at Transfagarasan. They had attempted to cross Transalpina (even though it was “closed”), but encountered deep snow several miles in and had to turn back.

Marek (left) and Kris from Poland.

The following morning we headed up the Transfagarasan. We knew we would eventually have to turn around, but we wanted to at least make it several miles past the lake, and to get a distant view of the remains of Poenari Castle, Vlad the Impaler’s home.

Looking up to Poenari Citadel from below on the ride up the valley.

Looking back down at the beginning of the Transfagarasan road climbing up to the dam at the south end of the lake.

Looking across to the ruins of Poenari Citadel, the one-time home of Vlad the Impaler. Vlad Dracula (1431-1476) was a Wallachian ruler and the basis for Bram Stoker’s Dracula character.

We rode about 27 miles up the road, but knowing that we had to come back the same way before taking the main road further north, we decided to turn around before we got to the good part. We still had several hours to get to our next destination: the city of Bran.

Follow-up Note: Kris and Marek made it most of the way across the Transfagarasan, but eventually were stopped by the road crew clearing the road at this point. There was obviously still just a little bit of snow…

Bran: Dracula’s Castle(?), and new food experiences

May 25-26

The city of Bran, Romania is most famous for its’ castle. In fact, the opening line of the Wikipedia post for Bran Castle says — and I quote — “Bran Castle is a castle in Bran.”

Now that’s some high-level investigative journalism there.

So, just a warning, but this could get a bit (more) sarcastic.

Bran Castle is indeed a very famous and nationally beloved landmark. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture, positioned well on a hill surrounded by forest, and makes for some stunning photos, mine not included. The castle (as well as the city) lies in Transylvania, just across the historical border from Wallachia, where Vlad the Impaler ruled and lived.

Bran Castle is an imposing sight as you enter Bran.

Advertisement on the castle gate for a 100k ultramarathon, which according to the official instagram page starts and finishes at “Dracula’s Castle”. Nice view of the castle just above the banner.

The stone castle was first built somewhere around 1377 by the Saxons. It was used in defense of the Saxons against the attacking Ottoman Empire around 1438-1442, and as a border point between Transylvania and Wallachia for many years. It sat empty for many years before being acquired y the Kingdom of Romania when Hungary lost Transylvania in 1920. Shortly after, it became a favorite home and retreat of Queen Marie of Romania, who had the castle extensively redecorated, and the castle was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ileana. However, with the rise of Communism in 1948, the castle was seized from the former royal family. In a movie-plot twist, in 2005 Romania passed a law allowing claims for restitution on property that had been seized during communism, and Princess Ileana’s son, an American, submitted a claim for Bran Castle, and was awarded it. The family continues to operate the castle as a tourist attraction to this day.

And that’s where I (and many others, it seems) have a problem with Bran Castle.

First, to be fair, if you are visiting Bran Castle because you understand the real history of it, and are a fan of Queen Marie and Princess Ileana, and want to see Marie’s decorating, then you came to the right place.

But, if you are visiting Bran Castle because it’s the “Home of Dracula”, or “Dracula’s Castle”, as it has been severely hyped and marketed as, then you’ve been duped and are bound to be disappointed.

The person that Dracula is very loosely based on, Vlad III Dracul, never set foot in Bran Castle. Seeing as it was on the opposite (and unfriendly) side of the border from the land which he ruled, and he didn’t live there, another theory was put forth to attach his name to the castle: he was briefly held prisoner in Bran Castle. Historians have since debunked that theory as well.

Also, it turns out that Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, had never heard of Bran Castle, and never visited Romania. The castle described in his book bears little to no resemblance to Bran Castle.

Strike Three?

Regardless, the hype has spread so far and so thick that droves of people (720,000 in 2022) arrive every day by car and bus, to see Dracula’s Castle. So many people apparently were miffed by there being no references whatsoever inside the castle to Vlad or Dracula, that a new approach was undertaken: the fourth floor of the castle has a small “History of Dreads” exhibit. (The marketing on the official castle website is of much better quality than the actual exhibit, which looks like what would happen if a class of 8th Graders tried to recreate Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion).

The lack of any real connection of Bran Castle to Dracula, despite years of marketing of it as such, has apparently caused enough bad response that the official website spends a great deal of time and effort explaining that “Visitors to Bran Castle should make the distinction between the historic reality of Bran and the character of the Count in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula exists in the imagination.”

I was aware of this prior to visiting the castle, but it’s hard to enjoy the castle tour while watching the hordes of people pay their money to climb through rooms anxiously expecting to eventually read some placard that explains Vlad’s connection to the castle. It’s also a fairly small indoor space, with just enough room for a line of people to snake through, yet they admit so many people that the entire path through the castle, from entrance to exit, is a cattle drive. And we were there before the tourist season really begins.

So that’s my review of Bran Castle. The rest of Bran is a lovely tourist-centered town with nice scenery and restaurants, and lots of hotels, AirBnBs, pensions, homestays, etc. We stayed about a half mile away from Bran Castle and were able to walk to it and around town. While in town, we took part in two of the local “street food” delicacies:

The local version of a giant churro, this pastry is called Kürtöskalács, or Hungarian Chimney Cake. It originated in Hungarian Transylvania, and consists of a sweet yeast dough rolled out and wrapped around a cylinder, then basted with melted butter and coated with different toppings, in our case crushed walnuts.

The other is called Lángos, and is a fried flatbread, like a small pizza, topped with various items, in our case sour cream and cheese. This is also a Hungarian specialty that remained in Transylvania after Romania took over the area. (Image courtesy of happyfoodstube.com)

Peleș Castle, Nevermore Academy, and Border Crossing Screw-up #2

May 27, 2023

Several people we met suggested that if we were going to see castles in Romania, we really needed to see Peleș Castle, and with a little research, we agreed that it looked beautiful. But after Bran, we were approaching Castle Burnout, and we decided that we would ride up to Peleș Castle, admire it from as close as we could get without paying an entrance fee, snap a few photos and then get back on the road.

Peleș Castle is even more beautiful in this photo taken from Wikipedia.

So we left Bran and headed towards Brasov before turning back south towards Bușteni. Entering Bușteni, I noticed a large building off to the left that looked vaguely familiar. And then it hit me: having recently watched the first twenty or so minutes of the Netflix series Wednesday, I recognized Nevermore Academy. I had no idea it was in Romania, or that we would ride past it. In reality, the building is Cantqcuzino Castle, completed in 1911 for Prince Cantacuzino. Apparently the Netflix show was filmed mostly at a Romanian studio in Bucharest, but this private residence (now open to the public) and a few other buildings around Romania were used as well.

Nevermore Academy as seen in Netflix’s Wednesday.

Nevermore Academy, aka Cantacuzino Castle, as seen from the road through Bușteni. Yes, it is the same place, even though it looks very different.

Within an hour of leaving Bran we were turning off to begin the climb up to Peleș Castle. A mile or so later, we began to see signs of what was to come: the density of tourists on foot increased. We were thankful to be on two wheels and able to snake through the people and make additional forward progress towards the castle. We passed multiple signs for parking areas, and the GPS was telling me to take one, as we couldn’t get closer. But we were on a bike, and there were still open streets, albeit packed with foot traffic, so I kept going.

Eventually it felt like we were riding through the crowd walking up Main Street at Disneyland. We had long passed the last tour bus, and aside from a couple of cars coming in the opposite direction, we were the only vehicle on the street. We were directed into a parking lot, and the parking attendant nicely pointed to a premium parking spot, right at the front of the lot and in a great location, IF we were planning to park and walk another half a mile or so, which we just couldn’t quite work up the enthusiasm for. The castle was nowhere in sight, but the hordes moving in one direction made it clear which way we had to go if we were going to the castle. I can’t imagine what this place (and Bran) are like in another month when it’s actually tourist season.

With the our castle burnout and the somewhat sour taste of Bran Castle still remaining, we made a quick decision to turn around and head back down the mountain. Perhaps if we were tourists in a car, or on a bus, or with less of a “schedule” (there’s that dirty word again), we would have stayed. But we hadn’t planned to go inside the castle, or pay to see it, so we rode away and back through the crowds to the highway, heading south once more.

We once again looped around Bucharest, this time on the east side, and continued to the border. We had originally planned to spend a couple of days touring Bucharest, but Florian, whom we met at MotoCamp Bulgaria, and who is a resident of Bucharest, convinced us to skip the city, especially after we mentioned that we really aren’t big-city-tourist-types anyway. We rode in and out of rain for a while until just short of the border.

Self-Inflicted Border Crossing Screw-up Number Two

As we approached the border crossing at Giurgiu, I once again made sure I had both of our passports ready, as well as my phone opened to the photo of the license plate for the bike, hoping this time that I didn’t swipe it to a dog photo as I handed it to the Border Officer.

We pulled up to the first (Romanian side) window, and the officer asked for our documents. I handed him the passports. He opened my passport, immediately closed it, and handed it back to me. My first thought was, “that’s weird. He didn’t stamp my passport.” He then stuck his hand out again and, with a stern look, said “Passport”. I reached out to hand it back to him. He shook his head no, and mimed opening the passport.

Now I was confused. Does he want it or not? Perhaps, I thought, he wants me to open it to the photo page and then hand it to him. So I opened it to the photo page. Which is when I realized that there was cash in my passport. Somehow along the way, I had stuffed some folded bills into my pocket, and they had found their way into my passport. We usually carry our passports in a waterproof pouch, but since we had used them numerous times in the last few days — crossing the border, checking into hotels, etc — I had just stuffed them in my jacket pocket in a hurry. The officer thought I was passing him a bribe when I first handed him my passport. This was not good. I immediately withdrew the cash, apologized profusely, and handed him my passport. His mood didn’t improve, but at least we weren’t surrounded by border guards and handcuffs.

The rest of the process went smoothly, both at the Romanian and Bulgarian windows, and we rode off across the Friendship Bridge over the Danube River and back into Ruse, Bulgaria. I had once again been reminded to be absolutely sure what you are handing to an official before you hand it over.

The line of large trucks waiting to cross the border is a little under two miles long on the Romanian side. This photo was actually taken as we entered Romania from Bulgaria a few days earlier, but it was the same as we approached the border on the return. Fortunately we were able to ride past all of them and right up to the border, where there were only three cars ahead of us in line.

Bulgaria II: Churches, Monasteries, and the UFO Monument to Communism

May 27-June 1, 2023

It may sound strange, with us suffering “castle burnout” and “church burnout” after our second year in Europe visiting all of these amazing places, but we were headed to visit some churches and a monastery in Bulgaria. Though admittedly these are a little different.

Shortly after crossing the border from Romania and riding through Ruse, Bulgaria, we turned off the main road and snaked our way down a small backroad to our lodging for the evening: Complex Orehite, aka Hotel Walnuts in Bozhichen, Bulgaria. About a mile before our destination, the skies turned black and the wind picked up. It was obvious that the weather was about to get very bad. We pulled up to the entrance to this small family hotel, and I walked past the rooms to the main house and restaurant. Finding nobody available, and the rain starting, I quickly returned to Diana, who was standing near the six or so rooms. There was a key in the door of Room 3, so I opened it and looked inside. It was empty, and clean, so we made the executive decision to check ourselves in. We ran back to the bike and pulled our luggage off just as the hail began to pelt us and the lightning began to strike nearby.

It hailed hard for several minutes, mostly just pea-sized, but some larger. We sat on the back balcony of our room watching the hail and rain, thankful that we had made it to the hotel just in the nick of time. Had we stopped for coffee or a snack earlier, there would have been no place to hide from the storm, and it could have been painful.

The rain eventually let up and we began to see movement down towards the restaurant. I walked down there, and found several young men who clearly worked there, and I’m guessing were probably brothers as well (as I said, small family hotel). They confirmed that we should take Room 3 (good to know), and we agreed to return for dinner around 7pm.

I can read exactly one word on the menu…BBQ. Thank you Google Translate Camera Mode for allowing us to order, and thanks to the staff for some great suggestions.

“Fresh Grilled Bacon with BBQ Sauce”…More like Pork Belly…and “Broccoli with Four Types of Cheese”. Excellent.

“Boneless Pork Knuckle with Wild Mushroom Sauce” and “Chicken Herb Filets with Parmesan”. Delicious. Not the cheapest meal we’ve had at about US$29 total, but worth every penny.

The next morning we rode a short ten minutes or so north to Basarbovo, to the rock monastery of Saint Dimitar Basarbowski.

The Rock Monastery of Basarbova. It was founded in the 12th Century, but is best known for St. Dimitar Basarbovski, who lived (and died) in the rock cliff in the 17th Century.

After waiting out another small rain shower, we headed south another 15 minutes or so to the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo.

This small path leads up to a ridge that then leads to the main church.

At the top of the short climb you can look across the valley from this cliff to another cliff. We had been talking for a while about the idiots that climb over the railings at National Parks to take photos in dangerous situations, like at the geysers at Yellowstone National Park, or at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Some of these idiots insist on doing “yoga poses”. There’s a website that logs the antics of these morons in the hope that the National Park Service will identify and arrest/fine them (and it’s working). The owner of the site coined the term “Touron” to describe Tourist Morons. So here’s Diana doing her Touron Yoga Pose, but on the correct side of the railing. (And just to finish the rant, we consider anyone who insists on blocking access to these places for the rest of the general public while they spend long minutes taking dozens (if not more) Instagram pose photos to be dangerously close to the Touron category.)

The entrance to the church is a bit narrow…

The frescoes on the walls are original and unrestored, but preserved (to some extent), and date back to the early 14th century.

This painting on the ceiling of the Last Supper pre-dates the famous DaVinci painting by 150 years.

Our religious tour complete, we headed south once again to Idilevo and MotoCamp, and once again got caught in the rain. We spent a night at MotoCamp, which now had many more visitors than the first time we arrived a week earlier. In all, we counted riders from thirteen different countries this time, including Austria, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, UK, Australia, Romania, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, and Germany.

We stopped at a roadside station for petrol and a quick snack, and while seated at a picnic table, happened to notice this dog who had found a cool, shady place to take a nap.

While back at MotoCamp, we briefly ran into Chloe Jones, who is riding this Honda C90 from her home in Wales to Tajikistan. She has a great Instagram and YouTube channel.

The next day would be our last riding day in Bulgaria for a while. We headed south from MotoCamp, back over the Shipka Pass that we had come over a week earlier, to the Buzludzha Monument, formally known as the Buzludzha Memorial House.

Built in the 1970s during the socialist communism era of Bulgaria, Buzludzha was intended as a museum to communism. It opened in 1981 and was shut in 1989 at the fall of communism in Bulgaria.

The monument sits in a remote location atop Buzludzha Peak.

An adjoining 70m (230ft) tower has a Red Star on each side that measures 12m (39ft) across and is made out of synthetic ruby glass. The stars were lighted and reportedly could be seen as far away as the Romanian border to the north and the Greek border to the south.

With the fall of communism in 1989, the massive structure sat empty for many years, and was quickly stripped of all of its’ finer materials. It became a destination for “adventure tourism” until within the last fifteen years or so when an effort was made to try to save what was left of the building. More recently the building has been barricaded (too little too late?) to prevent entrance by vandals, and a guard has been posted.

We left the haunting structure of the Buzludzha Monument and rode back once again to MotoCamp, where we would spend our last day preparing for a trip home. We had planned several months ago to surprise Diana’s mother on her 90th birthday, but to our surprise, Diana’s parents turned the tables on us and planned their own trip for her birthday (yep, they are amazingly healthy people who continue to live happy lives on their terms at 90+ years of age). So she wasn’t even going to be home when we arrived! Nevertheless we were happy for them and we were ready to take some time off and be home.