I am sat writing this from a hotel room in Pleven, a town in north central Bulgaria. It is not exactly known as a tourist destination, or any kind of destination. The only reason a traveller would come here is because the train passes through on route from Sofia to Varna or if they knew someone here. In my case it is the later. One of my good friends in Ireland is originally from this town and is home visiting at the same time I was due to arrive in Bulgaria so I met him in Bucharest airport and came here with him. This has actually been a really good and interesting introduction to the country. Off the beaten path in my friends home town meeting his family and friends and seeing how Bulgarians live. Much better than turning up in a well-known destination and booking in to a hostel as usual.
It has also been a bit of a strange one. Have you ever felt like you are the only foreigner in a place? I did when we arrived. We sat down to get a coffee, the waitress was talking to me in English and giggling in between. I asked my friend what she finds so funny and she heard me. I’m sorry she said. I don’t get to practice speaking English much. Then that night my friend was catching up with his family so I went for a wonder around the town on my own. I sat down outside a pizza shop and the owner was really friendly and curious. He didn’t speak much English but was asking me where I am from and why am I in Pleven. Something I got asked a few more times that evening as I sat outside places taking in the atmosphere. I definitely felt like I was unique!
The next day my friend came and collected me to show me around. As it turned out Pleven was a nice place to explore with plenty to offer in the way of entertainment. On the way out of the town there is a large park, complete with a zoo. Further onwards on the outskirts of town there is some nice lakes with a couple of bars on the shores. Besides the lake is a wine museum built completely in to a cave where the conditions are perfect for storing the locally produced wines. Also built in to a cave in the park is a restaurant, big enough to host a wedding that was taking place there when we visited. Pleven town itself has a charming town center. Fountains with lights built in are the focal point of the main square where the locals were sat around chatting and the main streets are lined with bars and eateries. In the evening it seemed quite buzzing. It would certainly be worth a night to break the train journey if you want to get off the beaten path 🙂