In Bulgaria, all the roads lead to

the highway!

Here’s the road I took from Sofia to Sunny Beach. I’m posting it here so that you can zoom in as I tell you what happened.

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I pleaded not to take highways anymore and with that in mind I set off. After trying and failing to get Scottoiler oil in Bulgaria (the official dealer seems to think that selling the thing is enough and doesn’t stock oil), I went to Tatiana’s workplace to give her back the keys of the appartment (Thanks Tatiana!). That’s where it all starts. I had said before (to Tatiana, btw) that it is easier to get lost in cities than outside of cities. Silly me! It’s just as easy.

She gave me a couple of indications on how to get to the road from the center but I wasn’t worried: the signs saying “tsentar” had taken me to the center and to her office and I was sure that other signs, hopefully blue ones, would take me out of the city. And yes, I said blue ones. See, contrarily to France, in Bulgaria the highway signs are green and the national roads signs are blue. I knew that already when I came from Romania so no confusion there, thought I. There are two roads leading to Burgas, roads 6 and 8, pretty much of the same length. I had decided to take road 8 and see Plovdiv and Stara Zagora on the way so I went on to leave the city by the highway. I knew I had to use the highway to get out of the city quickly, I glanced at the map and decided that I would ditch it as soon as I saw signs for Novi Han and I did… only to find myself in the midst of (amateur?) road blocks made of piled up dirt in the middle of the road. This is what you see on the map when it look like I took two roads at the same time. I went there, tried to continue and finally turned myself around after going around the 5th or 6th road block.

And I turned back so inexpertly that I ended up on road 6. But I didn’t want to take road 6. I lost some time buy finally managed to be on my way again. It was highway until Ihtiman then. At Ihtiman I tried to ditch the highway again, got lost in the town, found a kebab shop, asked some guy who directed me to his friend who did speak English who finally told me how to get out of the town and take the small road to Plovdiv. And I had my kebab of course. I followed that road happily for a short while until I saw a blue sign (Blue, national road!) indicating Plovdiv to the right. Where did I end up? On the highway again! Arghhh!!!

Ok, ok, calm down, it’s not so bad. After all you are already late, a little highway won’t hurt. You’ll ditch it again in Plovdiv. That’s what I was telling myself all the way to Plovdiv and I did. At Plovdiv I managed to enter the town, go through the center and leave the town without taking the highway. Only I wasn’t on the road I wanted to be. At the first town I looked at the map and saw I was on a much smaller road than the one I wanted to take. I slowed down so abruptly that the car behind me thought that I had a problem and stopped some 20 meters ahead of me. Some guy came out of the car and I couldn’t hear what he wanted. Instead of keeping telling myself that he was pissed off by my sudden stop, I turned off the engine and finally could hear him say “Vous parlez français ?”. Together we figured out where I was and I decided to stay on that road.

It was an interesting experience for a couple of kilometers, the road was excellent in the surroundings of some towns and immediately became pothole paradise in the surroundings of other towns. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t run absolutely parallel to the highway. I took the highway. No use being on the highway without the benefits of the highway.

Finally, in Chirpan, I actually managed to take road 66 or 6 and not end up on the highway. I got lost in Stara Zagora but still managed to stay on road 8 and not the highway. If you look at the map now you will see why it was so easy: there is no more highway after Stara Zagora. Until there is. And you join it automatically and have no other option near Karnobat.

By then, it was 7pm, I was tired and had decided it was time to rest. Bad luck, there was no gas station or rest area at all for at least 40 minutes. Finally rested, I undertook the final stretch to Burgas and Sunny Beach and got to the hostel safely.

That, dear friends is what the road feels like. On a bad day.

Nesebar, Burgas, Bulgaria

12 Replies to “In Bulgaria, all the roads lead to”

  1. Mhhh if it makes you feel better in London you only need to sit down in the underground train and do one or two changes but with the Olympics coming in a few days it will feel like the road to sunny beach or worse!

  2. hahaha Nacho Nacho lost in Bulgaria, remember to stay calm in those moments, being angry will not change anything, and you don't deserve to hurt yourself by being angry, just breath deeply and look at the map again 🙂

    1. Thanks!
      I know, in the beginning I get angry and then I remember, it's all for fun! But I noticed that when I get tired, I start insulting the other drivers in French. That's the time to stop. When I insult them in Spanish I know it's for fun, when it's in French, I better find a hotel and stop 😛

  3. Nacho, there’s one thing I just can’t understand. Being a GPS lover (i almost wrote “guru”)I suppose you are carrying one if not more of those amazing speaking boxes. And from your posts it seems you ‘re planning your trips, so why not choosing some waypoints, pick a route and follow your GPS instructions?

    It shouldn’t be so simple, but i don’t get why…

    1. Ah, ah, very interesting question my dear friend. There is many reasons for this choice. Yes, I am a GPS lover but more importantly, I am a map lover. I love maps and I love GPS tracking.
      GPS-assisted travel is an interesting gimmick but not my favorite. It is good when you are in a hurry and don’t want to lose time trying to find your way and also when you can pay for it. I chose not to have GPS guidance during most of this trip (I used it in France and Germany until Prague, then stopped). Also, GPS guidance is usually tuned to make you take the highways and not so efficient when you specifically want to avoid them.
      Finally, I also get lost when I use GPS because I tend to follow its instructions in my own way.
      Getting lost is not such a bad thing. The moral of the post above is that I had an excellent kebab for 75 euro cents and if I’m going to get lost anyway, I’d rather do it without GPS and asking people for directions than with it and looking at my screen.
      I do plan the road ahead on Google Maps though and it give me an idea of where I can get to in a day.

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