Bulgaria is on the way from Melbourne to Edinburgh, you see?
Splitting our lives between Australia and Scotland sometimes means we don’t have time to holiday/travel as much as we’d like. As there isn’t an aeroplane with a big enough tank to fly (actually) direct between our two home cities, we try to pick somewhere interesting for a stopover.
I like to go somewhere new.
Barry likes to go somewhere where he’s confident that the Wi-Fi will be reliable.
Funny, the more successful the company gets, the more stressed about internet quality Barry becomes. Sometimes it takes awhile to get the balance right. On leaving Melbourne at the end of April 2017, it had been almost a full year since Barry’s remote team had seen each other in real life. And some new folk had never met, apart from the Skype or Zoom Room. So we ended up in Bulgaria for a month, obviously.
I’ve never been there (tick), and there’s a Coworking space in the mountains set up by Matthias, who ran the Coworking Camp in Turkey where Barry launched his company.
Where in Bulgaria?
Wanting to get over jetlag (and explore new places!) Barry and I first spent a few days in Sofia. It turns out Sofia is an excellent place for a European city break. I’m not sure if it’s just that I’d spent the previous six months at home in Australia and stopover in Kuala Lumpur but Sofia felt very European. It felt like I was home (again).
Sofia is also an excellent place for a budget traveller (like me, obviously).
I did a free walking tour of the city (well, I gave a tip). I learnt lots of stuff.
Sofia, patron saint of the city.
The ancient city discovered underground
Arriving in Reykjavik was a wet experience for Julie and I. After checking in at the Bus Hostel, Julie and I strolled into town. It wasn’t raining when we started but we were fairly drenched by the time we reached the noodle bar. We dried out a bit while eating some okay noodles but got pretty soaked again in the short walk back to the hostel.
Luckily, our private twin room was roasty toasty and we were able to spread all our clothes around to dry out. By the morning, my jeans were dry and so was the sky. It wasn’t a clear sky but you can ask for everything.
The massive cloud over Reykjavik was not uncommon so it surprised me how many buildings were so grey. The Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral, one of the city’s major landmarks was depressingly concrete, the only splash of colour the red on the double doors at the front.
In the words of TLC, don’t go chasing waterfalls. In Iceland, there’s really no need, they’ll find you.
The next stop was to learn more about glaciers. Skaftafell Visitor Centre was super informative, full of exhibitions and volcanic displays. It’s where we learnt about the volcanoes that lie sleeping under most of Iceland’s glaciers. When they blow, there’s the added risk of flash floods from all that ice being blasted by hellish levels of heat and lava. Bridges and roads being washed away are not uncommon. Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 and caused havoc all over Europe with the ash cloud was one such volcano/glacier. While Europe worried about airline disruptions, the skies above Iceland were clear but the fissures appeared in the ground, the area was evacuated and roads closed.
As well as all the learning, there are loads of well marked hiking trails starting from the visitor centre. A lot are either closed by October, or not suitable for those without proper gear, like us but there was a short route down to the glacier tongue.
I love the geothermal hot springs in Iceland. I found the glaciers even more captivating.
It was an adventure to reach our first glacial lake. We almost missed the small turnoff from Route 1 into Heinabergsjokull in the Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður. About half way along we realised we probably didn’t have vehicle robust enough to deal with the track. Lots of gravel, lots of mud, reasonably deep puddles. Not seeing any other vehicles also made us question our decision. Nevertheless we persisted.
With no other human activity around glacial lake that seemed to rise out of the mist of the morning light was magical and quite ghostly.