Chapter Seven ends – Chapter Eight begins
And so it’s farewell to Seychelles. It has really grown on me. When we first arrived and I realized how remote, how humid, and how little fresh produce there was I wasn’t pleased. Further realizing we maybe needed a car after all didn’t help. But after 33 days the place has really grown on me and I love it. It has been a wonderful opportunity to once again see how much of the world lives – simply. Life does not end if you can’t find a ripe tomato or that perfect cheese or that good bottle of wine. This is life for much of the world and being reminded of that once again, is part of the Grand Adventure. Thank you to the gorgeous Seychelles and the unassuming and kind Locals and expat community of this island for reminding me.
So as we begin Chapter Eight we finally head to Europe, but skirt the Schengen (see explanation below) for the next two months. We spend all of June in Bulgaria and July in Croatia. So why Bulgaria you ask? Here is my explanation –
First off, I am very interested in seeing more of, for lack of a better term, the former Eastern block countries. Those countries that were not so long ago under one of the communist rules. At first we were going to visit Bulgaria and Romania in June, but after studying decided we needed at least a month in each country. So Bulgaria is first and we will hit Romania next year.
But let me take a minute to explain what the
Schengen is for those of you who don’t know (I’ve written about this before, so apologizes for repeating). It’s a bit complicated but has been a very important factor in our travel planning over the past several years. And because of the Schengen Agreement, we will have spent the first eight months of our travel in non-Schengen countries (Asia, Africa, New Zealand, Bulgaria and Croatia).
The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 and went into effect in 1995, opening borders between certain European countries. A handful of countries in the beginning, the Schengen has expanded greatly over the past 22 years and now includes 26 countries with common borders. The first time I visited Europe in 1988 our passports were checked as we drove between countries with manned border patrols. That no longer happens. Free traffic flows between countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Poland etc. – those countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement.
The catch however, for travelers like us, is that you can only remain in the Schengen area for 90 days within any 180 days. So if you want to spend six months in say, France, you must apply for a complicated and expensive visa. Otherwise, your time in France or any of the combined Schengen area countries can only be three months in any 6 month period. You can’t go out and come back in and have your 90 days start again. Only after another three months can you re-enter the Schengen area.
We were well into our travel planning before we learned what the Schengen was. I had never heard of it. It certainly was a surprise and put a bit of damper on our plans. Particularly because we are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in September and we wanted to allow six weeks to do the 500 mile walk. Six weeks out of our 90 days is a big chunk. And so this is how it came to pass that we will have been on the Grand Adventure for 8 months before we finally enter a Schengen country on July 25th when we will cross the border from Croatia into Slovenia.
At that point the Schengen clock starts ticking. Our ninety days will start in Slovenia, continue in Portugal, then onto Spain and end when we fly from Barcelona to Tunisia on October 19th – just shy of 90 days.
Neither Bulgaria or Croatia are currently in the Schengen, although Croatia is next on the list for admittance. Stability, both financial and political is a big factor as far as how the decision is made for entrance into the area. So if you ever plan to travel for an extended period of time, be sure to study up on your Schengen countries. Read more here.
I’m not sure Bulgaria would have made the list if I hadn’t been forced to research more about Eastern Bloc countries. We spent time in Hungary a few years ago and loved it. We have also been to Northern Croatia and the Czech Republic and found both absolutely charming. And the food is wonderful. So I expect Bulgaria to be similar and I am excited to explore yet another country few Americans consider visiting. It has become a tourism destination for Russians and Europeans, similar to so many of the places we have already been, I expect to be the minority American.
We will fly from the Seychelles on the 29th, which marks our six months on the road. We fly to Doha, Qatar and spend one night there. Then it’s onto Sofia the capital of Bulgaria for three nights. We then will travel by car to the mountain region and town of Veliko Tarnovo for ten days where we will do a lot of hiking. Then it’s onto Sozopol on the Black Sea for 16 nights. Sozopol is an ancient trade city from the Ottoman era. The Black Sea region has become a huge tourist destination. It should be very interesting.
So why Bulgaria? This is why and how Bulgaria became part of the Grand Adventure. I look forward to learning more history, meeting the people, and eating their food, which includes a lot of fresh vegetables, grilled meats and stews. Yum. I suspect I will find plenty of blog material along the way.
Look out Bulgaria – the Lund’s are coming!