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I AM PLANNING A TRIP TO TURKEY IN THE SPRING AND HAVE CONSIDERED TAKING A LITTLE TIME TO SEE ROMAN RUINS IN VARNA AND PLOVDIV BULGARIA (AS A SIDE TRIP).
HAS ANYBODY DONE THIS? IT IS PROVING MUCH HARDER TO PUT AN ITINERARY TOGETHER THAN I HAD THOUGHT.

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    Dear Mr Torch

    I was in Varna in August and have been to Plovdiv a couple of times, first in the sixties. I saw the Roman baths in Varna, and quite liked them, but preferred the maritime museum there, and in general the feeling of a summer capital: Varna was crowded in August with relaxed people enjoying themselves.

    Plovdiv is on a bigger scale altogether. There are a Roman forum, a theatre, and an ampitheatre, and each of them is central in the city and mixed in with lively shops, traffic, and so on. For me more striking, because less usual than Roman remains, is the hilltop city centre of buildings of the Bulgarian renaissance in the late nineteenth century, beautiful and hand-made buildings along little lanes that run around the hill, with restaurants, museums and churches. Well worth a couple of days.

    I used the Lonely Planet guide Eastern Europe, which gave good cover to what I needed.

    To put a programme together I think you need a look at two railway timetables, both by Thomas Cook, the European Timetable and the Overseas Timetable. These are likely to be in the reference library of a large city near you. Or if you tell me what state or country you live in I may be able to say where you can buy it. The Overseas book shows the trains around Turkey in Asia. These are few but good, and are cheap compared to western Europe (though expensive compared to busses). The night trains nearly all have sleeping cars, at a supplement of 25 US dollars a night, and several night trains have restaurant cars, which is always a pleasant way to eat. I found service courteous and helpful.

    The European book shows the fast and the distant trains around Bulgaria, and to and from Istanbul. For you trains that may matter are:-

    Istanbul 2005, Gorna Orjahovitsa 0830
    Gorna Orjohovitsa 1037 restaurant car Varna 1347
    Varna 1415 restaurant car Gorna Orjahovitsa 1727
    Gorna Orjahovitsa 1750 Istanbul 0615

    Istanbul 2220 Plovdiv 0902
    Plovdiv 2255 Istanbul 0830

    All trains to and from Istanbul carry sleeping cars but no restaurant cars. There are no day trains between Bulgaria and Istanbul. Minibuses leave a place 200 yards away from Gorna Orjahovitsa station and run in twenty minutes to Turnu Severin. Turnu Severin is the capital of thirteenth century Bulgaria, and worth half a day.

    Plovdiv 2000 restaurant car Sofia 2203
    Sofia 2305 sleeping car Varna 0707
    Plovdiv 2320, Varna 0525 (but this night is too short)

    Varna 2132, sleeper, Sofia 0546 to 0630, restaurant car, Plovdiv 0832
    Varna 2240, sleeper, Sofia 0640 to 0715, Plovdiv 0935
    Varna 2327, Plovdiv 0540 (but this night is too short)

    Please write again if I can help further. Welcome to Europe.

    Ben Haines, London

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