Europe 2010: Silistra, Bulgaria - Charlotte, NC

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Sixth Stage: Day 26 - Day 27 - Day 28

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Day 26 - August 28: Silistra, Bulgaria: Excursion to Varna, Black Sea (Saturday)

From Avalon: Located in northeastern Bulgaria at the country’s border with Romania, Silistra is a port city and the capital of an important agricultural region. After breakfast, travel by road to Varna. This city on the Black Sea is not only an important naval base and sea resort, but also has a long history. Roman baths are among the younger artifacts. During your sightseeing you will visit the NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, home of the Gold of Varna, as featured in National Geographic some years ago.
Weather: Sunny, about 90F
Breakfast: On the Ship Lunch: On a Pirate Ship Dinner: On the Ship

Comments: Today was another all day tour - this time to Varna, a resort on the Black Sea. And it was long ride.- about 2.5 hours.  We made a rest stop at a hotel after 1.5 hrs. where they had some refreshments for us.

Varna is a big town, our first stop was a the National Archaeological Museum where they had some very interesting exhibits, including the oldest gold treasure in the world. After that we had some free time in downtown Varna. We were only a couple of blocks from the Black Sea, so we decided to walk to it. But we were high up on a hill and weren't about to walk down - because you had to walk up again!  Instead we sat down in one of the cafes where we ran into some others from our cruise.

We got back on the bus for the restaurant where we were going to have lunch. It was a Pirate Ship which was on the beach - so we did get close to the Black Sea and some people actually got in the water.

The bus ride back we did without a stop and we were back at the ship about 5 pm.

Tonight we had the Captain's Farewell Dinner. Even less people got dressed up than on the first one - I saw only one guy with a tie.

Click to see a larger Picture (except Coat of Arms)

Coat of Arms
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  Coffee Break  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  
 -  -  -  Archaeological Museum  -  -  - -  -  -  -  -  -  Varna  -  -  -  -  -  -
-  -  -  Black Sea  -  -  - -  -  -  -  -  -  Lunch at the Pirate Ship  -  -  -  -  -  -
-  -  -  -  -  -  Black Sea  -  -  -  -  -  - -  -  Back to the Ship  -  - Daily Schedule

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Day 27 - August 29: Oltenita, Romania (Disembarkation) - Bucharest, Romania

From Avalon: Bucharest, Romania’s lively capital, is only a short drive from Oltenita. Its wide boulevards and Arc de Triomphe have gained it the name “Paris of the East.” Much recent history has taken place here. During your included tour, see the impressive PARLIAMENT BUILDING, the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon, and the Royal Palace Square, scene of riots in 1989, which led to the collapse of the communist dictatorship. The former Royal Palace now houses the NATIONAL ART MUSEUM.

Weather: Cloudy, about 77F

Breakfast: On the Ship Lunch: At the Hotel Dinner: At the Hotel

Comments: Today we say good-bye to the Artistry. Most people will go to the Hilton in Bucharest, which is part of the cruise, although you can opt out of this. We have two buses, one for the people just doing a city tour, the other one for people who signed up for the inside tour of the Parliament Building, which includes us.

Bucharest is about 1.5 hours from Oltenita, the port on the Danube. We pass many abandoned buildings - kind of dreary. We go to the Parliament first, it's not even open yet, but after 20 min. they are ready. Security is tight and you have to surrender your passport.  They won't let tours use elevators and there are quite a few stairs - but we only see a small part of the building, which is the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Quite a building for Romania. No pictures allowed inside.

After a city tour we get the Hilton about 1 pm. Fortunately they have a room ready for us. Even though the reservation was made by Avalon, they somehow figured out that I'm a member (in good standing!) of "Hilton HHonors" and they upgraded us to the Executive Floor. The big benefit of this is that they have a lounge with snacks and even dinner at night.  So we didn't even have to out again - fine with us since we have a very early flight tomorrow.

We did go down to talk to the concierge who arranged a taxi for us tomorrow to go to the airport. We did not buy transfers from Avalon ($75/person). Instead the taxi was $45 and we even charged it to the room. Since we are leaving at 4 am he also arranged for us to get a box breakfast.

Click to see a larger Picture (except Coat of Arms)

Coat of Arms
Good Bye!  -  -  -  More Communists Building  -  -  -  
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  Parliament Building  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  
Wires! View from our Room   Daily Schedule    

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Day 28 - August 30: Bucharest - Charlotte

Weather: On Planes all Day
Breakfast: From Hotel Lunch: At Frankfurt Airport Dinner: At Home
Via: LH 3417: 6:10 am - 7:55 am; 737-300, Seats 4A, 4B
  US  705: 11:40 am - 3:20 am; Airbus 330-300; Seats 29G, 29H (window/aisle)

Comments: It was a short night, we got up about 3:30 am since we have a 6:10 am flight to Frankfurt. We got to the airport in less than 20 min. The breakfast turned out to be a stale sandwich, an orange and a bottle of water - not too impressive! The orange you can't really use at the airport (too messy) and the water can't be taken through security.

At 4:15 am the airport was crowded, I couldn't believe it. When we were in Prague two years ago we also had an early flight on Air France to Paris and the flight was about 25% full.  The Lufthansa flight today was completely full.

Going west we got back an hour we had lost on the cruise and by 8 am we were in Frankfurt. Turns out Lufthansa doesn't have too much pull either at the airport and we again parked away from the terminal and had to take a bus to the terminal, and it was raining - but they had a roof over the stairway that we had to walk down.

Our flight to Charlotte was not leaving until 11:40 am so we had some time. We spent the rest of our Euros on candy, etc, and then checked into one of the Lufthansa Lounges with my Continental Club membership.  They had lots of beverages and food so we didn't need to buy any lunch today.

The USAir flight left on time and we boarded from the terminal - no bus this time. We got to Charlotte about 30 min. early and Jeanne (daughter) picked us up. Good flight - it's always a good flight if you land in one piece as far as I'm concerned.  We hadn't arrived on an international flight in Charlotte in quite a while and I was impressed at how smooth everything went. We were among the last off the plane and got through immigration in about 15 min. and then picked up our luggage and we were out of the airport within 30 min. after we landed. Not bad at all.

Looking back we took planes, trains, buses, a cruise ship - we were on the road for almost a month - and everything was right on time or early. Couldn't have asked for more.

We really enjoyed the trip.  For a review of the cruise go to the next section. No pictures today.

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