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Bulgaria & Romania
railfan / tourist tour
October 1-16, 2016
You are warmly invited to join us on this year's autumn steam extravaganza to Bulgaria and Romania featuring a wide variety of different steam locomotive types. This tour covers many scenic routes through mountains and canyons, across wide and expansive plains and along river valleys; through two countries steeped in history and culture. Due to the economic isolation of this region of Europe economic development was slow even by Soviet-bloc standards but this is a big benefit as regular operated steam still runs in rural communities and industry. This tour offers an insight into this interesting mixture, with visits to industrial, lumber and small narrow gauge railways along with a chance to visit one of the most outstandingly well preserved medieval cities in central Europe plus a contrast in tram systems! Plenty of exceptional photography opportunities will be available and this tour is great for the railfan to bring his wife because there will be plenty of sightseeing and culture to experience .
Saturday October 1: (D)
Morning arrivals in Sofia, Bulgaria. City tour, dinner and overnight
Sunday October 2: (B- D)
Morning departure by steam locomotive 01.23 a 2-8-2 to Pleven. The locomotive was built by SLM Winterthur of Switzerland in 1935. We will travel on part of the longest rail line in Bulgaria, which is regarded as the busiest passenger line, crossing the country from west to east, up to the Black Sea coast (at Varna) with a total length of 340 miles which was opened in 1899.
In the section from Sofia to Mezdra which is 55 miles, we will follow the picturesque Iskar Gorge, where the railway follows the Iskar River through a winding, scenic canyon in the Balkan Mountains. There are many small villages with Railway stations bearing names from the legends and history of the region.
Bov Railway station is named after the French chevalier Sen Du Boff, captured by the Bulgarian army during the 4th Crusade march), Thompson Railway station was named after the British officer William Frank Thompson, liaison officer between the British Army and the Bulgarian communist partisans during the war, who was executed by the fascists in June 1944).
Opposite Lakatnik Railway station you will see the magnificent rocky massif with vertical walls. The lime here is cut by many caves, entrances and galleries at an altitude of 900 feet. Leaving the Balkan Mountains, we will pass via Mezdra – the 2nd most important Railway station in Bulgaria after Gorna Oriahovitsa.
We will arrive in Pleven – located in an agricultural region in the very heart of the Danubian Plain, the historical region of Moesia and surrounded by low limestone hills. Panorama tour of the city if time permits, check in and dinner at the hotel.
THE BUSY DOUBLE TRACK RAIL LINE THROUGH THE ISKAR GORGE
Monday October 3: (B-D)
After breakfast, we will continue our travel with another steam locomotive from Gorna Oriahovitsa depot. The locomotive 03.12, a 4-8-2, was built in 1942 in Henschell-Kassel Germany and is documented on pictures from September 5, 1943, leading the ceremony of the burial of Tzar Boris the 3rd (the last ruling king in Bulgaria) from Sofia to Rila Monastery.
Our first stop will be Svishtov – a city located on the right bank of the River Danube. Svishtov is identified with the Roman colony Novae mentioned by Ptolemy (1st -2nd c AD) and served as a base of operations for Roman campaigns against Barbarian tribes. Svishtov is included in the list of 100 tourist sites in Bulgaria and its main landmarks include the old fortress, the clock tower from 1764, St. Trinity Church and the port of Svishtov is the southernmost harbor on the Danube river.
Leaving Svishtov, we depart south east to Gorna Oriahovitsa Railway station – the largest and most important Railway station in Northern Bulgaria, where lines from north to south and east to west cross, including the international lines Istanbul – Bucharest, Thessaloniki-Budapest, Sofia – Bucharest – Moscow.
From Gorna Oriahovitsa, we will be transferred to Veliko Turnovo, where we will spend the night. Veliko Turnovo is the medieval capital city of Bulgaria, picturesquely located on 4 hills above the Yantra River. We will have a walk along Samovodska Charshia Street of traditional crafts and take pictures of Tsarevets Royal Hill with the fortress, Patriarh`s complex and Baldwin tower ( the leader of the 4th Crusade ). Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Tuesday October 5: (B-D)
Breakfast and morning transfer to Gorna Oriahovitsa Railway station. We will continue south with steam locomotive 16.27, a 2-10-0 , built by Wiener Lokomotivfabrik – Floridsdorf, Austria in 1948. This is regarded a "2nd type" of German military locomotive BR42, thought to be a stronger version of the 1st type BR52. In the end of the 50s, it was modified for coal-mazut operation. This locomotive has been repaired from BDZ for tourist travel in 2015.
We will cross the central and highest part of the Balkan range enjoying a panorama of mountain peaks, small river valleys and picturesque villages. Our train will stop at Triavna – a museum town, regarded as main center of woodcarving and icon painting in Bulgaria. Old Triavna was the cradle of Bulgarian craftsmanship. In the mid-19th century there were 40 icon-painting workshops there, hence the epithet "the Bulgarian Florence" that foreign travelers attached to Triavna.
After our visit, we will proceed south by our train to Tulovo and Kazanluk. Kazanluk is regarded the center of the Valley of Roses, where once 75% of the world rose attar was produced. If time permits, we will visit with a coach Shipka memorial church near Kazanluk and continue to Stara Zagora to spend the night at a hotel located near Lake Zagorka.
Wednesday October 5: (B-D)
After breakfast we depart by coach from Stara Zagora to Kazanluk. Our steam locomotive today will be 05.01, a 4-6-2, built in Germany by Fr. Krupp Essen in 1941 and regarded the fastest steam locomotive in the history of the Bulgarian Railways with maximum speed of 75 mph.
Arrival in Plovdiv and city tour. Plovdiv has 6,000 years of history and was once the capital city of Philip the 2nd of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great). The Eternal City, as Rome is conventionally called, is much younger than Plovdiv. Athens, Carthage, Constantinople came into being later. A contemporary of Troy and having survived Mycenae, Plovdiv is a city upon layers of epochs. With its innumerable art galleries, winding cobbled streets and Bohemian cafés. Plovdiv's appeal derives mainly from its lovely old town, the Stariat Grad, largely restored to its mid-19th century appearance and full of winding cobblestone streets. It is literally packed with atmospheric house-museums and art galleries and, unlike many other cities with 'old towns', has eminent artists still living and working within its tranquil confines.
In the early evening, we will be transferred to the nearby village of Brestovitsa for visit and wine tasting at Todoroff Boutique wine cellar. Return to Plovdiv, dinner and overnight at the hotel.
HISTORIC RUINS NEAR PLOVDIV
Thursday October 6: (B-D)
After breakfast we transfer to the Plovdiv station, from where we will depart with the same steam locomotive to Septemvri railway station. From Septemvri, our trip continues with locomotive 609.76 a 2-10-2, on the narrow gauge line to Bansko.
Along the route you will cross 3 mountains (Rila, The Rhodopes and Pirin) and 7 municipalities. There are 35 tunnels, 11 stations and 10 stops, among which is the highest Railway station in Bulgaria – Avramovo (4200 feet above sea level). You will enjoy the varied relief of southern Bulgaria with the forests of the Rhodope mountains, small river valleys and stone bridges, the breath-taking alpine panorama of Pirin Mountain National Park near Bansko, a museum town.
Arrival in Bansko, check in, dinner and overnight at your hotel.
CHARTER STEAM BETWEEN PLOVDIV AND BANSKO
Friday October 7: (B-D)
After breakfast we proceed by coach to Rila Monastery UNESCO site – Bulgaria's largest and most revered monastery, renowned for its colorful frescoes. Rila Monastery was founded in AD 927 by Ivan Rilski, leader of a monastic colony of hermits. Originally built 2 miles to the northeast, it was moved to its current location in 1335. The monastery helped preserve Bulgarian culture and religion during the Ottoman centuries, despite being destroyed often over the years. It was proclaimed a national museum in 1961 by the communist government, and made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.
Visit of the monastery and some free time for lunch. In the afternoon we will continue from Kocherinovo station with our steam locomotive 46.03, a 2-12-4, built in 1931 by the Polish company Cegielski – Poznan. In the 30es, Nikola Vaptsarov, a famous Bulgarian poet worked on the locomotive at first as a stoker and later as a mechanic. His poetry has been translated in 98 languages throughout the world, including in the UK. In 1942, Vaptsarov was sentenced to death and shot down on the same evening by the Fascist regime. In 1953, he received posthumously the International Peace Award.
This steam locomotive is considered the most powerful steam locomotive in Bulgaria. That is why, in the 60s the employees of BDZ called it "Grandma Bear". It had been in out of use for more than 50 years before restored in 2015. Evening arrival in Sofia and overnight.
WE RIDE BEHIND THE MOST POWERFUL STEAM LOCOMOTIVE IN BULGARIA WHICH IS A 2-12-4
WE VISIT THE AMAZING RILA MONASTEREY
Saturday October 8: (B)
We depart onboard the through passenger train for Timisoara at 11:55am. This train runs north into Romania and travels through the extreme eastern section of this country and follows the border with Serbia. At one point this rail line runs on the western shores of the Danbe River of which you can see into Serbia across the river.
Sunday October 9: (B-D)
Arrive in Timisoara, Romania at 2:41am. Morning is free for you to sleep in after your long train journey. In the afternoon we explore the Timisoara Tram network, which is the largest in Romania, with multiple routes, former East German Trams and plenty of depot visits. We will ride in a privately chartered tram and have a conducted tour of the Depot. In the evening we will have a welcome to Romania dinner at our Hotel.
WE WILL EXPLORE THE TIMISOARA TRAM NETWORK
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN TIMISOARA
Monday October 9: (B)
Mid morning departure from our hotel by bus to Brad, passing through some unusual scenery. Brad is the Main Line connection for the short steam worked industrial railway that links the former heating plant at the mining town of Criscior. The area is heavily contaminated by industrial waste, including mine dumps that are still bare after many decades. Despite this the area is attractive and provides an appropriate contrasting backdrop for a true Industrial Railway.
Criscior Works is the base of CFI, which is where many of the steam engines and carriages that have been restored over the last few years to operate in Romania, Hungary, Austria and even the UK originate. We will ride the train to the works, have a tour around the works and then ride back. This is a proper industrial railway. The Railway has at least one 0-8-0T loco which we may see again later in the tour! There will be plenty of opportunities to photograph the train on route as it winds through the back streets, before we head for Deva and the night train to Vama.
Tuesday October 11: (B)
An early arrival at Vama, gives us a full day at the Moldovita Railway, which has been mostly rebuilt over the last few years by CFI. Moldovita is an historically important area of Romania which was on the front line in the Middle Ages between 'Christendom' and The Ottoman Empire. CFI has largely rebuilt the railway here out of its own resources including replacing a large bridge during the winter of 2013.
We will ride up the line, take lunch and there will be opportunities for photo run-bys and operation of a freight train to photograph. There will be opportunities to photograph both passenger and freight trains. For those of you who want a diversion from pure railways there will also be an option to visit the Monastery at Moldovita built in 1532 by Petru Rareș, son of Stephen the Great who fought off the Ottomans. The Monastery is famous for its frescoes and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will transfer by bus to Viseu for an overnight stay.
ENJOY A DAY ON THE MOLDOVITA RAILWAY NARROW'S GAUGE LINE
Wednesday October 12: (B)
Today gives us a whole day on the famous Viseu de Sus line. Since 1932 the railway has been in almost constant use. Trains run into the valley six days a week to transport wood down to a processing plant in Viseu de Sus and is therefore the only European railway that is still used daily for timber production. The railway passes through stunning mountain scenery and has a fine collection of locos, both private and group owned including one built as late as 1986 by Reghin in Romania. Steam trains run as far as Paltin station, approximately two hours, 14 miles, from Viseu de Sus.
A short marked trail (15 minute walk) leads to an observation platform, giving superb views of the mountains, valley, nature, and the railway line. A cafe at Paltin Station offers a wide range of food and drinks. A new station building has been built here; its design faithfully reproduces the characteristic architecture of the original station buildings constructed along the entire line.
We will have our own steam hauled train, with plenty of opportunities to photograph the train at scenic locations. After time for refreshments we catch a train back south but, in order to avoid another overnight train, we stop off for the night at a hotel in Turda.
WE SPEND A DAY ON ROMANIA'S FAMOUS VISEU DE SUS LINE
WHICH HAULS WOOD PRODUCTS FROM THE FOREST
SPECTACULAR SCENERY ON THE LAST REGULARLY OPERATED
NARROW GAUGE STEAM HAULED TIMBER RAILROAD IN EUROPE
Thursday October 13: (B)
Today we visit the last remaining operational section of the Turda – Abrud line which wound through the Transylvanian Mountains, crossing and re-crossing both rivers and roads on its way.
The whole line has not operated since the 1990s but CFI have repaired a short section from Abrud – Campani. The route is along one side of a steep valley and passes Traditional style Romanian Churches and small farmsteads. Our visit will see one of the most remarkable spectacles in European Heritage Rail operation – our loco will be transported to and from the Railway by lorry in steam for immediate use!
We will travel both ways, with plenty of opportunities to photograph the train. In late afternoon we catch a local train from the station at Alba Lilia to reach the famous medieval city of Sibiu in time for dinner. Two nights in Sibiu.
THE TURDA-ABRUD LINE RUNS THOUGH THE MAJECTIC TRANSYLVANIAN MOUNTAINS
Friday October 14: (B)
Today is a free day for your own exploration of the city. Sibiu is a fascinating medieval walled City in the heart of the former German speaking area of Romania. Today is an opportunity for you to choose from a variety of options: There is the railway depot with its collection of standard gauge and narrow gauge steam locos plus the nearby depot for the Sibiu – Agnita Railway (SAR) which is a nascent heritage line that is receiving some support from the UK.
Another option is to travel on the unusual roadside tramway to Rasinari. Sibiu City itself is full of interesting and historic buildings grouped around a large central square with many restaurants and cafes. So you could choose to just hang out and soak up some culture.
EXPLORE THE SIBIU TRAM SYTEM IF YOU WANT
YOU WILL HAVE A FULL DAY TO EXPLORE THE MEDIEVAL WALLED CITY OF SIBIU
Saturday October 15: (B)
Today gives us the opportunity to visit both surviving parts of the world-famous Comandau / Covasna railway. This forestry line was largely abandoned but now there are two isolated useable sections: One of about 4 miles at the lower Comandau level and another 2 miles at the Covasna level with the derelict sawmill. This area is still quite economically undeveloped and there is a lot of derelict infrastructure and equipment just lying around and adding to the atmosphere.
The dense forest provides a stunning backdrop and the sound of the steam loco reverberates off the trees. The famous Siclau Sus incline is now isolated and not in use but it survives. We will travel on both railways with a lunch stop in between and plenty of opportunities for photographs. To avoid a long journey back to Sibiu we will stay in a local hotel in Comandau.
WE SPEND THE DAY ON THE STEAM HAULED COMANDAU-COVASNA RAILWAY FORESTRY LINE
WE SPEND THE DAY ON THE SPECTACULAR STEAM HAULED COMANDAU-COVASNA RAILWAY
Sunday October 16: (B)
Free time for own relaxation or exploration. In the afternoon we transfer to the nearby airport at Sibiu for flights home.
all prices are per person
|DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY..............................||$4,495|
|SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT...............................||$445|
|HOLIDAYS DISCOUNT BOOK BY JANUARY 15....||-$300|
|DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED............||$1,500|
|FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY JULY 1, 2016|
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$4,495
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$445
Deposit to hold space confirmed$1,500
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT BOOK BY AUG 31-$300
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY july 1, 2016
• 23 MEALS
• FULLY ESCORTED
• CULTURE OPTIONS
• GOOD CLASS HOTELS
• HISTORIC TOWNS AND CITIES
• SCENIC UNSPOILED COUNTRYSIDE
• LARGE VARIETY OF STEAM LOCOMOTIVES